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The Secret History of Lionhead: Molyneux, Webley Get Honest
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The Secret History of Lionhead: Molyneux, Webley Get Honest

October 16, 2006 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

So Big, Where Next?

It was then that Lionhead ran into what the co-founders described as "our biggest challenge," since they were now up to around 220 people, and, according to Molyneux: "Our burn rate was well over $1 million per month." In other words, games "had to be insanely successful" in order to keep the company going. Molyneux did ,use: "We could have made that step into publishing," but instead, Lionhead started to talk with another bank about further financing.

In the meantime, the three teams within Lionhead "...were stretched to the absolute limit," trying to finish a Fable expansion, Black & White 2, and The Movies all within a few weeks of each other for a holiday 2005 release.

In the end, neither Black & White 2 nor The Movies got the critical or commercial reception that Lionhead might have hoped, and Molyneux commented: "I feel that we rushed them." What's more, he noted ruefully of the crunch that occurred in order to get the products out for holiday 2005: "The original idea of the company... had gone out of the window."

Thus, in early 2006, the Lionhead management started serious talks with third parties with regard to acquiring the developer, with three major game publishing firms (which Molyneux would not name) all vying to buy the firm. Molyneux also commented hopefully: "A lot of the people we spoke to actually wanted us to do the thing we founded the company for" - that is, making original and innovative games.

The Movies

In the end, he felt that the Lionhead founders "...spent so much of our time focusing on... talking to the City" and not enough time making games, and the eventual acquisition by Microsoft was what made sense to the duo in order to have Lionhead focus on the actual games.

In between the negotiations and the Microsoft acquisition, there were around fifty layoffs at the firm in early 2006. Molyneux made clear his rationalization for this happening: "This made sense - nobody at Lionhead including us wanted to have three games in production at one time." Webley added, of the staff cuts: "We made an absolutely fair and transparent process."

Thus, the two concluded, in the end they chose Microsoft to buy the company, since they had been "such great allies" with Fable. Molyneux noted that "it was the best thing for our ideals," since Lionhead could then concentrate on "actually focusing on making brilliant games" - which they are now attempting to do with the development of Fable 2 for the Xbox 360, as well as a separate team working on some early prototype concepts which are not yet public.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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