It’s been eight years since Fable creator Peter Molyneux stepped down from leading the now-defunct Lionhead Studios. The veteran British game designer has not been idle, releasing several games as head of 22Cans. In 2019, he showed off the studio’s upcoming creativity toy/management sim Legacy.
Unfortunately, Peter Molyneux’s new company may be in a spot of bother. Word has come out that 22Cans recently laid off an undisclosed number of employees.
Gameindusry.biz broke the story on Tuesday. A spokesperson from 22Cans stressed that the company is not shutting down. The studio merely faces the unfortunate necessity of dismissing redundant staffers. The source was somewhat vague as to why the layoffs were necessary, though. According to the spokesperson, “Unfortunately, due to a number of factors including projects reaching a certain stage in their development, we can confirm that a number of roles at 22Cans have been made redundant.”
The project in question is most likely Legacy, which the studio has been working on for the last few years. It’s not clear which positions were deemed "redundant." However, artists and other early development staffers are likely first on the chopping block.
Peter Molyneux started 22Cans shortly after departing Lionhead Studios in 2012. Often criticized for his ambition outpacing reality, the British game designer is known for his experimentality. 22Cans’ first title was the strange and controversial Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube? As much of a social experiment as a game, Curiosity tasked online players with opening a mysterious, multilayered, digital box. As is often the case with Molyneux, he faced criticism for overhyping the significance of the box’s contents, among other things.
22Cans’ second game, Godus, was similarly troublesome for the legendary developer and his young studio. The Spiritual successor to Peter Molyneux’s Populous, Godus received mediocre to poor reviews. 22Cans ultimately abandoned the PC version of Godus, which never made it out of early access. It wasn’t until the studio’s third title, a quirky survival adventure game called The Trail, that it began seeing success.
Given the studio’s struggles, 22Cans may be in a more dire financial situation than its representatives let on. While the studio spokesperson attributed the layoff to redundant staff positions, they hinted at other factors. Legacy still has no set release date, and the studio may be running out of money. Even if the situation is not nearly that severe, it is likely in the back of management’s mind.
Either way, it’s bad news for whatever unfortunate staffers are on their way out. The good news is that 22Cans is not completely abandoning its axed employees. The studio is reportedly helping former staffers find new work. Who knows, some of them might even make their way to Playground Games in time to work on the next Fable. That would certainly be an interesting turn of events.
The announcement that a new Fable game is in development may have been Xbox's biggest pre-Xbox Series X launch announcement, or at least it was until the Bethesda acquisition was made. Fable is one of the Xbox platform's biggest first-party brands, but it's also clear that Playground Games is going to be working on Fable for some time yet. Fans are still hungry for new Fable details, however, which makes it quite exciting to confirm that the narrative lead for Control, Anna Megill, is now working on the game.
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