Bleeding Edge, the new team-based brawler from Ninja Theory, came out earlier this week on Xbox One and PC. Upon the game’s official launch, a skin pack called the Punk Pack launched alongside it, and with it came a skin for a character named ZeroCool that appears to whitewash the brown Brazilian character.
The skin in question is called Outrider, and makes the character’s skin color notably lighter. Here are comparison shots between ZeroCool’s default skin and the Outrider skin captured on PC in identical lighting:
After we reached out to Microsoft and Ninja Theory for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the skin was a concept that wasn’t meant to make its way into the final game.
“This was not an intentional design decision,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to Fanbyte. “Rather a piece of concept art for this character that had a lighter tone mistakenly made it into the game. We are working to update the skin tone to be consistent with the original character design and vision.”
So, basically what this means is that the whitewashing skin, which was designed, modeled, and implemented into the game, and was put on storefronts, was from an earlier iteration of the character seen in concept art. If aspects of the skin like his clothing or mohawk hairstyle were from old concept art, that’s all well and good, but that ZeroCool’s skin color was changed, and that particular alteration managed to pass multiple checks and sign offs and make its way into Bleeding Edge, is still a major lapse in judgement on somebody’s part.
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At least Microsoft and Ninja Theory are going to make right on it, but whitewashing and changing skin colors of people of color in games with diverse rosters like Bleeding Edge is a recurring issue that developers need to be more cognizant of, especially when their characters come from so many different ethnicities and backgrounds.
Even games that tout diversity as a pillar of their world design like Overwatch have repeatedly stepped on this particular rake. During the game’s first Halloween Terror event in 2016, Symmetra received a Vampire skin that turned the Indian hero a ghoulish shade of white. More recently, Doomfist, a Nigerian hero, had his skin turned blue in last year’s Winter Wonderland event. These seasonal events typically use costuming as an excuse to dress characters up however they want, but more often than not, include new looks that alter the skin color of characters of color.
Bleeding Edge is the first game Ninja Theory has released exclusively on Microsoft platforms since the studio was acquired by Xbox Game Studios back in 2018, which will be followed by Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, a sequel to the 2017 action adventure game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which is set to come to both Xbox Series X and Windows. The game was announced at last year’s Game Awards alongside the Xbox Series X console. While the game has no release window, it is only announced for Xbox Series X and PC, with no word on an Xbox One X version, meaning it’s unlikely it’s coming in the first wave of Xbox Game Studios games, as those will all be coming to both Xbox consoles until the Series X install base grows.