Big, and sad, news for Microsoft Studios today. Two of their more notable studios in Lionhead and Press Play were announced to be closing down with development on their current projects shutting down.
For Lionhead Studios, based in the United Kingdom, that means the end of Fable Legends which was expected for Xbox One and PC and was planned be one of their big titles that would push the further integration of Xbox One and Windows 10. Lionhead Studios was founded originally by Peter Molyneux, Mark Webley, Tim Rance, and Steve Jackson back in 1996. The studio was bought by Microsoft in 2006, who put them to work on more Fable titles, with Fable 2 releasing in 2008. More recently, after Fable: The Journey released back in 2012, Molyneux left the studio which was working on Fable: Anniversary for PC and Xbox 360, and released in 2014. During this time they were working on Fable Legends which was announced in August 2013, with a free to play model announced in 2015. As 2015 came to a close, the game was delayed to 2016, with an open beta announced that will now not come to pass due to the studio's closure. They were also working on an unannounced non-Fable project.
It appears that Lionhead Studios may have been caught off guard with the change. Only four days ago they were discussing publicly going to events with Fable Legends at GLive and some users were receiving emails about the upcoming Fable Legends beta even today. Information did come out that the closed beta will continue until April 13th with the in-game option to buy goods with real money shut down and all players who had previously bought items getting a full refund.https://twitter.com/LionheadStudios/status/705760152746647552
As for Press Play, they are based in Denmark and opened back in 2006 as an independent studio. That would last until 2012 when they were bought by Microsoft, and their development timelines began to merge as they released more titles on their own, instead of helping port other studios games. While they had released Max & the Magic Marker back in 2010 on their own, they would become better known for 2013's Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and 2014's Kalimba. Their most recent project was an interesting move in the way of more interactive development with Project: Knoxville, by having players interact and vote on prototypes and different portions of the game. Like Fable Legends, Microsoft's announcement marks the end of development for Project: Knoxville.
Microsoft's stated reason for the closure is that, "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."
We wish all the developers and employees at both studios our best in what is surely a hard time.
Well this explains the odd delay that happened with Fable Legends beta as it likely was something planned they had there. It makes you wonder if Microsoft is thinking that exploration on stuff is less the realm for AAA games as Lionhead and Press Play both did that more then many first party studios will. It is worth noting they plan on pushing forward with Sea of Thieves by Rare but I wouldn't blame you for looking there with a critical eye.
What do you think of these closures? Were you looking forward to Fable Legends or Project: Knoxville? Share your thoughts in the comments below