“How do we not repeat our same mistakes?”
Microsoft has acknowledged its closure of Lionhead Studios was one of its “biggest missteps”.
As reported by IGN, in the sixth part of Power On: The Story of Xbox – a six-part documentary detailing Microsoft’s highs and lows across its Xbox brand – key figures talked about the acquisition and eventual closure of one of the UK’s biggest studios in a bid to “not repeat” the “same mistakes”.
Lionhead was co-founded in 1997 by Peter Molyneux, Mark Webley, Tim Rance and Steve Jackson, but it was conceived earlier, while Molyneux was at Bullfrog, the ground-breaking PC game maker of Populous, Syndicate and Dungeon Keeper.
As Wes reported at the time the studio was shuttered, Molyneux had sold Bullfrog to EA and made millions from the deal. Now working under the heel of an American owner, Molyneux longed for creative freedom once again. The idea for Lionhead was that it would focus on making high-quality games, as Bullfrog had, but avoid falling into the trap of growing too large. It was bought by Xbox in 2006 and shuttered just ten years later.
“One of the biggest missteps that we learned from in the past was Lionhead,” said Shannon Loftis, who had been general manager of global games publishing when Lionhead was closed down.
“We acquired Lionhead in 2006, and shut it down in 2016,” added 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?”
“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.
“I wish Lionhead were still a viable studio,” Loftis added.
Fable lives on, however, as last year Microsoft has announced a Fable reboot for Xbox Series X and PC. It’s described as “a new beginning” for the fantasy franchise, and is being developed by Forza Horizon studio Playground Games.