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Microsoft Buys Lionhead Studios 73

Grench writes "The BBC has an article on Microsoft's purchase of Lionhead Studios. They focus in particular on Peter Molyneux, and the kind of talents and expertise that he can bring to Microsoft's future gaming efforts. A sequel to Fable was mentioned as a probable endeavor." From the article: "Some of the giants of the games industry, such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, were reported to have been interested in acquiring Lionhead. But Microsoft has emerged as the victor, adding the studio to its roster of British gaming talent. In 2002, it acquired developers Rare in a $375m deal."
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Microsoft Buys Lionhead Studios

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  • by Duds ( 100634 ) <dudley@enter[ ]ce.org ['spa' in gap]> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:22AM (#15075326) Homepage Journal
    He still isn't fond of them regarding the ripping apart of Bullfrog after he sold out. EA's overall control is the reason he left Bullfrog in the first place. Bullfrog was last seen converting Quake 3 to the PS2.

    That said, it'll be interesting to see if it's any easier at Microsoft. They make pains to say they won't be excercising creative control, but another 2 failiures like B+W2 and the movies and you wonder how long that will survive.
    • Don't forget Fable. That wasn't quite as good as it was hyped to be.
    • I've never played Black and White 2, but The Movies seems to have a fair community - I bought the game for my stepson, and he's spent countless hours making movies to go on TheMoviesGame.com's community site, and even more time than that watching other people's movies and rating them.

      It's really quite an interesting title; I'm yet to play it myself, but it's just the sort of innovative game I'd expect from someone like Peter. Not sure why it hasn't sold all that well. Shame.
      • Because "interesting" doesn't always equal "fun." And similarly, fun isn't equivalent. I know some people who loved Black & White for the creature training, and because of that, had a great deal more fun playing the game itself (since the creature, when well trained, actually does a lot of work for you). But a lot of people found it stupid and wanted to play what the game was telling you to play (the RTS-aspect) and the creature was an addition that didn't seem to work too well.

        I like the guy's ide

      • I think part of the reason the Movies didn't sell well is that it's really three games that aren't meshed together very well. You have the standard tycoon style movie studio game, the sims-esque manage your actors and directors component and the movie maker. The tycoon part is pretty simple, the sims part highly annoying and the movie making interesting but irrelevant to the game (the quality of the movie you make in it has no bearing on how well the movie does at the box office).
        The movie making tools are
        • I never even heard about this game until this article...

          It's rather a shame that they felt the need to tack a game onto it. There is a fairly substantial market for lifestyle products. Sony has Sony DJ that simulates mixing decks. No game. Just the music. There were a lot of art and animation packages on the Amiga that were a lot of fun to play with, if a little time consuming to get anything worthwhile from. But making movies is a lot of fun.
    • After Lorne Lanning sold out and agreed to make Munch's Oddysee an Xbox exclusive, Microsoft expected him to deliver.

      It didn't, perhaps not surprising since he had pissed off most of the Oddworld fan base. So Microsoft dumped them. Now they're making FPS games for EA ("Stranger's Wrath").
      • I loved Munch's. It's easily my favourite of the 4 Oddworld games.

        I agree though it's good evidence. It didn't work at EA either, they've actually pulled out of games now.
  • Aha! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:27AM (#15075368) Journal
    We now know why Microsoft could not afford to buy Bill the digital whiteboard he wants so bad...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:29AM (#15075378)
    In hyping Windows Vista as the greatest thing EVER and then letting everyone down with how much it sucks.
  • Admittedly, I've only ever played one Lionhead game, but that experience and what I've read of their other games was enough to keep me away from them. I bought into B&W because it was supposed to be an amazing sim/strategy game. It royally sucked. And from I've heard about the hype surrounding B&W2 and Fable and what they actually delivered, things haven't changed. Then again, MS really only seems interested in selling hype and not delivering a product that meets that hype, so maybe it's a perfect m
  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:36AM (#15075456)
    Everytime MS buys a gamd company, the games then fall apart and then suck. I don't know what they do to them. Look at Bungie Soft, the same people who gave us the Marathon series and Myth series. Marathon was the FPS on Mac for forever, the Doom of the system, and in some aspects even more fun. And if you never played the first Myth: The Fallen Lords, you missed possibly the best real time tactics game ever made in the genera (or any after mods like WWII which converted everything into a WWII units of soldiers, medics, even tanks).

