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.

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Latest comments (20)

robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard6 years ago
Really sad news... hope that everyone involved gets a decent pay off from Microsoft if leaving the company (you deserve it).

Anyone looking for something new, exciting, different, we're hiring at Coconut Lizard - feel free to drop me your CV to

Good luck to both teams... and anyone else indirectly affected by this.

Sad days :-(
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Tom Pickard Founder and Creative Director, Knifey Spoonie Games6 years ago
Wow this is really sad news. Good luck to all the devs effected :(
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts6 years ago
Very sad news indeed for both sites, I have had the pleasure of working with several Lionhead folks in my Game industry travels all of whom have been fantastic people and devs! Its also a studio that's has produced some incredibly enjoyable content over the years :-(

Good luck to all impacted in your search for new gigs and please do contact me at if your are interested in any roles at EA.
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Show all comments (20)
Ralph Tricoche Studying MA, CUNY6 years ago
State of affairs over in MS doesn't look good. So much for not counting sells as a metric for success.
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Jim Wood Support Analyst, Inspired Gaming6 years ago
Terribly sad news for all involved. Just told my wife, she's a huge fan of the Fable games.
Kudos to you guys for stepping up with offers of support and job positions. Nice one.
Good luck to all affected.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
So sad to hear this - the Fable games are the only way you can catch 11 or so STDs and still feel like your innocence has been restored.

Still, Lionhead's staff are a very capable and talented group of people, and judging from the state of Twitter earlier, and robert's post, there are many companies and recruitment consultants eager to snap ex-Lionheadies up, so hopefully you'll all be in jobs you'll love very soon.
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James Berg Games User Researcher 6 years ago
This is really sad to hear. Fable has such a staple of gaming for the last decade :(
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Jon Rissik SVP & GM, Dovetail Games6 years ago
I have been a huge fan of Lionhead games and their development team for many years. This is very sad news indeed.

For anyone affected reading this and looking for new opportunities, we are on the lookout for great people
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Kevin Patterson musician 6 years ago
As a big fan of the Fable games, I am very sad to read that Lionhead is closing, I wish the best for those affected.
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Rui Martins Senior Software Developer 6 years ago
Why close the thing ?
Isn't there anyone interested in buying the company ?

Why do companies (like Microsoft) buy other companies, without a long term plan.
As usual, it smells like bad management ...
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George Williams Owner 6 years ago
My heart goes out to all those affected. Lionhead have made some of my favourite games of all time.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
Something seems out of place when a company like Lionhead gets put on Kinect duty (by MS), then canned (by MS) once the Kinect dies a death due to strategic missteps (again, by MS). Is there no thought that, just maybe, the unsuitability of Lionhead's upcoming output for the current market is down entirely to the parent company?

I mean, I'm realise the long term plan seems to be divest of almost all first party studios in general, but is that really all that wise given the already-evident disparity in first party talent between MS and their rivals? Maybe it doesn't matter (which makes me sad).

I guess I'm just sad to see a Microsoft that doesn't seem to want to be in the business of acquiring and cultivating first-class in house game talent anymore (one or two notable exceptions aside).

If I was at Rare I'd be feeling pretty nervous, as well :-(

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 7th March 2016 8:27pm

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Nick Parker Consultant 6 years ago
A reflection on 1st party dev costs? Long term revenues provenance from less triple A titles/big studios to a mass of digitally distributed smaller indies? Inevitable but a faster acceleration for Xbox (digital savvy users) than PlayStation gamers (more mass market, less into digital)? A genuine question.
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Lee Hansiel Lim Game Developer - Unity3D, Anino PlayLab6 years ago
Goodbye Lionhead. Your real-time logo intros will never be forgotten.

I really hope the talents and skills do not go to waste. God speed!
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Charlie Cleveland Game Director/Founder, Unknown Worlds6 years ago
I'm so sorry to hear this.

Peter - you will always be an inspiration to so many of us.
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Peter Lovell Head of Talent Acquisition, NaturalMotion6 years ago
Truly shocking and sad news. Lionhead was my first touch point in the industry nearly 15 years ago giving me my work experience opportunity alongside legends like Pete, Robbo, Steve J et al. Its hard to imagine the UK development scene without Lionhead?

Anything we can do here at NaturalMotion to help, please do reach out to me - we have many opportunities and would be honoured to assist in finding new homes for affected individuals.
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James Barnard Founder / Developer, Springloaded6 years ago
I remember when I worked at larger companies and projects were's the most heart breaking thing, all that human effort all for nothing. This game is so close to being done, you would think someone would find value in publishing it anyway.. Obviously I know it isn't as simple as that...but I hate to see things like this happen...
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Andreia Quinta Photographer 6 years ago
MS trying to take the "X Number of Studios Closed" award from EA? Shame, I love Fable, what a waste of developemnt assets and resources. Not to mention these amazing guys having to go back on the job market.

All the best.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
Remember how Adam Orth exited Microsoft, look at his current game, I say, he came out on top. So good riddance to to Microsoft's Fable franchise. I am sure, if the people exiting Lionshead now can find the funds, their games are something to look forward to as well.

As for Microsoft not selling the company, why would they? It is probably not their style to think for one moment that a division might do better under the management of another company. Even if Microsoft assumed such a thing, it is probably not their style to give presents to other companies by selling a subdivision. Be competitive, scorch the earth.
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Very sad to read this news.

If anyone is looking for a new challenge in Barcelona we are hiring at Digital Legends.

If you are interested check out our job page:

Feel free to contact us.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Jordi on 9th March 2016 5:00pm

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