Last Friday, Ubisoft quietly put out a remixed version of the cinematic trailer it used to reveal Assassin’s Creed Valhalla back in April. The big difference? This version features the female Eivor, one of two versions of the game’s hero who had originally been shown-off via a collectible statue and a couple of screenshots.
“Watch a new version of the Cinematic Announce Trailer, featuring a remix of the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Main Theme,” the Assassin’s Creed Twitter account wrote. The remixed trailer was ostensibly about the game’s soundtrack, and Ubisoft made no mention of female Eivor, but the video itself was literally just the same footage shown back in April with new music and her now replacing the male version of the character.
It’s a bizarre move that comes a month after Ubisoft was wracked by #MeToo allegations and a couple weeks after Bloomberg reported a history of female Assassin’s Creed characters having their roles diminished by top brass at the company. According to Bloomberg and echoed by a source speaking to Kotaku, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was originally intended to give equal time to both its protagonists, the twins Jacob and Evie, but in the end mostly focused on Jacob. Assassin’s Creed Origins was originally going to focus on Aya after killing off or seriously injuring her husband, Bayek, but ended up focusing on him as the main hero for most of the game. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was supposed to star only Kassandra, but the finished game included the option to play as either her or her brother, Alexios.
The developers Bloomberg spoke with blamed these changes on Ubisoft’s marketing department and then-chief creative officer, Serge Hascoët. According to those sources, both claimed that female protagonists wouldn’t sell. While Kassandra is Odyssey’s official canonical hero, Alexios is the one featured on the game’s cover. Hascoët resigned from the company last month following allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Ubisoft did not respond to a request for comment about whether female Eivor’s absence from the game’s reveal marketing was the latest example of this sexist trend.
Shortly after Vahalla was announced, Kotaku asked the game’s then-creative director, Ashraf Ismail, why female Eivor had been sidelined from almost all of the game’s initial marketing. “There’s marketing beats coming up that will highlight the female Eivor,” he said. When pressed about the issue, a PR rep interrupted to cut that part of the interview short. On June 24, Ismail stepped down as the game’s creative director after being publicly accused of infidelity and lying to the person he was having an affair with about whether he was married.
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Valhalla’s narrative director, Darby McDevitt, has said that both versions of Eivor will be canon(Hands-on previews with the game last month also revealed that players can swap between both versions of the character whenever they wish rather than being locked in after choosing at the outset. Last week, McDevitt also said rumours that Eivor was originally planned to be solely a female character were “not wholly accurate.”
“I will repeat what I have always said. ACVs story was conceived from the beginning with both female and male in mind,” he wrote on the game’s subreddit. “When you play the game you will understand that there is no way the male could have been added at the last minute, or whatever version of this story you have heard.” The only part that was left unclear was whose idea this was. “We started ACV knowing full well that Ubi wanted to give players the ability to select characters, and we worked hard to make sure that it honoured our lore,” wrote McDevitt.