Why did Tim Schafer sell Double Fine to Xbox Game Studios? Here’s his frank and refreshingly honest explanation.
One of the biggest surprise announcements at this year’s Xbox E3 press conference – well, apart from Keanu – was that Xbox Game Studios has acquired Double Fine Productions. Double Fine, formerly indie developer, publisher, and purveyor of weird and wonderful games, don’t exactly seem like the best fit for Xbox, who last year acquired studios like Ninja Theory and Playground Games, known for their big budget, high-fidelity productions.
Double Fine’s founder and head honcho, Tim Schafer, even made a joke to this effect on stage, offering to work on Halo, Forza, Excel; basically anything Microsoft wants them to. (Then quickly rescinded his offer, admitting that Double Fine would have no idea how to really do any of that, the trickster.)
It’s a similar situation to when Valve, who no longer really care about making video games, bought Campo Santo, the developer of Firewatch and the upcoming In the Valley of the Gods. It seemed like an odd couple. People wondered what the motivation was But in that case – and other than moving the studio from California to Seattle, Washington – Valve have largely left Campo Santo to manage their own business, presumably with a large injection of cash, which can only be a good thing for the security and prosperity of the small studio.
It looks like the Xbox/Double Fine deal might be a similar arrangement. In what marks a refreshing turn of honesty (in amongst all the flim-flam about Epic Store exclusivity and not wanting to piss off Steam advocates) Tim Schafer released a short video explaining the decision to join Microsoft Game Studios. The reason? Money. (Bucketfulls of the stuff. Probably.)
But in all seriousness, the sort of publishing budget that Xbox Game Studios has is a real boon to a studio like Double Fine.
“The thought of being able to develop those [new game ideas] without dragging them all over the world, pitching them to every publisher that exists, is just really nice to think about.” Tim Schafer, founder and creative director, Double Fine Productions
Double Fine Productions, and Tim Schafer, are in the business of making weird indie games. They might not truly be indie anymore, but with more money available – and hopefully, if Microsoft leaves them alone to steer their own ship – they’ll be able to make bigger, better versions of the games they were already making. It also means more job stability and probably additional hiring for Double Fine, too, which is another massive bonus in the fiscally precarious business of indie development.
It also won’t have a material effect on Double Fine’s current project, Psychonauts 2, in terms of platform availability. The game will come to Xbox Game Pass, but it will still release on PS4 for Kickstarter backers who chose that platform, in addition to Xbox One and Windows PC. That may not always be the case for future games from the studio, but those sorts of repercussions are to be expected.