One of the most pleasant surprises from Sony’s E3 2015 press conference was Horizon Zero Dawn, the new game from Killzone developer Guerrilla Games. It stars Aloy, a female hunter in a world where modern society has fallen and the world has been taken over by giant robot dinosaurs.
While the open-world setting and RPG gameplay of Horizon are a huge departure for Guerrilla, having only worked on the linear Killzone series for the past decade, Sony was worried about the game’s announcement for an entirely different reason. Sony was worried because the game stars a female protagonist.
Sony Worried Over Horizon‘s Female Lead
In an interview with Polygon, Sony Computer Entertainment’s head of worldwide studios, Shuhei Yoshida revealed that although “The Last Guardian was very emotionally important” it was Horizon that had him quaking the most, with Yoshida calling the game “the biggest project” that he announced during Sony’s blockbuster press conference.
The director explains that they were so concerned about the reaction to Aloy that they even brought on an external marketing team to see whether or not Horizon‘s female lead would turn players away:
“She’s a female lead character. That has always been the vision by the team, but we had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character? The concern came after the game was in development.
We started to show it to many more people internally and they had questions about it. So we worked with our marketing groups to do this focus testing. We wanted to see how people would react to some of the things: open world RPG, the set up of machine versus primitive weapons and the female protagonist. All of those things.”
What is incredibly positive is that the testing feedback that they got suggested that yes, players are completely A-OK with a young woman being the star of Horizon‘s robot dinosaur show. Furthermore, Yoshida had this to say about female leads in games, and where the games industry is headed next:
“Looking at our press conference and other’s press conferences, many teams our doing it now. Like there is a new lead in Assassin’s Creed, and Mirror’s Edge is back. I feel great that there is more diversity in the kind of worlds and kind of characters that we are making as an industry.
As an industry, I think we should continue to make efforts to have more females in studios on the development side and to get different perspectives. Games have become more and more popular in terms of who plays, especially in terms of mobile. We have a chance to further increase the reach, from a PlayStation standpoint, to a bigger more diverse audience.
In order for us to do that, the games we create have to appeal to a broader audience.”
Horizon Zero Dawn will be released on PS4 in 2016.