The Fable Ends as Microsoft Plans "Proposed Closure" Of Lionhead

Microsoft closes Lionhead Studios and Press Play Studios, cancelling Fable Legends and Project Knoxville in the process.

News by Mike Williams, .

Microsoft Studios Europe today announced that it is potentially closing two studios and cancelling those studios' current projects. Nearly a decade after its acquisition by Microsoft, Lionhead Studios is in discussions for a "proposed closure" and Fable Legends is being cancelled. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Kalimba developer Press Play Studios follows Lionhead and development on Project Knoxville is being shut down.

Legends untold.

In a public statement, Microsoft Studios Europe general manage Hanno Lemke essentially said that both studios weren't making games people wanted to play.

These have been tough decisions and we have not made them lightly, nor are they a reflection on these development teams – we are incredibly fortunate to have the talent, creativity and commitment of the people at these studios," wrote Lemke. "These changes are taking effect as Microsoft Studios continues to focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play."

"We have nothing but heart-felt thanks for the members of Lionhead and Press Play for their contributions to Xbox and gaming. We are committed to working closely with those affected by today's news to find them new opportunities at Xbox, or partnering with the broader development community to help place them in jobs elsewhere in the games industry should they desire."

Fable Anniversary is Lionhead's last title.

Microsoft acquired Lionhead Studios in April 2006, following a strong collaboration with studio founder Peter Molyneux that resulted in the first Fable. Lionhead, which had also created Black & White and The Movies prior to acquisition, was funneled into all Fable, all the time. The studio released Fable II in 2008 and Fable III in 2010, but subsequent Fable games just didn't catch on. Fable Heroes was a small beat-up-up for Xbox Live Arcade that many don't remember and Fable: The Journey was a Kinect-centric title that the same audience didn't care for. That left Fable remaster Fable: Anniversary as the biggest title Lionhead had worked on since Fable III's release.

Fable Legends was supposed to be the studio's next big thing, a free-to-play cooperative adventure in the Fable universe. Fable Legends has been in closed beta since October 2014, with a planned open beta period being delayed in December until Spring 2016. It's possible that the project wasn't coming together as Microsoft or Lionhead wanted and for a game that's been in development since Summer 2012, you're talking about a ton of money that's already been spent. With Legends as a money sink and no other projects on the way, it makes sense that Lionhead is on the chopping block.

The real shame is that Lionhead was only able to work on Fable. There was no real chance for the studio to stretch its wings and work on anything unique, as evidenced by the studio's singular output since Microsoft purchased it. Perhaps in another reality, a more creative Lionhead was able to come up with a new IP to keep the studio thriving until now. Instead, it was Fable-led slide into oblivion.

Press Play's Project Knoxville was supposed to be the way ahead for the studio.

Press Play's story is even shorter than Lionhead's. The independent studio was founded in 2006 with its first major title, Max & the Magic Marker, coming in 2010. Microsoft acquired the studio in 2012, putting it to work on Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Kalimba for Xbox One. Press Play allowed Microsoft Studios to have some smaller and more creative output for the new console. Unfortunately, Press Play's crowd-voted next title, Project Knoxville, didn't seem to really excite many players once it was announced. Two years after acquisition, the small 20-man studio is gone.

Whenever any studio closes, there's a loss of potential futures. There's a sense that there could've been that one game or idea that could've saved them. Sadly, it just wasn't meant to be in the case of Lionhead Studios and Press Play Studios. Hopefully those fine developers find new employment soon.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for Mikki-Saturn #1 Mikki-Saturn A year ago
    I was always hopeful that the "next" Fable game would finally fulfill the promise of that series. In so many ways the Fable games were really good. But unfortunately they were all deeply flawed as well, and I guess too many people lost confidence in the brand. It feels like they just needed the right direction, the right approach to building out a Fable game, and they could have made an all time classic action RPG. Instead, the whole franchise feels like a missed opportunity of sorts.
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  • Avatar for mobichan #2 mobichan A year ago
    So, a studio founded by Molyneux (the king of over-ambitiousness) that was left to churn out iterations on a MS purchased IP after the founder left to make new IP is suddenly on the chopping block? Color me not-in-the-least-bit-surprised.
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  • Avatar for sobo89 #3 sobo89 A year ago
    @Mikki-Saturn I agree that the first two Fables were lacking in some respects (probably due to a combination of PM's insane carnival barking and my own naive expectations), but missed opportunity is harsh. The Fable trilogy is what it is, and it was pretty special. The problem here seems to be that Lionhead couldn't generate excitement for the Fable brand on a different title. "Free-to-play" drops off of many people's radars instantly, the Kinect offshoot already diminished the brand, and Fable already had a casual player base. Every "Fablehead" I know either no longer plays games, or wouldn't play Fable Legends. The Fable franchise just couldn't sustain the Nintendo/spin-off treatment.
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  • Avatar for sobo89 #4 sobo89 A year ago
    Deleted March 2016 by sobo89
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  • Avatar for dekar346 #5 dekar346 A year ago
    I don't know why they didn't just make Fable 4 and try to keep working on the series. I played and loved the first game, and while 2 and 3 weren't quite as good, I still enjoyed both of them.
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  • Avatar for TerryTrowbridge #6 TerryTrowbridge A year ago
    Fables was a system seller back in the day. I had no interest in Legends, but I'd a Xbox One for a single player Fable.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #7 SatelliteOfLove A year ago
    Feels like an article on a news story from a few years back or further. I guess a few survived longer than others that storm.
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  • Avatar for jacklarson #8 jacklarson A year ago
    Suprising news, and very sad for the developers involved. Disturbing that Microsoft appears so quick to dissolve a studio that they have invested so much in. Probably should have given Fable Legends the axe much sooner and allowed Lionhead to regroup.
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  • Avatar for marlonphillips00 #9 marlonphillips00 A year ago
    I'm confused as to why they would do this when Fable Legends was nearly done. I get its saving money, but at this point, you're better off releasing it and trying to recoup some money that way. Right?
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #10 SatelliteOfLove A year ago

    That's me. Im like "this W10 thing yall got going needs all the help it can get from cross-platform 1st party deals. why this and why now?".
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