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Molyneux leaves Lionhead to join indie studio 22 Cans

Veteran designer and visionary embarks on "something really amazing, scary and brave"

Peter Molyneux has announced that he's leaving Microsoft-owned Lionhead studios, where he has worked for 15 years, to join an indie start-up studio called 22 Cans. He will also relinquish his post as the creative head of Microsoft Studios Europe.

The veteran figure will continue to oversee the development of Fable: The Journey as a creative consultant, but this will be his final project for the studio he co-founded after leaving legendary studio Bullfrog, which was bought out by EA 1995.

Molyneux confirmed his departure publicly by giving a statement to Kotaku regarding his motivations.

"It is with mixed emotions that I made the decision to leave Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, the company that I co-founded in 1997, at the conclusion of development of Fable: The Journey," he explained.

"I have left the lovely amazing Microsoft and lionhead. Now for something really amazing, scary and brave a new company called 22 Cans"

Peter Molyneux

"I remain extremely passionate and proud of the people, products and experiences that we created, from Black & White to Fable to our pioneering work with Milo and Kate for the Kinect platform. However, I felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture. I'd like to thank the team at Lionhead, as well as our partners at Microsoft Studios for their support, dedication and incredible work over the years."

Later, the British developer revealed his new role at company 22 Cans, founded by ex Lionhead tech head Tim Rance.

"I have left the lovely amazing Microsoft and lionhead. Now for something really amazing, scary and brave a new company called 22 Cans," he announced via Twitter.

Mark Webley, who co-founded Lionhead with Molyneux, will take control of the Guildford-based studio.

Microsoft wished the controversial figure well in his career, thanking him for his work.

"As co-founder of Lionhead and an integral part of Microsoft Studios, Peter was the creative visionary behind the blockbuster Fable franchise, and one of our most passionate and influential developers for the Xbox 360 platform. He has made an indelible mark on the games industry and we wish him all the best of luck in his future endeavors."

The news follows last week's announcement that several senior Lionhead figures, including those who founded Fable creator Big Blue Box before Microsoft bought it, were leaving the company to found a new studio: Another Place Productions.

Molyneux's career includes overseeing several seminal and genre-defining titles, including Populous, Theme Park, Black & White and the Fable series. Lauded and derided in almost equal measure for his passion and ebullience, Molyneux is still widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in gaming history.

Previously, Molyneux has expressed his frustration at working on sequels and games which people think they think they can predict, indicating a desire to return to indie development.

"I would always prefer to work on something that's not a sequel, very often with a sequel you can get very bound up in what's gone before."

Molyneux at Gamelab, Barcelona, 2011.

"I would always prefer to work on something that's not a sequel," Molyneux said at last year's Gamelab event in Barcelona, at which a live demo of Fable: The Journey was pulled by Microsoft. Molyneux replaced that demo with a history of his life's work.

"Very often with a sequel you can get very bound up in what's gone before. I think Fable 3 suffered from a bit of that, to be perfectly frank.

"I don't like the idea that people know what to expect from Fable. I hate that idea."

He also expressed his disappointment at the lower than expected scores for Fable III, saying that he was "ashamed".

"That being said, I still think it was a good game! I just don't think it was a great game that took us to 5 million units. I know I probably should say it's a great game just respective of whatever it was, but the Metacritic score was sort of low-'80s. I think I'm pretty ashamed of that, to be honest, and I take that on my own shoulders, not the team's shoulders.

"I hate the fact that people know what to expect from something like Lionhead," he added. "'We know what Fable's going to be; we know what's coming next from Lionhead.' I hate that idea. We should, again, double down on freshness and originality without sacrificing - because often originality can sacrifice quality - without sacrificing quality."

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Dan Pearson avatar

Dan Pearson