In a sudden and unexpected move, Microsoft announced this morning that it has canceled the widely-anticipated cross-platform game Fable Legends and will likely close Lionshead Studios in the UK.
And while this isn’t as big a deal for most, Lionshead isn’t the only Microsoft game maker on the block: The software giant revealed that it is also closing Press Play Studios in Denmark and is canceling development of Project Knoxville.
“These have been tough decisions and we have not made them lightly, nor are they a reflection on these development teams,” Microsoft Studios Europe General Manager Hanno Lemke wrote in a post to the Xbox Wire blog. “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.”
And that, folks, is as close as we’re ever going to get on the key question here, which is … Why? Microsoft is essentially shutting down not just two games, but also the two studios that make them … because those games are not popular enough.
“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 [intellectual property] and originality in the games we offer on our platforms, whether they’re AAA blockbusters like Quantum Break from Remedy, adventurous new IPs like Sea of Thieves from Rare, or unique new creations from independent developers like Moon Studios with Ori,” Lemke continued.
But that brings us to the second key question. Which is this: How does this decision impact Microsoft’s new cross-platform strategy for Xbox? As I noted in Microsoft Has an Audacious Plan to Expand Xbox Gaming, we caught the first glimpse of the real future of Xbox when Microsoft showed off Fable Legends last year. That game would come to both Xbox One and Windows 10 for PCs and, more to the point, would allow “cross-platform play,” meaning that PC and console gamers could play together in the same game at the same time.
Cross-platform play has been a dream for many years, and it seems like Fable Legends would show us the way. I don’t actually believe that this game’s cancellation kills cross-platform play, but it’s terrible timing.