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Double Fine Productions Boss On Microsoft Acquisition: “I Think It’s Perfect For Us”

CyberPanda

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“We can just focus on doing our inspired weird games, and not worry about how we’re going to get our next deal,” says Tim Schafer.

Posted By Shubhankar Parijat | On 24th, Jun. 2019 Under News | Follow This Author @shubhankar2508

At E3 2019, Microsoft announced that they’d acquired Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions of Psychonauts fame, adding one more reputable developer to their ever-growing lineup of first parties at Xbox Game Studios. Schafer recently got to talking about the acquisition, and in an interview with Game Informer, revealed that talks between the two parties hadn’t originally started as discussions about a possible acquisition.

Though that’s the direction that talks ultimately went in, Schafer said that he was initially concerned about what an acquisition might do to Double Fine’s identity and culture, but when he realized that they’d be able to retain their identity and their independence while also having the assurances of financial backing by Microsoft, he quickly hopped onboard.

“We weren’t really looking to get acquired, but we were talking about other things and [Microsoft] mentioned they were doing this with other companies and those other companies seem like they have very strong identities, like Ninja Theory,” said Schafer. “These aren’t companies that are looking to make money on Microsoft products. We asked [Microsoft] why they were looking to acquire companies, and they talked about creating diverse, wide ranging content for Game Pass.”

“I was very concerned about our culture and identity,,” he continued. “They explained the new way they’re doing these acquisitions with unplugged studios that are not integrated into Microsoft. They’re left alone, they do their own thing and stay independent, but are well funded. It sounds like a good deal.”

Schafer went on to talk about how, in his view, the deal is perfect for Double Fine, because they get to keep on doing what they have been doing while also not having to worry about funding for their future projects any longer.

“I think it’s perfect for us, because we can just focus on doing our inspired weird games, and not worry about how we’re going to get our next deal,” said Schafer. “We aren’t chasing down our next funding and thinking about how many more months of funding we have all the time.”

Double Fine are currently working on the long-awaited platformer Psychonauts 2, which was crowdfunded before their acquisition, and as such is scheduled to launch across the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It recently got delayed to 2020.

 
Like with all acquisitions it's always "perfect" at the start.
and we haven't really seen that recently in this situation.
Schafer comes off as a eccentric dude but no dummy. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy whos going to sell out his baby for a buck.
I'm curious to see how if effects DoubleFine to be honest, Personally I'm excited to see Psychonaughts 2 and I can't help but think that getting some Microsoft support to help improve the performance and technical features of the game is a good thing.
 

Whitecrow

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Wait till your employees get burn-out of working excessive hours or with too much pressure. Now you are commited to it. Good luck.
 

Mattyp

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The comments on here are hilarious, downplaying the leader of a studio and his baby he created as being wrong 😂

Didn’t realise everyone here is a current doublefine employee.

Psychonauts 3 or whatever they decide to work on next, can’t wait to see with some funding that isn’t crowdsourced.
 
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Kacho

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Of course it is. Any studio that has to rely on crowdfunding would benefit from the financial backing they get from being own by a large company.

Not much of a Double Fine fan though, so more weird games from them is pretty whatever.
 

radewagon

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They have seen the results of what happens to studios that are bought out by Microsoft and they still take the money and pretend that this time will be different. Double Fine will be missed. Maybe it's punishment for how they screwed up so royally with Brutal Legend. That game had everything going for it until it became an RTS game. They really should have made the 3rd person action platformer the first act of the game had promised us.
 
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HotPocket69

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They have seen the results of what happens to studios that are bought out by Microsoft and they still take the money and pretend that this time will be different. Double Fine will be missed. Maybe it's punishment for how they screwed up so royally with Brutal Legend. That game had everything going for it until it became an RTS game. They really should have made the 3rd person action platformer the first act of the game had promised us.

All I fucking wanted was Heavy Metal Zelda :messenger_weary:
 

DanielsM

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Psychonauts was cool back in the original Xbox days. I keep getting their games via PS+, play for about 30-40 minutes and I'm like... uninstall, just not my cup of tea or something.

 

Revolutionary

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It's perfect at the moment because they no longer have to worry about funding for their next project, which was a constant problem for DF due to their game sales (not great) and studio location (SF).
But it won't be perfect when their revenue fails to impress Microsoft execs and they're relegated into a Microsoft support studio.

I genuinely hope for the best for DF, but the Psychonauts 2 sales forecasts (which they made public for the Fig investing period) were EXTREMELY generous. I don't think Microsoft publishing will change those forecasts, so yeah. Again, hope for the best but I don't see this ending well. :(
 
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Tipton32

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I feel doublefine games are so niche that this acquisition honestly might’ve been a bad idea. If you look at their list of games and sales I just don’t see any future doublefine games meeting Microsoft’s sales expectations. I guess we’ll see.
 
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quickwhips

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the salt in here lol. Don't worry guys if you don't like their games after Psychonauts 2 then don't buy a xbox and you won't have to play them.

I'm excited to see what they make with no worries about funding. I'm hoping for a game like brutal legends 2 but what we all wanted.
 

