Last month, the British game development family tree had one of its most venerable branches lopped off, when Microsoft announced the probable closure of Lionhead Studios. Though best known for the Fable series, the Guildford outfit once headed by Peter Molyneux also has Black & White and The Movies to its name, and many of its original key staff were the guiding forces behind Bullfrog greats such as Syndicate and Dungeon Keeper. Whatever one might feel about their status as a Fable factory following a Microsoft buy-out, there's serious heritage there.
Recent murmurs and rumours suggest that, while a closure for Lionhead as we knew it is still on the cards, the exact nature of how it will happen and what will become both of staff and the well-into-development and free-to-play Fable Legends is still in flux. There may even be a future for the cancelled Fable Legends after all.
The reports come via MCV, who claim that unnamed sources from Lionhead have told them that, though many contractors have left, the lights are still on at the studio. A survey sent to remaining staff allegedly asks whether their preference is to take a redundancy package and leave this month, or continue working on Fable Legends in some capacity.
The really eyebrow-waggling line is this one: "One of the sources told MCV that this stems from a proposal from certain Lionhead employees about taking Fable Legends and continuing development as an independent studio. Our other two sources were unable to verify this claim, however."
Could well be nothing, but there's at least a hint that Microsoft have given Legends a stay of execution. It had been in closed beta before the axe fell, so there is certainly logic in finishing it up and getting it out, rather than squandering years of work. The idea of MS giving it to an indie studio is a deeply odd one, but no doubt MS would hang tightly onto the rights (and profits) if that did happen.