A recent Variety report claimed the decision was made to remove all smoking references from upcoming Xbox One exclusive Gears 5 after anti-smoking organisation Truth Initiative approached Turner, which holds esports broadcasting rights to the title, about cutting out depictions of smoking.
“I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact of smoking,” The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson is reported to have said in a statement. “It’s always been important for me to not use smoking as a narrative device, which is why we made the conscious choice to avoid highlighting or glorifying smoking in ‘Gears 5’ and throughout the Gears of War Universe moving forward.”
Seth Ladetsky, senior VP of Turner Sports Sales, added: “This took a lot of time and a lot of good thinking. It’s the right image for ELeague — and the game itself — to project.”
In follow-up statements on Twitter, Fergusson – who originally worked on the Gears of War series at Epic Games – claimed the decision not to include any depictions of smoking characters pre-dated Xbox’s recent esports partnership with Turner.
“Just to clarify, I’ve always been anti-smoking and have pushed back on having it in Gears since day 1,” he wrote. “There was no smoking to remove from Gears 4 or 5 because there never was any smoking to begin with. And as long as I’m in control, there never will be. Sorry for the confusion.”
Fergusson also said that his father, a smoker, died of a heart attack aged 38.
A tech test for Gears 5’s versus multiplayer mode, which is available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers or those who pre-order the game at a participating retailer, will be downloadable from July 17 with online play active from July 19.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to play Gears 5 four days before its September 10, 2019 release date.