Molyneux's role as big boss of Lionhead was getting in the way of his true passion; designing and making games. It was an "incredible challenge" to remain creative and be in charge.
22 Cans is the new studio that Peter Molyneux has founded and by all accounts he'll be getting back to his design roots, although he's the founder so still the big boss man.
"I think it's called the Peter Principle actually, which is nothing to do with me," explained Molyneux.
"I think it's that eventually you get to a stage in your working life where you've managed to get yourself into a position where you're actually not very good at the job, where you've left behind what you are good at and you're only doing the job that you never should have done and I think it tends to be true."
"Some people of course have a huge talent for doing that and that's their super power, being able to run big companies and being able to manage their time. I always found it an incredible challenge being creative and being a manager and being a designer, I found it hugely challenging and never really solved that problem."
Molyneux was promoted as a creative lead for Microsoft's European studios, but that just compounded his problem.
Right now his sole goal is building a team at his new 22 Cans studio because he's "got an idea for a game and I can go through the ingredients of that without talking about the whole idea a little bit later, but that idea is worthless, it's useless, without incredible people." He plans to mix about 5 industry veterans with about 5 to 7 with experience but who are "still hungry to invent." It's his plan to ensure new ideas are explored.
Peter Molyneux says there's a "logical answer" and an "emotional answer" to why he left Microsoft. The logical one is that the industry is in "another cycle and it's amazing that this industry is old enough to have cycles." These cycles involve companies grouping together to form larger operations before eventually slimming down and splitting off again.
Today's title for the small teams out there is 'indie developer'.
What excites Molyneux is that the cycle has come about again but it's joined by so much innovation in hardware. "Everything from the cloud to persistence to connected experiences to multi device play to server based games, you name it. There is a huge amount of innovation which really hasn't had time to be fully exploited yet," he explained.
"You're getting real surprises. We had Draw Something which came out of the blue, you've got the rise of Zynga - and they're proving that there's not a few millions of people that would play games but there are hundreds of millions of people who want to play games. I think the time is right for small independent developers to really exploit those hardware changes and to really take innovation to new levels. So that's the logical side, that all sounds very sensible."
The emotional answer for why he left is because he wants to prove that all his accolades 'are wrong'.
"If I look back in my past is there something where I can say 'that's the best I'm ever going to get?' I couldn't accept that. I couldn't accept that I wasn't going to do a truly great game," he added. "I do have to measure myself against measures that journalists and consumers have put against you and I have to say no. I don't think I've done anything."
"I've worked with incredible teams and incredible people and yet not quite touched that greatness. I've experiment and invented, I've gone through pretty much every type of genre you could possibly imagine and I still haven't got that."
"So that drive and that passion to do something great is definitely stronger in me that ever before...Oh god I sound like Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars! But you know what I mean," joked the creator of Populous, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Magic Carpet, Black & White, The Movies and Fable.
"I think any person has to ask themselves - 'do you to want take on this huge challenge of starting a company and pulling a team together again, and do you have the drive to do that?'"
"I think I realised that I have got that drive, and when I asked myself that question I went and spoke to some people at Microsoft and we explored a few options, but it was obvious to me that the very very best option was to leave Microsoft and leave Lionhead." The last company Molyneux left was Bullfrog Productions when bought by EA.
Check out thebetween Peter Molyneux and GamesIndustry.biz, discussing his Microsoft exit.
Molyneux "never really solved that problem" of being creative, boss and designer
11 April 2012 | By Simon Priest