Back in March, Microsoft announced that it had canceled the upcoming Fable Legends game and would be shuttering Lionhead Studios, the long-running studio responsible for the Fable franchise. Now, it's claimed that Lionhead could have been saved from closure by one of several potential buyers, but the companies backed out when Microsoft refused to let go of the Fable IP.
According to a report from Kotaku UK, “some of the biggest names in video game publishing” expressed interest in acquiring Lionhead during the studio’s consultation period, which, under UK law, is the set amount of time when a company must explore other options before closing down.
While the report doesn’t specifically state who the interested parties were, it does say that letters of intent had been filed, signaling just how serious they were about purchasing the studio.
The problem allegedly lay with Microsoft’s refusal to sell the Fable IP along with Lionhead. "90% of the people interested just walked away at that point," claims one source close to Xbox. Despite recent entries in the series failing to capture its former glories, owning the Fable name would have been an enticing proposition for publishers.
Last day of Lionhead:-( pic.twitter.com/zfXobF7wzY— Stuart Whyte (@stuwhyte) April 29, 2016
As Kotaku UK notes, the refusal to sell the IP would mean that any publisher buying Lionhead would have to enter into a licensing agreement with Microsoft in order for the studio to make a new Fable game - a deal that would likely eat up a significant percentage of the title’s revenue.
If the source’s information is accurate, then perhaps the 20-year-old Lionhead would still be open, if only Microsoft had allowed a competitor to buy the Fable brand.