GDC 06: Molyneux rumors fly

Famed developer skips his session at San Jose event, fueling rumors his studio has been bought by Microsoft.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--One of the main events at last month's D.I.C.E. summit was the "Battle of Bunker Hill," a Revolutionary War-themed mock gameshow in which some of the industry's leading luminaries engaged in a combination trivia/Pong tournament. Scheduled to lead the two teams were legendary game designers Will Wright (The Sims, SimCity) and Peter Molyneux (Black & White, Populous).

When the event kicked off, though, Molyneux was nowhere to be seen. His absence fueled rumors that his shop, Lionhead Studios, was the subject of a bidding war. Among the potential suitors mentioned were Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Ubisoft.

During the subsequent month, the rumors festered. On March 3, Lionhead laid off between 50 and 100 people and reduced its number of projects-in-development from three to two--a Black & White 2 expansion and a Fable sequel. Today, the floodgates of speculation reopened when Molyneux's session at the 2006 Game Developers Conference in San Jose was summarily canceled.

No official reason was given for the termination of the session, which was titled "Inspirations for Next Generation Designs." However, word on the GDC show floor was that Molyneux hadn't shown up because he had pressing matters back at Lionhead headquarters in the UK.

According to Gamesindustry.biz, those matters are the "final stages of negotiation" between Microsoft and Lionhead. Citing sources inside Lionhead, the British site says that the deal could be closed within days and that no job losses would result. The site also claims that Ubisoft was outbid by the software giant and is none too happy as a result.

But, as is often the case with all matters Microsoft, nothing is official until it's announced. A weary-sounding spokesperson for Microsoft told GameSpot, "As always, Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation." Lionhead reps had not returned requests for comment.

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65 comments
TheDudeAbides2
TheDudeAbides2

Microsoft got em dude thats old news. Fable is a great series thats gonna most likely surpass Oblivion and WoW if M$ gets behind them full force that is. I mean look at Halo its the most publicized FPS. I remeber ppl forgetting about Half-Life 2 cuz they cared more about Halo. So the same could be true for this series. One thing is for sure though, playstations days as the RPG leader are dead. Huxley, Oblivion, Fable 2, Tabula Rasa, Mass Effect, so on and so on.

nightshadeA
nightshadeA

I wouldnt be suprised if ea bought them out seeing as ea bought molyneaux's last company bullfrog ......(right after they made syndicate 1 and theme park )

Etherninty
Etherninty

It's a good deal for Microsoft if they can include "shut up Molyneux" inside it.

Vegeta-sama
Vegeta-sama

Accually the main reason for getting the studio is that the company ownes the intelectual rights to all of those nifty games. Microsoft wants Fable to be Xbox only and they are getting some other great IPs with it if they are buying this dev.

tweakernin
tweakernin

I think EA got them for 78 million.

2TrickedOut
2TrickedOut

mariocart64fan, You don't know much about the 360 it will stomp nintendo and will be a close match for the ps3. The 360 is a stable system now that there production has been better. Ps3 will have its own glitches as well as nintendo. Lionhead is a good buy. black & white 1,2 and fable both did awesome. and we know there will be a next gen fable and maybe a black&white2 on the 360.

mythrol
mythrol

Microsoft needs to buy Lionhead. If Ubisoft or EA got them odds are these Xbox exclusives wouldn't stay exclusives. Or might not even go to the system at all. MS needs to buy Silicion Knights next. Since they've left being 2nd party developer to Nintendo they've already announced the Too Human triology for the 360. MS needs to close the deal and get a sequel to Eternal Darkness to boost sales.

ghsacidman
ghsacidman

As long as EA does get them, I'm happy. I hope they don't get bought out by anyone, Lionhead is revolutionary and I fear corporate influence might hold them back.

diabolis
diabolis

Crazy.. for once Im actually happy Microsoft bought a company. If Electronic Arts had taken over Lions Head then it would be the end to all Molyneux freedom to make origional game. EA is the most evil company in the business.. cares only about deadlines and money, not inspiration and quality.

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

they aint getting nintendo lol bye ms 360 is wack good visuals nothing new or breakthroughs found on the glitchy console , ps3 and revolution will stomp it , it will be a maricle to see halo3 ever come out

Sweendrix
Sweendrix

Some people say that Fable was over-hyped...but I think a lot of this extensive amount of hype was generated by gamers interested in the game, as well as the gaming media that constantly looked for new information on Fable. Fable was very ambitious, and sometimes when developers get ambitious, they concentrate too heavily on the ambition, and in return, they lose some edge in other areas. If you ignore the unmatchable glorified hype, Fable was a very solid and enjoyable game. The combat system was awesome, casting spells was extremely fun, and the game worlds were pretty damn beautiful. Fable did fall short in the value area when gamers found that beating the game could be done in a relatively short amount of time. Looking at Fable though, it was a memorable experience that I enjoyed very much, and can't wait for a sequel. I think the bidding war on Lionhead is very legitimate indeed, as the potential for the Fable property has unlimited potential.

