Activision has denied "killing" a Black Lotus assassin game by Treyarch (and later resurrecting it as True Crime: Hong Kong) because it had a female hero.
"The company does not have a policy of telling its studios what game content they can develop," the publisher responded to a detailed Gamasutra report, "nor has the company told any of its studios that they cannot develop games with female characters. With respect to True Crime: Hong Kong, Activision did not mandate the gender of the lead character.
"Activision respects the creative vision of its development teams."
Sources alleged that Black Lotus - "a great project internally" - was "killed" because "they don't do female characters because they don't sell". Activision bods apparently demanded the studio "lose the chick".
The year was 2007 and the top selling games were Halo 3, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Assassin's Creed.
"Skewed" focus testing apparently confirmed that the market didn't want Black Lotus, and so the idea of True Crime: Hong Kong was "pushed" on the studio.
"Activision has no room for 'we are making an open-world game with a Hong Kong action movie feel with a female lead,' because that game doesn't exist right now," one source said. "What they do have room for is, 'we are making an open-world game with a gangster main character who can steal cars and shoot people, but it will be in Hong Kong instead of Liberty City. And then they go, 'Hey, GTAIV sold 10 million copies, so that's what we expect from you.'"
Another source added: "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."
Treyarch, for one reason or another, hasn't wound up as the developer of True Crime: Hong Kong. That's now United Front's baby. The game was formerly unveiled in December last year.
Black Lotus, for the record, was described as a Hong Kong cinema-style assassin game with a Lucy Liu-like main character (modelled around her roles in films Charlie's Angels and Kill Bill). "We were all very proud of what we were trying to make and the team was excited," rued one source. "We made great progress."