Microsoft is making some sweeping changes to its European operations. The publisher has proposed the closure of Fable developer Lionhead Studios and has canceled its long in-development multiplayer title Fable Legends.

Fable Legends, the four-versus-one, free-to-play game has been in closed beta for months. We played the game on a number of occasions and it was supposedly nearing open beta.

Lionhead was co-founded by Peter Molyneux, and under his direction the studio released a number of landmark games. Fable, Black & White, and The Movies all brought new innovation to the industry.

In order to close a company in the UK, an employer must engage in a "consultation" period first. This is a period lasting at least 30 days for employee groups between 20 and 99. For staff sizes of 100 or greater, the period must last 45 days minimum. During that time, the employer must evaluate ways to avoid layoffs, the reasons for the decision, and the company must provide resources for affected employees to be retrained or find new employment.

In addition, Microsoft has announced that Press Play, the studio behind Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Kalimba, and the in-development Project Knoxville (chosen by fans via vote), will also be shuttered. Microsoft Studios Europe general manager Hanno Lemke says these decisions are designed to help Microsoft “focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play.”

The publisher is working with those affected to find them other opportunities within Xbox studios and assist with placement at other companies. This news follows Microsoft’s spring showcase, at which Fable Legends was a no-show.

[Source: Microsoft]


Our Take
The proposed closure of Lionhead Studios is saddening. While the Fable series never quite lived up to its potential, each game innovated and captivated with exciting combat and clever humor.

Fans have been clamoring for Fable IV, and it’s a shame that Microsoft took the series in different directions with Fable: The Journey, Fable Heroes, and the now-canceled Fable Legends. Perhaps someone else will pick up the torch and deliver the game fans want.

Our thoughts are with those affected at Lionhead and Press Play. Especially given how much attention Microsoft heaped on the latter with its community vote last year, this is shocking and disappointing.