Fable developer Lionhead Studios to shut down

UPDATE: Fable Legends beta ends mid-April. Refunds to be issued.

UPDATE: Fable Legends ends at 3pm on Wednesday, 13th April 2016, Lionhead has said.

Those who have access to the closed beta can continue playing the game until this time. No new players will be admitted.

All those who have bought gold will get a full refund. They will be notified by email within the next seven days, Microsoft said.

ORIGINAL STORY: Microsoft has announced plans to shutter Lionhead Studios in the UK.

Lionhead is based in Guildford, just south of London.

The developer's Xbox One and Windows 10 game Fable Legends has been canned.

Danish studio Press Play is also gone. It created Max and the Curse of Brotherhood and Kalimba.

Microsoft announced the sudden news in a blog post this afternoon, from Microsoft Studios' European boss Hanno Lemke.

It revealed the news that Fable Legends - long in beta, even longer in development - was no more. Microsoft also said it was "in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios" - a legal requirement for a company over a certain size.

In the UK, a consultation process must take place when this number of redundancies are announced - how long depends on the number of employees affected. But the writing is on the wall.

Lionhead Studios is most famous for its work on the Fable series, as well as its first game Black & White.

Founded in 1996 and led for much of its life by Peter Molyneux, it began as a breakaway from another acclaimed Brit studio: Theme Hospital developer Bullfrog.

Black & White launched in 2001, several years after the studio was first founded. It was then another three years until Fable, which launched on the original Xbox and kickstarted one of Microsoft's most successful console franchises.

Lionhead is home to around 100 employees.

Fable 2 followed Black & White 2, and a brief visit to business sim The Movies.

For many, Fable 2 is the series' peak - a beautiful, huge role-player and the best balance of exploring and adventuring through the lush green lands of Albion.

That's not to say Fable 3 was a disappointment - far from it - although it strayed from the series' formula to add in new ruler mechanics.

Fable 3 launched back in 2010 - and we've been waiting for another full game in the series ever since.

Kinect-powered Fable: The Journey and board game spin-off Fable Heroes did little to keep the series ticking over, while Fable Anniversary simply re-jigged the original game for its 10th anniversary.

Molyneux left the studio shortly after Fable: The Journey to found his own indie outfit, 22Cans, after growing increasingly tired of working at a larger studio. A long-term Lionhead project of his, Milo & Kate, an oddball Kinect-powered interaction game, had also ended up canned.

Fable Legends - a game seemingly designed around the concept of Xbox One and Windows 10 cross-platform play - was another spin-off, and one which never seemed quite fine-tuned for release.

Here is Microsoft's statement in full:

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.

We wish all Lionhead employees the very best for the future.


If you are an employee affected by this news and would like to speak to the author of this article in confidence, please email tom.phillips[at]eurogamer.net

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Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips

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Tom is Eurogamer's news editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and all the stealth Destiny articles.


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