According to a new report from Kotaku UK, “several potential buyers” came forward to express interest in purchasing the Fable franchise and developer Lionhead Studios from Microsoft. However, these talks did not materialize, reportedly due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to sell Fable, and Lionhead eventually closed its doors at the end of April.
These buyers, some of which included “some of the biggest names in video game publishing,” reportedly approached Microsoft/Lionhead during the studio’s consultation period. UK law requires employers to create a consultancy period of at least 30 days. During this, measures to avoid redundancies are to be explored. The period also gives those affected some time to search for new jobs.
“The discussions were not just ephemeral: letters of intent were reportedly filed,” Kotaku UK reported.
Multiple sources confirmed to Kotaku UK that discussions took place, but none of the apparently interested parties were mentioned in the report. A source “close to Xbox” told the site that offers were in the range of “hundreds of millions,” which would have included Lionhead itself and the Fable franchise.
Kotaku explains why it might have been problematic for a company to buy Lionhead, but not the Fable IP.
“Without ownership of the IP, any company that bought Lionhead would have to publish new Fable games (or Fable Legends, if it had been salvaged) under a licensing agreement with Microsoft–not a favorable condition for anyone looking to make money from the franchise,” it said.
Kotaku UK also mentions that oftentimes offers are made during consultation periods with no deal ever happening, for a variety of reasons.
Lionhead has been around for almost two decades, having been founded by Peter Molyneux after leaving his previous studio, Bullfrog Productions. Following Molyneux’s departure in 2012, Legends was announced in 2013 as an online RPG and was later revealed to be a free-to-play game for Xbox One and PC. A beta was held for Legends, but the game never went any further.
Microsoft has not yet announced its plans for Fable in what is now a post-Lionhead era at Microsoft. We will bring you more news as it becomes available.