Report: Fable 4 Concept Inspired By Jules Verne, Legends Cost $75 Million
As we continue to mourn the loss of Fable developer Lionhead Studios, new information has emerged on the developer’s long history and tragic fall. An extensive eulogy written by Eurogamer’s Wesley Yin-Poole reveals the struggles and triumphs of Peter Molyneux’s Guildford studio.
The extensive story, which includes anecdotes from named and anonymous sources reveals two pieces of what might have been for the Fable franchise. With Microsoft pushing the studio toward Kinect and free-to-play, fans are still waiting for a proper numbered sequel.
According to Eurogamer’s discussion with former Lionhead art director John McCormack, a pitch for an Unreal Engine 4-powered Fable 4 would have taken players to a steampunk neo-Victorian setting. The game’s main town, Bowerstone, would have been modeled after London, complete with Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde characters. According to McCormack, the pitch was declined as Microsoft shifted Lionhead toward a service model.
The result was Fable Legends, the now-canceled free-to-play, four-vs-one game set in Albion’s past. According to Eurogamer’s sources, before cancellation the game had rung up expenses totaling approximately $75 million. This is exceedingly high for a free-to-play game, as that model requires nimble, reactive decisions that take into account player adoption, attrition, and growth commensurate with user buy-in.
The entire story is absolutely worth reading. You can do so over at Eurogamer.
With more of this information surfacing, the question remains: what is Microsoft going to do with the franchise? We learned yesterday that the company refused to sell it along with the studio. Hopefully, when the time is right, we'll be able to return to Albion.
Not only is this a fascinating retrospective on a storied studio, but it illuminates business decisions that put Lionhead’s problems in context. Microsoft doesn’t look great in Eurogamer’s piece, though without all the pieces it would be unfair to lay blame exclusively at the publisher’s feet.
This is as much a human story as it is a dissection of a failed business. And that reminder is a valuable one for those of us who love the medium.