Microsoft axes Fable Legends, closes Lionhead and Press Play

The gaming world is in shock today with the news that Microsoft has cancelled development on Fable Legends and is looking to close Lionhead Studios, the long-time developer of the series. Press Play Studios, the Danish studio behind Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is also on the chopping block, says Microsoft Studios Europe general manager Hanno Lemke.

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.

Lemke explains that Xbox and Microsoft will “remain committed” to the UK and European development communities, supporting originality and new IP. It just won’t be supporting Fable Legends, which was set to enter beta later this year, or Project Knoxville, a multiplayer action-survival game in the same vein as the Hunger Games.

Don’t get too excited by the “proposed” part of the closure Lemke is referring to – under UK law, companies must give a minimum 30-day consultation period before laying off staff, when more than 20 employees are set to lose their jobs. During this consultation period, companies must look into alternatives to job cuts, so Microsoft will consider options including reassignment or retraining.

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.

Project Knoxville

Project Knoxville

And while the games industry as a whole seems quite shocked by the news, it looks like Lionhead staffers are just as surprised. A tweet from just a few days ago is looking forward to a marvellous day out at an event on March 12th.

Lionhead Studios was founded in 1996 and acquired by Microsoft in 2006. Its first release was groundbreaking strategy game Black & White back in 2001, but the studio has focussed primarily on the Fable series since Fable 2 in 2008. Fable Legends – a free-to-play spin-off for both Windows 10 and Xbox One – was announced in 2013, with an estimated 2015 release date. It’s not clear quite why it’s now been scrapped.

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