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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Nabinator

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Edited By Nabinator

Another article brought me back to this one, I know its pretty old...BUT

McCormack sounds like an idiot. He may be fighting for the right reasons, but he's fucking stupid. Firstly, the target audience is not black women. It's mostly white males - especially since its a game with British appeal. ****, the region is named Albion - fashioned after traditional England. People are white there. Not saying nonwhite women wouldn't be interested in a game like this, but they're not the main demographic. And Marketing always needs to appeal to the main demographics. And I expect most african americans wouldn't give a shit.

Secondly, can you even be black in this game? From my memory, no. So not only is it a fucking stupid idea but its one that promotes false advertising and could've resulted in a sueing. Making the cover hero a black woman for the sake of being a black woman is the kind of idea that a no-brains SJW would drum up, not a professional video game designer.

Microsoft made the right call.

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BrannyPot

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@nabinator: Your skin colour changes to black when you you were pure corrupt

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Nabinator

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@brannypot: Oh really? Ah, I guess that sends even more mixed messages

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HairyMetalHead

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This sounds like bullshit, Mccormack is just being a little baby and trying to spin Microsoft turning the idea down into a race issue, if its even true to begin with.

Here's why the cover character shouldn't be a black woman. First of all the character you play has is directly related to the hero from fable 2 who was white, and then there's the issue of not even being able to play as black person so having that on the cover would be wildly misleading to the potential buyer.

Fable 3 was the most restricted in the sense that you can be whatever you want, so this seems like a weird issue to me.

Ignoring the obvious exaggeration in what he's saying, as I doubt everyone would be screaming **** you at each other. Target demographics are a thing and games are a business at the end of the day so they have to maximise sale potential and that means tailoring the game to the demographic that is most likely to buy it. Basing a decision on that principle isn't in any way shape or form wrong.

I imagine this was one conversation he had with marketing and they turned his idea down because of obvious reasons. now he's blowing it out of proportion so he can score some brownie points with the progressive movement in games in an attempt to stay relevant.

Might have picked the wrong side there buddy.

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suttonleo

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The author of this article failed to include this information in the paragraph before the excerpt he chose to copy and paste. "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."

I expect there will have to be some loud retractions after this Microsoft-smearing cock-up.

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Evenios

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thats so raciest. but hey thats industry for you today.

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stoney28z

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Edited By stoney28z

As if this conversation would have went any different at any Company lol. Is this some type of bullshit MS slander article. Try getting Sony or Nintendo to put a Black woman on the cover of one of their games and see what happens lol.

And why would they want a black woman when 90% of the players of this game will be white males lol.

They guy wanted MS to lose sales and piss off fans in the name of What?His White guilt lol, Not like any black people would have gave a crap about what color the cover person is.

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Hemilash

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@stoney28z: "And why would they want a black woman when 90% of the players of this game will be white males lol."

Totally. I only buy games with mirrors on the cover. And only games that reflect my life, tastes, and preferences. In fact, if the game isn't about me getting up and going to work in a sprawling office, I am NOT interested.

Y'all were raised on Italian plumbers, blue hedgehogs, pot-breaking elves, and a fruit-eating cheese wheel with a face cut out. But these days it's all about me, me, me. When did imagination die?

(Also, to answer your question: Fable was about "be whatever hero you want," right? What better way to represent this than to have a double minority on the box. It was actually a smart way to encapsulate that complex idea. Also as to black people not giving a crap about who's on the box, obviously black people care, just like white people care. It means a lot to minorities to be represented in a society at large. Like, I cannot stress how important this is, historically and culturally. Maybe you're not from America, so you might not know.)

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aj87

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@stoney28z: Couldn't agree with you more. The game was about ".. be whatever hero you want.", so whats wrong about being a white guy? And he was telling the truth about The Princess and Frog, I searched and sadly, thats the reality, but if they are a company, what should they do? Lose money for political correctness on a sure bad marketing decision? When people think in the word "company", all they can associate with their little minds are "evil CEO", "greedy fuckers", "money suckers" and so on, but they forget the part about employing hundreds of people across the world. You cant just play with this over a bullshit political agenda.

