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Businesses Microsoft United Kingdom Games

Sweeping Changes At Microsoft Studios Kill Lionhead Studios and Fable (betanews.com) 91

Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has announced sweeping changes at Microsoft Studios, affecting development teams in the UK and Denmark. In sad news for gamers, development of Fable Legends has been brought to an end. The Fable series is one that has suffered numerous setbacks and delays over the years, but this is the biggest blow yet. More than this, the team behind Fable — Lionhead Studios — is at risk of closure, and Microsoft is in talks with employees about this. General Manager of Microsoft Studios Europe, Hanno Lemke, also announced that Press Play Studios in Denmark will close, leading to the end of development on Project Knoxville.
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Sweeping Changes At Microsoft Studios Kill Lionhead Studios and Fable

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  • Fable 2 PC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwn3d ( 2750695 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @01:35PM (#51653973)
    Maybe they could keep it alive if they'd make the Fable 2 PC port that we have wanted for years
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Have to agree. If they had ported the Fable 2 PC port, or made a Fable Linux port, they might have had a chance.

      I'd say half of my game purchases this century have been Lionhead games.

  • by bigdady92 ( 635263 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @01:38PM (#51653989) Homepage
    Yes they did good stuff back in the day. Lately nothing out of that whole huge back catalogue. Good on MS for shutting down a stagnant failing studio.
    • by Kobun ( 668169 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:40PM (#51654375)
      Agreed. Lionhead was full of disappointment for me. Black & White, which has performance degradation bugs that make the game unplayable on a 10-years-later modern PC. Fable 3, with game-ending bugs (shooting range, anyone?) that were never fixed. The Fable 2 PC port that never came. Either Black & White, with their suicidally stupid AI.

      I would feel differently if the games were such that I could go back and play them today with fond nostalgia, but their never-addressed quality issues make the whole endeavor too much of an unfun hassle.
    • I'd have rather seen them make some effort at getting things turned around rather than putting it on a chopping block, but maybe it was beyond that point. I've been there, as part of a failing studio that went under. It's not fun at all, but competent devs should be able to get new jobs without trouble - experienced specialists are always in demand. So, you can say that I've got a bit of professional empathy for those guys.

      There comes a point, however, when it's foolish to throw good money after bad, and

  • Flight Simulator is sorely missed guys.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Much of the flight sim community has moved over to X-Plane 10 now. Like FSX it requires add-ons to shine, but it is based on a modern 64 bit engine (so no ram problems like FSX has), and is under active development with a large community around it.

      FSX still does some things better than XP10 does, but XP10 does other things better than FSX does.

  • Thankfully this might help finally stop that blowhard douchebag, Peter Molyneux, the guy responsible for all 3 versions of Fable being awful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I hear he's working on an even bigger, more pointless cube! (he calls it "sphere")

    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:00PM (#51654111)

      1. You do realize Peter Molyneux left Lionhead 4 years ago exactly to the day, right?

      * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      On 7 March 2012, Molyneux announced that he would be leaving Lionhead and Microsoft â" after the completion of Fable: The Journey â" to begin work at a company founded by former Lionhead Studios CTO Tim Rance called 22Cans.

      2. And your god-genre-games are where again?

      Sure, Molyneux, overpromises, and doesn't understand "scope" but he did give us the god-genre and gems such as with Populous, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet.

      There is no need to bag on a great game designer.

      • He wrote populous 30 years ago then did the same game ever since. I couldn't stand the boring game but it was popular at the time. Really, his interviews, especially in the last year or so, have been a lot more fun than the games ever were. After the last one or two I wondered if he should be on suicide watch.

      • by Kobun ( 668169 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:58PM (#51654475)

        Sure, Molyneux, overpromises, and doesn't understand "scope" but he did give us the god-genre and gems such as with Populous, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet.

        I feel like this undersells how great the team at Bullfrog was. For me, Molyneux always felt similar to John Romero - started off as part of a great team, but was significantly less impressive when put in the primary lead position.

        • Populous II really could have been improved with Peter Molyneux's head on a stake [wikia.com] somewhere on the map.

        • That's a very good point ! Games in the 90's were not made in a vacuum. Definitely need to credit the rest of the team (programmers, designers, artists, sound, etc.)

          Interesting that Molyneux is like Romero -- big on ideas but struggle to self-manage studios.

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        he did give us the god-genre and gems such as with Populous, Syndicate, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet.

        Most of which promised more than they delivered. I remember how I excited was about Dungeon Keeper, then how sceptical I became after they changed course during development and turned it into a competitive DM vs. DM thing, and how utterly disappointed I was that I was right. DK was fun the first few levels when you were actually defending your dungeon against heroes, after that it was just a run-of-the-mill Aufbauspiel.

