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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cejay0813

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Let's be frank, was the first Fable even a good game? I'm still debating that.

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cornbredx

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@cejay0813: The first Fable is the only good game in the series. So, yes.

Debate solved.

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cejay0813

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@cornbredx: I'm personally debating that. Funny thing about opinions... daaaaah you know already

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

@cejay0813: Yes it's still good to this day but Fable 2 isn't good but a hell lot better then what Fable 3 did.

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cejay0813

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@davillain-: Hmm news to me. I was extremely bored with Fable when it came out. Maybe it just wasn't for me

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RicanV

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RicanV  Moderator

I'd like to hear the other side.

As to box-art, NBA2K offered multiple inserts so that you could swap out the covers. This could have been a feasible solution.

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kee1haul

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Pure slander from the most anti microsoft on the net.

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Moose-Fitz

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Edited By Moose-Fitz

Sounds like a lot of paraphrasing in his description of their fight. I bet it was more along the lines of "Can we do this?" "No." "But..." "No." "Ok."

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muppetbabymastr

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@moose-fitz: Right! he said and I was like **** you!, 100% that is not how it went down.

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pug987

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I think this particular problem the developer had was with the marketing department and not Microsoft as a whole. To quote the original article:

"The marketing was shit," he says. "It was terrible. They just didn't get it. But it wasn't Microsoft's marketing. Marketing was like its own department."

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iandizion713

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Edited By iandizion713

Ouch, no wonder Fable went under with ideals like that. I think i agree with Microsoft, time for a new studio to handle Fable.

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Fartman7998

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Doesn't make sense. Why would you put someone on the cover that isn't even in the game? I'd understand if they wanted to put Theresa on the cover....fishy story.

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GirlUSoCrazy

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

@Fartman7998: You can make your character look like anything so they can put literally anyone on the cover as some random hero you might make.

They might have even done multiple collectible covers

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Fartman7998

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Edited By Fartman7998

@girlusocrazy: Sure you can, but that's only after the game has started. You shape and mold the character, you don't create one. Putting a very specific derivation of the character, who is originally a basic male, clashes with the game's idea that the main character is a blank slate.

I'm not saying Microsoft was fully right, but this art director also kind of missed the point.

EDIT: Okay, been a while since I played Fable 2. Totally forgot you can choose your gender. I see his side now. I still think the art is fine though, all things considered.

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Xristophoros

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Edited By Xristophoros

microsoft would never release a 1st party game with a female protagonist. that much is certain. the microsoft suits have the intelligence of your average high school jock. did elli on the cover hurt sales of the last of us? nope. will horizon sales suffer due to playing as a female character? nope. has life is strange been a surprise hit, garnering a cult following with not one, but two, lead female characters? yup. then there is mirror's edge and walking dead seasons 1 and 2... not sure i need to say anything more on the subject. get out of your time machines and just make great games featuring people of all walks of life. this is the world we live in and you must allow your games be representative of that.

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suicidesn0wman

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@Xristophoros: Kameo says hi.

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PointingMonkey

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@suicidesn0wman: Perfect Dark also wishes you a good morning.

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Xristophoros

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too bad perfect dark was not created by microsoft.

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suicidesn0wman

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@pointingmonkey: Will ReCore read me a bed time story later tonight? I like those!

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PointingMonkey

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@suicidesn0wman: Yes but only if your a good boy and eat all your vegetables, finish your homework and clean your room.

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muppetbabymastr

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@Xristophoros: Racism is still real, people might not buy something with a black girl on it. If this is how it went down the marketing dept would have more research on it than us on a message board

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Xristophoros

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Edited By Xristophoros

@muppetbabymastr: racism is real, but that doesn't mean the game industry or media industries on the whole need to cater to THEIR expectations. far too often decisions are made by focus groups or individuals with power who have a backwards way of thinking... too afraid to stand up for what is right.

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DaVillain-

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@muppetbabymastr: Did you ever watch The new Ghostbusters trailer? That was the most hated trailer in youtube back then only because the Black girl was all stereotype that everyone hated, including me. I'm NOT white but that trailer really turn me off and I have no desire to go see the movie at all, I'll just Redbox it whenever it releases for DVD. Don't take this the wrong way but I personally don't have a problem whoever is on the front cover, color/gender doesn't really matter to me, it's how you present who's on the front cover and yeah Racism still there, sad but hey, were all Humans (Well I hope some of us are) I guess that still there.

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muppetbabymastr

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@davillain-: Im with you, black portrail in the media is ridiculous. Im black and only 1 of 5 black people fits the tv stereotype ( and thats probably due to conditioning). Yet this is all we see on TV, why cant they just use their real voice, guess thats why they have the rule of one to keep it "authentic".

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deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

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@Xristophoros: Kameo?

