Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux

Born Peter Douglas Molyneux
(1959-05-05) 5 May 1959
Guildford, Surrey, England
Nationality British
Occupation Video game designer
Years active 1982-
Known for

Peter Douglas Molyneux, OBE (/ˈmɒlnj/; born 5 May 1959) is an English video game designer and programmer. He created the god games Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Black & White as well as Theme Park, the Fable series and Curiosity – What's Inside the Cube? His new studio 22Cans currently works on Godus and the brand new hiking resource-gathering game, The Trail-A Frontier.


Early career

Peter Molyneux began his career in 1982 by distributing and selling floppy disks which contained video games for Atari and the Commodore 64. He believed that including games on the disks would improve sales, and later concluded that the games were the main selling point.[1]

He created The Entrepreneur, a text-based business simulation game about running a fledgling company.[2] "In those days you could literally call a game 'Space Blob Attacks Mars' and sell about 50 million copies. So what did I do? I did a business simulation", Molyneux later said.[1] Molyneux published the game himself in 1984 by duplicating hundreds of tapes on two Tandy Corporation recorders. After taking an advertising space in a game magazine, he prepared for the game's success; he later stated in an interview, "I was utterly convinced that this game would sell tons. I thought, 'You know, this letter box is just not big enough. It's just not going to fit all the envelopes.' So I cut – and this is no joke – I cut a bigger letter box". However, the game received only two orders, one of which Molyneux speculated was from his mother.[1] In 2007, a GameSpy reviewer commented that the economic gameplay mechanics in Molyneux's Fable II may have been a descendant of The Entrepreneur, stating, "I'm a little concerned that it's Molyneux sneaking in a remix of his first game, Entrepreneur".[3]

Due to the game's failure, Molyneux retreated from game design, and started Taurus Impex Limited—a company that exported baked beans to the Middle East[4][5] —with his business partner Les Edgar. Commodore International mistook it for TORUS, a more established company that produced networking software, and offered to provide Molyneux with ten[4] free Amiga systems to help in porting "his" networking software.[1][6] "... it suddenly dawned on me that this guy didn't know who we were", Molyneux later said. "I suddenly had this crisis of conscience. I thought, 'If this guy finds out, there go my free computers down the drain.' So I just shook his hand and ran out of that office".[1] Taurus designed a database system for the Amiga, called Acquisition[4] - The Ultimate Database for The Amiga and, after clearing up the misunderstanding with Commodore, the program was released and became a moderate success.

Bullfrog Productions

Using money earned from the database program, Molyneux and Les Edgar founded Bullfrog Productions in 1987.[1][6] Molyneux provided the original concept for Populous, the first god game for the personal computer. Released in 1989, Populous was a major success for Bullfrog and went on to sell over 4 million copies.[7]

Electronic Arts, Bullfrog's publisher, acquired the studio in January 1995.[8] Molyneux had become an Electronic Arts vice-president and consultant in 1994, after EA purchased a significant share of Bullfrog. Molyneux's last project at Bullfrog was Dungeon Keeper, which was released in July 1997 to high critical praise. A significant innovation of the game was its unique combination of first- and third-person perspectives, in the ability to "possess" any one of the creatures (or "minions") in the game world, yielding a first-person experience reproducing the physical characteristics, visual perspective, gait and voice of the minion. Molyneux left Bullfrog in August 1997 to found Lionhead Studios. The last title released with the Bullfrog logo was published in 2001, and in 2004 Electronic Arts merged Bullfrog Productions into EA UK.

Lionhead Studios and Microsoft

Molyneux came up with the concept for Lionhead's first game, Black & White, and convinced his small staff to take on the task in late 1997.[9] He paid the $6 million in development costs himself.[10] After three years, in 2001, the game was finally released.

In April 2006, Lionhead Studios was acquired by Microsoft Game Studios. At E3 2006, Peter Molyneux gave several interviews in the press, in one of which he stated that "I think you're going to see a lot more fantastic games from Lionhead because of that relationship [with Microsoft]."[11] On 4 June 2009, he was promoted to Creative Director of Microsoft Game Studios, Europe, although he continued to produce video games with Lionhead Studios.

