Microsoft praises Molyneux as he heads to new firm


Acclaimed British videogame developer Peter Molyneux has left Lionhead Studios and Microsoft to work for a new independent company.

The creator of the much-praised games Fable, Syndicate, Populous and Black & White will join a developer called 22 Cans which was set up last month.

But he will work as a consultant on Fable: The Journey for Microsoft up until its release on the Xbox 360 Kinect system later this year.

Despite losing a key figure, Microsoft has lavished praise on Molyneux, calling him "one of our most passionate and influential developers for the Xbox 360 platform" in a statement issued today.

It added: "He has made an indelible mark on the games industry and we wish him all the best of luck in his future endeavors."

Molyneux was also full of praise for Lionhead and Microsoft, telling Kotaku: "I felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture. I'd like to thank the team at Lionhead, as well as our partners at Microsoft Studios for their support, dedication and incredible work over the years."

It is in stark contrast to the cloud under which he said he had left EA in 1997 after it had taken over one his past companies, Bullfrog.

Molyneux co-founded Lionhead with Mark Webley who will now take over at 22 Cans, a company which is based in Guildford and was set up by Lionhead's former chief technical officer, Tim Rance, when he left in January.

He is seen by the industry as one of the UK's most talented videogame creators and he told The Independent last year that he was proud of Britain's input in videogaming, believing David Braben's Elite, Jez San's Starglider and Charles Cecil’s interactive adventures "forged the way for what we now think of as computer entertainment".

He said: “There is no doubt that Britain has made a huge contribution to the games industry in terms of both creativity and innovation.

"Even though these days there are fewer games being made here, the number of British born people who are working in places like Canada the US and Japan is incredibly high.”

Molyneux has formed many companies over the years, starting with Taurus not long after graduating from university where he gained a degree in computer science.

Taurus was set up to create databases but formed a sideline in gaming. Molyneux set up a new gaming company called Bullfrog which he later sold to EA. Another new developer, Lionhead, was formed in 1997 and acquired by Microsoft in 2006.

He was the creative director for the European division of Microsoft Game Studio and his main focus was on consoles rather than the PC on which he made his name. Molyneux was particularly enthusiastic about the controller-less Kinect.

When asked about his regrets, he told The Independent last year: "Naturally there are too many regrets to mention. I do regret not recognising that some of my games had far too many features and I regret not taking the time to finish games properly – Powermonger springs to mind.

"But, going back in the early 90s, refusing to do sequels to games like Syndicate and Populous through an idiotic belief that it would be creatively stifling is regrettable.”

So far, 22 Cans has not released details of any forthcoming titles it is working on.