Peter Molyneux leaves Lionhead Studios, Microsoft

Wednesday, 7 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.

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