Microsoft announced today that it was closing one studio, Press Play out of Denmark, and considering the possibility of closing another, the UK-based Lionhead.
That’s right, the future of the makers of Fable and Black & White is in question. Since Peter Molyneux took his 22 Cans and left in 2012, Lionhead has basically coasted along. First with Fable: The Journey, and more recently with still unreleased Fable Legends. That game is kaput, cancelled while still in closed beta. Lionhead itself hasn’t been outright shuttered, at least not yet, but Microsoft is “discussing” the proposition with the team. So that certainly doesn’t bode well no matter how you spin it.
The cancellation of Fable Legends is a little surprising. That game’s been in development since Molyneux left Lionhead in 2012, and though it’s been in closed beta since late last year, an NDA has also been in place. Let’s just say that word hasn’t exactly been super positive, which is reflected in the fact that Microsoft put the axe to a game four years into development. On one hand, you’d expect that Microsoft would want to recoup however much they’ve sunk into that game so far, but on the other hand, it’s probably good they can see it’s not quite coming together and are content to let it die.
The Fable Legends team has also announced that the closed beta servers will be brought down on April 13th, and anyone who spent anything on the microtransactions will have that refunded.
Even if Lionhead somehow manages to stay afloat, it seems unlikely that Microsoft would ever trust them with a big project again, but who knows, maybe once the dust settles, we’ll have ourselves a nice 2D side-scrolling Fable game made by a team of five people.
So while there’s still a glimmer of hope in the future of Lionhead, Press Play and their work in progress, the multiplayer survival game Project Knoxville, are both no more. The history of the Denmark-based studio is much less storied, so there’s much less to say about them, but it always sucks when people lose their jobs. Previously, they made Max and the Magic Marker as well as Max and the Curse of Brotherhood.
Here’s Microsoft’s full announcement.