Microsoft has cancelled the latest Fable game and has announced plans to close Lionhead, the legendary studio behind the Fable franchise. In an update detailing changes to the company's internal development studios, Microsoft said that they will be shutting down Fable Legends and shuttering dev studio Press Play:
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.
Lionhead was working on Fable Legends, a multiplayer title that would have take the action-RPG series in a new direction. Chosen by a fan vote campaign, Press Play's next project was a third-person multiplayer survival game codenamed Project Knoxville. The studio's most recent release was the Xbox One game Max and the Curse of Brotherhood. The "proposed closure" wording regarding Lionhead is odd, as it doesn't quite seem as definitive as with Press Play. We reached out to Microsoft for clarification and they responded with this official statement:
We aren't sharing additional details today beyond that we have ceased development on Fable Legends, and are in discussions with employees at Lionhead about our proposed closure of the studio as well.
Fable Legends was announced in August 2013, with an open beta planned for the spring of this year. The game was supposed to be a free-to-play, cross-platform release that would let Xbox One and PC gamers play against each other.
If this development is indeed the end of Lionhead as a game-making entity, it marks the finale of a history that stretches back to the studio's 1996 founding by designer Peter Molyneux. Lionhead's first big hit was the 2001 god game Black and White, followed by Fable in 2004. Cinematic creation title The Movies released in 2005 and sequels Fable II and III came out in 2008 and 2010. Multiplayer party/action hybrid Fable Heroes and Kinect game Fable: The Journey trickled out to lukewarm reception in 2012, which was also the year that Molyneux left Lionhead. The studio put out Fable Anniversary, a HD remake of the first Fable game in 2014.