House Microsoft Has Decreed Lionhead Studios is to be Beheaded, Winter Still Coming
It's a sad day in the world of video games whenever ANY studio shuts down, if you ask me. The industry is changing at such a rapid rate, and I think we are starting to see a substantial amount of big developers start to go defunct in the process.
And though there's a LOT (and I mean a lot) of small developers popping up in their wake, they usually can't measure up to the scale of the studios that would end up hiring dozens and dozens of people to work on their games. The best example of this trend is easily what went down between Take Two, Ken Levine, and Irrational Games: at one point the latter studio was operating with more than 75 staff members under its belt, but was ultimately "downsized" to a tiny new studio composed of just Ken Levine and just 15 other staff members.
On the one hand yes, it meant we still get Ken Levine games (eventually, I'm sure; come on Ken, we're getting ancy here), but on the other, it meant more than 50 people lost their jobs, and the gaming world got a whole lot smaller because of it. So even when studios shut down that I don't necessarily care about, nor necessarily played their games, it still should be considered a big loss. That made news today of Microsoft essentially cleaning house and shutting down at least two studios all the more disheartening.
On the one hand, I was never a Fable fan, and really had no investment in the future of the Peter Molyneux-less Lionhead Studios. But that doesn't make the shutting down of the developer, composed of around 100 total employees and a part of Microsoft's upper tier developers for nearly a decade, any less of a pity. And in the wake of the studios proposed shut down we're also losing a game, Fable Legends, which I'm sure SOMEONE was looking forward to. I don't know who, but I sure they exist!
And the closing of Lionhead was only the tip of the iceberg for Microsoft this week – other studios that may be getting the axe include Press Play Interactive (Max: The Curse of Brotherhood), BigPark (who developed Kinect Joyride), Function Studios, LXP, and SOTA. The later four haven't been confirmed as shut down quite yet, but their removal from Microsoft's list of developers alongside Lionhead and Press Play is certainly suspect.
In any case, we can only hope that Microsoft will be able to simply move around assets into new or existing studios, rather than cutting these people entirely. After all, losing one studio in this industry blows, but five all at once? That's just too much to handle. We wish all the employees affected at these studios the best of luck going forward.