The developer of upcoming sci-fi adventure Remember Me has revealed that a number of publishers passed on the game due to its female protagonist.
The gender of Remember Me's main character, Nilin, was a serious stumbling block for several companies. Especially the fact that she, as the player's avatar, is shown to be in a relationship with a man.
"We had some [companies] that said, 'Well, we don't want to publish it because that's not going to succeed. You can't have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,'" creative director Jean-Maxime Moris told Penny Arcade.
"We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin's private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy. We had people tell us, 'You can't make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that's going to feel awkward.'"
By the time Remember Me was shown to publishers it was already in a state where changing the character's gender would require too much work. And it was at this point that several publishers decided they were no longer interested.
"I'm like, 'If you think like that, there's no way the medium's going to mature," Moris continued. "There's a level of immersion that you need to be at, but it's not like your sexual orientation is being questioned by playing a game. I don't know, that's extremely weird to me."
From the publisher's point of view, there is a strong case for female-fronted games selling worse. And for them, the bottom line is crucial.
Looking back at an earlier PA Report, data from video game research and consulting firm EEDAR showed that, from a sample of 669 current-gen games which had protagonists of a specific gender, only 24 of these were exclusively fronted by women.
Less than half had the option of a female lead, including games where you created your own character.
Games with female-only leads - where you couldn't choose any other option - did sell significantly less, EEDAR's COO Geoffrey Zatkin revealed.
"Games with a female-only protagonist got half the spending of female-optional, and only 40 percent of the marketing budget of male-led games. Less than that, actually."
Geoffrey Zatkin, EEDAR
"If you look at the first three months, with the smaller quantity of female-led games, they did not sell as well. The ones that were male-only sold better."
Male-only hero games sold 25 per cent better than those with an optional female hero, and 75 per cent better than whose with a female-only hero.
But this doesn't tell the whole story. These figures reflect the fact that games with female-only heroes get less than helf the marketing budget of titles with male-only heroes.
"Games with a female-only protagonist got half the spending of female optional, and only 40 per cent of the marketing budget of male-led games. Less than that, actually," Zatkin concluded.
That's the truth, then - that the people choosing what game receives what marketing budget are helping continue a self-fulfilling prophecy. The majority of publishers continue down the safe route of funding male-only led games, comfortable in the knowledge that, because of this, male-only led games sell by the bucket load.