Peter Molyneux leaves Lionhead Studios, Microsoft

Wednesday, 7th March 2012 12:13 GMT By Johnny Cullen

15 years after he founded the studio, Peter Molyneux has left Lionhead Studios and his role as creative director of Microsoft Studios Europe, the developer has announced today.

Molyneux: The Main Points

Peter Molyneux has left Lionhead Studios, 15 years after he co-founded the studio. He’s also left his role as creative director of Microsoft Studios Europe.

He’s now at new startup 22 Cans, but will continue his work on Fable: The Journey as a creative consultant.

Microsoft: “Development of Fable: The Journey remains on track to be one of the year’s most anticipated Kinect for Xbox 360 titles.”

Fellow studio co-founder Mark Webley will take over as head of Lionhead. Microsoft hasn’t named a replacement as EU creative director of MS Studios.

Molyneux will now oversee development on Fable: The Journey as a creative consultant, and has confirmed in a tweet he’s joined new Guildford-based venture 22 Cans

“It is with mixed emotions that I made the decision to leave Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, the company that I co-founded in 1997, at the conclusion of development of Fable: The Journey,” he said in a statement sent to VG247.

“I remain extremely passionate and proud of the people, products and experiences that we created from Black & White to Fable to our pioneering work with Milo and Kate for the Kinect platform.

“However, I felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture. I’d like to thank the team at Lionhead, as well as our partners at Microsoft Studios for their support, dedication and incredible work over the years.”

In its own statement, Microsoft added: “Lionhead Studios Founder and pioneer game developer Peter Molyneux has made the decision to leave Microsoft. While his decision was a difficult one, he felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture. As a co-founder of Lionhead and an integral part of Microsoft Studios, Peter was the creative visionary behind the blockbuster Fable franchise and one of our most passionate and influential developers for the Xbox 360 platform.

“He has made an indelible mark on the games industry and we wish him all the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Lionhead co-founder Mark Webley will take charge of the studio, although it’s unknown who will take his role as MS Studios’ Europe creative head.

Fabled Pastures

In 1987, he set up Bullfrog Productions alongside Les Edgar. The studio goes on to create its first game, Fusion, a year later. But it would be after that where Bullfrog had its first big hit in the form of God sim Populous.

A Populous sequel launched two years later before striking gold again with strategy title Syndicate in 1993. EA recently brought Syndicate back in the form of a first person shooter from Starbreeze. Other titles Bullfrog made included Magic Carpet and Theme Park.

In January 1995, EA had bought Bullfrog Productions, with Molyneux becoming a vice president at the publisher the previous year.

After development finished on Dungeon Keeper, Molyneux left Bullfrog and EA to set up Lionhead Studios in 1997 alongside Webley and Tim Rance. The first game he helped create at the developer was Black and White in 2001 for EA for PC and Mac. After a set of expansions, a sequel emerged in 2005.

He also created film sim The Movies in 2005 for PC and Mac, with subsequent expansions following afterwards.

But his and Lionhead biggest contribution to date has been the creation of the Fable series for Microsoft. The first Fable launched on the original Xbox in 2004. Sequels Fable II and Fable III released on Xbox 360 in 2008 and 2010.

It was two years after the original Fable’s release that Lionhead was bought out by Microsoft in April 2006 to join Microsoft Game Studios, aligning itself at the time with studios like Rare, Bungie and Turn 10.

It announced Fable: The Journey last June at E3 as a Kinect-enabled spin-off of the series. And just this week, it also announced XBLA title Fable Heroes, a co-op hack ‘n’ slash. Heroes is its second game for the service alongside Fable II Pub Games.

But in 2009, he unveiled what was widely thought at the time to be Kinect’s big killer app: Milo and Kate. However, the project was canned despite a new demo being shown at TED in 2010 following the E3 announce the previous year. Molyneux had been one of Kinect’s biggest guardian angels since it launched.

VG247 sat down with Molyneux to talk about Fable: The Journey at last week’s Xbox Spring Showcase in San Francisco. We’ll have that interview up in due course.



  1. viralshag

    He’s finally given in? I kinda hope he stays in the industry and finds something good. He’s bit of a dreamer when it comes to his games and his ideas are great but the implementation of those ideas into games have been poor in recent years.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Psychotext

    Best of luck. He was never well suited to Microsoft.

