Microsoft announced this morning that it’s canceling Fable Legends, the long-gestating free-to-play Fable game, and might be closing down the series’ longtime development house, Lionhead Studios. Though the company’s announcement reads like an obituary for the British studio, it doesn’t come right out and say Lionhead is officially done for. According to the release and further statements provided by Microsoft, it is “in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios.”
The closure would make Lionhead the latest in a long line of respected game studios to flounder and shut down after being acquired by major publishers. In fact, Lionhead’s roots go back to the bygone Bullfrog Productions (Populous, Syndicate), which suffered a similar fate after becoming part of Electronic Arts. Peter Molyneux, a legendary game designer and Bullfrog co-founder, fled the studio in 1997 to join up with Lionhead and lead the development of its debut game, Black & White. Microsoft bought Lionhead in 2006 after the success of Black & White and the original Fable, the latter of which it published as an Xbox exclusive. From then on, it was all Fable, all the time for Lionhead. Perhaps once again seeing the writing on the wall, Molyneux left the studio in 2012, just as Fable Legends entered production. He went on to found 22Cans, which has been mired in problems of its own, to put it lightly.
Microsoft was not vague about the fate of Press Play Studios, another European developer under its care, which is closing immediately. Working out of Denmark, its most notable projects include Kalimba, a 2014 puzzle game, and Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood, a platformer that isn’t quite as grim as its title suggests. Press Play was working on Project: Knoxville, which was described as a multiplayer game about working with—or against—your fellow players to survive a “sadistic game show” a la The Hunger Games. It has also been cancelled.