Memorabilia

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I knew what most of the responses in here were gonna be before I opened the thread. Downplaying or outright doom n gloom GAF never fails when it comes to pretty much everything MS. On a side note I always get a kick out of people here dramatically predicting that MS is inevitably leaving the gaming biz entirely for any number of reasons. The logic twisting it requires to come to that conclusion when Phil and Co. are on a studio buying spree to expand their first party output is rather mind-bending. Lol
 

DanielsM

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I knew what most of the responses in here were gonna be before I opened the thread. Downplaying or outright doom n gloom GAF never fails when it comes to pretty much everything MS. On a side note I always get a kick out of people here dramatically predicting that MS is inevitably leaving the gaming biz entirely for any number of reasons. The logic twisting it requires to come to that conclusion when Phil and Co. are on a studio buying spree to expand their first party output is rather mind-bending. Lol

Oh, nobody said Microsoft couldn't spend money, spending money really isn't the problem.
 
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The one thing they are dependent on is Game Pass, just like with all the other studios. We'll see how much capacity Game Pass has before MS starts losing money, but that is the alpha omega. As long as game pass is doing well, Double Fine will be fine, even if their sales and play numbers aren't that great.
 
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Damian black

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Theyve only been bought cuz they were cheap and are probably able to make enough shovelware, for ms to put on gamepass.
 

CyberPanda

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During this year's E3, it was announced that Microsoft is acquiring Double Fine Productions (creators of Broken Age, Grim Fandango) to join Xbox Game Studios.

What does this acquisition mean for Double Fine, a studio that is famously independent? Will the studio's signature, unique feel be rebranded? With Double Fine's roster of wonderfully weird titles, it's a reasonable concern, but Double Fine CEO and President Tim Schafer has been quick to qualm those fears (he even did so immediately while on stage at Microsoft's press conference). We sat down with him at E3 to better understand this transition.

"We weren't really looking to get acquired, but we were talking about other things and [Microsoft] mentioned they were doing this with other companies and those other companies seem like they have very strong identities, like Ninja Theory," Schafer says. "These aren't companies that are looking to make money on Microsoft products. We asked [Microsoft] why they were looking to acquire companies, and they talked about creating diverse, wide ranging content for Game Pass."

At first, though, Schafer had concerns about his studio's identity shifting or that this move would result in less creative freedom.
"I was very concerned about our culture and identity," Schafer says. "They explained the new way they're doing these acquisitions with unplugged studios that are not integrated into Microsoft. They're left alone, they do their own thing and stay independent, but are well funded. It sounds like a good deal."

Psychonauts 2 is still releasing on all its promised platforms (PS4, Xbox One, PC) and Schafer brought up in the video below that backer rewards on Fig, as well as other commitments the team made, will be fulfilled.

It helps that Microsoft and Double Fine have a long history of working together through partnerships on games like Kinect Party and Iron Brigade, so a longer-term deal isn't completely out of the blue. It gives Double Fine more financial security to continue its quirky signature games.
"I think it's perfect for us, because we can just focus on doing our inspired weird games, and not worry about how we're going to get our next deal. We aren't chasing down our next funding and thinking about how many more months of funding we have all the time."

When asked if Double Fine would ever let other teams within Microsoft work on one of their IPs, Schafer said while it wouldn't "immediately make sense to have anyone else do them," it would still be a "case by case" decision.

"If someone's like, 'I grew up playing Middle Manager of Justice and I really want to put my whole development team behind that,' I mean, we would talk to them, but it's it's probably more likely that we would do our own [IPs]."

Schafer spoke briefly about Starbreeze too, the company that was formerly publishing Psychonauts 2. Following the launch of the poorly received Overkill's The Walking Dead and resulting financial instability, however, it's become apparent that Starbreeze may not last much longer. Schafer reflects that the studio's relationship with Starbreeze was positive, but that the Microsoft acquisition promises more stability and security.
"Starbreeze had some challenges," Schafer says. "They had always lived up to their commitment to us. They always paid their invoices. They never, you know, they weren't getting flaky with us. But it wasn't 100% sure that there would be enough of them today there to be able to support the game the way that Microsoft can. [The acquisition] makes sure that the game is fully polished, and that we don't cut levels out of it."
 
Oct 14, 2010
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At first, though, Schafer had concerns about his studio's identity shifting or that this move would result in less creative freedom.
"I was very concerned about our culture and identity," Schafer says. "They explained the new way they're doing these acquisitions with unplugged studios that are not integrated into Microsoft. They're left alone, they do their own thing and stay independent, but are well funded. It sounds like a good deal."

It sounds good and I think in the short term this will be good for Psychonauts 2 but I'm highly suspicious of the notion that MS won't apply pressure at some point. Especially if Psychonauts ends up under-performing. Which I hope doesn't happen but isn't outside the realm of possibility.
 

thelastword

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I don't think Double Fine will survive....Mountain dew drinking MS fans buying Double Fine games? I don't see it.....
 

Pimpbaa

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They have seen the results of what happens to studios that are bought out by Microsoft and they still take the money and pretend that this time will be different. Double Fine will be missed. Maybe it's punishment for how they screwed up so royally with Brutal Legend. That game had everything going for it until it became an RTS game. They really should have made the 3rd person action platformer the first act of the game had promised us.

Yeah that switch to being a RTS and seeing all the basically unused areas was a pretty big punch to the gut. I really can't think of any game that I loved at the start but hated later in the game.