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Ubisoft nixes female avatars in Assassin's Creed Unity

Apparently, creating female players to battle it out in 18th century revolutionary France is simply "a lot of extra production work."

Assassin's Creed Unity does not have any female avatars. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Only male avatars will be allowed to fight in the newest virtual world of Assassin's Creed. While that could sound like a dismal place to many, it's that way because female avatars are just too much work to create, according to Polygon.

Ubisoft, the creator of Assassin's Creed, unveiled the latest game in its series on Monday -- Assassin's Creed Unity. The four-player game tells the story of two battling factions in 18th century revolutionary France.

The way the game works is that players can customize their gear, but they'll always see themselves as Arno, the game's protagonist. Friends playing along will show up as different characters and have faces of various assassins.

So, why can't there be any female avatars?

"It's double the animations, it's double the voices, all that stuff, and double the visual assets," Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio told Polygon. "Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work."

"The common denominator was Arno," Amancio continued. "It's not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar."

Apparently, Ubisoft was originally planning to create a female avatar -- as it's done in past versions of the game -- but ultimately decided to drop it, ehem her.

The company has caught quite a bit of flak on social media and in gaming forums for the decision. Many have questioned how much work it really would have been to create a female avatar given that the company has hundreds of employees and nine studios worldwide.

Ubisoft is not alone in the gaming world for giving the short shrift to female protagonists. According to The Verge, Rockstar Games' Dan Houser said last year that Grand Theft Auto V didn't have female avatars because "the concept of being masculine was so key to this story." Similarly, Electronic Arts' Ultima Forever has female avatars but they're incapable of swinging a sword.

When CNET contacted Ubisoft for comment on its lack of a female avatar in Assassin's Creed Unity, company spokesman Michael Beadle said the company recognizes the "valid concern around diversity in video game narrative" and it looks forward to introducing players to some of the "strong female characters in Assassin's Creed Unity."

Here's Beadle's full statement:

We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin's Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

Assassin's Creed Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we've featured Aveline, Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin's Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin's Creed Unity.