Microsoft Rejected Fable Dev's Idea to Put Black Woman on Fable 3 Cover - Report

"I was screaming at them in conference calls."

348 Comments

[UPDATE] It's been confirmed now that McCormack's comments were about Fable III, not Fable II. The headline and text have been updated to reflect that.

The original story is below.

As part of Eurogamer's fascinating, in-depth report on Fable developer Lionhead Studios comes a story about a time when the team pitched Microsoft on the idea of putting a black woman on the cover of Fable III. According to former art director John McCormack, Microsoft vetoed the idea.

He was not pleased.

"They were going, 'You can't have a black person on the cover, and you can't have a woman. And you want a black woman.' And I was like, 'Yes, I do, because it's about be whatever hero you want.' [According to McCormack, Microsoft said] 'No. It's a white guy. That's just the way it is. We know what sells and that's f**king it. Stop the arguing.' I was like, 'F**k you!' That was a huge fight."

"They said, 'What's the most unsuccessful Disney film? I was like, 'I don't know.' They went, 'Princess and the Frog. Work it out.' I was like, "F**k you, man.' I hated it."

McComack went on to say that Microsoft "missed the point" of Fable III overall by putting a traditional-looking, male hero on the cover.

"I was screaming at them in conference calls," he said. "I lost it at that point, because they just weren't getting the game. Especially because we were the first ever game that had gay marriage, we were about breaking down walls. It was meant to be funny and mature. They just took none of it and just did the usual white guy with a sword on the front. Damn it! You missed the point!"

No Caption Provided

According to Eurogamer's report, McCormack's story is something of an outlier.

"Most who worked on Fable II speak of the relationship with Microsoft in glowing terms," the report said. "The company comes across as one keen to retain the magic that has spawned the first Fable, that quirky British humor that went down so well with Monty Python fans back home."

Also in the report, McCormack said one of the reasons why he quit Lionhead in 2012 was because Microsoft rejected his pitch for a "darker, grittier" Fable 4.

GameSpot has contacted Microsoft to see if the company has a response to McCormack's comments. We will update this post with anything we hear back.

In 2012, Naughty Dog revealed that it was asked to put one of The Last of Us' main characters, the young woman Ellie, on the back of the box.

"I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less," director Neil Druckmann said at the time. "I know I've been in discussions where we've been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused."

Box art has the tricky job of capturing your attention and representing the game. BioShock Infinite's box art was criticized for not representing the tone of the game. Director Ken Levine responded to the criticisms, saying the cover was designed for the uninformed, not fans of the series.

Lionhead officially closed its doors at the end of April. Microsoft reportedly fielded numerous buyout offers for the studio and Fable franchise, but Microsoft apparently rejected them all.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 348 comments about this story
348 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for Jago-Vs-Fulgore
Jago-Vs-Fulgore

151

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Why doesn't Game for Windows and Xbox correspond with one another better? There should be dozens of cross platform games between them and its a shame that SFV on pc cross platforms to Pc better than any Xbox game ever has.. I must admit Games for Windows would be better off had it been owned by Sony.. Just look at what all Vita can do with the ps4..

Upvote • 
Avatar image for freeryu
FreeRyu

2610

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@Jago-Vs-Fulgore: "SFV on pc cross platforms to Pc better than any Xbox game ever has" Did ya play Killer Instinct yet?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for xgalacticax
xgalacticax

2066

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 0

Edited By xgalacticax

They should have just put a gay couple on the front. Then they can accuse anyone, who doesn't buy the game, as being a homophobe.

3 • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5da4c0387991d
deactivated-5da4c0387991d

461

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@xgalacticax: Reminds me of the relatively new Star Wars book, Aftermath. It was terrible, but the writer was saying all the hate was because he had a few openly gay characters in the book. LGBT and SJW went ape-shit on critics even though they didn't actually read the book to discover how poorly written it was.

2 • 
Avatar image for Ayzed
Ayzed

303

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@xgalacticax: or they could put a black trans couple. Extra oppression points and all that.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ninja2481
ninja2481

211

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 14

User Lists: 0

Edited By ninja2481

Good old click bait, we meet again.....anti MS propaganda rolls on.

3 • 
Avatar image for hughthehand88
HughTheHand88

444

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 0

@ninja2481: Anti MS? This made me have more respect for them.

