In an announcement that came completely out of the blue, Microsoft is planning to close the storied UK developer Lionhead Studios. Its current project, Fable Legends - which has been in development for years - has been cancelled. We've confirmed the news with people who work at the studio.
Here is the statement in full, from Hanno Lemke, General Manager at Microsoft Studios Europe:
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 likeQuantum 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.
I've seen Fable Legends at the studio several times, and it was looking promising - though its long beta, with no sign of a final release, was starting to look a little worrying. Having spoken to people at Lionhead just last week, it seems this news was not expected. People at the studio have told us that nobody knew this was going to happen until today.
Lionhead Studios is one of the most well-known developers in the UK, having made the Fable series and Black & White, amongst other things. Founded by Peter Molyneux in 1996, it was acquired by Microsoft in 2006.
This is a real bloody nose for UK game development. More on this story as it develops.