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

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lostn

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If you want to be most inclusive, you have to put a gay person on the cover. Preferably black and female.

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dlCHIEF58

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@lostn: Let's not leave out transgender and handicapped people too.

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omegaheber

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@dlCHIEF58: the perfect character its a black transenxual muslim disabled mayonnaisekin

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JoshRMeyer

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@dlCHIEF58: I loled at both your comments.... shows the stupidity of people worrying about who's on the cover of a game.

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CrusaderForever

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Edited By CrusaderForever

Wow, now Microsoft is racist. Glad I don't associate myself with this company. Ubisoft did it right with Assassin's Creed Liberation and Aveline.

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dlCHIEF58

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Edited By dlCHIEF58

@CrusaderForever: Yet the SJW and feminists were all over Ubisoft when Unity was released because you couldn't play as a woman in the game.

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Balrogbane

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@CrusaderForever: I seriously hope you don't become convinced of something like that so easily.

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CrusaderForever

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@balrogbane: Well, I could say that the people that work at Microsoft that have decision making power are racist. However you look at it this isn't a good thing to have associated with your company. A company is only as good as the people that run it. Just sayin'........

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PointingMonkey

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@CrusaderForever: I was discussing just above this comment about the lack of black characters being on the front covers and so far we've found two games which were published by MS, which have black character prominently on the cover. In Crackdown and Shadowrun, then you add in the fact that Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero (soon you can add ReCore) were games which feature female leads on the cover. I don't see how anyone can accuse them of being either racist on misogynistic (not saying you did on that one), when you look at the fact that they published those games. Maybe they shot down the idea for reasons other than the way it is implied in this interview.

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Balrogbane

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@CrusaderForever: I'm saying, how do you know it's even true. I mean think about it. There are no names being accused of saying those things so no one can even claim to be innocent. Plus the guy making these claims has no proof and if overly dramatic about the whole thing.

My point is to assume innocents until proven guilty. And the burden of proof lies on the accuser, who at this point has yet to bring any sort of proof.

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letsgame82

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@balrogbane: If this is not true, no doubt MS will sue as its defamation of character.

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suicidesn0wman

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Edited By suicidesn0wman

The problem I have with this article and the previous one is that they keep saying "Microsoft said". No, Microsoft didn't say anything, it is not sentient, it can not speak for itself.

Until this loser comes out and flat out says "Don Mattrick said" or even "Phil Spencer said" I don't care what this guys story is. And for the record, I doubt Phil would say something like that, but Donny boy could punch a baby in the throat and I wouldn't be surprised.

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dlCHIEF58

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@suicidesn0wman: Ballmer is another one I could see taking a stance like this, but from what I've read so far I think this guy is full of it and exaggerating everything. A case of sour grapes.

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connorman01

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Edited By connorman01

Why would you want a black woman on the cover when the games story IS about a white guy?

Microsoft had the wrong response to this guy's suggestion, but you can't have a black woman on the cover because it would be totally irrelevant. You make the cover according to how the the damn story writers made the game

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sladakrobot

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@connorman01: No,its about a game where you can be whatever you want.
Noone in the game says "oh,what a handsome white guy" or "a beatiful black lady".
The game is gender and skincolor neutral in storytelling.

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connorman01

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@sladakrobot: you obviously haven't played the game. You can't change skin color

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connorman01

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Edited By connorman01

@sladakrobot: you can't really call it neutral skin color when your character is obviously white, didn't matter if the game mentioned your skin color or not (which would be stupid). The writers made the character white, people need to deal with it. If I was writing a story, I'll be damned if I let a bunch of cry babies dictate how I made my characters

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sladakrobot

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Edited By sladakrobot

@connorman01: The writers didnt made the character white...all the customization of your character would be a joke then,right?
If someone makes something foolish like that like in the game Demon Gaze,where the writers made a story about a male person but you could change the gender at the stat of the game to female rofl.
The best/worst thing was/is,the game still called your character as "him/he" even if you play as a female.

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connorman01

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@sladakrobot: ffs! Did ANY of you even pay the game? You can't change skin color. Only gender and hair

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sladakrobot

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@connorman01: Your playstyle changes the skin color

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JoshRMeyer

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@sladakrobot: Your skin color changes as you progress? You sure that's not just the character getting a tan? I can't imagine a game where my character was white at the start and somehow changed to black by the end.

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sladakrobot

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Edited By sladakrobot

@joshrmeyer: You are correct that you cant turn in a black skinned person but your shape and the skincolor changes with your playstyle.

Playing as good or a evil person,using ranged weapons,using magic or malee changes your characters shape and skin color to a certain degree

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JoshRMeyer

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@sladakrobot: Ohh, like that really old "Black and White" game for PC. (I think that's what it was called). You could be an evil god and your hand would start to change features. Miss that game.