    Then MS came... well, all I can say is go look for games that have the Bungie Studio's logo somewhere on the game now... They are most definitly NOT the only one this happened to. I firmely believe that MS does not have the corporate presence and structuring that is needed to actually produce good games. I personally believe they shreded the Mechwarrior series. Mechwarrior 2 is still the best in my opinion. But do you want to know why? It is because Activision at least gave a HUGE selection of mechs and weapons. There were more different mechs in Mechwarrior2+GhostBear Expansion then in ALL the later games in the series COMBINED. Part of the whole idea in that game is that you really DON'T know all the different mechs that might be feilded against you. That you don't know the weakness of everybody, or their strengths until you get smacked hard by something that surprised the crap out of you...

    • I disagree. All the latest PC games published by Microsoft Games I've played were stable and fairly bug-free at release, something that a lot of publishes these days just don't seem to give a f*ck about. That means Microsoft don't rush their developers, they support them. Besides, it's the developer who makes the game, not the publisher. If a game sucks, it's probably the developer's fault. Financing, marketing, and maybe quality assurance - that's the publisher's job. The only way a publisher can screw a g
      • i don't think parent referred to tecnical qualito of games. it was more about gameplay quality.

        now, aoe and aoe2 were one of best rts games i've seen. aoe3 was crap.
        not that they are the only ones, lately there are less and less interesting games. oldschool games like simon the sorcerer or larry are bastardised by 3d. great fun series like carmageddon ar fscked up (carmageddon 3 sucked badly).
        lately i'm checking out games for linux - scorched3d, wesnoth, liquidwar. games that are fun to play, even though th
    • by Swanktastic ( 109747 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:21AM (#15075802)
      I also disagree. The Bungie Webmaster in 1996 [bungie.net] is just as funny in 2006. [bungie.net]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:51AM (#15076049)
      Everytime MS buys a game company, the games then fall apart and then suck. I don't know what they do to them.

      Having lived through the Microsoft buyout of a game studio, perhaps I provide some insight into why acquired studios seem to lose their mojo. Disclaimer: This are my opinions only, and come from the individual contributior perspective, not that of the studio management.

      First off, Microsoft corporate culture does not map well to a typical successful game studio, and no matter what assurances are given that the studio's culture and operations are going to be left intact, within a couple years the studio becomes fully integrated into the 'Microsoft Way'.

      Probably most destructive are the Microsft one-size fits all HR policies such as stack ranking. Game development is truly a team effort, and successful studios have managed to create teams where most of the performers are above average. Instead of being able to reward people fairly, a pre-determined number of people each year have to be given a "poor" review which includes no compensation increases of any sort, and the warning that if they fail to improve by next year, they will be on the list of people to be 'managed out'. On the other end, a smaller pre-determined number of people will be rewarded handsomly no matter if they have not produced anything to merit such. So a culture of teamwork, focus on the product,and pride in the company will quickly morph into a culture of individual self-promotion, politicts and backstabbing, and a disdain for the company.

      Additionally, as part of Microsoft, the studio no longer has the urgency to make the next game great and complete it in a timely manner. With Microsoft's billions insuring financial stability if a game is cancelled, and no direct financial upside to producing a hit game, the pressure of living close to the edge that was present in the old culture that helped the team focus is supplanted by a devil may care attiude that creeps into the 'rank and file'.

      As a result, many of the developers tranform from passionate, competitive people who strive for excellence into someone who just 'does their job' and goes home at 6pm sharp. Others just leave for greener pastures. Management gets thier large bonuses in any event.

      There are other issues of course, such as loss of control over future projects, headcount restrictions that prevent a studio from hiring desperatly needed people, and so on.

    • Then MS came... well, all I can say is go look for games that have the Bungie Studio's logo somewhere on the game now...

      You could say a lot more. The games Bungie is making are still extremely good. The problem isn't that quality has diminished, it has not. It's that the have become Xbox-oriented.
    • Myth 2: Soulblighter has all the best mods since it was easier to mod development.

