Are you a fan of the Fable video game series? Bad news. Microsoft is closing the doors of two video game studios. The tech giant is proposing to close both London-based Lionhead Studios and Copenhagen-based Press Play.
Microsoft has announced plans to shut the doors of Lionhead Studios, the studio that developed the Fable games. According to a blog post by Lionhead, the latest installment, Fable Legends, is being scrapped immediately.
Lionhead Studios was founded in 1996 by Peter Molyneux and acquired by Microsoft in 2006. Throughout its 20 year history, the studio became well known for a variety of critically and commercially successful games.
Denmark-based Press Play (Kalimba, Max: the Curse of Brotherood), also owned by Microsoft, is also closing.
Microsoft’s Press Release
Hanno Lemke, general manager of Microsoft Studios Europe, says of the shutdowns, “These have been tough decisions and we have not made them lightly.” He then added, “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.”
Lionhead Studios and Press Play Histories
Lionhead Studio’s first release was the strategy game Black & White (2001). With the breakout success of its first two Fable games, Lionhead mainly focused on developing the series further.
The closure makes Lionhead just another example of a game studio to be shut down after being acquired by a major firm. Lionhead’s founder, Peter Molyneux, experienced a similar situation when his first studio, Bullfrog Productions, floundered in the late 90s. Bullfrog was acquired and liquidated by Electronic Arts. Molyneux then went on to lead the development of Lionhead’s Black & White.
Microsoft acquired the company due to the success of Black & White and the Fable series. From that point on, the company had a narrow development focus. Mr. Molyneux left Lionhead in 2012.
Fable Legends, announced in 2013, was scheduled for release during the fourth quarter of 2015. As development was delayed, the game’s open beta was expected to launch in spring 2016. Legends, designed as a free-to-play spinoff of earlier Fable games, was to be released for Windows 10 and Xbox One.
Microsoft acquired Press Play in 2012, producing the popular Max: The Curse of Brotherhood in 2013. Kalimba followed in 2014. This year, developers were reportedly working on a new Hunger Games-style action-survival game tentatively titled Project Knoxville.
The closures mean both Project Knoxville and Fable Legends will be shelved indefinitely.
The news of the closings was soon trending on social media platforms, especially on Twitter.
Aoife Wilson from Eurogamer tweeted: “So sad to hear about Lionhead – that’s another little bit of gaming history gone.”
Others were confused at the abrupt nature of the studio closures, with some posting screenshots of Fable Legends beta announcements from just days ago.
On Reddit, users discussed the loss of great potential games. More noted the tragedy of many people losing their jobs at both studios. Some Lionhead developers engaged with the Reddit community on a variety of comment threads.
Under UK law, employers must meet certain requirements to implement mass layoffs. The law defines a mass layoff as letting go more than 20 employees at one time. Microsoft is required to provide a 30-day consultation period before dismissing any workers. This allows time to negotiate alternatives to layoffs, including retraining and reassignment to other studios.
In his press release on the Xbox website, Mr. Lemke stated, “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.”