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deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

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I would say that they were acting like a bunch of overly dramatic middle school students, but that would be an insult to middle school students.

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k9kal85

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Why is this story posted now? Pretty sure none of MS employees who made those comments are still employed there (if this story is even true). I mean this happened a decade ago for fricks sake.

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Balrogbane

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"I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less"

Well yeah it'll still sell if it has a woman on the box. After all Kate Upton in a bikini on the GTA cover didn't hurt it at all.

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Paul136

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True or false, lets clarify that Microsoft as a company are obviously not racist. If the conversation did indeed happen, it was with a very ignorant bunch of MS employees that quite obviously took it upon themselves to dictate with ignorance. Not that this makes it right, but i seriously doubt that any major publisher of software or hardware hasn't had a brush with this issue at some point in the past.

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deathblow3

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i guess ms forgot one of there biggest games right now and in the 90's was tomb raider and it has a woman on the box.

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JoshRMeyer

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@deathblow3: Hot girl with a British accent... how could the game not sell? Lol I personally wish there were more of those type games. I mean Nathan drake has that sexy chest hair swaying in the wind, why not have boobs? Lol

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omegaheber

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Edited By omegaheber

@joshrmeyer: oh yeah, that polygonal body really turns me on

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sladakrobot

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@deathblow3: Really? I couldnt see the face of the woman...just oversized boobs :-)

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Balrogbane

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@sladakrobot: Yeah it was one of the breast...I mean best covers of the 90's

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Balrogbane

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Edited By Balrogbane

"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."

That whole thing sounds made up.

11 • 
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JoshRMeyer

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@balrogbane: In MS defense, they are a business, and pay people a ton of money in marketing to make money. So I think they have every right to choose what will most likely sell more. It's not racist, it's just business.

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freedom01

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Edited By freedom01  Moderator

They could have done a front and back illustration, and let the users decide which artwork they want as the front cover, which would also show that you can choose what you want to be

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branketra

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@freedom01: That would have been the rational decision, but I think these folks had a mentality about winners taking all.

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

It's worth noting that Lionhead wasted $75 million of Microsofts money and almost 4 years with little to show for. The studio was shut down because they were incapable of doing their job correctly. Legends was not doing well in it's beta stage, people were clamoring for Fable 4 not some sort of F2P moba-esque game. Whether Lionhead's wanted to move in that direction or MS made them (which is their right as owners of the IP, they can dictate the direction of creative power how they see fit as they're hiring the developers to use said IP) it wasn't working, and since Lionhead's had no other projects there was no reason to keep them around. It's business.

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suicidesn0wman

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Edited By suicidesn0wman

@davillain-: I wouldn't say I totally agree with that, Fable Legends was mechanically sound and had really awesome graphics, everything about the game seemed pretty close to being a solid game, but something was lacking, it wasn't fun. It wasn't 'not fun', it was just average. The game would have done well as a $60 game without the microtransactions, but as a freemium it was doomed.

Lionhead had their hands tied by the old guard to the point they couldnt succeed.

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cornbredx

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This story he is weaving doesn't add up in so many ways, but I'm not surprised given that he worked for Lionhead. They're a bunch of con artists.

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phoenix1289

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Edited By phoenix1289  Online

I don't buy it. It sounds very much like someone who just has a chip on their shoulder about things and I'm inclined not to just take the word of someone with that kind of bias without some corroborating evidence.

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Paul136

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@phoenix1289: Your reasoning is sound to me. To be honest though, even if it was true, is it all that surprising that these conversations could potentially be happening? There's still a lot of ignorant people out there, and these events shouldn't necessarily mean that Microsoft as a company are the evil one's :)

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deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

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How would having a black woman on the front cover show the uniformed customer that you can be any type of hero any more than the generic white male?

Neither approach gives that impression in my opinion.

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suicidesn0wman

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@pspearman: No shit, if you want to show that you can be anything, make it a pink transgender with green hair and a strap-on on her head. That'll get peoples attention.

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Paul136

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@pspearman: I hear what you're saying. Bringing diversity for the sake of ticking a little box saying you've done so solely for that reason is just as bad as being ignorant to the fact that you didn't acknowledge that it could have been anyone other than a a white male. I really dislike the types of people that insist on complete 'fairness' in that regard. Perhaps it's more suited to the game that the character be a white male, perhaps a black woman. The point is that the decision should be based on the games story, etc & not to appease those that feel it fair to look at everything with a spirit level.

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sladakrobot

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Edited By sladakrobot

@pspearman: They could show several characters on the cover...black,white,male,female.

"You are the hero/heroine"

I am genius :-)

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cejay0813

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@pspearman: You answered your own question within your question!!

LMAO!!

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GirlUSoCrazy

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy  Online

Sounds like the discussions for Star Wars Rey toys, yet there was a ton of de!mamd for them.

Too many old people in business who don't understand their target market

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