It’s been rumoured for a couple of weeks, now it’s official - MGS owns Lionhead.
Now of course in business terms this is a pretty darn sensible move - next-gen games are damn expensive, Lionhead already had close ties with Microsoft, and who better to have at your back than a company with the brass gonads to burn through no less than a billion dollars every year of shareholder’s money on the dream of being a player in the console business?
I can’t help feeling a little sad though. I’ve rooted for Lionhead (and Bullfrog before that) for a long time, since they’ve been one of a relatively small number of poster-children for British independent game studios (among the others were Rare, who of course are also owned by MGS now but lost their independence a long time before that to Nintendo, and DMA Design, who are of course now Rockstar and are in Take Two’s camp). I also can’t help thinking of what happened when Bullfrog were acquired, where pretty soon the identity was lost and which I assume ultimately led to Mr Molyneaux breaking off and setting up Lionhead in the first place. Hopefully the same thing won’t happen here - at the end of the day it’s all about individuals anyway, so it depends how happy MGS can keep them I guess (and whatever contractual hooks were part of the bargain of course).
The main reason I’m sad is that it’s another case where final control will be delegated to a large, American company - ok that was probably the case anyway since MS control the content on the XBox range, but I presume that now, from inception, all ideas have to pass through them. Too many game decisions are made by a committee of conservatives these days, resulting in a gaming landscape that seems to get more lackluster and inward looking every year, barring a very few exceptions.
My small and hopefully not too insignificant contribution to countering this trend (apart from developing software to help) is to ask for Psychonauts for my wedding anniversary present next week. It didn’t do well in the US, and chances are it won’t do that well commercially over here either, but by God, I’m voting with my wallet - or rather I’m encouraging my wife to do so 😀Tim Schafer, I salute thee.