Despite being one of Microsoft’s most beloved exclusive IPs, Fable is a franchise with a very troubled history. We haven’t seen a mainline installment since Fable 3 was released in 2010.
After an unsuccessful attempt to pivot to an online games-as-service model with Fable Legends, followed by the eventual closure of developer Lionhead Studios, many thought we’d never experience another traditional single-player Fable adventure.
However, when Xbox boss Phil Spencer said in early 2017 that the series wasn’t dead and still had places to go, hopes were understandably raised. Even more recently, reports have emerged that Playground Games, the developer behind the Forza Horizon series, is working on the fourth Fable game.
Though Microsoft confirmed on stage that it has acquired the studio Playground Games, the company made no mention of or allusion to such a game. In light of that, we’ve put together this page containing everything you need to know about the latest news and rumors.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The fourth game in the Xbox exclusive open-world RPG series
- What can I play it on? Xbox and PC most likely
- When can I play it? Nothing confirmed but it’ll be a while from now
Well, given that Fable 4 hasn’t actually been confirmed yet, and we sadly don't have the prophetic powers of the games' soothsaying Theresa, it’d be hard to pin down any kind of release date for Fable 4. However, in a recent report, Eurogamer posited that development on the game was in its very early stages, with rumored developer Playground Games still hiring to boost team numbers up to around 200.
If this is true then it’s likely that we won’t see the next Fable game for another few years. 2020 would be an optimistic estimate, with 2021 being more likely.
News and rumors
Though Microsoft hasn’t confirmed Fable 4 is on the way, there have been signs that the franchise hasn’t been abandoned.
Peter Molyneux talks Fable 4
Though Peter Molyneux is no longer actively involved in the Fable 4 franchise, rumors of the next title have reached him and in a recent IGN interview he had some comments to make on where he'd like to see it go, as well as what he regretted in games gone by.
Molyneux said that he regretted the massive time jumps between the mainline games and that he'd like to see the next game be a prequel: “Fable story hinted at a dramatic time before Fable 1 when the Guild was founded, this would be a perfect setting for Fable 4, the land of Albion would be much more primitive, the magic much more attuned to nature, the combat much more brutal. The story would follow the founding members of the heroes guild, why it was set up.”
As far as the game's combat system is concerned, he stated that he'd like to see something more "fluid" and "visceral" with "permanent scars".
Remember your faithful dog in Fable 2? Molyneux would like to see pets return in Fable 4, alongside the marriage and commerce systems. The Fable universe is filled with interesting creatures, from banshees to balverines and Molyneux believes the range of creatures should grow in a new game – yes, that means rideable dragons.
Finally, he wants to see a more organic morality and character progression systems, where players will affect their alignment through their actions rather than choosing a class at the beginning of the game. Find yourself stealing lots of stuff and making use of stealth? You'll quickly become known as a thief.
The Eurogamer report
The most recent sign that we’ll see a Fable 4 announcement has come from a Eurogamer report. In January 2018 Eurogamer said that according to sources close to the project, a brand new high-budget Fable game is in the works.
This news comes less than two years after the closure of Lionhead Studios, and the report says that UK developer Playground Games, best known for its work on the Forza Horizon series, will be the new developers for the series.
Eurogamers sources say that a team of more than 200 will be working on Fable from the team’s new offices in Leamington Spa, though development is still in the very early stages.
Just what kind of Fable might Playground be working on? Well, the report says that the game is planned to be an open world world action RPG with a focus on character and story.
The game that Playground will reportedly be working on sounds rather similar to the vision Lionhead had for Fable 4 before its pitch was rejected and the studio was shut down. Prior to its closure, Lionhead had been working on Fable Legends, a free-to-play service game with a heavy emphasis on online multiplayer.
This was quite a departure from Lionhead’s previous Fable titles and the studio hoped that it would be able to return to creating single-player story-driven adventures when development of Legends was complete. This didn’t happen.
Fable co-creator Simon Carter told Eurogamer that the news left him with “mixed” feelings. Though he said it was great news for the UK games industry and he’d be pleased to return to Fable as a “punter”, he added that it’s “curious” that Microsoft would get rid of a development team that knows the franchise inside out.
He doesn’t doubt, however, that the team at Playground is “very talented” and will do a “fantastic job.”
It is somewhat curious that Microsoft has taken this sudden shift in attitude towards the Fable franchise. According to Eurogamer, it’s the result of the success of Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn, This single-player story-driven game was a hugely beneficial exclusive for PlayStation and a sign that the future isn’t just exclusively for service-based online games.
Playground is a studio that has done fantastic work for Microsoft with the Forza Horizon series so it’s understandable that the company would turn to them in the hopes of another exclusive success.
Microsoft has yet to comment on these rumors so Fable’s return remains unconfirmed.
The Xbox Live API Leak
Before Eurogamer’s report, in early January 2018 an Xbox Live API leak suggested that a Fable project with the codename Wisdom is being worked on by a UK-based developer.
The Lionhead tweet
Not long after this, a former Lionhead Lead Engine Programmer called Don Williamson posted on Twitter that he’d worked out which studio was working on Fable 4, stating that he believed it to be an interesting choice. This has since been deleted though it was captured by WCCFTech.
When asked by WCCFTech if the studio working on the game was based in Brighton, Williamson replied that there was no Brighton-based studio big enough to take on the task. With the knowledge gained from the Xbox Live API Leak, WCCFTech surmised that it must be Playground Games working on Fable.
The studio had been recruiting developers to work on a Triple-A open world RPG before this point, which ties in neatly with these suspicions. Given that Playground Games is best known for the Forza Horizon titles and hasn’t worked on an open world RPG before, it’s unsurprising that Williamson believed the studio to be an interesting choice. However, given the degree of hiring going on we imagine the team is trying to get developers with the necessary expertise.
Our very first sign that the Fable franchise would one day return came from Xbox’s own Phil Spencer. In early 2017 Spencer tweeted that though Microsoft had nothing to announce at that time, there were “plenty of places” the IP could go.
Nothing to announce right now but I do think the IP has a lot of places it could go.April 30, 2017
It wasn’t much to go on but it added weight to reports that emerged in the aftermath of Lionhead’s closure that Microsoft had turned down offers to buy the studio as it wanted to keep hold of the Fable license.
What we want to see
An exciting story
Albion is a world with serious potential and we’d love to return to it in style. Previous Fable storylines haven’t always been groundbreaking and the story in Fable 3 was really very disappointing. However, the history of heroes and guilds has always been an interesting one and the Fable universe is far from short of interesting and well-written characters to jump off from.
A great soundtrack
Without fail, every single Fable game has had a soundtrack that’s stuck in our heads. Every track manages to create an atmosphere and a real sense of fairy tale fun. We’d love to see this commitment to sound and music make a return in any new instalment.
That sense of humor
Alongside its soundtrack, the Fable franchise is recognisable for its sense of humor. It’s a little bit silly, occasionally a little bit dark and always individual. Though it’ll be a hard thing to replicate exactly, we’d love to see the new game take that same approach of not taking itself too seriously. It always helped Fable stand out from the other RPGs on the market and it would undoubtedly continue to do so - no other game has yet to strike the balance in quite the same way.
More choices and consequences
Peter Monyneux always had a grand vision when it came to Fable’s morality system but sadly it never quite lived up to his vision. It’s been a long time since the last numbered Fable title and the power of consoles has come a long way. Greater power means vastly improved AI and we really hope the new development team will use this to create a far deeper morality system.
Rather than simplistic good and bad choices, we’d love to see more complex decisions and far-reaching consequences.
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