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Microsoft vetoed a black woman on cover for Fable II

Ex-Lionhead art director recalls marketing department "just didn't get it," insisted on a white male for Xbox 360 RPG

One of the selling points for Fable II was greater character customization. As former Lionhead art director John McCormack described in a new Eurogamer feature chronicling the studio's history, it was such a significant addition he wanted to feature it by putting a black woman on the game's packaging, only to have Microsoft's marketing department nix the idea.

"They were going, you can't have a black person on the cover, and you can't have a woman," McCormack said. "And you want a black woman. And I was like, yes, I do, because it's about be whatever hero you want. No. It's a white guy. That's just the way it is. We know what sells and that's fucking it. Stop the arguing. I was like, fuck 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 fuck you, man. I hated it.

"I was screaming at them in conference calls. 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!"

McCormack was also dismayed at the marketing department's insistence on selling the game as a standard fantasy RPG, rather than a story with a comedic bent.

"[T]hey were going, what are you making? An RPG? Right, dragons and shit. And that was their advert," McCormack said. "And we were like, no, ours is a Monty Python-esque comedy. And they went, look, we know how to market RPGs. And they opened the RPG marketing drawer and pulled out a picture of a dragon that wasn't even in the game and went there you go. That's your market. The market for that game is your average Dungeons & Dragons fare. And we were like, this game's totally different."

Check out the full feature for more anecdotes from the studio, including details about its acquisition by Microsoft, the cancellation of Kinect showpiece Milo and Kate, and the pitch for Fable 4 that Microsoft turned down.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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