Ubisoft is teaming up with acclaimed actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to source music for the upcoming modern RPG, Watch Dogs Legion. As cool as it sounds, numerous industry figures are criticizing the idea and urging people to stay away.
The actual process is done through creative platform HitRecord, which is owned by Levitt. They find creators and artists interested in doing work for a project and suggest they make something for the interested company. In the end, whoever the company chooses will have their work used in their project and they will be paid a nice sum for it. In this case, Ubisoft is looking for music for Watch Dogs Legion, offering $2,000 for each song and a total of 10 songs.
At first, it might sound like a great way for fans to get their work featured in a game they love while also getting paid for it. But quite a few folks disagree, finding the process exploitative and underpaying. It's considered a form of Speculative Work, or Spec Work, where a creator spends time and effort creating something without a written agreement for compensation.
In short, Ubisoft is asking musicians to make songs for them on the off-chance they decide to use it.
According to a report by James Batchelor, a variety of professionals have already gone out to tell the public how much they disagree with this process, suggesting they do not take part. This includes figures like Cadence of Hyrule composer Danny Baranowski, Reigns: Game of Thrones composer Ryan Ike, Neo Cab narrative designer Bruno Dias, former RuneScape developer James Sweatman, and Game Workers Unite's Los Angeles chapter.
This is the second time that Ubisoft had used HitRecord to source spec work, and the second time they were put under fire for it. The last time was with Beyond Good and Evil 2, where they were looking for art assets.
This is something that I as a writer can agree with. I regularly see websites and other writing outlets require a bespoke creation when you apply. This not only feels extra frustrating when you spend time making that thing only to be ignored, but it opens up the risk of said platforms building off of your ideas without proper accreditation.
People deserve to be paid for any work they do. This is no exception because it's a video game.