2 • 
Avatar image for lesniewicz
lesniewicz

27

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@hughthehand88: AYEEEEE SO TRUE.... mccormack sounds like an attention wanting ******.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for charlieholmes
charlieholmes

290

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

It wouldn't matter to me what or whomever they put on the cover. But, there's no argument here. It's Microsoft's right in this situation just as it's every businesses right to promote whatever the hell they want to in hopes of reaching as broad an audience as they can. In this case marketing is being a little narrow minded that people won't and can't look past the cover model to realize a good game is there. But, that kind of thinking is in advertising every day. On the other hand, we're way to worried about what is within our control and/or should be, versus what isn't and we shouldn't worry about or be involved in. We sometimes think we're way more important than we are I suppose.

People need to chill a little bit. This uptight philosophy everyday gets you nowhere but in the ground faster! Just be thankful life is pretty damn good and choose the right battles!

2 • 
Avatar image for steadymercury
SteadyMercury

127

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By SteadyMercury

It's worth noting that the same article heavily discusses the boys will be boys culture at Lionhead that would have made it an absolutely miserable place to be anything other then a straight, white, British male for much of the devs history. I'm not excusing this particular event, personally I think it's a sad reflection on the state of marketing as a whole, but Lionhead and McCormack were definitely not white knights of justice and diversity railing against an evil entity.

From the Eurogamer report (which is great it should be read in full):

An artist used the fridge magnet letters to spell out a homophobic slur directed at his close friend. Another artist thought it was directed at him, however, and lodged an official complaint. Lionhead human resources, such as it was, went into meltdown. Fridge magnets were banned."The guy who did it shit himself," John McCormack remembers. "He was like, I'm going to lose my job. And we were like, you fucking might. We'd been doing this shit for years. This is a place where you take the piss and you have a laugh, and nobody takes anything seriously. I'm not saying the fridge magnet thing was right, it just was in keeping with everything else. HR were not having it at all." "Fridge magnet-gate" signalled a transition. The Lionhead culture slowly but surely changed as Microsoft's culture seeped into Occam Court. The boys club had had its day. The punk rockers had grown up, had kids and ditched the cans of coke and cold pizza for cups of tea and hot food from the canteen downstairs.

Basically, Microsoft is the reason you couldn't write homophobic slurs on the fridge at Lionhead. McCormack's half explanation for the event, essentially that it is just how things were, could just as easily (and stupidly) be used to justify/minimize not putting women or black people on video game covers.

3 • 
Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

13679

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 24

User Lists: 0

Meh. Most people say the working relationship with MS was great because they want to get jobs in the future. It's not just a gaming industry thing. Big companies in any sector don't like shit disturbers.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for cayne_phoenix
cayne_phoenix

2438

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

"An dey were like f**k you!,
an I was like f**k you!,
an dey were like NO, f**k you!
an i was nah huh, f**k you!"

sounded like a cartoony stand-off...

8 • 
Avatar image for sladakrobot
sladakrobot

9012

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@cayne_phoenix: Sounds like Dante in DmC

3 • 
Avatar image for Cnoggl01
Cnoggl01

63

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@sladakrobot: during that one boss fight for sure lol

Upvote • 
Avatar image for ixilion
Ixilion

256

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Well I can kinda understand both sides...Lionhead Studios wanting to be as diverse as possible with how the characters are made, and MS wanting to just slap on a simple white man on the cover since I guess that's standards in the industry and also appeals to the majority of the consumers. But it sounds like things got really heated up between them, especially if they're constantly throwing around F-bombs.

Either way, yea there's a dearth of non white males on the cover, and I think the last black man I saw was James Heller on Prototype 2. Personally, I don't really care about who's on the cover and what gender and skin color they are if the game can prove to be fun to play.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hughthehand88
HughTheHand88

444

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 21

User Lists: 0

@ixilion: "appeals to the majority of the consumers" you dismiss this as negligible when it's the main reason for these decisions, if you don't like it move to africa, plenty of black women there.

2 • 
Avatar image for charlton2
Charlton2

29

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@hughthehand88: 51% is a majority. there is still the 47% which arent represented.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Cnoggl01
Cnoggl01

63

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@ixilion: nah, there are black males on the cover of games a lot more than you realize. See: NBA Live and Madden. XD

3 • 
Avatar image for masscrack
masscrack

1014

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 19

User Lists: 0

@Cnoggl01: battlefield 1

2 • 
Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

15547

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I see it's dump on former employer time at this failed studio?

