In an unexpected yet perhaps not altogether surprising piece of news this morning, we have learned that famed designer and notorious over-promiser Peter Molyneux will be leaving Lionhead Studios, and by proxy, Microsoft, following the completion of the studio's upcoming Kinect title, Fable: The Journey.
The news comes in a statement picked up by Kotaku, in which Molyneux expressed his deep admiration for the team while citing a desire to move on to newer pastures as the reason behind the departure.
"It is with mixed emotions that I made the decision to leave Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, the company that I co-founded in 1997, at the conclusion of development of Fable: The Journey," he said. "I remain extremely passionate and proud of the people, products and experiences that we created, from Black & White to Fable to our pioneering work with Milo and Kate for the Kinect platform. However, 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."
Molyneux's history with Lionhead dates all the way back to its formation in 1997, when he helped co-found the studio following his years at Bullfrog Productions, where he helped more or less invent the "god game" genre in Populous. His tenure at Lionhead has been marked with numerous critical and financial successes, including the aforementioned Fable franchise, as well as PC-centric titles like Black & White and The Movies.
For all his successes, many were perhaps unfortunately overshadowed by Molyneux's own reputation as something of a sideshow carnival barker, a man perhaps better at conveying a fantastical idea and selling people on it than actually making good on said idea in the end. On more than a few occasions, Molyneux promised gamers the stars with his new projects, and then proceeded to deliver them interesting video games, instead.
As the years have gone by, Molyneux and Lionhead's games have often been spoken of better in retrospect than at the time of their release. Still, Molyneux has persisted in his habit of speaking perhaps above the resources at his disposal, especially when it came to Microsoft's Kinect. His famous "Milo" demo never quite formed into that Milo and Kate game that seems all but canceled at this point, and Fable: The Journey's development cycle has had its share of bumps along the way, including the much-mocked "It's not on rails!" goof from last year's E3.
And yet, despite that perhaps deserved reputation, there's no denying that Molyneux is one of the industry's most creative and forward-thinking minds. It's difficult to imagine a game industry without Molyneux--and thankfully, we won't have to. Molyneux's new independent venture is a small start-up company he's titled 22 Cans. What is 22 Cans? We don't know yet, but it does appear that it will be rooted in gaming. Hopefully the venture is something that will well suit Molyneux's ambitious mind--or, at the very least, help rein it in a bit.