Assassin's Creed Shadows dual protagonists Yasuke and Naoe
Image via Ubisoft

Ubisoft accused of exploiting fans by offering voiced roles in Assassin’s Creed Shadows as contest prize

Professional voice actors say this should be a paid opportunity.

The prospect of getting to appear in your favourite video game series, even if it’s only a bit part, is undeniably an exciting one. So, I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to take part in Ubisoft’s new competition, where the prize is voicing a character in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Said competition, however, has been met with criticism and accusations of Ubisoft trying to get free labour out of its fans.

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On June 18, Ubisoft announced the Assassin’s Creed Shadows Dubbing Challenge. Until July 2, TikTok users are encouraged to record themselves dubbing a cutscene from the series. The best performer in each of the seven available languages will then get to join a recording session for a behind-the-scenes look at voice acting, and record their own lines for an NPC who will be added to Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Full details can be found on Ubisoft’s website, where the publisher stresses that the voices of the lead characters and every other NPC have been recorded by professional actors: “With the Dubbing Challenge, we aim to provide a fun activation that will allow winners to learn more about the captivating work of voice actors & actresses.”

While this is undoubtedly a cool and fun opportunity for fans, others want to know if Ubisoft has any intention of actually paying the winners for their voicework. After all, voice acting is a profession; one many do for a living. One Twitter user told Ubisoft, “You are a multimillion dollars corporation, and even if paying for the trip to your studio is nice, you could pay people for their actual recording session too.” Another outright called the competition “exploitation”, saying, “Don’t work for free, they can afford voice actors.”

Some professional voice actors have also weighed in on the matter, such as British actor Jack Sapsford who called voice acting “a job, not a competition.” Rufus Wright, who did voice work for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, has also taken umbrage with the competition, saying, “Using fans to work for free is a really really bad look, particularly when these games gross billions of dollars.”

Fire Emblem Heroes actress Jennifer Caitlin Roberts, meanwhile, wants Ubisoft to confirm it won’t be using the fan submissions for training AI. There have been concerns in recent years of companies using AI voicework in place of professional actors, with many actors fearful of their voices being replicated and used without their consent. This contributed to members of the SAG-AFTRA union approving a video game strike last September.

The replies under the announcement of the competition on Twitter are also full of condemnation, and pleas for fans not to participate unless they do get paid for their performances. There are a handful of people, though, who are interested in taking part so they can appear in Assassin’s Creed Shadows. One voice actor, Isaac Birchall, called it “a brilliant opportunity for a young VA” considering the studio experience and coaching that will be involved.

This isn’t the first time Ubisoft has come under fire for outsourcing work from its fans. Back in 2018, it invited people to submit their own artwork and music for use in Beyond Good & Evil 2 (which remains MIA to this day). But while it did offer payment, it would only be for artists whose work would end up in the game. So, people were expected to risk spending time on crafting the kind of quality work you’d see in a big-budget video game with no guarantee they’d be paid for it.

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Michael Beckwith
Staff writer covering all kinds of gaming news. A graduate in Computer Games Design and Creative Writing from Brunel University who's been writing about games since 2014. Nintendo fan and Sonic the Hedgehog apologist. Knows a worrying amount of Kingdom Hearts lore. Has previously written for Metro, TechRadar, and Game Rant.