Behind XDefiant’s Toxic Work Culture, Crunch, and Years of Delays

Following Insider Gaming’s exclusive report this weekend, it took all but 12 minutes for Executive Producer Mark Rubin — and another disingenuous tweet from Aches to shoot down the rumors that XDefiant’s delays aren’t related to chasing Call of Duty. Nevertheless, Rubin did confirm that the game has yet again been delayed, but its latest delay was because of “major technical issues” related to the game’s netcode, which is an issue that has been outlined since November 2023.

As previously mentioned, XDefiant has missed dozens of internal milestones and deadlines these past couple of years and although Rubin’s latest comments on XDefiant missing its latest release date due to the netcode are accurate, it’s not a simple case of a one-and-done issue that has plagued the game for years. As Insider Gaming has reported, XDefiant’s shortcomings stem from several executives and directors on the project. They are internally referred to as ‘The Boys Club’ by a large majority of the team.

At first, ‘The Boys Club’ was the name given to a select few individuals who caused constant problems for the game’s development, and the term was collectively agreed upon by some members of the team to feel a sense of comradery. But a couple of years later, that group grew to a dozen or so both male and female individuals, and its term has evolved into something much more bitter in the studio. The group has been the cause of missed deadlines, crunch, a toxic work environment, and multiple people leaving the project, said sources.

While there isn’t an exact date on when the ‘club’ evolved into something more sinister, several sources stated that the change became the most apparent around the time when the ‘Tom Clancy’ brand was dropped (publically announced early 2022). Before the decision, the game was intended to be released in the holiday of 2021 without any significant issues that plague the game today. The change meant more freedom for the project, allowing The Boys Club to make unnecessary changes, which has had a domino effect on the progress of the game. Despite the warnings from the team, it’s currently added over two years to the game’s development. Eventually, things got so bad that XDefiant’s toxic work culture, crunch, and internal problems became so prevalent that knowledge of ‘The Boys Club’ even spread to other studios at Ubisoft.

The issue with ‘The Boys Club’ isn’t that its managers or directors telling developers what to do—after all, that’s their job—but it’s the lack of work ethic, unpleasant behavior, and the egos from these individuals that have created a really unhealthy place to work, said sources. “One member has no design experience or people experience and has been given directorial powers because of personal friendships”, said one source. It means that developers are left with responsibilities beyond their original job descriptions, told to work tedious hours of overtime to complete tasks, and are often shrugged aside when suggestions don’t align with the views of the higher-ups. “There have been many instances where people have cried, had mental breakdowns, or stopped caring about their wellbeing because of the toxic environment fostered by the club”, it was said.

“The Boys Club is a closed group of protected individuals who think they are better than everyone else and do as they please without any repercussions”, said one developer working on the project.

“One member has a history of treating people extremely badly with more HR reports than I’ve ever seen”, said another.

“I frequently was told the following [by management]: What do you know? You have never shipped a game before. If you want to make it to where I’m at, then you need to do (XYZ thing)”, said a former developer who has since left Ubisoft altogether because of how they were treated.

“I’ve heard that it’s pretty bad over there, but it’s bad everywhere [at Ubisoft], to be honest”, said another developer working at another studio.


As of late 2023, the XDefiant team has been facing a huge hurdle with the game’s netcode. As Mark Rubin had already outlined, the game had significant issues and needed fixing. Ironically, though, this has been a known issue for years, said people working on the project, and could have been avoided if leadership had listened to the rest of the team. But as the suggestions didn’t come from within their bubble—or should we say, the club—the advice was always ignored.

“There have been countless occasions where different teams would advise The Boys Club (for good reason) about making certain choices and decisions with months/years notice in order to avoid issues down the road”, said one developer when asked about the games netcode issues.

Insider Gaming understands that the game’s netcode is still a significant issue for the project and that the team has recently been struggling to reach the internal goal of 100 players per server partician—a goal desired to support the expected hundreds of thousands of playersthat will play the game on launch. It’s one of the major reasons for this past weekend’s closed playtests, which saw the testing of the netcode, social features, battle pass, and store (the store and battle pass weren’t tested due to coins not being allocated to players).

During the weekend tests, players who played the game and spoke to Insider Gaming said that the netcode still wasn’t great. Hit registration was described as being “terrible” or “off” by some sources, with bullets not registering, going around corners, etc. However, from the five playtesters we spoke to, the good news is that there weren’t any major game crashes.

It’s understood that the netcode issue originated from the significant changes brought on by The Boys Club after the Tom Clancy name was dropped. The simple case of just dropping the name based on fan feedback resulted in a frenzy to add new factions, maps, and other features that needed to be built from scratch. Internal feedback was ignored, and corners were cut by reusing assets, resulting in huge technical issues that could have been avoided.

Mark Rubin has said he will update the game’s status in the coming weeks, but Insider Gaming understands that the game is currently undergoing as many internal playtests as possible.

