I was first introduced to the Fable scene when my brother told me about Fable 1 on the PC in 2004. I hadn’t gotten around to playing it myself, as I was (and still am) an avid console gamer. However, from what he described, I was eager to get Fable 2 for the Xbox 360, and then Fable 3, which are still living legends in my mind. It provided the sort of gameplay and story that other games in that genre was hard to compare with, and I mean this in a good way. Those are the types of tales I would love writing as an author and could imagine writing for the games themselves.
And then Fable: The Journey hit us in 2012. I was quite excited by the prospect of playing a Fable game on the Xbox Connect until I actually tried it. The taste it left in my mouth was terrible. I felt like I was playing a juvenile’s game. Perhaps it was the act of swinging my arms around to summon invisible powers. Or that oft-times my aim would not hit the target as intended. Let it be told that I felt somewhat like a moron flailing around while trying to maintain a grasp on the story. It felt like they spent more time trying to show off what they could do with the Connect that actually focussing on the game's quality.
And then Lionhead Studios was closed and Fable Legends was canceled
In an interview that IGN did with Peter Molyneux, the creator of the Fables series, on 18 April 2017 about the closure of Lionhead Studios by Microsoft, Molyneux expresses why he believes Fable: Legends failed and Lionhead Studios was closed:
'At the end of the day, whether you are an internal first party studio or an external third party studio, you gotta look at the bottom line. How much it cost to develop something, versus how much it is going to make.'
Pretty clearly, Fable: Legends wasn't going to cover those expenses then. However, Molyneux goes on to explain that he feels that the normal gameplay and series should have continued into Fable 4 instead of the Lionhead Studios product.
This is where my opinion differs. As much as my attention was not captured enough by The Journey and I never got to try Legends, I believe other options were available that other studios were publicly doing at the time. Need for Speed had different teams working on track racing and street racing, presenting us with Undercover, Shift, Hot Pursuit and Shift 2 after each other. Assassin’s Creed teams were also split, making sure that while one installment was released, another was being made.
They should have done the same with the Fable series. While Lionhead Studios was making The Journey, another team should have been making Fable 4. It is my honest opinion that any losses by The Journey or Legends could have been made up by income from Fable 4. Lionhead Studios might still have closed down, but then at least we’d have the next instalment in hand already.
All hope doesn’t seem lost yet. Phil Spencer, the current head of Xbox, seems to be promising us more Fables in time to come. Spencer went to Twitter to indicate that he believes the series still has ‘a lot of places it could go’, when someone asked if we’d ever see a Fable 4. That’s a bit ambiguous. That could mean a film, novel or boardgame direction. Let’s face it; when Silent Hills was cancelled, and Konami said that the franchise would live on and they still saw a future for it, that future was presented in the hands (pun intended) of pachinko machines. Although I am still hopeful for both the Fable and Silent Hill franchises, having written a novel based on the latter, something ominous this way comes.
Interesting to note is that Molyneux left the studio in 2012, the same year that The Journey was released… maybe what the series really needs is his return?