    Was sad seeing him flanked by PR handlers stopping him going on one of his batshit mental rambles. :(

    #2 3 years ago
  3. GwynbleiddiuM

    About time if you ask me.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. DSB

    I’m sorry he never managed to make a comeback, but sadly having him step down is probably for the best. And it probably should’ve happened a while ago. His heart obviously wasn’t in it for the last few games.

    Sadly that’s really the Molyneux cycle. Start a studio, sell it to a scumbag publisher, realize you’ve made a huge mistake, and start a new one.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Purple Demon

    If you have an account on Gamesindustry and look at the staff for 22 Cans, the only one on there at the minute is the CTO, Tim Rance, who’s also been with Lionhead for a LONG time. Could be about to see an exodus of Lionhead on a larger scale than just Molyneux.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Mike

    Wow. Isn’t less than a year ago he was made Creative Director? Something must have gone wrong.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. GamezIdiot

    This on top of all those senior devs leaving Lionhead too. Microsoft is a complete mess that spring showcase was a depressing rollcall of franchise horseflogging.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Ercarret

    I think that the creative genius that is Molyneux needs to be independent. I honestly never saw why Lionhead went to Microsoft, because it always seemed so … wrong. I’m not hating on MS, but it seemed like a really bad fit. Molyneux was always going to have his beautiful crazy ideas, and MS isn’t a very crazy company.

    I’m a bit sad that it’s just Molyneux himself, and not Lionhead, that is leaving MS. But hopefully this will allow him to soar like he did before.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Mike

    Mr. C has just informed me it was 2009. Well, that blows that argument out of the water. And makes me seriously consider my sense of the time/space continuum.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Joe Musashi

    History repeats. The guy said he left Bullfrog because he was too bogged down in meetings and politics and not actually making games.

    I wonder what this means for petermolydeux?


    #10 3 years ago
  11. viralshag

    I hate to bring this up Pete but if you get a chance, a new Theme Hospital done properly would be great…

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Razor

    Best of luck, Peter.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Mike

    Yeah, that too. One of my favourite ever developers. Good luck, Peter. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

    Very interesting to see his games go multiplat.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. Patrick Garratt

    Blimey. I spoke to him about Fable last week. Be interesting to look at now in light of this.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Colin Gallacher

    Well I wasn’t expecting that.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. NiceFellow

    I’m surprised he stayed so long. MS was always looking for a small number of franchises for regular release and every time a new Fable was announced I kept thinking surely Pete doesn’t want to do nothing but run some old ideas into the ground.

    The push towards non-innovative Kinect titles – i.e. bye bye Milo and Kate hello Wii Sports rip offs and dancing titles – can’t have been attractive nor gratifying for him either.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Mike

    @17: His famous quote about the “second wave of Kinect titles” being more aimed at the Core certainly hasn’t appeared. You could be right in him being undermined there.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. manamana

    He has great visions that often couldnt translate into games. Hopefully something like Milo n Kate is coming to the next box.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Patrick Garratt

    I asked him about Milo and he did talk to me about it, but MS PR stopped us and moved us back onto Fable. Peter said they get very twitchy about it.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. awaltzforvenus

    Here’s how I think it went down:

    Microsoft: “Hey, you’re a pretty neat guy, Petey! You should totally be our Creative Director ‘n’ stuff!”

    Peter: “Um, sure. I could do that. Why not?”

    Microsoft: “Awesome! Let’s get some more Fable on!”

    Peter: “Well, actually, I’ve been thinking about some other pretty interesting concepts lately…”

    Microsoft: “MOAR FABLE NAAAOOOOO!”

    Peter: [sigh]

    #20 3 years ago
  21. Mike

    @20: Oh dear. Surely if he was that close to leaving he should’ve just told them to fuck off?! :)

    Extremely unprofessional and would’ve burned all bridges but it would’ve been funny.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Gekidami

    With his tendency to… exaggerate *cough*lie*cough* about his games, i’d be interested in reading his CV. It probably says he ran Microsoft. :P

    #22 3 years ago
  23. Mike

    I doubt it.

    #23 3 years ago
  24. NeoSquall

    @7 “Something must have gone wrong”.
    One word: Microsoft.

    @22 He’s a cool guy and a decent person (at least that’s my external impression of him, I wish I could know him better), he would never shoo them even if he had already left.
    He could have thought it, but he’d never tell it.

