Peter Molyneux Is Leaving Lionhead Studios And Microsoft

Peter Molyneux Is Leaving Lionhead Studios And Microsoft

Peter Molyneux, one of the most respected video game developers in the world and one of the top creative minds on the Xbox team, is leaving Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, Kotaku has learnt.

“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,” Molyneux said in a statement to Kotaku. Fable: The Journey is this year’s forthcoming Fable game for the Xbox 360 Kinect. Molyneux will continue to be involved in that title as a creative consultant. [jum]

Molyneux is exiting both his position as the leader of Lionhead and his role as the creative head of Microsoft Studios Europe, which primarily consisted of overseeing Lionhead and Rare. Lionhead will be run by studio co-founder Mark Webley. Microsoft is not immediately naming a new head of the European studios.

Black & White

Molyneux will move on to an as-yet unpublicised independent venture, one that ends his tenure at Lionhead. That studio is responsible, under Molyneux, for more than a decade’s worth of ambitious games.

“I remain extremely passionate and proud of the people, products and experiences that we created,” Molyneux said, “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.”

Microsoft wished Molyneux well, portraying the split as amicable and driven by the game creator. “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 endeavours.”


Molyneux, 52, has been making video games at least since his 20s. The god-game Populous was an early hit, with ambitious successors like Theme Park and Black & White to follow. He made his games with talented teams: first at Bullfrog Productions, which was bought by EA, and then at Lionhead, which was purchased by Microsoft following the success of the Fable games.

Molyneux games have been habitually ambitious, usually running one or more complex simulations with which the player could tinker by playing the role of over-arching god. Or movie-studio mogul. Or world-travelling, monster-killing, property-buying, children-raising medieval hero. He has delighted in dreaming big and has routinely had to apologise for promising perhaps a little too much with his games. If he wasn’t teasing that every acorn dropped in a game might turn into a tree at some point (that didn’t quite happen), he was arguing that he could evoke an emotional reaction from players of action games by giving the player’s hero a very smart dog (a more successful experiment).

Molyneux always has new ideas and a twinkle-eyed urge to share them. He’s remained cheerful and bold, boyish in his excitement about his next games in the manner of his contemporary at Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto.

Milo & Kate

The wildest Molyneux project yet may have been the only one he cited in his exit statement to Kotaku that was never finished: Milo & Kate. That Kinect game was supposed to allow players to interact with a virtual boy on their television through gesture and voice commands as if they were dealing with a real person. The idea evolved from Project Dimitri, an idea Molyneux hesitated to describe to interviewers for years. Milo was used to stun an audience of video game reporters and experts at the first showing of the Kinect at E3 2009. As the Kinect came out, Milo seemed to vanish. It resurfaced when Molyneux showed it at the TED conference, a forum for sharing bold new ideas to the world, if not, usually, video games. The game has been missing in action ever since, presumed cancelled.

It’s hard to say how the loss of Molyneux from Lionhead and Microsoft will affect those groups. It’s easier to predict a successful path for Molyneux, who has done this whole thing before, building up Bullfrog, selling it to EA, working with them for a bit and then leaving to start a great new thing. Now that pattern is nearly complete for Lionhead: sold to Microsoft and very soon without Molyneux… who will likely dream ever bigger and get our rapt attention the next time he’s got a video game to make.


  • I… kinda thought his games were hyped up waaay too much. Black and White was a decent RTS, but it was nothing game changine. Fable was a decent kiddy RPG, but it was also nothing game changing.

    I hated how he kept hyping up his next game and dissing the one before, e.g. “Fable 1 was terrible but Fable 2 will be awesome!” then “Fable 2 was terrible but Fable 3 won’t suck, have a flawed combat system and an all powerful evil enemy at the end who only possesses one guy then dies in 6 hits without having a second form or anything…”

  • ‘Peter Molyneux, one of the most respected video game developers in the world’. Hahaha, maybe it’s just me but doesn’t everyone dislike this guy? I thought he was notorious for over-hyping his games with copious amounts of bullshit.

  • I don’t dislike the guy… he just didn’t filter himself with ‘realism’ when it came to talking about his ideas/games. And as long as you knew that and applied the filter yourself, everything was peachy.

    Now as far as the direction the Fable series is going of late… yeah… eeeshh… I think I’d leave Lionhead too.

    • Oh, back in the day he was great. Populous, Powermonger, Powerdrome, Theme Park etc etc etc.

      These days he’s like some washed up old rock star who put out some absolutely ground-breaking stuff back in the 60’s and 70’s but in more recent times has been putting out stuff that isn’t so great but he’s still living off his reputation from his glory days.

  • It’s more that he shouldn’t be allowed to talk to the media.

    Because when he does he is like a child with a secret he knows he is not supposed to share – just blurts it out and then tries to cover it.
    I mean with the Dog in Fable 2 he kept talking and talking and talking about how great this dog is and how you get to see it grow and how it will help you and how attached you were going to get to it – first thing I was thinking was “he’s going to kill the dog at the end I no longer need to play this game because that is the end game surprise”
    And I was right – any time he talks to the media he spoils his own games, he might be brilliant at coming up with scenerios but dude can’t keep his mouth shut for the life of him

  • I liked him for his passion and strife to innovate. Even though his games rarely delivered on the promises, his ideas were always cool.

  • I find his games relaxing and loved the Python-esque world of Fable, and the Black and White games are highly underrated. Would rather play Black and White than most other RTS’s, true stuff, but thats just me. I really felt that every little person mattered in the Black and White games, where as most RTS they are just Cannon Fodder. Hey hey.

  • He’s a wonderful person, and really passionate about games, but he also lets it get him carried away with all the ideas he wants to try to do, and inevitably because he loves talking about game design so much he lets loose all these crazy blue-sky ideas that end up being totally unfeasable…

    He designed so many amazing, ground-breaking games back in the 90s, but I also understand that from a modern perspective, his games have been lacklustre at best (although I personally found Fable to be pretty great – I think people were too worried about what was promised but wasn’t there, that they missed what actually was).

    I guess now he’s gone indie again we’ll see if he’s still got what he had in the 90s…

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