Ubisoft and WWE — a tale of two companies in some serious shit

If you aren’t following me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve not heard me complain about Assassin’s Creed Unity. Since I think that’s the case for at least some of my audience, I’ll spell out what’s going on. As I am a massive fan of the AC series, I was initially disappointed to see that AC Unity was for next gen consoles only. Then I took another look, and saw that it was being released for PC. Given that I could run virtually any game I wanted to with no problems, I saw no reason AC Unity should be any different. I, foolishly perhaps, did not look at the system requirements. I happily preordered it.

Now, I fully admit that my system is a bit behind on the minimum requirements. I’ve recently swapped out my 2.33 gHz quad core for a 3.33 gHz dual core, but I’ve tried the game on both without much difference in performance. The problem is that everyone’s performance has been awful, as Ubisoft has acknowledged. They’ve been releasing patches and even gave away free DLC and/or a free game (if you bought the season pass, which I did not). That’s all to the good.

However, what I find insane is how high the requirements were in the first place. Here’s Tomb Raider, a game just over 18 months old, which runs brilliantly with no problems on my PC. Here’s Far Cry 4, a game which came out after AC Unity, by the same company. Here’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I’m eager to get, and also was released after Unity.

See the pattern? Unity’s requirements are much, much higher than any of these other games. The obvious guess would be the crowd size — except Ubisoft said it isn’t that. The good news is that Ubisoft is promising a fourth patch in the near future which will include some fixes for the problem, which exists on PS4 and PC (and, to a lesser extent, on XBox). However, Ubisoft is taking a tremendous amount of punishment for this game’s release (and issues with Far Cry 4). Some of that is deserved, no doubt, but that doesn’t make Ubisoft “evil.” It doesn’t make it the next EA. It just means they need to fix things. The gimmick of releasing Rogue (which was brilliant) and Unity on the same day, so that last gen gamers wouldn’t feel hurt or irritated, might have been to blame for this problem, although I believe different studios worked on it. (Far Cry 4 didn’t help either, I’m sure.)

Now, the problems with the WWE are a whole different ball of wax. CM Punk, who was quite recently WWE World Heavyweight Champion and a focal point of WWE 2k15, had reportedly quit the WWE this July. Except, according to him, that he didn’t — he was fired on his wedding day. There’s more in this well done transcript of an interview between Punk and Colt Cabana, another wrestler and very close friend of Punk. Some of the allegations Punk makes are mind-blowing, including that a company doctor misdiagnosed a potentially life-threatening condition.

The “wrestlers are independent contractors” controversy has been around a long time. Al Jazeera America, of all places, has a very good overview of the controversy. Wrestlers are paid per appearance (which includes house shows), with a correspondingly higher payout for pay-per-views, Wrestlemania being the biggest of all. Wrestlers do receive a “downside guarantee” — that is, a base salary. However, because they’re not legally “employees”, WWE doesn’t pay for medical insurance. If you use company staff, it’s free, but anything else is not covered. Here are some salary figures (allegedly, the data was leaked in February 2014, although some of these people weren’t worth the company at the time). What I find really interesting is that surprisingly few wrestlers make more than other company personnel, as Glassdoor indicates. Compared to their fellow professional athletes, WWE athletes are ridiculously underpaid, and they compete far more frequently than even baseball players.

Punk, as you can see, was among the better paid wrestlers. But throughout the interview, he repeatedly mentions injuries that he’d received over the course of the last few years, and that he felt he had to wrestle through them to keep earning his salary.

WWE will probably never be truly taken seriously as a mainstream media production again, although wrestlers might be — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has become a consistently bankable Hollywood action star, among others. TMZ covers wrestlers from time to time, but rarely are they covered by ESPN. For all that, even if the general public perception of professional wrestling (and its fans) is low, things like Punk’s interview are going to generate the wrong kind of interest. The early 90s steroid trials caused a huge backlash against WWE. The murder/suicide committed by Chris Benoit in 2007 was equally damaging to pro wrestling (although it is not fair to blame WWE or the sport for the problems Benoit faced, at least not entirely). Punk has a reputation as a brash and extremely forthright person, and it’s not hugely surprising that he’d be the kind of person to break this story. Yet, perhaps, it will lead to medical care for wrestlers improving, which makes for a better product and makes the salaries they receive more palatable.

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