There are very few things we're absolutely certain of in this world, but here's one of them: Activision likes money. If it gets you to whip out your wallet in a hurry, it's in. If not, it's out faster than you can say, “Isn't it just a teensy bit odd that none of Activision's big-name titles feature female leads?” According to sources within Activision, it's no mere coincidence, either. Case in point: True Crime: Hong Kong. Or, as it was once known, Black Lotus.
"Black Lotus was a great project internally," an unnamed source told Gamasutra . "We were all very proud of what we were trying to make and the team was excited. We made great progress."
Apparently, the game was originally an over-the-top love letter to Hong Kong action-cinema starring a heroine based on actress Lucy Liu. But then 2007 happened. After watching games like Halo 3, Madden, Modern Warfare, and Assassin's Creed climb to the top of the charts powered by a tasty cocktail of testosterone, Mountain Dew, and live grenades, Activision decided that “guy stuff” sold.
"We were all on board, and then Activision killed it, said they don't do female characters because they don't sell," the source continued.
"Activision gave us specific direction to lose the chick," said another source.
Black Lotus was then handed off to a United Front Games, where – after a few nips and a couple tucks here and there – its main character re-emerged as a gruff, tough manly man. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Since 2005, Activision's only female leads have been locked into their roles by preexisting licenses. You know, Barbie, Dora the Explorer – that kind of thing. Apparently, Activision's empire is one where the latest trends are king, and games are frequently re-worked mid-development to appease the whims of allegedly sketchy focus tests.
When reached for comment, Activision denied the whole shebang, noting that it “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."
Somewhat hilariously, this scuttlebutt emerges from the woodwork mere days after Activision lost a sexual harassment case to the tune of at least $1 million. Oh universe, you and your love of comedic timing.