Fabled developer Lionhead, longtime host to Peter Molyneux, inheritor to Bullfrog, and progenitor of Black & White, is officially closing for good today, after owner Microsoft was unable to find a buyer for the onetime great studio. After cancelling the production of Fable Legends, a continuation of the series studio founder Peter Molyneux began in 2004 with his traditional enthusiasm, Microsoft apparently had no further use for the team, which had been laboring to create content for the Xbox consoles since 2006.
Though Molyneux left the studio in 2012, it retained license to create Fable and Black & White games, few of which were especially noteworthy, and many of which went uncompleted even in the absence of their founder’s aggrandization. Black & White 3 never surfaced, and Fable: The Journey was a transparent vehicle to promote the Kinect. Legends was the last straw in this regard, and seems to have become the final, perhaps fitting, unfinished chapter to a great series of games.
Despite frequent attempts to recreate their success with sequels , and their spiral into console-exclusive serfdom, let Lionhead studios be remembered as the group that brought a little bit of its sky-high visions to reality, and which positively affected the industry during some of its formative years.
Lionhead did make great games, even if their second tries often missed that mark. The Fable series has at least one game that anyone could love, even if you can’t “carve your name into a tree and see it grow years later”. Black & White was a legitimately groundbreaking title, both technically and as a defining entry in the god-game genre, which was itself pioneered by Bullfrog Studios years before. The slow decline of Lionhead was visible for years, but hopefully we can all remember the better times when gods haphazardly flung boulders at their enemies, heroes walked Albion, and no one had ever heard of a Kinect exclusive.The industry is lessened by Lionhead’s passing, but let us hope that some new studio will rise in its place to forge new paths, take new risks, and bring us ever newer worlds to explore and wonder at.