Patrice Desilets Files $400K Lawsuit Against Ubisoft; Seeks Rights to ‘1666: Amsterdam’

By | 4 years ago 

As promised, Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Désilets will see Ubisoft in court.

Terminated from his position at the company this May, Désilets vowed to fight back “vigorously” against his now-two-time former employer on the grounds that his dismissal was “baseless” and “without merit.” A lawsuit has now been filed — with Désilets seeking $400,000 in damages and rights to his work-in-progress IP, fully titled 1666: Amsterdam.

The news was revealed in an extensive court filing obtained by the Canadian outlet La Presse, and subsequent details regarding the run-up to Désilets’s departure were broken by Game Informer. But let’s recap what we know first.

Working for THQ Montreal, Désilets had undertaken production of 1666: Amsterdam, which was originally speculated as being set amidst the Great Fire of London germane to the same year. Ubisoft purchased THQ Montreal — and, thus, Désilets, his game, and his THQ contract — when THQ was liquidated this January. From there Désilets and Ubisoft attempted for weeks to align their visions for the game, but to no avail.

News broke in May that Désilets was a Ubisoft employee no longer. The creator claimed his termination was forceful, hostile and unjust; the company, conflictingly, released a statement saying he departed amicably.

And so here we are. Swords drawn. Language in the court filing revealed by La Presse purportedly quotes Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot declaring that he “loved 1666: Amsterdam and wanted to conduct its development.” “Conduct” perhaps being the operative word, the document goes on to say that Ubisoft demanded creative control over the development process — a reversal of the free reign Désilets enjoyed at THQ.

Patrice Desilets Fired Ubisoft Lawsuit Details 1666

The ordeal parallels Désilets’s first departure from Ubisoft in 2010 when, following the explosive success of Assassin’s Creed, the two disagreed over the creator’s creative freedom and financial compensation. According to a further explanation outlined by Game Informer, however, Ubisoft began its reunion with Désilets rather auspiciously — each party dissolving its prior grievances, each expressing excitement for collaborating on 1666.

Neutrally, the two sides met over a series of months to discuss “creative and practical aspects surrounding [1666’s] development.” But then the dynamic shifted. The court document claims that communications collapsed in mid-March between Désilets and Ubisoft, when the former inquired about revising his (THQ-incepted) contract. Désilets requested that Ubisoft waive a termination clause by acknowledging that 1666’s development was on track (or in contract parlance, that an “acceptable prototype” had been delivered). Ubisoft rejected, responding via attorney that it “can develop and publish 1666 with Patrice Désilets or without him.”

Arriving at April, the filing essentially recaps the narrative projected by Désilets back in May: the stalemated negotiations with Yves Guillemot (who reportedly believed that former THQ president Danny Bilson was “desperate” at the inking of Désilets’s contract); the May 7 termination; and the ensuing, unceremonious security escort to the Ubisoft parking lot before Désilets could gather his belongings and say his goodbyes.

The $400,000 Désilets’s is seeking breaks down as follows (courtesy of GI):

  • Reimbursement of all expenses through May 7, 2013 (totaling $35,000)
  • Severance in the amount of $250,000
  • Continuation of insurance through May 6, 2014
  • Relocation and job search fees in the amount of $25,000
  • Damages in the amount of $100,000 for misrepresenting the facts of the termination (i.e., Ubisoft stating that Désilets departed)

It seems like an inordinately grand gesture for such a (relatively) small sum. But Patrice Désilets has an ultimate, broader goal in mind as well: wrestling away Ubisoft’s ownership of 1666: Amsterdam with the “turnaround right” clause — which would grant him property of the title if Ubisoft decided to cancel it. (Currently, cunningly, Ubisoft is classifying production as being “on hold“).

It’s a saga that’s becoming as epic as any part of the franchise Désilets helped give life to. E3 2013 might serve as a temporary publicity palliative for Ubisoft (whose wide presence at the show will include this Fall’s Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag), but we’ll keep you updated on the story as it develops.

Ranters, where do you stand in the battle (historically, it does seem to be an ongoing war at this point) between Patrice Désilets and Ubisoft?

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Sources: La Presse [via VG 24/7], Game Informer