The video game development company Ubisoft has been forced in recent weeks to relocate a famous e-sports event (sports video games) after numerous protests from the gamer community that do not approve of the event being held in the United Arab Emirates, a dictatorial country where the rights of women and the LGTBIQ+ community are systematically violated
Against it being held in the United Arab Emirates
A petition signed by more than 13,000 users enumerated the constant attacks on the rights of these groups, and asked that the company refuse to hold its event there so as not to contribute to the whitewashing of a religious fundamentalist satrapy. The company hosts three Rainbow Six Siege tournaments each year, and has said that following outrage from its fan community, it will move the August 2022 Six Major to another Rainbow Six esports region, with the exact location yet to be determined.
In a tweet posted on the official Rainbow Six esports profile, Ubisoft explained that it had heard “loud and clear that members of the international Siege community question this choice [to hold the event in the United Arab Emirates].” The company initially defended the decision to host the event in the country, announced on Sunday, February 20, saying it had held extensive discussions with the local government, trade and business partners, and teams from the region participating in the event to ensure that “any of all gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, or other individual traits were welcome.”
However, this was not enough, and the community erupted in anger against the company and its decision to bring the event to the Arab country. One of the top esports titles, with over 70 million registered players worldwide, Rainbow Siege has gay characters , and there are thousands of professional gamers across the globe who have been particularly vocal against the decision that the tournament is organized in a country where homosexuality is a crime punishable by physical punishment and prison sentences.
Ubisoft’s excuses have not convinced
In a statement posted on its website, Ubisoft said: “We want to emphasize that the safety and well-being of our event participants and staff is always our top concern, and we’re proud of what Rainbow Six Siege represents as a world where diversity, inclusion and acceptance are at its core.” The company later added that it had “made the decision to move the August 2022 Six Major to another Rainbow Six Esports region.”
Ubisoft also said that it would continue to develop and structure its competitive activities in MENA, through local and regional activations and tournaments. It is not the first e-sports event that has caused problems due to ties with the most authoritarian countries in the Middle East. In July 2020, Riot Games’ European League of Legends (LOL) Championship ended its partnership with Saudi Arabian smart city Neom less than a day after announcing the deal. The tie-up was heavily criticized due to Saudi Arabia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, with many fans stating that they would boycott the tournament if it were ever held there.