Report: Multi-Million $ Lionhead Rescue Fell Through

Unsurprising but sad news: what prevented the recently-closed, much-missed Britsoft studio Lionhead from finding a new home under another owner was, allegedly, Microsoft’s refusal to let the Fable IP go with it.

Kotaku UK cites ‘multiple sources’ who claim that several buyers, including “some of the biggest names in video game publishing”, were circling Peter Molyneux’s old stomping ground, making offers that were “in the range of hundreds of millions.” However, the long-running and best-selling Fable series was apparently a major part of their interest, and when MS allegedly make clear that it intended to hold onto those rights, “90% of the people interested just walked away at that point.”

I want to be all uppity at this point, and bellow about how Lionhead was about heritage and a huge talent pool, about how this was the home of mainstream gaming values that no other studio of its size shares. But the sad reality is that all Lionhead have been for quite some time is Fable games: from a purely business point of view, there is almost no other reason that a publisher would want to spend big on it.

I suppose that, even if Microsoft had relented, Lionhead would have been doomed to remain a Fable factory – and the studio itself would have been at some risk of future closure if the new owners’ primary interest was simply the IP.

Business is bad business.

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18 Comments

  1. int says:

    Spiritual successor could always work.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      It’s the Fable brand that was important. I don’t think anyone was interested in buying Fable for it’s unique lore and design.

  2. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    ok, well done Lionhead for making good games and everything, but really the only good games they made were B&W and the movies, and maybe if I’m in a good mood the first Fable.

    It’s sad to see a studio close, but honestly the same people could be anywhere and not really have a huge impact on the industry.

    • Simbosan says:

      Every single Fable game was incredibly special, in no other game would I find myself just wandering through towns to hear the conversations. It was funny, it was clever, the little towns felt like actual towns. They looked beautiful. The stories were great, the characterisations were superb.

      And the people moan that ‘combat was average’

      My God, you put little pearls of perfection in front of people and they just moan about control schemes.

      I could really rant about the how gamers get what they deserve when games of such quality and depth are criticised for things that honestly are such a minor issue in the face of so many amazing aspects.

      All the Fable games I played were an absolute joy, I just regret not being able to play 2 as I never had an xbox.

      There, I ranted

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        I’m glad for you that you liked the Fable games. As I said, the first one was pretty good; especially the lost chapters addon. I’m not one to moan about poor controls though – I sat through the original Tomb Raider and Resi games with nary a complaint. With that said though, Fable was a cute little adventure, and not much more. Maybe my opinion of it is jaded by what was promised versus what was delivered, but I definitely wouldn’t argue that it was a pearl of perfection.

      • Rich says:

        Fable 2 was the high point for me. The first was good, but had a few really annoying quests and was generally quite limited. The third was pretty good up until you become king and have to deal with everyone’s stupid problems while trying to avert the end of the world.

        The remake of Fable would be better if they hadn’t made the menus, inventory etc. a bloody nightmare.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          Fable 2 to me was generic fantasy in a bad way. Lionhead was not Bioware or CDPR and they’ve shown they didn’t have the knack for linear storytelling.

          What they were good at was giving players a good balance of tools that gave them an almost sandbox level of freedom whilst still maintaining a structure that made the games enjoyable.

          If Fable 2 focused more on fixing and improving Fable’s rough edges instead of dogs and storylines it could have been a wonderful thing.

      • tommysticks says:

        I loved all the Fable games, too. Well… 3 was a little disappointing, but if you haven’t played Fable 2 you should do yourself a favor. It is my favorite game of all time. I’ve never replayed a game more and I still break out the Xbox from time to time to get on there. I’m super bummed they aren’t gonna bring it to PC.

  3. Unsheep says:

    Yes, that is the sad reality of it all, that Microsoft saw Lionhead as nothing more than a Fable machine.

    Who knows what else the studio could have done with their creativity and skill apart from seemingly enforced Fable games, that should have ended with Fable 2 in my opinion.

    Personally I thought their ‘Black & White’ games were cool and fun. They’re on my secret wish-list for a GOG appearance, although that’s unlikely to happen.

    Even though you can question some of the game design choices the production quality was always good in their games, in my opinion. I just hope the staff will find employment with some other developer.

  4. Hedgeclipper says:

    Raises the question – What’s in the Fable IP that’s worth hundreds of millions to MS?

    • pistachio says:

      Indeed. To put things in perspective:

      $200 million is the cost of a very high budget Hollywood movie. According to Huffington : “GTA 5 Cost £170 Million To Make And Market, Officially The Most Expensive Game Ever”

  5. Carra says:

    Lionhead, Ensemble studios, Aces Studio… Only a matter of time before they close Mojang?

    • LTK says:

      Minecraft is too big of a cash cow to just shut down Mojang entirely, you know that.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        And the second Mojang doesn’t meet the set profit growth quota, Microsoft will slice their throats and farm out their multi-billion dollar Minecraft IP somewhere else.

        They’ve never hesitated a second to kill off products, services or acquisitions the second they don’t meet the projected potential.

  6. Avus says:

    Fxxk MS. I really hope Vulkan API can take off… MS is only an one API away to stay as the default OS choice for PC gaming. I have more faith in Steam than MS to provide a platform in PC gaming. Anything MS are doing for PC gaming are still mainly for Xbox (and Win10).

    As for general PC usage, I don’t need/use IE, my own business can live without MS office (Google Doc + LibreOffice are good enough). I will never use a Windows Phone and tablet.

    • Caelinus says:

      I am not sure what about this sounds makes Microsoft out to be the dick in this situation. They were willing to sell Lionhead to the investors, but they wanted to retain the rights to Fable. (As they are likely planning on moving it to new a new studio.)

      The investors all backed off then, because they were only wanting to “save” Lionhead apparently because of the Fable franchise. Without it, they were not worth the money. Which is the exact same decision that Microsoft made.

  7. DrZhark says:

    Maybe if Microsoft throws in Peter Molyneaux in the mix? that surely will bring back all the investor interest. For sure. Yeah