Chasing Call of Duty

In our previous report, we reported that XDefiant’s delays have stemmed from the never-ending pursuit of chasing Call of Duty, which has resulted in developers becoming increasingly frustrated with the project’s lack of progress. This isn’t an issue that caused the recent delay, but an issue that has plagued the game for years and a subject that ‘The Boys Club’ finds sensitive when brought up internally – and after our past report – seemingly publically too.

While there’s no question that a new first-person shooter should take inspiration from other popular titles on the market, sources who spoke to Insider Gaming said that it became evident really quickly that Call of Duty was the only title that leadership was interested in. Sources said that almost every very creative decision for the best part of two years quickly ended with the same rhetorical question – What would Call of Duty do?

As Mark Rubin said in his responses to our original report, “the game remains the same that you played already, which we have strived to make as fun as possible, and we feel confident about this.” Insider Gaming understands that this is true; there haven’t been any significant changes to the game since its last public playtest, and almost all of the additional features have been delayed in order to be implemented into the game’s seasons because of constant project pushbacks. This includes any form of true progression or challenges, including prestiging and weapon challenges, and other features that have been discussed, such as kill cams, killstreaks, theatre mode, a competitive mode, private matches, and more.

Speaking on ‘The Boys Club’ and its pursuit of CoD, one source said:

“They will nitpick the feature to their liking [similar to COD] and tell the design/production teams to come back later once they make the appropriate changes. Even once the team makes those changes, The Boys Club will come up with something else and the process will repeat again for months. All resulting in either the feature finally being implemented into the game or being cut entirely.”

Another source said, “the constant changing of approved features, or adding new features that don’t really affect the game has pushed us back significantly, probably a year or so at this point”.

To be clear, chasing COD isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s one of the biggest first-person shooters of all time, so it makes sense, but when features are pushed back constantly or canceled entirely because they are not ‘COD enough’, it has a detrimental effect on those working on the project and the project itself.

Some developers have even expressed immense frustration over XDefiant’s seemingly positive ‘open transparency’ conversations. It was said that these ‘updates’ don’t often align with what is actually going on, including upcoming features that haven’t yet been internally discussed or problems that don’t exist.

“But hey, at least mentioning no SBMM gets cheap brownie points, right?” said one developer.

Where’s XDefiant Now?

As outlined in our previous report, XDefiant is not currently canceled. Following the insanely popular open test, Ubisoft has some expectations that the game could be the free-to-play hit that they’ve been looking for for a number of years. That’s why the internal goal right now is to get the game out the door, but it’s unclear how long it will take to fix the game’s current issues—we’ll have to wait on Mark Rubin’s update for that one.

Internally, some developers believe that seasonal content targets will almost certainly be missed due to ongoing issues, lack of resources (unless the game is a stellar hit), and just staff wanting the “XD Sega” to be over so they can move on to other projects.

At the time of writing, there’s no release date set for XDefiant, and Insider Gaming understands that the past-generation console versions for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been canceled.

Unfortunately, XDefiant’s story is a common one within the industry, but it should be talked about, reported on, and taken seriously.

“It’s clear that the video game industry is not in a good place right now, but something has to be done. Whether it’s the unionization of workers or anything else, something has to be done for contractors and workers in the video game industry. For the longest time, I was told, “That’s just how the industry is,” but I refuse to believe that meaningful change can’t happen one day. Hopefully, that day will come sooner rather than later.” – A former developer of XDefiant.

When contacted to comment on this story, a Ubisoft spokesperson said,

“We take claims seriously and are committed to the well-being and inclusivity of all our team members. Our preventive approach includes promoting standards of respect and civility, awareness and training, and effective conflict resolution. We also have put in place strong reporting mechanisms – including an anonymous whistleblowing channel – and robust processes to deal with inappropriate behaviors, should they occur.”

  1. And all for a game I will never even play for one single second.

    Just release it already so it can die quicker and I never have to hear about it ever again.

    1. Or, just block the topics on this game and not click on the links that mention XDefiant.
      Are you really that slow to understand how social media and the internet works?

  2. I sincerely don’t think they’ll receive the same playerbase they thought they would at the time of Open beta. They have successfully sabotaged their own game with their own hands, and that is perhaps the saddest part of it, because in this case – there is no winner.

  3. Why are you reading lengthy articles and typing out comments about a game you’re not going to play?

  4. “Are you really that slow”
    “Why are you reading..”

    Quite an irony. This article shines a spotlight on the terrible working conditions in the industry and yet some of you can think no further than your own entertainment.

    1. What part of my comment made you think I don’t care about the toxic conditions? I’m just tired of people like that show in the comment sections to only say stuff like “this game is dead”, “its dogsh*t”, etc. Why even bother to take the time to comment when it’s easier to just ignore the game?

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