Although Lionhead Studios has now closed its doors, a leak suggests that the developer had plenty of potential buyers before it officially closed last month.
Many gamers were shocked and disappointed when Lionhead Studios was closed down. The developer, which had been responsible for a number of beloved franchises such as the Fable series and Black & White, was shut down by owner Microsoft, alongside the cancellation of asymmetric multiplayer title Fable Legends. As it turns out, the studio had many suitors during its pre-closure period, before it eventually closed its doors for good.
According to Kotaku UK, a number of unnamed sources have confirmed that Lionhead Studios could have lived on through several potential buyers. These parties allegedly came forward during the time in which Lionhead was in consultation, which is a legally required timeframe whereby a company must explore options other than a full closure.
According to these reports, there were several heavy hitters in the game publishing circuit that showed an interest in purchasing Lionhead. However, given the sensitive nature of the studio’s struggle, no publishers have been specifically named. Those who did put themselves forward as potential buyers were not just showing curiosity, though, as apparently interested parties had even filed letters of intent.
Unfortunately for those hoping for a return for Lionhead Studios, none of these prospective bidders were successful. This is, according to one source close to Xbox, down to Microsoft’s rather strict restrictions on exactly what was for sale. This source stated that the publisher would not sell the Fable property along with the studio had made it, even though there were offers worth hundreds of millions on the table. According to the source, “90% of the people interested just walked away at that point.”
Apparently, the idea of owning Lionhead without its core franchise did not appeal enough for any parties to put in an offer that Microsoft would accept, and there is a good reason for this. After all, should the company that owned the developer want to make any more Fable games, they would then have to enter into a licensing agreement with Microsoft, which would no doubt take a sizeable chunk of any profits made. In the end, then, Lionhead Studios ended up shutting down.
Fans of Lionhead were extremely disappointed to learn of Microsoft’s intention of closing the developer down, particularly given the lack of a finite reason for the closure – although many suspect that the struggle to bring Fable Legends up to an acceptable level of quality could have been a major factor. In the end, then, Lionhead was not able to receive a second chance, unlike some of the developers that were threatened with closure when publisher THQ went bankrupt. As it stands, Microsoft lost an acclaimed developer, but still holds the rights to the Fable franchise that it so strongly wanted to keep. What happens with that property now, however, remains to be seen.
Source: Kotaku UK