      The Halo series is one of the leading products on the XBox.
    • Everytime MS buys a gamd company, the games then fall apart and then suck. I don't know what they do to them. Look at Bungie Soft

      I'm confused. Haven't you played Halo2? Wasn't that developed by Bungie while under Microsoft? That's one of the best games ever made.
    • The fact that the Myth series and Marathon were so great is your opinion. The popular opinion, at least the retail opinion, is that these companies games were not that great otherwise they would not have to sell out. Maybe in an alternate universe those companies would have done better as the population's favor of game buying would be different. That's the thing I dislike about the parent comment, and any comment that rips on one company buying out another, is that since they believe they like the produc
  • Not suprized (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lokre ( 917044 )
    I can't say that this was really that shocking. I really enjoyed Fable and B&W (haven't played 2) and am looking forward to Fable 2.

    I really wish that MS can give Pete the time to let some of his ideas come to fruition...I really was dissapointed when some of thefeatures i really wanted in Fable got cut. ( i.e. raising a family, multiplayer) I'm hoping we'll get a Fable sequel (mabey prequel?) that delivers all the promises of Fable 1 that didn't happen.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:47AM (#15075555)
    "We are not afraid to take a risk. With Peter Molyneux you have someone who is able to push the boundaries."

    Isn't Molyneaux's whole problem that he gets all of these wild ideas and then fails to actually execute them? In which case is he really pushing boundaries, or just being mediocre?
  • Bill Gates (Score:3, Interesting)

    by babbling ( 952366 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:49AM (#15075578)
    This is how Bill Gates *REALLY* works. Microsoft is having a tough time beating Sony, so they buy up the game companies and surprise, surprise, everything is "only on xbox".
    • I am not aware of any Lionhead Studio games that have been available on any other console than the Xbox. Lionhead pretty much makes PC games, and I think there is only one game (Fable), that was converted to the Xbox.

      So it is not like there is some significant change in how Lionhead does buisness.

      But, I do agree with you, console exclusive games are annoying. But don't worry, Sony will compete the same way (that is why all the GTA games come out on Playstation 2 years before they are released for other plat
  • Ask yourself, has Rare put out anything worth a shit since they were acquired by Microsoft? The bell tolls for thee, Lionhead.

    So much for the Heroes Guild and those funny talking doors...
    • Has Lionhead put out anything worth a shit, ever?

      Okay, maybe B&W sold fairly well due to all the hype, and Fable was a decent game for kids, but in my opinion Peter Monyneaux gets too much credit, and the games he works on are just mediocre. It doesn't really matter who publishes them.
      • Well, I -loved- Fable. It was a new direction for RPGs, and while it was too short, I'd rank it among my most-liked games in recent memory.
      • What about the games he made under his previous studio, Bullfrog? Surely you can't think Syndicate, Populous, Magic Carpet, and Dungeon Keeper were all crap?

        Slightly OT:
        How many more big-name EA-acquired studio designers are left for Microsoft to steal away? From Origin they got Chris Roberts (Wing Commander -> Starlancer/Freelancer), From Bullfrog/Lionhead they have Peter Molyneaux. I can think of two more big names (although I don't know if they'd go): Maxis' Will Wright and Origin's Richard Garri
      • With Lionhead no. Honestly, Peter Molyneux's work with Bullfrog was much more groundbreaking. Populous was the first appearence of many of the elements now common in RTS games. At Bullfrog Molyneux was involved with some fantastic and groundbreaking games:

        Theme Park
        Magic Carpet
        Dungeon Keeper

        Great stuff and games I highly enjoyed. I guess the only reason I pay attention to him is in hoping that he'll hit paydirt again. Who knows if he will. Of course the same could be said for my
  • I just hope they start making some good games again. Back in the days Peter Molyneux made some very nice stuff but ever since he left Bullfrog and started Lionhead most of his stuff was more about the hype than about the games. Some people liked B&W 1 but I never could get into it, too many little annoiances to be really entertaining. Fable was good, but way, way too short, I finished it in one day and I wasn't even trying. That's basically the story of lionhead games, good idea, poor execution (wheter
    • I never got into Black & White, but I bought Fable because it was supposed to be completely open RPG full of character customization and bursting to the gills with content.

      What I got instead was a short, linear game with repetitive enemies and unoriginal story. What really irked my friends and I was the fact that the game forced you to be a warrior that could also use magic and a bow, instead of being only a wizard or archer. After that my friends and I decided to black list any future games that were
  • Does this mean the games will no longer work?? Or will they just suck? Or a little of both, maybe they will suck and you'll be happy when it crashes. Time will tell.
    • Oddly enough most of the stuff coming out of MS games division is pretty stable.
      And they did relase Rise of Nations which is IMHO one of the best RTS games of all time.
  • RIP Lionhead (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:56AM (#15076833) Homepage Journal
    Too bad, another game company with great ideas bites the dust. Yes, I mean that. Look at Bungie - whatever came of them? Halo 2 their greatest idea since M$ bought them out?