    #24 3 years ago
  25. Erthazus

    Cool. Maybe Lionhead studios will make good games from now on.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. The_Red

    Holy mother gosh! Things are getting really interesting. I want to say he could make anything on par with his Bullfrog days but Black & White and The Movies shut my mouth.

    Wish him the best. I just hope Lionhead doesn’t become the next Rare (Avatary / crap factory) after this.

    #26 3 years ago
  27. awaltzforvenus

    @27 I agree, it’d be nice to see if Lionhead can still release quality material after this. That said, Microsoft seems to be the ruiner of good development studios. Bungie, Rare, now Lionhead – all examples of studios that have been almost entirely put to pasture after joining Microsoft’s stable.

    #27 3 years ago
  28. SplatteredHouse

    Bullfrog > Lionhead > Borg resource. Leading to becoming another one Microsoft used for a name to conjure with, churned up and spat out.

    I have a lot of appreciation for Molyneux’s approach demeanor and attitude, and he has achieved a lot. I respect him for that. I wish him all the best. :) I’d sooner see enthusiasm, than empty PR spiel. He tries, and looks forwards, and that’s an example I can only hope will be followed, or at least learned from.

    #28 3 years ago
  29. Gheritt White

    What a pity MS reckon their UK studios are only capable of creating experiences for Kinect. Real shame.

    Only 343 Industries are treated with any kind of respect by Microsoft Game Studios.

    #29 3 years ago
  30. Da Man

    Molyneux went from Bullfrog to EA to MS. His pompous attitude, constant over promising and under delivering is what made their games go from the likes of Populous and Theme Parks to late Fable.

    #28, troll harder.

    #30 3 years ago
  31. OrbitMonkey

    Well well… Good luck Mr Molyneux…

    #31 3 years ago
  32. polygem

    i really hope he stays in the business! i got a soft spot for this guy. i enjoyed fable 1 and 2 a lot…3 was a let down though. he´s good for western game development. he must continue working. wish him all the best and me that there will be more awesome molyneux games to play in the near future.

    #32 3 years ago
  33. Moonwalker1982

    Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Black en White, Fable , Fable 2 , Fable 3 , Fable Journey…

    See where i’m going at? It’s not just Microsoft, that’s just nonsense. Molyneux has always been a big talker. Sure, very entertaining and always sounding ambitious, but probably a bit TOO ambitious. Look at what he promised for Fable 1. And i remember interviews of him about Fable 3, promising some incredible features and the featurs that did make it…they just didn’t feel revolutionary or incredibly special at all. Just very simplistic and what not.

    I don’t think any of that has to do with Microsoft, it has to do with a developer that talks just a bit too much and promises a bit too much.

    #33 3 years ago
  34. Moonwalker1982

    Oh and

    And it was NOT Microsoft…read this!!!

    #34 3 years ago
  35. HeavyD-Love

    Maybe now we’ll get some advancements in the next Fable…

    #35 3 years ago
  36. joshua nash

    so what does this mean for fable 4 happening, i mean without molyneux shooting his mouth off about it can we really say its a true fable game, cause for me half the fun of a fable game is see if it actually does any of the things that peter says it’ll do, though i wish him the best, i hope though that fable doesn’t wind up being turn into a useless series of kids games and god awful kinect apps…….. um sorry forgot it already has with the journey and heroes, btw heroes to me seems sort like a rip off of legend of zelda four swords and smash bros. just has that vibe

    #36 3 years ago
  37. Moonwalker1982

    Fable has/had the potential to grow into a game like The Witcher, but it turned into something completely else.

    #37 3 years ago
  38. manamana

    Without third party, Microsoft would be out of the game.
    Neither Nintendo nor Sony rely so heavily on external develpement for AAA titles.
    Why is that?

    #38 3 years ago
  39. No_PUDding

    What’s this ridiculous ‘creative consultant’ position? Come on celebrity developers, if you want to leave do it flambouyantly!

    Leave the project in a huff, and maybe fud a few lines of code before you leave, and block the toilets with toilet roll on your way out.

    Where’s the drama!?

    First Ueda, now Molyneux. Cut the project loose!

    P.S Hi guys!

    #39 3 years ago
  40. DuckOfDestiny

    Hopefully he can go back to making some sweet God Sim games.

    #40 3 years ago
  41. LOLshock94

    1+ for gamers and the internet, no more bullshit whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo NOOOWWWW stay out of the gaming industry you shit talker.

    #41 3 years ago

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