On 7 March 2012, Molyneux announced that he would be leaving Lionhead and Microsoft — after the completion of Fable: The Journey — to begin work at a company founded by former Lionhead Studios CTO Tim Rance called 22Cans.[12][13]

22 Cans

To date, 22 Cans has sold early access on multiple titles including Godus, Godus Wars and The Trail. As yet, despite three years of quoted development and a large Kickstarter[14] for Godus, no projects have left early access.[15] [16]

In the media

Presentation of Fable II with Molyneux at Festival du jeu vidéo in 2008

As one of the industry's leading and best-known figures, Molyneux has appeared on many television shows and video gaming news discussion or documentaries. He has been repeatedly interviewed for shows that include GamesMaster, Games Wars, Gamezville, Bad Influence!,, and Games World. He also made an appearance in the Scottish web series Consolevania. More recently, Molyneux was featured within an episode of Godus alongside The Yogscast.

An episode of G4's games retrospective series Icons was devoted to him, during its third season. More recently, a comprehensive two part interview was filmed of him during the 2006 Brighton Games Developer Conference by leading UK website Eurogamer.[17] He was also featured in the fourth episode of the Discovery Channel mini-series Rise of the Video Game alongside Will Wright and Sid Meier, fellow developers of simulation titles. Molyneux was accredited in the "Top Ten Game Creators" Countdown by GameTrailers.[18] He has given keynote addresses and spoke extensively at worldwide conferences, including Games Convention, Games Convention Asia, Develop, and the Game Developers Conference.

Despite the success of his games, both critical and financial, Molyneux has acquired a reputation for issuing over-enthusiastic descriptions of games under development, which are found to be somewhat less ambitious when released. This goes back to Black & White, though the most well-known case of this was with Fable, released in 2004 without many of the features talked about by Molyneux in press interviews during development. After the release, Molyneux publicly apologized for overhyping the game. In February 2014 he is quoted as being "Ashamed of the final product Fable 3 and I never want to work with Microsoft again."[19][20] In February 2015, Peter Molyneux stated during interviews in gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun and British newspaper The Guardian that he will "never speak to the press again". Both publications were under the impression that they were conducting the last interview.[21][22] He since broke his media blackout with two conversations for the interview series Don't Die in early 2016.

Awards and recognition

Molyneux was inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame in 2004 and was honoured with an OBE in the New Year's Honours list announced on 31 December 2004. He was awarded the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in March 2007. In July 2007, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Southampton. In March 2011, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Game Developers Choice Awards[23] and has received a BAFTA Fellowship at the 2011 British Academy Video Games Awards.[24]



Bullfrog Productions

Lionhead Studios



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dulin, Ron. "Legends of Game Design: Peter Molyneux". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 1 September 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  2. "Seeing next-gen games in black and white". Red Herring. 5 April 2001. Archived from the original on 1 February 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2007.
  3. Joynt, Patrick (8 March 2007). "Fable 2 Preview". GameSpy. Retrieved 25 December 2007.
  4. 1 2 3 "Classic Game Postmortem". Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  5. "GDC: Peter Molyneux's Accidental Gaming Career". IGN. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  6. 1 2 McLain, Alan. "Fable – Molyneux Speaks". Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  7. "History of Lionhead Studios". Lionhead Studios. Archived from the original on 2 January 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  8. Business Wire (21 September 1992). "Electronic Arts to acquire leading European software developer, Bullfrog Productions Ltd.". AllBusiness. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  9. Geoff Keighley. "Part 2: Bored Beyond Belief / The Two Pages". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  10. Geoff Keighley. "Part 1: No Excuses / It's All on Me". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
  11. "Video Games Daily | Peter Molyneux Interview June 2006 - Fable 2 & More". 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  12. "Peter Molynuex Announces Departure From Lionhead Studios". TeamXbox. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  13. "Twitter". Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  14. "Kickstarter: Godus". 11 November 2012. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  15. "It was tempting to retire…". Eurogamer. 2 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  16. "Godus hopes to rekindle faith with Godus Wars". PC Gamer. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  17. "Specials". Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  18. "GT Countdown". GameTrailers. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  19. Hermida, Alfred (2004-10-08). "Technology | Fable creator explains online apology". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  20. Retro Gamer magazine, issue 71, pp. 82–89 "In the chair with ... Peter Molyneux".
  21. Laura Kate Dale. "Peter Molyneux interview: 'It's over, I will not speak to the press again'". the Guardian.
  22. "Peter Molyneux Interview: "I haven't got a reputation in this industry any more" - Rock, Paper, Shotgun". Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  23. "Molyneux getting lifetime achievement award at GDCAs". Gamespot. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  24. "Peter Molyneux: Academy Fellow in 2011". BAFTA. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
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