    Of course, what M$ wants - what M$ needs - are a few killer games that are Xbox-exclusive. Probably half of the original xbox sales were thanks to Halo. With the PS3 rapidly approaching, the 360 will lose a lot of market share if there aren't any great exclusive games, and quickly.
  • Damn! They got Molineux. Rest In Peace, buddy.

    Captain John Luc Picard (Steve Jobs): "We've made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make them pay for what they've done."
  • microsoft will not end up hurting lionhead. the deep pockets of MS could give lionhead a lot more freedom that in already has.
  • I shall never buy or play a game published by Microsoft. As B&W was among my favorite games of all times in terms of archievement and innovation I am sad to have to say goodbye to the Black & White games, and it seems everything Lionheart will ever produce...

    (Ofcourse everyone who followed you like me, knew/feared this would eventually happen with the xbox exclusives and Microsofts determination to buy innovation instead of innovating themselves, I'm not sure what would have been worse EA or Microso
  • so much for Linux (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:03PM (#15078682) Homepage Journal
    So much for Linux versions. From a developer that was at least warm to the concept. Damn.
  • R.I.P. Lionhead. I hope they at least gave you a plot next to Rare. I'll come lay some flowers.
  • I would have to guess that one year from now, either Lionhead will be shut down or that Molyneux will move on and start a new studio.

    Molyneux tends to make games that are very high concept and that often have a more niche fanbase then say, a Project Gotham or Halo type game. Microsoft is probably not the best fit as a publisher for them. I suspect that whoever holds the purse strings will end up demanding certain changes in a given title, or that Molyneux will end up wanting to delay a game to get it perf
  • by xtieburn ( 906792 ) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:52PM (#15079704)
    Take a look at the companies MS Games has bought up.

    Bungie made Halo by a long long way the most succesful game they ever created.
    Digital Anvil made freelancer the most succesful game they ever created.
    Ensemble Studios made Age of Empires the most succesful game they ever created. (I hope your noting the pattern here)
    FASA made Crimson Skies the most succesful game they ever created.
    Rare remain the only studio that hasnt prospered quite as much as theyd hoped though with Perfect Dark and Kameo. Hardly a bad start.

    (and lets not have 'Bungie made Halo for PC!' crap. Thats not the point, MS not killing off the studio, is.)

    Lionhead was going down. You had either EA, Ubisoft or Microsoft. So which do you want? EA who has bought and dissolved countless companies with no regard for there worth? Ubisoft who have recently taken a liking to absurd protection methods. Or Microsoft who buy up companies to use there names and ideas exclusively? Its not exactly a clear cut 'MS are teh evil' situation.

    I know to a lot of people they're the big evil corporation but seriously take a step back and look around for two seconds. You really think the other publishers are better? In fact take a look at the other studios MS owns, you really think Lionhead is gone now?

    Im not saying bad things arnt going to happen to molyneux's baby but MS, in this case, is arguably there best option. (With Ubisoft coming a close second. Lets not even suggest the Bullfrog destroying EA.) Heck, Id even go so far as to say they stand a chance of releasing some pretty solid stuff.

    A little less of the incessant farewell, RIP, crap and perhaps a little more perspective on what is going on.
    • Bungie made Halo by a long long way the most succesful game they ever created.

      Moot point. Bungie had created the Halo concept and game engine before MS took them. One should ask.. what has Bungie produced since their acquisition by MS. Oh yeah, Halo2. and soon to be Halo3.

      MS took a creative game company and turned it into a digital factory.
      • No, your just looking at pre MS bungie with rose tinted lenses.

        Bungie has made pretty much nothing other than Halo type games. Pathways in to Darkness, Marathon, Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity leading up in to Halo are all essentially progressions of the previous game. They even have similar worlds and themes running through them.

        With the exception of myth (Which, because Take2 already owned 20% of Bungie before MS got there, went to them. As in MS cant continue that series.) and Oni (Which was released w
    • I'll assume you're not talking about the Crimson Skies that was made by Zipper (now owned by Sony).

      The team that made High Road to Revenge was dissolved, with the employees laid off.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.