Edit: Perfect Dark and the upcoming ReCore as well

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Xristophoros

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Edited By Xristophoros

@pspearman: i stand corrected. there is that... then again, perfect dark was a property prior to microsoft getting it's hands on the ip. i wouldn't say they directly conceived of the project and specifically were "ok" with a female protagonist. they simply funded a sequel to a franchise that already had a large following. also, recore is not 1st party. it might be exclusive to the x1 (and pc) but i was referring to 1st party titles where microsoft calls the shots entirely.

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DarthStryphe

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@pspearman: and the game sucked do we will never see her again

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Xristophoros

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@DarthStryphe: that is true and i am sure the microsoft suits were heavily against the idea in the first place.

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sladakrobot

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@Xristophoros: They marketed Tomb Raider...well they had no choice lol

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stage4saiyan

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This sounds like a bitter ex-employee making shit up.

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naryanrobinson

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@stage4saiyan: .

Actually it sounds nothing like that, it sounds like a conversation that definitely, definitely happened.

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cejay0813

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@stage4saiyan: Don't want to believe that racism still exists in 2016 huh? Yeah just look the other way, why be rational at all right

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stage4saiyan

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@cejay0813: The word "racism" has lost all meaning. Everything is racist nowadays, apparently.

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phoenix1289

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@stage4saiyan: Agreed. People just love to throw the racism card around at the moment and it's especially saddening because it takes away from the moments where it's actually an issue. It's the modern variant of the boy who cried wolf.

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cejay0813

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@phoenix1289: So it would've been better if he never mentioned that's what happened? Sweep that aspect under the rug?

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cejay0813

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@stage4saiyan: No not really. Just if you were to say, "you can't have a black person on the cover"

That's racist. Lol speaking specifically to this particular article. No need for the extra rhetoric. That's another redirect tactic that people use when they get uncomfortable about race. It's ok, bro. Chill out.

Racism still does exist, period. No need to take away from that comment

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ridah_2pac

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@cejay0813: I think what "stage4saiyan" is trying to say is, it's not racist, it's more opportunistic but can understandably be perceived as racist. I don't know this MS employee, but I doubt he's a skinhead marketing director. More likely he's a realist and knows what sells.

Real talk, browsing in GameSpot, the White dude cover would catch my attention quicker than one with my Mom on the cover (yes, she's Black).

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cejay0813

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@ridah_2pac: But that's the flaw... Why does one sell more over the other? Why are you so used to seeing the white guy on the cover vs anything else. It's years and years of that being the norm, so people are "comfortable."

Funny the monumental affect when the skin color changes. They'd like us to believe it's no big deal but recent history has shown that people still get uncomfortale

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stage4saiyan

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Edited By stage4saiyan

@cejay0813: The fact the guy felt to include a black character to promote diversity and to make a statement is also racist.

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naryanrobinson

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@stage4saiyan: .

You wanna go ahead and explain that one to the class?

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cejay0813

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@stage4saiyan: Article didn't mention anything about him attempting to make a statement. Just sounds like that's what he wanted to do.

Again another redirect! Lol you're on a role. There's still two more common excuses you haven't used yet. I'll wait...

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muppetbabymastr

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@cejay0813: Im friends with a black guy

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cejay0813

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@muppetbabymastr: LMAO!! I see someone gets it! I owe you a beer

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sladakrobot

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How many article will we get from that one interview we all read...right?
On topic...its a shame that devs have to make so many compromises just to get their game done and released.

They could have at least printed a front flyer with both sides printed but with different artwork.

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DarthStryphe

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@indigoj: did you read the article or just skimmed over it.

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Warlord_Irochi

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@indigoj: What does it have to do games being good/bad with the art cover? The article has nothing to do with the games themselves. Did you read it entirely?

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Warlord_Irochi

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Marketing is a weird machine that only bows to market and sales. I remember Naughty Dog had a few problems putting Ellie in the front of TLOU cover, they had to fight for it, they said,
If they are so crazy about that, it sends a curious message about the costumer's expectations and the perception the marketing guys have of them.

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

@Warlord_Irochi: Not only that but back in 2013, that year was the whole front cover controversy for the most parts. Ken Levine also got flank with the Bioshock: Infinite front cover as well when they had Booker DeWitt on the front while Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen. ND however told Sony to **** off, and went on to put Ellie on the front and Joel in the back. This whole Cover front is still fucking stupid I say.

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Warlord_Irochi

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@davillain-: iirc, the Bioshock Infinite controversy was about the cover not representing the actual game, not about Elizabeth not being on it.
But yeah, it's ridiculous. This seemed to be important for this guy, but that's not the best way or reacting to it (nor is to say it publicly now)

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solidsolo

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Edited By solidsolo

Microsoft is a business... business wants bottom line.... they know what hurts bottom line... it's just the way it is.

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cejay0813

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Edited By cejay0813

@solidsolo: And you're part of the problem. 2016 and surprisingly people like you are still living in the stone age chanting "it's just the way it is."

Slavery was "it's just the way it is" at one point, and was a big business.

I frankly love hearing the behind the scenes moments because if we left it up to what they just want us to hear, none of this stuff exists anymore.

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