According to a report on Lionhead-related fan site The Movies Planet, subsequently backed up by a statement by Lionhead's Community Director Sam Van Tillburgh, a number of layoffs have occurred at the Guildford, UK-based developer of The Movies and Fable, which is headed by Populous designer Peter Molyneux.
The report on The Movies Planet fansite claims that "the decision was taken to downsize the company from 3 [development teams] to just the 2, which means the loss of approx 100 people." [NOTE: official comments from Lionhead spokespeople have now put the amount of staff to be laid off at around 50.] But, while neither confirming nor denying the amount or method of the staff reduction, Lionhead staffer Van Tillburgh's statement on the official Lionhead forums was as follows:
"Over the last few months Lionhead has been working on plans for a new AAA world class game. As work on a number of its titles draws to a close, a pool of 100 super talented developers at Lionhead are available to create a new super team at Lionhead. This will be in addition to an existing team which is working on an amazing next generation title."
"This strategy was presented to Lionhead this morning in a company meeting, but sadly it will mean some redundancies. We are still continuing our support of The Movies, with new downloads on the Propshop, an add-on disk in summer, and the announcement of the winner of the Chrysler competition at E3."
Lionhead was originally set up by Peter Molyneux in 1997, following his departure from the then EA-acquired Bullfrog Software, which he founded back in 1987. Lionhead's notable game titles to date have included Black & White and Fable, both major hits for a company which prided itself on complex, Molyneux-helmed simulation and RPG games.
But with the significantly delayed late 2005 release of both Black & White 2 and The Movies, and reportedly under-par retail sales of both titles, followed by a reported decision by Activision to pass on publishing the console versions of The Movies, Lionhead seems to have found it necessary to reorganize, with Molyneux's non-appearance at last month's DICE Summit in Las Vegas likely a harbinger of this announcement.