Fable Legends, Lionhead Studio's free-to-play online game, was a controversial project "nobody" wanted to work on, according to Eurogamer in a detailed report on the studio's closure. The site spoke with several sources close to the company, detailing in-depth how the project contributed to Lionhead's downfall — and kept it from making Fable 4.
Microsoft, Lionhead's parent company, spent $75 million on Fable Legends before ultimately cutting the cord. A source familiar with the project told Eurogamer that Lionhead "knew internally that the game wasn't incredibly fun and lacked features that a free-to-play game should have."
Still, Fable Legends continued on in development, even though some staffers expressed disinterest in the MMO. An open beta was set to begin this spring, following several delays and a closed test period.
"People were happy that Legends was coming to a close," one source told Eurogamer. "We never really expected Legends to last a long time, but we never expected them to cancel it."
Lionhead wanted to make Fable 4 instead, sources said
Although the game was nearly finished, Microsoft pulled it before the open beta's launch, shocking Lionhead staffers. Factors cited as contributing to the cancelation include the high production cost (inflated by oversized elements added into the game, some said), the constant delays and a lack of player interest.
Sources said that some employees at the company wanted to work on a new, traditional Fable game instead. Lionhead had planned to begin work on Fable 4 following the release of Legends, according to Eurogamer's sources.
Instead, Microsoft announced that Lionhead Studios was no more. In March, a manager for the company's European branch announced the end of both Fable Legends and its developer. A consultation period required by U.K. law wrapped in late April, and Lionhead shut its doors at the end of the month.
Some tried to save Fable Legends, hoping to develop it under a new name; other companies expressed interest in picking up the project, but the Fable intellectual property wasn't for sale. This is corroborated in a separate report by Kotaku UK yesterday, in which sources claimed that Microsoft refused to sell off Fable to outside buyers.
The Fable IP remains in Microsoft's control, and ex-Lionhead members have begun to migrate to other studios and projects, Eurogamer said. That means Fable 4 remains a possibility — just not at the series' original studio. Read Eurogamer's full report to learn more about what led to the demise of Lionhead Studios.