Ichiziro
Ichiziro

microsoft and lionhead, together they could really make some good games... no offense to ubisoft, but they just need to bugger off, because i just dont see ubisoft and lionhead as a powerhouse game dev team. oh, and to trancejeremy, who made the ignorant Uwe Boll reference, Peter Molyneux is in no way the "Uwe Boll of gaming". He is a competent individual who simply strives for the best. Sure he may not be able to deliver on some of his more aspiring ventures but atleast he tries. I bet you havent even played Fable or Black&White. You are making a serious mistake by calling those games flops...

Petri87
Petri87

trancejeremy--- It's strange that companies would be so eager to bid for a company that produces nothing but over-hyped flops that lose tons of money. Peter Molyneux is the Uwe Boll of gaming. .-.-.-. Yeah, Black & White and Fable were huge flops or NOT!!!!

HuxleyHobbes
HuxleyHobbes

"It's strange that companies would be so eager to bid for a company that produces nothing but over-hyped flops that lose tons of money. Peter Molyneux is the Uwe Boll of gaming." ~ trancejeremy Flops like Magic Carpet, Theme Park, Syndicate, Black & White, Dungeon Keeper, and need I say it - Populous? The man has contributed massively to gaming. He recieved an OBE for it. The Queen doesn't throw those around like candied sweets, you know. Less Boll, more Spielberg. Sure, the last couple of games have been a little less revolutionary than his earlier stuff, but they've still been very good games in their own right. Fable is a classy piece of software, one I can happily play.

AceCometh
AceCometh

Microsoft + Lionhead = More Xbox 360 games. Life is good.

gaiden1024
gaiden1024

The juggernaught otherwise known as microsoft... I don't mind MS buying up game studio's but it sucks when those studio's only release games for Ms's consoles... like Bungie would have been very different today if they were still going... Oni 2 on Pc would be nice though :)

xbx4ever
xbx4ever

Molyneux is a genius that pushes the industry. The reason he's made early claims about his games is because he loves what he does and get's excited about his projects, and unlike other developers, isn't afraid of sharing his ideas with us. He is due for another revolutionary title and with MS dollars, I wouldn't bet against him!

NaughtyB007
NaughtyB007

How the hell can you call the creator of Populous a "flop"?

Fakeman79
Fakeman79

This is a great acquisition for Microsoft and now that Lionhead will be a first party I hope Microsoft pours tons of money into Fable 2 and give it the Halo treatment.

bossjimbob
bossjimbob

Quote: "trancejeremy It's strange that companies would be so eager to bid for a company that produces nothing but over-hyped flops that lose tons of money. Peter Molyneux is the Uwe Boll of gaming." You obviously don't know much about Molyneux. Fable was one of the fastest selling Xbox titles. http://www.gamespot.com/xbox/rpg/fable/news.html?sid=6110560

Kounji
Kounji

HAh I bet lionhead is going to become the house of fable ... kind of like how bungie became the house of halo. It would be great to see both houses make more than their namesakes.. but their futures are very grim imo. especially with the industry consolidation trend currently going on along with the fact that basically companies are probably going to start to innovate less

easy33
easy33

Peter's games are overhyped and okay. Now, why would Microsoft wont to buy a company that is only working on sequels to games that did not make huge numbers. I guess they feel the need to increase their library as much as possible with average games or below like Sony. Though I admit, Sony has made some excellent games.

jsloane
jsloane

I hope EA doesn't get a hold of them, that would be very bad. I agree with Barzenak_40 on EA, but I dont know about UbiSoft. Splinter Cell gets better and better, and I dont know how deep the early Ghost and Rainbow games were, they were too heavy on cheap death and relied on memorization of the level to get through. (But I guess in your opinion console gamers are retarded)

townsenda1
townsenda1

So is this just still a rumor until it is officially announced? As long as the games come out and they are good I don't care who makes them.

Ander_Fodel
Ander_Fodel

If EA bought them we would see a new expansion for The Movies every 2 months, so doesn't matter who buys, just please don't let it be EA.

Barzenak_40
Barzenak_40

It could be a good thing. I think The Movies was excellent personally. I like his vision in gaming and stretching the boundries. Sometimes his vision is far greater than the product but this is normal of the creative. As for MS buying them ...of the 3 I hope they do get it. UBISOFT I have written off....they are the most anti-gaming, pompous group of marketers even compared to EA. They treat all their customers like crimminals, they ban people on their forums if they are saying anything really negative about products or copy protection that causes customers headaches. They do not answer emails and they have ruined Rainbow, Ghost and other once great pc titles. If you own a console you probably love UBISOFT. If you love deep, great games you hate where they are heading. AS for EA- they lack innovation sticking to the things that have worked. I don't hate them but I never really expect much from them either. THe last really risky game was that CLive Barker game Undying. Very underrated and it scared them that it didn't sell better but they also didn't help with very minimal pr put into it. I have not purchased an ea game in a few years as I am tired of Madden, NFS etc. I own GTA SA so looking at Godfather I feel I have been there ..done that. Mafia was very good...I am waiting for the next.

anthony_basic
anthony_basic

Sony bought the KillZone developers. BAD MISTAKE Because the damn game flopped so bad.

