Tom Clancy's Elite Squad, the mobile game that co-opted BLM imagery, is closing

1259 28/07/2021

Tom Clancy's Elite Squad got off to a rough start in 2020. First, it teased and then disappointed the hell out of Splinter Cell fans by bringing back Sam Fisher—not in the new Splinter Cell game that people have been demanding for years, but as a character in a mobile tactics game. Then it decided to use a raised fist as a symbol for the game's villains, a faceless, evil cabal hiding behind protesters demanding social and economic justice, a decision that ultimately led to an apology for the "insensitive and harmful" use of imagery related to historically important movements including Black Lives Matter.

And after all that trouble, the game didn't even make it a year: Ubisoft announced today that it has halted development of the game, and that the servers will shut down on October 4.

"This was not an easy decision, but after exploring multiple options with our teams, we came to the conclusion that it was no longer sustainable," the Elite Squad team wrote. "We want to assure you all that we really gave it our best, especially with big updates like Season 2, and it was a truly rewarding experience to work with you, our passionate community!"

The game will continue to operate as usual (minus updates) until October 4, and Ubisoft expressed hope that players will "stick around with us and have fun reaching level 70 and unlocking all of the soldiers you can before we say goodbye."

Elite Squad is a mobile game, but its closure is broadly interesting because of Ubisoft's relatively new interest in free-to-play games. The company said in May that free-to-play games represent "a great opportunity to meaningfully expand the audience of our biggest franchises," and it's taken action on that front with games including Hyper Scape, Roller Champions, The Division: Heartland, and the recently announced XDefiant—which, rather like Elite Squad, mashes up up various Tom Clancy properties into a single, not-especially-coherent shooter.

There's no indication of a connection between the incidents, but the Elite Squad closure announcement comes less than two months after the departure of Charlie Guillemot, the co-head of developer Ubisoft Owlient. Charlie Guillemot is also the son of Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. I've reached out to Ubisoft for more information and will update if I receive a reply.

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