In modern gaming there are only a few series that help to define a console and encourage platform loyalty amongst gamers. Fable was one such franchise for the Xbox. The last major release in the series was Fable Anniversary for the Xbox 360 in 2014, and that was a remake. Since then, fans have been waiting a long time for the next substantial installment, but disappointing news regarding the upcoming Fable Legends suggests replaying the old games will be the only option left to gamers.
After a lukewarm reception to the Kinect game Fable: The Journey in 2012, it was clear a new Fable adventure was long overdue. Fable Legends was supposed to scratch that itch, changing the focus toward cooperative gameplay, wherein gamers would be able to play alongside three others with the option to play as the hero or villain of the adventure. Microsoft moved towards making the title free-to-play and stated it was due to be released in 2015, with a potential life span of 5 to 10 years. None of that will come to pass now, as not only has Microsoft confirmed the title has been canceled, they are also looking at closing down the UK-based studio Lionhead, which was founded by Peter Molyneux.
In a statement on Xbox’s website, General Manager of Microsoft Studios Europe, Hanno Lemke confirmed the unfortunate news, which also includes the shuttering of Danish studio Press Play.
Here is what Lemke said regarding Fable Legends, Lionhead Studios, and Press Play:
"After much consideration we have decided to cease development on Fable Legends, and are in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK. Additionally, we will close Press Play Studios in Denmark, and sunset development on Project Knoxville.
These have been tough decisions and we have not made them lightly, nor are they a reflection on these development teams – we are incredibly fortunate to have the talent, creativity and commitment of the people at these studios. The Lionhead Studios team has delighted millions of fans with the Fable series over the past decade. These changes are taking effect as Microsoft Studios continues to focus its investment and development on the games and franchises that fans find most exciting and want to play.
I speak for all of Xbox when I say that despite this news, we remain committed to the development communities in the UK and Europe, and Xbox will continue to support new IP and originality in the games we offer on our platforms . . . We have nothing but heart-felt thanks for the members of Lionhead and Press Play for their contributions to Xbox and gaming. We are committed to working closely with those affected by today’s news to find them new opportunities at Xbox, or partnering with the broader development community to help place them in jobs elsewhere in the games industry should they desire."
It’s interesting how Lemke's statement says the decision has been made so Microsoft can concentrate on franchises that excite players most. It seems the company may have finally lost faith in the Fable franchise. Gamesradar recently pointed out Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s ambiguous words on the game last week. Spencer reportedly avoided commenting directly on the game's development, but did state "the world of Albion and the hero-based nature of that game could show up in many different spaces." Perhaps that means Fable might continue on as a HoloLens title, but don't get your hopes up.
It is unfortunate whenever a game is canceled, but that pales in comparison to news of incredibly talented people in the games industry losing their jobs. Thankfully, UK law requires employers to take measures to avoid redundancies during a 30-day consultancy period, which is why the statement from Microsoft says they are in "discussions" regarding the closing of the studio. Hopefully, the statement by Xbox holds true and all involved with both studios are able to find new roles as soon as possible.
The Fable Legends beta will stay online until April 13, but no new players will be able to join before then.