6 • 
Avatar image for sladakrobot
sladakrobot

9012

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@anakin11380: You are 3 days to late lol

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Spartan-1657
Spartan-1657

1551

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 11

User Lists: 0

Edited By Spartan-1657

@anakin11380: Are you using Internet Explorer?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for goodgamesguy
GoodGamesGuy

1141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Wow, of course they did. Microsoft sucks.

2 • 
Avatar image for andfx8
andfx8

590

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By andfx8

@goodgamesguy: "In 2012, Naughty Dog revealed that it was asked to put one of The Last of Us' main characters, the young woman Ellie, on the back of the box."

Upvote • 
Avatar image for goodgamesguy
GoodGamesGuy

1141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@andfx8: The same game that had a DLC with a black female on the cover... Doesn't change the fact Microsoft still sucks haha.

3 • 
Avatar image for pointingmonkey
PointingMonkey

833

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

@goodgamesguy: Crackdown and Shadowrun have a black man on the cover, Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero have women on the cover.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for andfx8
andfx8

590

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@goodgamesguy: DLC? Whatever helps you sleep at night

Upvote • 
Avatar image for fedor
Fedor

8005

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@andfx8: and in the end Ellie was front row and center on the LoU cover....

Upvote • 
Avatar image for goodgamesguy
GoodGamesGuy

1141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@andfx8: Still a cover with a black female on it kid, try harder

2 • 
Avatar image for andfx8
andfx8

590

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@goodgamesguy: Try harder for what?

2 • 
Avatar image for Asukafan2001
Asukafan2001

63

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I do think this is an issue, however, anyone who thinks this is exclusive to Microsoft is naive. Sony and Nintendo are just as guilty of the same thing. I think it says more about the industry then anything. I do believe things are changing. Mass Effect 3 pushed fem shepard. Infamous DLC first LIght featured a female protagonist as well.

However, these cases need to be the norm and not the exception to the rules. Sadly. I don't remember the last time i saw anyone of ethnicity on the cover or promiment role. The only one that comes to mind is barret from ff7 however im sure there are a few others.

2 • 
Avatar image for ef56sd
EF56SD

481

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Then how come every playable character in Fable is ONLY white?

2 • 
Avatar image for mhfon
mhfon

235

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

And where is black guys/women in Sony/Nintendo games? This is not an exclusive problem from MS.

4 • 
Avatar image for freeryu
FreeRyu

2610

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

@mhfon: Nintendo is run by 1000 year old dudes. They will never catch on with them in charge.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for pchan_
pchan_

31

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Lionhead: "I want a black woman in the cover"
MS: "No, you don't want a black woman in the cover"

Upvote • 
Avatar image for catsimboy
catsimboy

2297

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Well at least black women came out ahead in that they don't have to be associated with such a shitty game.

19 • 
Avatar image for borgking1234
borgking1234

398

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Microsoft is like N!#%#$R please

5 • 
Avatar image for letsgame82
letsgame82

607

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@borgking1234: What a cringey comment for this article! Timing is everything...

2 • 
Avatar image for John_Aguilera
John_Aguilera

502

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Racist pigs.

16 • 
Avatar image for ridah_2pac
ridah_2pac

88

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By ridah_2pac

@John_Aguilera: I wouldn't call them racist pigs, more like capitalists pigs. If they knew that a Black woman on the cover would sell the same or more and made that call, I'd absolutely agree. But I suspect they made the decision based on future $$'s rather than race (knowing a White male on the cover would be more profitable).

Put more simply, if someone gave you the option to put $100 in an African bank and make $1,000 or put it in a Belgium bank and make $5,000, by picking the later does it make you racist towards Blacks?

2 • 
Avatar image for luert
luert

440

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By luert

this is the typical issue about us being too much used to white people and not asian or black guys, or even india red skin guy, all a problem with mentality wich in turn affects even market's decisions sad thing

4 • 
Avatar image for goodgamesguy
GoodGamesGuy

1141

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By GoodGamesGuy

@luert: Infamous SS the main character was aboriginal

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Myron117
Myron117

1449

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@luert: 100000% agree.

...You broke the 100% barrier somehow.

Upvote •