Ubisoft-THQ dispute yields recruitment injunction

Following January order, Canada court grants French publisher's additional request to prevent further poaching after Assassin's Creed creative director's departure.


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THQ entered Montreal in a big way in 2009, announcing plans to open a 400-member development house with a focus on core titles, the first of which is due in 2013. To head up this studio, THQ scored a coup in 2010, luring Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Desilets from Ubisoft Montreal. Not long thereafter, THQ core game boss Danny Bilson bragged that the Montreal studio had poached three more "key members" from Ubisoft to aid Desilets.

A picture is worth a thousand words.
A picture is worth a thousand words.

Ubisoft, as it would turn out, is none too pleased about the defections. French-Canadian newspaper Rue Frontenac reported yesterday that Ubisoft has successfully petitioned the Superior Court of Quebec for an injunction against THQ to prevent further poaching from its studios.

According to court filings obtained by Rue Frontenac, Desilets abruptly resigned from Ubisoft on May 28, 2010. Prior to his resignation, Desilets was classified as a level 5 employee at Ubisoft, a top-tier distinction held by approximately 4 percent of staff. As such, his resignation was reportedly not taken well by Ubisoft management, and he in no short order received phone calls from CEO Yves Guillemot and Montreal studio president Yannis Mallat.

The court documents also indicate that Desilets was highly remunerated for his talents at Ubisoft. Having started at Ubisoft in 1997 with a salary of C$25,000, Desilets' salary had grown to C$150,000, with additional compensation tied to sales performance of his titles. Over the final three years of his employment at Ubisoft, Desilets reportedly earned north of C$1.3 million in total compensation.

By July 30, Desilets had officially entered into employment at THQ, though he was limited by a one-year non-compete clause in his contract with Ubisoft. This non-compete clause reportedly prevented him from releasing a project or recruiting employees before May 2011. However, Ubisoft alleges that Desilets did just that, linking the departure of art director Alex Drouin, production manager Mark Besner, and associate producer Jean-Francois Boivin to the aforementioned statement by Bilson.

In January, Ubisoft was granted its first injunction against THQ and Desilets to prevent further recruitment. However, shortly thereafter, former Ubisoft employee Adolfo Gomez-Urda reportedly met with Ubisoft Montreal localizer Margherita Seconnino, offering a 60 percent pay raise to come work for THQ. The new injunction extends the Court's previous order to include Gomez-Urda.

Neither THQ nor Ubisoft had responded to a request for comment on the matter as of press time.

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