Before Double Fine was bought by the publisher, the money was running out.
Last year at E3 team Xbox announced that they had acquired the studio Double Fine. The internet hubbub about such a darling indie being acquired by a big corporation was founded in what studios had done in the past. It appears Xbox however have other plans and gave Double Fine the budget they needed to restore cut content to the anticipated sequel of their beloved property Psychonauts.
“With Psychonauts 2, we could see the end of our budget coming up, and so we had cut a lot of stuff,” says Tim Schafer. “We had cut our boss fights. Now we are able to put those back in, and we’re like ‘we think people would have noticed if we didn’t have those boss fights.'”
Schafer now says he’s “looking forward to doing things for the right reasons,” instead of moving onto part of a game too early or working on the art before the design is ready.
The experience in the studio is largely unchanged, just “without the terror of going out of business all the time.” Schafer jokes. Other developers have also shared their experience, and the message Xbox Game Studios clearly wants to get across is that it lets its devs just get on with things while supporting them with all the cash they need and plenty of tech resources, whether its engine support or dev kits or Microsoft software support.
This marks a noticable change of course for Xbox and Microsoft as a whole since the purchase of Mojang in 2014. Now content to allow studios to spread their creative wings and do what they do best, create. It has paid off for minecraft, the small indie game is now the #1 game IP by sales and is a cultural force in the gaming landscape.
This also benefits Xbox as they need to micromanage less and risky games do not require a sales target to measure success. With Game Pass, Xbox can let passion projects like Obsidians Grounded flourish or they can provide a longer tale for content to improve a game like Rares Sea Of Thieves and as long as enough people try them, there is a chance they can grow to become great things. Sea Of Thieves has been in Steams top 10 since its release there and it doesn’t look like slowing down, a prediction not many would have made at launch.
Time will tell what this 15 strong development ensemble can create but I eagerly anticipate the Xbox showcase on the 23rd of July for my first glimpse.