EXCEPT if the game was mostly about a black girl or, at least, a black girl was a major character to be considered to be in the cover.

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Bond_Villain

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What if say we change the branding on Uncle Ben's rice, to oh maybe a 40 year old white soccer mum grinning at you from the shelves?

You know, for the sake of diversity.

Will it sell you think? And what if someone gets upset cos you cant change it?

Packaging matters, it's simple marketing

(It's also just common sense)

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Hemilash

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This is not surprising in the least. Ad execs are all about selling to the culture, regardless of it's morality. Look how long it took commercials in America to start using multi-racial families or dark skinned black people (as opposed to the Halle Berry complexion). The representation is still way below actual population.

I mean, the Microsoft guy isn't wrong. Gamers and society at large are still pretty racist and sexist. That much is apparent just by reading some of the comments on this article. But that's not to say it should be that way.

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noladem504

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@Hemilash: so somehow forcing non-white leads for the sake of having non-white leads is "moral"? If anything, THAT is racist.
And you say media under represents dark skinned people compared to population? What country do you live in? Our media in America is FAR over represented with blacks for example. Being only 13% of the pop yet populating the half if not the majority of advertising is not reflective of actual pop. Funny how you race obsessed are so quick to call everyone else racist. Talk about hypocrisy.

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Hemilash

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@noladem504: First, no one is talking about forcing non-white leads. We're talking about box art.

Second, minorities don't constitute anything like half of commercials or media. And if you look further and examine the roles, minorities and women are far more likely to play minor/supporting roles. It's well known that commercial media under-represents & provides stereotypical versions of their characters. Even if one isn't familiar with that fact, you can figure it out in under 5 minutes on Google Scholar by doing a neutrally worded search for "minority representation in advertising." Further, I noticed you ignored my point about the difference between light-skinned blacks, which are used to represent all black people, and the actual skin tones of black in America. So "half if not the majority of advertising" is so wrong it's laughable.

Third, as a comment on an article that discusses a reported situation of racial bias, it's pretty hard not to talk about race. I mean, we could just pretend that race doesn't exist, but that's a pretty dumb way to enable racism. I can acknowledge my own racial biases and preferences and I'm pretty comfortable talking about them. I'm sorry that you're not. Because if you think all the comments on this article are all fine and dandy, you've got a lot of growing up to do.

Lastly, can we just marvel for a second at how you said I was being hypocritical for calling people racist in the same post as you said making non-white characters was racist? I mean, damn, that's funny.

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IGNblows

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Sounds like this guy has bitter beans in his head.

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activeme4u2

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I don't buy it... I believe there was a push to have a white male on the cover but I highly doubt most of these statements and quotes were actually true.

Perhaps inside their heads it happened...

All in all, BS.

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Imajinn

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Is anyone really shocked by this?

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omegaheber

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I call bullshit, sounds like a butthurt person that cries racism because she didnt got the job

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SkyHighGam3r

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@omegaheber: LOL did you even read the article???

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noladem504

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@lonesamurai1: is that supposed to be a bad thing (being white)? I am not understanding this seemingly racist notion that anything "white" is not diverse and inherently bad. I would think from a business, or any other standpoint, diversity should be valued by the notion of thought, not skin color.

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FreeRyu

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I'm not trying to defend them here but Lionhead just wanted to jump on that diversity hype train thats still going on lol.

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HughTheHand88

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Diversity is just an underhanded way of saying that there should be less white people.

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noladem504

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@hughthehand88: exactly, and this idiot's comment proves it:

" lonesamurai1 - 1 day ago

Microsoft has always been the whitest company in America, they have never handled race relations well. "

Apparently being "white" is inherently wrong.

