Well shit, this story just keeps getting more and more frustrating. Last month, Microsoft announced the closure of Lionhead Studios, much to the disappointment of gamers everywhere. It was a long time coming, over the last few years Microsoft was showing less and less interest in allowing the studio really stretch it’s wings, especially with it’s banner franchise Fable. When released back in 2004, Fable quickly became a flagship game for the Xbox, using it’s blend of RPG elements, Mature rating, and humorous characters to breathe some fresh breath into the sometimes-tired RPG formula. The game led to 2 sequals, although Fable III wasn’t able to receive the same critical or player acclaim of the first game. Since that time, things pretty much just got worse for Lionhead, as Microsoft who typically relies on blockbuster franchises like Halo to carry it’s name, just didn’t seem to trust the developers to come out with another real Fable game. Sure, they released an anniversary edition and a couple PC ports, but they were not able to come out with another staple version for the franchise. Let’s not get into the strait up shitshow that was the development of Fable Legends, needless to say that game was never gonna see the light of day, and that was clear from the beginning.
What really sucks about this whole thing, is the way that Microsoft has seemed to go out of its way to screw over the Fable franchise, even when it was clear that they had no problem. According to a full write up by Eurogamer, which I highly suggest you check out if you have a few minutes as it shows exactly how hard those involved at Lionhead worked to try to keep the studio open and relevant, Microsoft knew for a long time coming that it had no interest in truly working on the Fable franchise other than gimmick games and tech showoffs. Unfortunately it didn’t actually share this news with the employees or allow them to take any steps to preserve themselves or their content. Not only that, but it seems that Microsoft was approached multiple times with offers to buy Lionhead studios however the one thing it wouldn’t do was sell Fable. What the fuck? A franchise that they had no interest in truly developing, but they wouldn’t let anyone else have it either. Classic crazy girlfriend who hates her man but doesn’t want anyone else to have him because MINE.
It’s a very sad story and basically ended in a way that no one got what they wanted and everyone went home unhappy. It sucks, and even more so now that the above-mentioned Eurogamer article mentions the Fable 4 game that could have been. Keeping with it’s tradition of jumping forward in time, continuing the legacy of the games before it, Fable 4 would have been in a sort of steampunk industrial age with trams and flying ships. John McCormack even went so far as to say “We wanted to hit the late Victorian proper far out Jules Verne shit”. I don’t know about you, but I for one am SO bummed at the loss of this potential game. To see what those developers would have done in such a creative environment would have been wonderful, and the fact that Microsoft was too shortsighted to take a chance and let the developer try the game with that timeline is a damn travesty. Hell, even the famed original Fable designer Peter Molyneux mentioned that he would have been interested in coming back to the franchise for Fable 4. Granted he is pretty hit or miss among most gaming circles these days due to his habitual overpromising and underdelivering when it comes to his creations these days, but still, it is a very intriguing prospect. At this point, it’s all said and done. The studio is dead and there is nothing much left to do but mourn the loss of what could have been. Best wishes to those who are leaving Lionhead though, obviously they are going to land somewhere and with that many creative minds together, I look forward to what they can do with some proper management in the future.