Some unfortunate and unexpected news out of the UK today, with iconic video games developer Lionhead Studios likely closing its doors. In a statement released earlier today, the General Manager at Microsoft Studios Europe, , announced the cancellation of the game Fable Legends, as well as the proposed closure of Lionhead. Press Play Studios, a Danish developer, is also shutting down, with its game Project Knoxville being sunsetted, or phased out.
Today, I have some difficult changes to announce that affect some of our Microsoft Studios teams and projects in the UK and Denmark.
After much consideration we have decided to cease development on Fable Legends, and are in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK. Additionally, we will close Press Play Studios in Denmark, and sunset development on Project Knoxville.
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. The Lionhead Studios team has delighted millions of fans with the Fable series over the past decade. Press Play imbued the industry with a unique creative spirit behind games like Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Kalimba, which both captured passionate fans. 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.
I speak for all of Xbox when I say that despite this news, we remain committed to the development communities in the UK and Europe, and Xbox will continue to support new IP and originality in the games we offer on our platforms, whether they’re AAA blockbusters like Quantum Break from Remedy, adventurous new IPs like Sea of Thieves from Rare, or unique new creations from independent developers like Moon Studios with Ori.
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.
The news came as a surprise not only to gamers, but to Lionhead as well. A tweet by the Lionhead Twitter account less than a week ago said that both the game and its beta were still in full production. Even more surprising is a post on the Lionhead forums by Community Manager Reverent Crow just hours before Microsoft’s announcement, again reaffirming the continued development of Fable Legends.
Formed in 1996, Lionhead Studios is probably best known for the Fable series. Launched in 2004, the original Fable sold around three million copies on the original Xbox and PC. This puts the game in third place for sales after Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved respectively, although it may actually be in fourth or fifth once PC numbers are removed. In any case, Fable was once one of the flagship titles of the Xbox, similar to Halo or Gears of War today. Lionhead was later purchased in 2006 by Microsoft to develop titles for the Xbox line of consoles.
The highly anticipated Fable Legends is also on the chopping block, much to the disappointment of fans wanting to see one of their favourite series brought back after over half a decade. Unlike the decision-based RPG mechanics of the main series games, Legends was to be a “heroes vs. villains” style multiplayer game, featuring human and AI opponents. The four heroes would play similarly to the gameplay of the original titles, using class-based abilities to complete various quests. The difference however, came in that the quests were different with each playthrough–created by the villain. The villain in Legends was to play a more strategic role than that of the heroes, placing obstacles, enemies, and traps in sandbox style of gameplay, having a limited number of resources to do so before the start of a match. The game would then turn into an RTS for the villain, with him or her controlling spawned forces in real time in order to stop the heroes from reaching their objective.
While it is not 100% certain whether or not Lionhead will close, with the words “proposed closure” being used, Fable Legends is likely never going to see the light of day. Already cancelled, we will probably never see the game unless Microsoft decides to revive it. Even though it hasn’t actually been confirmed, it is probably that Lionhead will be closing its doors, with the latest game of its flagship IP coming to an end. Additionally, the closure of Press Play in the same announcement leads one to believe that Lionhead is, sadly, headed for the same fate.
Had you been looking forward to Fable Legends? Are you disappointed to see it cancelled?
Tell us in the comments below, or on our subreddit!