In a new six-part documentary series Microsoft has said that its handling of Lionhead Studios, which was shut down in 2016, was a “mistake” that helped shape the way Microsoft now works with its acquired developers.
The sixth episode of Power On: The Story of Xbox features a short segment dedicated to Lionhead. “One of the biggest missteps that we learned from in the past was Lionhead,” said Shannon Loftis, who was General Manager of Global Games Publishing when Lionhead was shuttered. “We had already published Fable 1, and it was a hit… People wanted more, and so we bought Lionhead. Those were good years.
“But after Fable 2, Kinect came along and the Fable-Kinect marriage just never really took,” she explained. “And then Fable: The Journey was a passion project for a lot of people, but I think it deviated pretty significantly from the pillars of what made Fable 1 and 2 so popular.”
“We acquired Lionhead in 2006, and shut it down in 2016,” said Sarah Bond, Head of Game Creator Experiences and Ecosystem at Xbox. “A couple of years later we reflected back on that experience. What did we learn, and how do we not repeat our same mistakes?”
So what did Microsoft learn? “You acquire a studio for what they’re great at now, and your job is to help them accelerate how they do what they do, not them accelerate what you do,” said Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox.
It’s clear, at least among those interviewed for the documentary, that Microsoft realises that they messed up with the British studio. “I wish Lionhead were still a viable studio,” said Loftis.
While Lionhead is sadly no more, the studio’s legacy lives on with a new Fable game, currently in development at Playground Games. This new version will balance old and new ideas for the fantasy RPG, and will be built on the Forza engine, which is no bad thing considering Forza Horizon 5 is one of the most beautiful games ever made.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.