Publisher Activision has denied allegations that it has a sexist development agenda that forbids the use of female lead characters in its titles.
The claims come from a speculative report on Gamasutra that cites a number of unnamed sources. “Games with female leads don't sell,” it reads. “At least that's what Activision believes.
“In 2007, we're told the publisher even went so far as to change the protagonist in a new concept – the project that would become True Crime 3 – from a female to a male, on the rationale that the female wouldn't move software units. According to our research, the only titles published by Activision since 2005 that feature female leads are licenses, like Barbie and Dora.”
Specifically, the site claims that in the early stages of its development True Crime was in fact pitched by Treyarch under an entirely different guise. Called Black Lotus, it featured an Asian female assassin modelled on actress Lucy Liu.
It’s claimed that in the end “Activision killed it, saying they don't do female characters because they don't sell – Activision gave us specific direction to lose the chick”.
Another source adds: “If Activision does not see a female lead in the top five games that year, they will not have a female lead. And the people that don't want a female lead will look at games like Wet and Bayonetta and use them as 'statistics' to 'prove' that female leads don't move mass units.”
Activision, however, has strongly denied the accusations, telling Gamasutra in an official statement: “Activision respects the creative vision of its development teams. The company does not have a policy of telling its studios what game content they can develop, nor has the company told any of its studios that they cannot develop games with female lead characters.
“With respect to True Crime: Hong Kong, Activision did not mandate the gender of the lead character. Like all other game and media companies, Activision uses market research in order to better understand what gamers are looking for.”