Although tobacco use has never been particularly prominent in Microsoft’s flagship cover shooter, it was rumored that Gears of War 5 would be removing all references to smoking as a result of anti-tobacco activism. But lead developer Rod Fergusson says the choice was made due to personal preference.
This comes directly after reports that anti-smoking organization, Truth Initiative successfully lobbied Gears of War developer The Coalition to cut all tobacco references and imagery from its upcoming sequel. Slated for a fast-approaching September 10 launch, Gears 5 was revealed at last month’s E3 to be shaking up the thirteen-year-old franchise in a few ways bigger than the omission of character Michael Barrick’s cigars. Along with an outlandish, character-driven trailer, an all-new mode called Escape was revealed, which will pit three players against the Swarm in a novel fight for survival that doesn’t come quite close to revolutionizing the series like Gears of War 2‘s Horde mode.
Responding to a now-removed Game Informer tweet about the Truth Initiative’s apparent anti-smoking victory, Rod Fergusson, studio head of The Coalition, implied that smoking likely wouldn’t have played any prominent role in the final release of Gears 5, anyway. Referring to pre-release concept art for Gears of War 2 in which a character could be seen smoking a cigarette, Fergusson backs up his anti-smoking track record in a tweet of his own when pointing out smoking’s inevitable absence from the game, saying, “I stopped it.” Though his rebuttal is undoubtedly a form of mild damage control, Fergusson later expanded upon his distaste for tobacco and its health risks when sharing that his father, who smoked, died early when Fergusson was only a small child.
In reality, it’s hard to say that the Gears of War franchise has ever done much to glorify smoking among young people, especially when considering that the most visible smoker of the COG bunch, Michael Barrick, is portrayed as a deeply damaged madman – hardly a role model for children in a series of M-rated games. Nevertheless, with the growing popularity of Juul and other vapor-based tobacco brands among kids and teens who can just get their hands on Gears 5 digitally, the removal of all tobacco products and references from the upcoming gorefest is probably for the best – regardless of who can claim responsibility for the deed.
It’s hard to say if this bit of controversy thrown The Coalition’s way was hardly deserved, but it should raise some concerns at the studio and Microsoft that this smoking debacle generated as much if not more buzz than the game’s somewhat lackluster showing at E3 2019. Ever since Epic Games’ departure from the franchise, fans have feared that Gears of War will get the axe in favor of new IP if its public zeal ever fades too greatly. And Gears 5 will have to deliver in a big way if The Coalition wants to secure further sequels.
Next: Gears 5 Won’t Have A Season Pass or Gear Packs and All Maps Are Free
Source: Rod Fergusson/Twitter