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

I wonder how many people reading this will be like 'Microsoft is crap' or what have you. Heck, they may still think this, but Microsoft is in a different place now than it was when Fable 2 and three were made. As for the topic, I can't speak by generalizing, only for myself, but I can say that I think it's stupid, and putting a woman (or in this case, a black woman) on a cover wouldn't make me think one way or another about getting the game. If the game is good, I want to get it, if it's not, I won't. That said, when it comes to Fable, if it's about choose your own hero, don't put a character on there at all. I hear putting a character on the front will sell more copies, but that's ridiculous. Just put Albion on the front.

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gamer6130

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This shit doesn't surprise me at all and, then they wonder why the Xbox is nonexistent in countries like japan. while the ps4 is selling in droves worldwide. their business standards are going to leave them last place.

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aj87

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@gamer6130: I really dont get what this have to do with the japanese market. I do agree that Microsoft dropped the ball really hard on that catastrophic E3, but they sure are doing on hell of a job improving features and stepping up the game.

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HughTheHand88

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@gamer6130: Japanese people want black women on their video game covers?

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Navardo95

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Edited By Navardo95

@hughthehand88: Not necessarily.But they are more than willing to accept a cover that involves a character that belongs outside of the White race unlike racist Whites.

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skippert

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Edited By skippert

@Navardo95: Actually no. It is well known that in Japan and also other Asian countries that, oddly enough, they actually are quite happy to buy stuff that marketed more towards "white" people. They have whole movements dedicated to having larger eyes and paler skin....

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noladem504

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@Navardo95: huh? dafuq are you getting this information? So somehow Japanese people hate white people so much that they are unwilling to buy games with white people in them? LOL! I take it you have absolutely no insight of Japanese culture. Just because you are racist against whites doesn't mean non-whites agree with you.

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PutASpongeOn

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Edited By PutASpongeOn

Marketing wise, it's a fact that white males sale more product, and yes, that is true among females as well, females are more likely to buy a product if it has a white male on it.

This is business, not racism, I don't get offended when I don't get an acting part as black girl.

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PutASpongeOn

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Edited By PutASpongeOn

@louixiii: This is literally marketing fact, I even learned it in fucking college. Girls are more likely to get something with a male on it.

Males with males as well.

You're calling me an idiot even though I'm right, therefore that means you are one.

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PutASpongeOn

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@louixiii: When in reality, you're the idiot.

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LouiXIII

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@putaspongeon: Yes you are xD

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PutASpongeOn

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@louixiii: "I know you are but what am I"

You're honestly a retard.

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LouiXIII

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Edited By LouiXIII

@putaspongeon: Just saying that line ALONE makes you a "tard" lol

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PutASpongeOn

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@louixiii: Learn the difference between you're and your.

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LouiXIII

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@putaspongeon: I know the difference. It was supposed to be a "you" and not a you're lol If you knew how to comprehend, you'd know that Spongebob

And btw...it's been fixed xD

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PutASpongeOn

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@louixiii: Altered your sentence to try to turn your autism mistake around on me, fucking desperate.

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LouiXIII

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@putaspongeon: I didn't alter the sentence you dingbat. Are you that slow or you just like lying for attention lol

You don't have to lie to kick it xD

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Jago-Vs-Fulgore

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Edited By Jago-Vs-Fulgore

This just doesn't happen in video game development. This also happens in the hiring process with most businesses as well : p On a lighter note we finally got a black Disney Prince this year... Black Panther.. rofl

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noladem504

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@Jago-Vs-Fulgore: yes I'm sure business's are just more than willing to throw qualified people to the curb and ignore their own earning potential simply because someone is of a particular race. Seems legit, I'm sure you've done a ton of research into this.

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Jago-Vs-Fulgore

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No one is gonna buy or not buy a game because of the color skin a person is on the front of the cover. "PERIOD" .. Because ya see racist are ignorant right? So its not them ignoring it when there to ignorant to know "NO ONE CARES"! .. Microsoft.. No ones cares what color the cover person is.... Get it now? : p

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