Sgt_Knoper
Sgt_Knoper

Great points jeffcenate. I agree with you 100% percent.

jameston80
jameston80

Exactly, this is great news for lionhead, Ms will have even bigger titles soon for 360, just wait for fable 2 and a black & white for the 360, I am not saying they are confirmed, but would be nice. It's good that ms is in on it, and not ea getting everything. As for ubisoft, they have enough, the problem with ubisoft is they release their games with too many glitches in them, ubi please concentrate more of your money on making your games greater and less on other companies.

insinuendo
insinuendo

Yeah aslong as EA doesn't get them, i don't want to be playing Fable 2007:road to the world cup

jeffcenate
jeffcenate

the problem as i see it arent so much the games are a 'flop'. they arent really. ive played B&W 1 and 2 as well as Fabled. the problem is that none of them left me wanting more. they are, all 3 , good filler games. something to play while you wate for something else to be finished. i think anthriel hit the nail on the head about my feelings in reguards to a lionhead game. as for microsoft buying the studio. does it really matter? i mean buying lionhead is bascialy buying Molyneux. and once his contract runs out microsoft is left with a name that is basicly valueless should Molyneux choose to leave and found yet another studio. we are for the most part savy enough as customers to not follow a name, but rather a person. we all know that lionhead is just a name and that Molyneux is what makes them 'special'. the studio doesnt bring any 'assets' to the table except ideas. there are no factorys, labs, thousands of employees, a world wide distrubition system. just ........ ideas. and when the terms of the buyout contract run out then MS is left with nothing should Molyneux choose not to renue. but either one of two things will happen. Molyneux will get the cash he needs to actualy give real gaming teeth to his 'visions' and will be amazingly successful. or we will once and for all come to relize that hes all hot air when he cant deliver on his hype with the backing of the worlds richest sofware company and we can just ignore him once and for all.

hush404
hush404

Ah what the hell? No one company (game company) should have the sole rights to a mind such as Molyneux's!! His work should be spread for all gamers to enjoy. Not just those who choose to buy Microsoft branded products.

K1LLSWITCH
K1LLSWITCH

It would be interesting to see where the studio goes. But if there is all this funding from the Microsoft camp, then why do we have to pay to play online? The PC gamers don't have to pay online for games with basic gameplay. Only with MMO's. $60 games, and in order to play Halo 2 on the PC you need Vista windows? Heck, most of the windows that's already out there crashes anyways. So if they have all this money, then why do they need ours? Take risks Microsoft, that's why Sony is on top and drones like most of us are willing to pay for paper weights, and tolerate the slim variety of games. But look at the power it's so grand. Stick with PC's friggin theives. That should stir them up.

Gorge-a-Maniac
Gorge-a-Maniac

If MS buying out Lionhead increases their game dev. potential, then I'm all for it. Maybe now we can get Fable as it was intended...

Anthriel
Anthriel

Microsoft probably wants to buy them because Fable did so well on the X-Box. However, I'm afraid that the sales of Fable 2 would be a lot lower than the sales of the original Fable, just like Black & White compared to Black & White 2. Lionhead develops good, but not excellent, games. Molyneux then hypes those games more than any other three individuals in the industry combined. People buy the games, just to find out that they are merely good, instead of the revolution they were made out to be. As a result, they get very disappointed and usually think twice about buying a Molyneux game again and thrice about buying a sequel. This is what generates hate for Molyneux and low sales for Lionhead in the long term. I doubt the company sticks around much longer.

FallenAngel
FallenAngel

As long as he FINALLY makes a game which delivers on all the ridiculous amounts of hype that Molyneux generates for all his creations, I wouldn't give a rat's arse who buys Lionhead, be it MS or anyone else.

John_of_Fire
John_of_Fire

This looks like it would be a good match. I hope it goes threw. MS would do well with an in-house team that does PC and XBox. They need more exclusives that distinguish themselves while not forgetting the PC. Besides it looks like Lionhead could use the financial support.

DargusLacroix
DargusLacroix

Well, just means Fable 2 will be that much better off. hope i dont have to wait till the end of the 360 life cycle this time though.

NeoJedi
NeoJedi

Don't know what will happen with Lionhead, but it is a great studio that produced one of the best games in 2005: The Movies.

OmegaGear
OmegaGear

Vaporware is something that never comes to fruition, and last time I checked, Black and White was released, and therefore avoided vaporware status.

Ghost_Face
Ghost_Face

I also hope MS doesn't piss Ubisoft off too much. I hope their anger will pass quickly though, especially considering all the success they've enjoyed on MS consoles.

nuit_b
nuit_b

peter molyneux hasnt created anything since forming lionhead...black & white was nothing, black & white was just vaperware, and everything else can hardly be remembered, peter was a god when bullfrog was running around. hes nothing anymore. but I hope Microsoft didnt win the bid for them if they are being bought. Microsoft game studios are pretty lame.

FlashGordon
FlashGordon

Too bad nothing was mentioned about B.C.