Lionhead closing, Fable Legends cancelled
Microsoft focusing "on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play"; Press Play Studios also shutting down
Microsoft Studios today announced plans to close Lionhead Studios and Press Play Studios. Microsoft Studios Europe general manager Hanno Lemke announced the move in a post on Xbox Wire.
"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."
Lemke said Microsoft would work with employees at those studios to help them find positions elsewhere with Microsoft or at other gaming companies.
Lionhead was founded in 1996 by former Bullfrog Productions developers Peter Molyneux, Mark Webley, and Tim Rance, as well as Games Workshop co-founder Steve Jackson. It's first title was the PC god game Black & White, but it would be the studio's second major release, 2004's Xbox exclusive Fable, that it would become most closely associated with.
Lionhead would go on to create a Black & White sequel and a management sim called The Movies before Microsoft acquired the studio in 2006. In the years that followed, the studio would pursue other projects (notably the cancelled Xbox 360 Kinect game Milo & Kate), but only managed to ship more Fable games.
Fable Legends was to be Lionhead's first free-to-play title, a combination of MOBA and tower defense strategy that would support cross-platform play between the Xbox One and PC. It had been announced as a 2015 release, but in late December was pushed back, with an open beta phase not even slated to begin until this spring.
Press Play was formed in Copenhagen in 2006, and acquired by Microsoft in 2012. The studio's remit was to work exclusively on its own IP, creating the Max & the Magic Marker series, the Windows mobile series Tentacles, and most recently, the Xbox One and PC game Kalimba.
Last August, Press Play ran a community initiative that would let its fans choose its next project from a selection of three concepts. The community chose Project: Knoxville, a third-person multiplayer action game inspired by movies like The Running Man and The Hunger Games.
Update: The Fable Legends beta will be closed on April 13, Lionhead has told Eurogamer, though only existing players will be able to access the game until then. Microsoft also confirmed full refunds for those who purchased in-game currency.