Ubisoft has announced a special partnership with HitRecord for Watch Dogs: Legion, and it has kicked a bit of a hornet’s nest online. The purpose of this partnership goes back to the core of HitRecord’s business model, and is simply a way for Ubisoft to crowdsource music for their new game, thereby cutting overall costs and time.
And while the handful of “best” tracks will get a small sliver of the revenue for their work, there’s a major problem with this approach, as many individuals and industry professionals took to their platforms online to point it out. With only 10 tracks being selected and paid from a pool of money from Ubisoft, there will likely be hundreds of submissions that would be made unpaid. The payments amount to payments of $2,000 for each song that is included in the final product.
The crux of the criticism is that it’s basically a contest where the winners get paid, and everyone else has to work for free. Many artists and creative professionals work for their entire lives to make ends meet, and they all deserve to be paid for their work. It’s incredibly exploitative to take advantage of those who aren’t unionized or otherwise represented and basically use the clout of a AAA game to get them to work for free. It’s basically like playing the lottery and trying to get paid for it.
Of course people are defending this practice. There are some responding this and saying that it’s akin to an audition for any other artistic role, except it’s not. This is Ubisoft expecting you to do all of the work for the project, and dangling the hope of payment in front of you as motivation. The audition analogy would only be accurate if auditions required applicants to read an entire script rather than a small snippet.
Ubisoft can absolutely afford to pay musicians and composers for their work, and the HitRecord collaboration just looks cheap and tacky. And this is an even worse look at the moment given the increasingly tough spotlight on unfair working conditions, toxic work environments and wage theft in the video game industry.
People were also quick to point out recent controversies for Ubisoft just this week. The company banned the usage of its community creation tools in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for making easy XP farming quests. This was done much to the chagrin of gamers who found such quests immensely useful, and critics were quick to draw a conclusion between the microtransactions in that game and this policy change.
Watch Dogs: Legion will release on March 6th 2020 for PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One.