In the wake of 20-year-old UK studio Lionhead's closure last month, Kotaku UK has heard from multiple sources that there were in fact several potential buyers lined up for the studio during its consultation period (the span of time, mandated by UK law, during which a company must explore options before shutting down).
Potential buyers included some of the biggest names in video game publishing - though, unsurprisingly given the confidential nature of discussions such as this, we were not able to confirm involvement with any of the specific publishers mentioned. The discussions were not just ephemeral: letters of intent were reportedly filed.
Why didn't it happen? One source close to Xbox claims it's because Microsoft would not sell the Fable IP along with the studio, despite offers that were in the range of hundreds of millions. "90% of the people interested just walked away at that point," said the source.
Without ownership of the IP, any company that bought Lionhead would have to publish new Fable games (or Fable Legends, if it had been salvaged) under a licensing agreement with Microsoft - not a favourable condition for anyone looking to make money from the franchise.
It's worth pointing out that it is not unusual for interested buyers to enter discussions with a studio during its pre-closure consultation period, only for nothing to come of it. The frustrating thing about this particular case for anyone with affection for Lionhead is the possibility that it could perhaps have been saved if only Microsoft had been willing to let go of Fable.