Real surprising news out of Microsoft UK yesterday as they announced that not only has development ceased on Fable Legends, but both Lionhead Studios and Press Play are shutting down as well. Press Play kind of came out of no where as they’re a company that has released a few smaller games such as Kalimba and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, which many people may have missed during the beginning months of the Xbox One lifecycle. Lionhead on the other hand is a big deal as that company has been around quite a while and helped develop some big Xbox games like Fable.
I didn’t see this coming.
From an outsider’s perspective, development on Fable Legends has seemingly been strained. This is a game that has been delayed multiple times, enduring a super long closed beta period, and even saw the whole thing get overhauled into a free-to-play model. The other aspect working against the game is that it’s a completely different take on a franchise heavily rooted in the third person adventure RPG genre. Legends takes the themes of past games, but ditches them entirely for a asynchronous 4 v 1 experience, which is something I’m not sure the general populous ever signed on for. These are signs that either the developer is having a tough time nailing the game or the publisher has a lack of faith in the title. I believe it’s a mix of both, but this quote from the initial announcement on the Xbox Wire site could be pretty telling:
These changes are taking effect as Microsoft Studios continues to focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play.
The key phrase being “fans find most exciting and want to play.” For a while now, it seems many people have simply overlooked Fable Legends and when Microsoft announced the free to play model switch, I saw a lot of negativity as well. Fans wanted a true Fable 4, which continued after the ill-fated Fable: The Journey launched as a heavy Kinect title. It got to a point in development where Microsoft had to really evaluate the game and considering the money and time that was invested with a player base that appeared to not have a massive interest in the title, the plug was pulled.
Ironically enough, I never got a chance to experience it for myself. See below:
I have a lot of good memories with Lionhead Studios, much of which comes from Peter Molyneux, while he was there. My adventures started with the god game, Black & White, where the player acted as a god influencing the AI humans through the use of miracles or other abilities, but the main draw for me was training a “pet” who would act as a physical representation of how you played. Whether you were good or bad, the pet would inherit characteristics and “learn” from how you played. Yes, it had flaws but it was a really unique experience, and one that helped put Lionhead further on the map.
The Fable series is really what the studio was known for, either that or the sweeping promises that Molyneux made which then didn’t quite live up to once the game came out. Still, by all accounts, the Fable games were quite enjoyable, placing the player in the role of an important character that grew with them over the course of the game. Like any good RPG, the player could develop their character into a good or bad person, affecting the world and story as you went.
It’s been a while since a proper Fable game released and sadly, it appears that gamers may never see another entry. It’s never easy to hear about studios closing down and people losing their jobs so I want to take a minute to thank all of those people who helped craft these experiences that I’ve been able to play and enjoy. I wish you all the best going forward. Thank You.