Veteran Assassins’ Creed developer Jean Guesdon announced he’s leaving Ubisoft after 17 years on Thursday. A creative director on some of the most beloved entries in the franchise including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, his is the latest high-profile departure at a publisher currently struggling to overcome delays and cancellations.
“Hello everyone, 2023 will start for me with the end of a bit more than 17 formidable years at Ubisoft Montreal,” Guesdon posted on LinkedIn today. “I can’t express how much I owe to this unique company. So many people met, so many skills learned and so many projects shipped. And Assassin’s Creed, of course Assassin’s Creed.”
He thanked the company and signed the note with a smiling emoji, but didn’t hint at where he might be headed next. Up until now, Guesdon had spent the last five years as creative director on an undisclosed game at Ubisoft Montreal. Kotaku understands it to be codenamed Renaissance, a collaborative voxel-based game with shades of Minecraft. Three former Ubisoft developers with knowledge of the project told Kotaku they considered it to be one of the more promising ones in the pipeline at the company, though it’s unclear how Guesdon leaving might affect it.
Ubisoft recently cancelled several unannounced projects alongside broader cost-cutting measures as it seeks to refocus attention and resources on some of its bigger and more established franchises. Guesdon declined to comment.
“We thank Jean for his strong creative vision, openness, ideas, and most of all, his ability to put himself ‘in the shoes’ of our players in his contributions to Ubisoft,” a spokesperson for the company told Kotaku in a statement. “We wish him well as he moves on to his next chapter.”
Starting at Ubisoft as a project coordinator on the original Assassin’s Creed, Guesdon rose up the ranks to game designer on Assassin’s Creed 2 and later head of content for the franchise. Most notably, he was a creative director on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Origins alongside Ashraf Ismail (who now works at Tencent after being fired from Ubisoft over misconduct allegations).
Back in 2018, Guesdon provided an overview to Kotaku of how Ubisoft managed to produce a massive new Assassin’s Creed game almost every year, a process that involved multiple lead studios and a vast network of support offices. More recently, the franchise has taken longer in-between new entries, with Ubisoft instead prolonging the post-launch life of each one through tons of DLC and seasonal updates.
Guesdon’s resignation, though seemingly amicable, comes at a time when some within Ubisoft are worried about the publisher’s ability to attract and retain veteran talent. Axios reported on an “exodus” of developers in 2021, including “AC lifers” like game director Eric Baptizat and franchise art director Raphael Lacoste. Baptizat is now at EA Motive, while Lacoste is now at Haven, newer Montreal game studios both founded by another Ubisoft veteran, Jade Raymond.
Not everyone is leaving though, and at a recent internal all-hands chief people officer Anika Grant told staff that attrition among senior developers at the company had steadily fallen back down in recent months. Some developers, like longtime Assassin’s Creed narrative director Darby McDevitt, have even returned. Last fall, Ubisoft revealed that multiple new Assassin’s Creed games are on the horizon, alongside mobile spinoffs and a Netflix adaption.
Update 2/9/23 4:18 p.m. ET: Added comment from Ubisoft.