        Likewise Syndicate didn't have compelling endgame. Black & White had the same, fun id

    • Syndicate was a great game.
  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @01:43PM (#51654025) Journal

    but somehow, I never pictured Lionshead getting shut down, even by our benevolent overlord Microsoft Studios. It was too iconic. It's a fixture. Hell, if it inherited just a tiny part of Peter Molyneux's ego, it should have been immortal.

    I suppose the idea of Yet Another MMORPG getting shut down isn't a shocker, though. If you want to kill a good game idea dead, attempt to implement it as an MMO. And, to be completely sure, develop it at Microsoft Studios, the great elephant graveyard of gaming. It's the gaming equivalent of lifting off and nuking it from space.

    Oh, yeah, original summary doesn't have a linky. Linky. [venturebeat.com]

    • but somehow, I never pictured Lionshead getting shut down, even by our benevolent overlord Microsoft Studios. It was too iconic. It's a fixture. Hell, if it inherited just a tiny part of Peter Molyneux's ego, it should have been immortal.

      It is only fitting, all the greatest studios have been killed by the company that bought them. Just to meantion the two biggest: Origin and Microprose. It was worse for Lucas Arts who was allowed to rot first after the take over before being put out of its missery.

  • Microsoft buys game companies and a few years later shuts them down. You can almost guarantee that any game company that MS purchases will be run into the ground in about 3 years. See once all the higher ups have fulfilled their obligations to stay for a certain amount of time they flee Microsoft and start another game company using all the funds they extracted from MS. Shortly after it's a bloodbath and everyone that's any good jumps ship.

    Microsoft, it's where good game companies go to die.

    • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:16PM (#51654223)

      You have to admit; they're track record is still a helluva lot better than EA, which has pretty much crushed all my favorite franchises, ever: Maxis, Origin, Westwood, et. al.

      • You have to admit; they're track record is still a helluva lot better than EA, which has pretty much crushed all my favorite franchises, ever: Maxis, Origin, Westwood, et. al.

        EA definitely takes the cake on bad management of companies.

    • by Zephyn ( 415698 )

      Microsoft, it's where good game companies go to die.

      I'd say EA gives them a good run for the money on that score.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The reason is that somehow over time most game companies turn into bad, stagnant game companies. While they're independent they have got little choice but to muddle on, usually producing worse and more derivative games as time goes on until they're just teetering on the edge. However, when a studio is part of a bigger organisation, it is easier to shut it down when it goes stagnant, shifting developers over to different studios. Once you've got a surplus of developers and a lack of good ideas, you buy anoth

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        That's the same with most companies. The smaller the startup, the smaller and more achievable their goals. There's less code base to support, so they can concentrate on just writing new software. But then they get have to get their first product out. They make enough sales to employ more developers. Customers now want support, so they have to implement customer support engineers, technical writers, documentation, test engineers. The test harness system needs to be maintained. The more code that is added, th

    • Too be fair, they should never have funded Vanguard and let it rot too long.

      I wasn't surprised when SOE picked them up.

      Vanguard was a guaranteed failure the second that drug addict thought it up and talked MS into funding it.

      That really upset me because MS had an MMO with promise that they killed off for Vanguard. I must be getting old because I can't remember the name of it.

    • I couldn't believe they shut down Ensemble. That game studio was great and made a ton of money.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:07PM (#51654149) Homepage
    seems like this is a once a month occurrence...and it typically goes something like this:
    1. Microsoft gets slaughtered to the tune of hundreds of millions on a new offering...for example, surface losing 600 million in 2014.
    2. Microsoft pretends that didnt happen, releases a new surface.
    3. eight months pass, the new surface incurs another hundred million in loss.
    4. Microsoft pretends losses are due to economic factors and not representative of anything more than a downturn in consumer demand.
    5. Microsoft spends, say, the year of 2014, firing twenty thousand employees while muttering "this is okay, this is normal" in a soothing monotone to any onlooking press.
    6. People point out the microsoft store is failing, the phone offering is also suffering huge losses, and the only thing using the microsoft cloud is the colocational datacenter racks that hold it up.

    7. ....microsoft releases a new windows...proclaims its the greatest ever....it begins failing...
    8. Microsoft announces it will now strap Xbox indelably to the haggared burro known as Windows 10...they will form a new perfect union...like beer belch flavoured doritos or stale cigar flavoured icecream.
    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @02:23PM (#51654273)

      and the only thing using the microsoft cloud is the colocational datacenter racks that hold it up.

      Of everything you wrote, this is the only point I'd differ on. The Azure cloud stuff has actually been pretty successful, to the point where they can barely meet demand. (Personally I don't see why, because AWS seems to be a better platform in nearly every way.)

      So Azure has actually been a money-maker so far, but other than that everything you said was spot-on.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah Azure and o365 are selling by the virtual cloud based truckload.

