Fable Legends and the downfall of Lionhead Studios

“We are 100 percent committed to the PC-gaming space,” said Microsoft’s Phil Spencer recently. We’ve heard this a few times before, but the timing of this statement sounds completely odd when just about a week later, Microsoft decides to cancel Fable Legends and close Lionhead Studios, as well as Press Play Studios.

Players got screwed in a double way: Fable Legends was, just like Gigantic, one of the first free-to-play cross-platform games for Windows 10 PC and Xbox one, and the well-regarded studio Lionhead was shuttered, its staff either reintegrated at Xbox or forced to “look for new opportunities”, as those who lay off people like to call it. Sure, we can’t say just how valuable a part Fable Legends would actually play in this “commitment” to PC gaming, but we were curious to see how it would turn out considering the Windows 10 requirement and the risk on a genre that isn’t particularly blowing people’s minds these days – asymmetrical 4v1 multiplayer, in an Evolve kind of way.

Adding the Fable name to the game also seemed a bit of a recurrent, desperate move on Microsoft. The Fable series was at its prime with the first two games and after a good, but not great third game, it’s like someone stopped caring. Fable: The Journey and Fable Heroes were clearly misguided attempts at cashing in on the name and while Fable Legends also had that… stigma attached, Lionhead could – perhaps – make it its own game and turn its fortunes. We wonder if the team knew it was going to be their make or break game, and just how much did it contribute to Microsoft’s drastic decision anyway? Was it already settled some time ago or was someone recently evaluating Fable Legends and dismissing it as a bad game?

Lots of assumptions, of course. But this part of the termination announcement was actually true: “The Lionhead Studios team has delighted millions of fans with the Fable series over the past decade.” Not only Fable, but also Black & White. So why not getting some proper budget to deliver new, exciting chapters in these two series instead of failing at releasing an action/MOBA hybrid? Was it the cross-platform thing that drove the studio to test the waters and then fail miserably?

In development since 2012, Fable Legends probably wasn’t on top of anyone’s most wanted games of 2016 (initially 2015, but open beta was delayed as Lionhead “didn’t anticipate just how big Fable Legends is becoming”. But even with Peter Molyneux leaving the team to create fresh, dramatic controversy at his new studio 22 Cans with Godus, Lionhead boss John Needham made his own surreal predictions by saying Fable Legends would be a game “to be out for five to ten years”. Very few games successfully run for that time and this statement would either be pure nonsense or blind faith in something that wasn’t properly designed or minimally functional at the time. This cancelation even makes it look worse and somewhat question the focus of Lionhead.

So, just like others before, Fable Legends is no more. It’s all good and well when a game is in development and there are plenty of ideas and high hopes for it, but we can’t help but feel a tad cheated because we were under the impression that Microsoft was treating Fable Legends as a flagship title – to the point of it showing in some promotional posters alongside Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5 or Gears of War 4. Oh well.

Let’s see what happens to Gigantic (not directly Microsoft, but still a Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive), which has been going through some rough times recently, as well as the freshly announced free game Forza Motorsport 6: Apex. What “full commitment” can PC players expect?

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