As of this morning, the team behind Black and White and the Fable series is no more.
Microsoft revealed in early March that the anticipated Xbox One-exclusive Fable Legends would be cancelled, along with the potential closure of developer Lionhead Studios. As of today, Lionhead Studios is officially closed. Following a mandatory six-week consultation period, as mandated by British employment laws, Microsoft “reached a decision to close Lionhead Studios” this week.
Founded in 1996, Lionhead Studios formed together after creator Peter Molyneux left former studio Bullfrog Productions; Bullfrog was responsible for classic titles of the late-80’s/early-90’s including Syndicate, Hi-Octane and Dungeon Keeper II. Lionhead published its first game Black and White in 2001 under EA (at the time “Electronic Arts”) for PC. With the player assuming control of an omnipotent being overseeing villages and animals of their own creations, Black and White was one of the first titles that truly popularized the “god game” Simulator sub-genre. Lionhead continued to expand on Black and White with 2002’s Creature Isle expansion and Black and White 2 in 2005.
Though Black and White established Lionhead Studios as a household name among PC owners, it was 2004’s Fable that truly pushed the developer into the spotlight of the gaming community. Originally an Xbox-exclusive game, Fable was a third-person RPG previously developed under the title “Project Ego”. One of the major selling points of Fable was the concept of the Hero’s “alignment”; depending on the player’s own minute actions- any little thing down to what the Hero eats- the Hero’s allegiances and appearance will change over the course of the game to reflect good and evil. Fable spawned two sequels, an XBLA multiplayer beat-em-up (Fable Heroes), and an on-rails Kinect title (Fable: The Journey). Fable: The Lost Chapters received a remastered version in 2014 with Fable: Anniversary for the 360 and PC. The new version featured a new save data system, Achievements for both Xbox Live and Steam.
The final game before Lionhead’s closure, Fable Legends was in development for Xbox One and PC. The RPG/RTS hybrid would have allowed multiple players in a party to fight against another player acting as the villain of that mission; the villain-player also had the power to summon creatures and place traps during the setup phase of each mission. Had it not have been cancelled, Fable Legends would have released as a free-to-play title for Xbox One and PC via the Windows 10 Store.