        They've already got AzureAD and it's shaping up to be a complete replacement for windows server in SMB environments. A soon as they get their head out of their ass and put it together in an easy point and drool package (Basically they need to gut onedrive and make it actually do what business users need to do and make AzureAD able to replace winserver wholesale, then bundle it with a remote management tool that's not a huge pain in the di

      • Ten years ago the company I work for wouldn't even entertain the idea of supporting and using Apple products and though I see more and more of them every day it appears even less likely today that we would move away from Microsoft anytime soon.

        • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @03:30PM (#51654705)

          Ten years ago the company I work for wouldn't even entertain the idea of supporting and using Apple products and though I see more and more of them every day it appears even less likely today that we would move away from Microsoft anytime soon.

          I think the MS "lock in" effect is fairly common because a lot of companies have mission-critical applications that only run under Windows, or they have applications that have Linux or Apple equivalents, but that would be painful or expensive to move over to.

          For example, I'm sure Linux has some capable employee management applications, but transitioning from a Windows application to a Linux analogue might be difficult and time-consuming (and possibly expensive as well). It's a kind of "native lock in" that's hard to break away from. It's not that alternatives aren't available, but moving to them is usually seen as more trouble than it's worth (and that notion is probably justified, too).

          As more of these kinds of applications move to the web, however, (HR, employee management, process control) I think we'll see more companies adopt Linux, because a web page works the same under any OS as long as it's written properly.

          I'd bet you could sit most average users down and have them use Linux Mint or Ubuntu with hardly a hiccup as long as they were shown what to click on to open whatever it is they need to use to get their job done. If it's a web app then it's basically click-and-go, no need to retrain anyone. It's desktop apps that are the sticking point, but I suspect that may not be the case for much longer.

          • A little more than that when you add up Windows, Office, Active Directory, Exchange, Sharepoint, Skype, and a boat load of other MS products it suddenly becomes one stop for support. Now you are no longer looking at business critical applications that interact with software from various vendors the buck stops at MS and they support it.

          • It's more along the lines of Apple doesn't excel at making hardware in servers or environments for enterprise, mission critical applications. Windows and Linux platforms do. Apple is more aimed at the small. app store type stuff while they nickel and dime to profit and overpriced hardware.
            • Linux may have alternatives to just about everything MS but the problem is it's a lot of third parties and no one vendor to point your finger at and say we payed for it now fix it.

  • How much money has Microsoft pissed away doing stuff like this?

    When you count up all the failures and the aborted projects and half-baked shit they've abandoned, it's incredible that this company is still above water.

    For example, how many tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work did they lose just by crashing the Fable Legends project? It's mind boggling to me.

    • How much money has Microsoft pissed away doing stuff like this?

      When you count up all the failures and the aborted projects and half-baked shit they've abandoned, it's incredible that this company is still above water.

      For example, how many tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work did they lose just by crashing the Fable Legends project? It's mind boggling to me.

      Many, many, many games and ideas are scrapped before they become complete products. Obviously the game was not progressing like it should along with failures in the past so they shut it down. It takes about 5 years to bring a good MMO to market and they were still 1-2 years out.

      • Many, many, many games and ideas are scrapped before they become complete products. Obviously the game was not progressing like it should along with failures in the past so they shut it down. It takes about 5 years to bring a good MMO to market and they were still 1-2 years out.

        No, I understand that....but still, it seems like a huge waste. Either commit to something or don't. I know the "sunk cost"fallacy is a huge problem but nonetheless, game development isn't some new, untried process. Either they're not doing it right or they have no idea how to do it at all. It's not like this is magic or some unknown quantity. I understand there are a *lot* of variables in play as well as unforeseen circumstances, but it just seems as though the failure rate is unreasonably high for this ki

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Meh, their taxes are so high they just write it off or write it down - if it's already covered and they can not reduce their tax burden any further then they just defer it or push it to a "wholly owned subsidiary" that is in a different country and reduce their burden there. They have (and continue to make) gobs of cash and have a whole lot of assets.

  • On the plus side the staff can just move en-masse to a Starbucks of their choice and start up again as co-owners.

  • Way too late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by poisonborz ( 2676611 ) on Monday March 07, 2016 @03:00PM (#51654509)
    I never understood why anyone thought they were an iconic studio. The only game they ever delivered in the scale and originality they promised was Black & White. Fable, while good, was already showing cracks (compared to what Molyneux promised) and the only other original IP was The Movies, which - while also being an interesting concept - was a costly flop. That's all. Their last decade was basically spilling out Fable sequels in worsening quality, parallel of how Molyneux became more and more depressed and actually mad. After (and actually before) he left, there wasn't a strong, visionary lead there. Microsoft was actually merciful to keep them around this long.
  • Fable went to shit when they made the decision to tie it to Kinect. If there is any genre that should not need a Kinect bolt on, it is theasy RPG style that Fable falls into.

    I was actually come sidelong buying a XBONE just because of the Fable series, until I found out they were bolting Kinect onto this thing.

  • So no The Movies 2? :(
  • Any company that has had any dealings with Mark Healey deserves to go tits up.

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