“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.”
So says Microsoft’s surprise blog post this morning in which they announced not only the cancellation of much awaited action adventure title Fable Legends but the shutting down of the entire studio developing it.
All is not lost for Lionhead, however, as the post explains that Microsoft are merely currently undergoing “discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK.”. So it’s not necessarily the ultimatum that we’re assuming at this time – Lionhead is definitely not dead yet – they’re just talking about killing it.
Over the last decade, Lionhead have been spearheading Microsoft’s Fable efforts, publishing a number of spin-off titles with varying levels of critical success, as well as a handful of sequential games. Fable Legends was to be the most recent installation in this franchise, and had been in development since its first announcement in 2013.
Despite a lengthy development process, it seems that Fable Legends was gearing up for release – an open beta was on the cards for this spring. So this news comes as a particularly shocking blow, seeing as even 9 hours ago at this time of writing, Lionhead assured fans of the game’s quality and, in general, existence, in a now fated forum post.
While it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of all Fable games – that ultimatum does look likely if Lionhead is closed. What’s really puzzling fans however, is Microsoft’s wording of its reasoning behind scrapping Fable.
“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”
So… people, don’t want to play Fable? Sure, it was never Gears of War or Halo, but it’s still listed as the third top franchise attributed to Xbox and Microsoft. It’s difficult to tell what Microsoft are getting at with this, do they have a brand new IP coming up that they’re incredibly confident will please fans far more than Fable ever could? Do they just want to focus on the now-saturated replicas of third person shoot-everything-you-see formulas? It just seems a bit risky for Microsoft to abandon one of their biggest franchises, and one that goes against the tide of shooter games that we are seeing time and time again not match up to the expectations of the bored players. Sure it’s outdated – but only because no-one ever updated it (the last Fable sequential title, Fable III, was released in 2010 for 360).
This move will also close Press Play Studios, and cease development on its upcoming title Knoxville.
Users are increasingly getting the impression that 2016 hasn’t started off well for Microsoft. These closures follow numerous Xbox Live technical meltdowns, and several players have voiced their opinions concerning the superior streaming capabilities of rival system PS4, publicly switching to Sony’s console.