Double Fine "Made More on Psychonauts This Year" Than Ever

Double Fine "Made More on Psychonauts This Year" Than Ever

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Double Fine head Tim Schafer says publishers "will cut you loose and let you die" if developers don't meet sales expectations.

Psychonauts may not have flown off shelves when it came out in 2005, but in the seven years since, it's gained cult status from positive word of mouth and releases on various downloadable platforms. After not performing well as a PS2, PC, and Xbox retail title, Psychonauts went on to be released on Steam (for PC and Mac), Xbox 360's Xbox Originals, and most recently the PlayStation Network's PS2 Classics. Last year, developer Double Fine gained the publishing rights to its first game, which helped the studio realize how much money it was missing out on by not owning its games. In an interview with Polygon, studio head Tim Schafer stated, "We made more on Psychonauts this year than we ever have before."

Schafer didn't accompany that statement with any sales figures, so it's unclear if he means Double Fine made more from Psychonauts in 2012 than any previous single year, or all of the years it's been on the market combined. Either way, it's an impressive feat for the developer, which just a few years ago was in danger when its follow-up to Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, was dropped by Activision. Schafer elaborated on some of the problems that come from working with major publishers on big-budget retail titles in the interview. "A publisher is a business. If you're making money they'll be in business with you, and if you're not important to their bottom line, they will cut you loose and let you die... That's what businesses should do. They're not here for emotions; they're here to make money."

Since the kerfuffle over Brutal Legend (which also included a legal battle with Activision and EA canceling its planned sequel), Double Fine has shifted directions, having multiple teams working on smaller games. "It's weird to say, but I'm glad it didn't work out that way... what was really inspiring to me, was what saved us, and why we didn't go out of business after Brutal Legend, was that not me but the team had a lot of great ideas. And we made our salaries off of those great ideas for the next two years. And so that creativity saved the day."

By getting back the publishing rights to Psychonauts, which "instantly started making money" for the studio, "we realized how much money we're losing out on, by not controlling our own destiny." Because of this, Double Fine is finding new ways to get funding while retaining the rights to its creative works, like investors and the immensely successful Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter from earlier this year.

In an era where it seems like veteran studios are being shut down left and right, it's heartwarming to see a developer like Double Fine find its way despite things not going quite as intended. Now that it has found a publishing model that appears to work, maybe Double Fine can get around to making that Psychonauts sequel.

Source: Polygon

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I'm happy for Tim, Double Fine makes amazing games and Psychonauts is an amazing game with some pretty bad controls, hopefully the sequel will be much better.

Good to hear. Psychonauts is one of those few games that deserve the acclaim that it gets.

I can see video games going the way of music, with creators increasingly using direct sales or online distribution and the major publishers finding themselves pushed into a corner.

Which would be interesting to see happen. We already know that some developers are perfectly capable of operating without or as their own publisher (Valve, Bethesda), it would be very interesting to see if other, smaller companies can build themselves up without the interference of the the big ones.

shows how make the publishers make off the developers too.

i remember when obsidian first thought about going kickstarter they were approached by an unnamed AAA publisher who offered to give them marketing and retail sales if they would just do a few small things in exchange.. obsidian does the kickstarter, raises all the money, hands over the IP rights and most of the profits. the publisher saw nothing wrong with that.

for all the public smiling for the camera they are a corporation and will rip of people as fast as look at them for the bottom line

Now that it has found a publishing model that appears to work, maybe Double Fine can get around to making that Psychonauts sequel.

Universe, I have never prayed to you before.
I have no tongue for it.
No one, not even you, will remember if these were good games or bad,
Why we played or why we rage quit because that meat circus level was broke as all F*CK!!!
No, all that matters is that they stood against many.
That's what's important.
Variety pleases you, Universe, so grant me one request -
Grant me a sequel!
And if you do not listen, then the Hell with you!

PunkRex:

Universe, I have never prayed to you before.
I have no tongue for it.
No one, not even you, will remember if these were good games or bad,
Why we played or why we rage quit because that meat circus level was broke as all F*CK!!!
No, all that matters is that they stood against many.
That's what's important.
Variety pleases you, Universe, so grant me one request -
Grant me a sequel!
And if you do not listen, then the Hell with you!

You have solved the Riddle of Sequel!

I'm really happy for Tim and Double Fine, it's about time they started cashing in on Psychonauts because they totally deserve it.

To games as an art form! *raises glass*

Shamus Young's twitter just told me this was a first step in publisher's losing power. He speaks of it like a utopia. Now, I don't like bottom-line driven businessmen getting in the way of creative freedom or churning out uninspired sequels and knockoffs either, but publishers exist for a reason and without their money a lot less games would get made.

While certainly better for developers in the long run, is there any downside to an industry without dedicated publishers?

Crunchy English:
Shamus Young's twitter just told me this was a first step in publisher's losing power. He speaks of it like a utopia. Now, I don't like bottom-line driven businessmen getting in the way of creative freedom or churning out uninspired sequels and knockoffs either, but publishers exist for a reason and without their money a lot less games would get made.

While certainly better for developers in the long run, is there any downside to an industry without dedicated publishers?

Not really, as publishers waste a lot of money. Independent investors and kickstarters for developers is very likely a better situation for creative games. But regardless, we'll soon see what's best. Pay attention to PC versus console over the next 5 years. One of them is publisher dependant, one of them isn't anywhere near as much any more. So we'll soon see what effect publishers have :D

I'm happy to see the business model changing. I think we can all agree that games have progressively begun losing their originality and instead defaulted to publisher's "game development by numbers" rules of game creation (online multiplayer, online passes, cutting content out to release as DLC later, annual sequels of diminishing quality and substance, etc.)

Many developers have been vocal about how publishers want them to add stuff just to check it off their list of blurbs to put on the back of the box, usually to the detriment of the core game itself.

Freedom from that narrow-minded view of game development can only be a good thing, though in an ideal world we'd have publishers smart enough to know that these people making games know what they're doing most of the time.

It reminds me of how comic book CEOs and editors often think they know how to tell a better story than the professional writers they hired and give editorial mandates to them that screw up their hard work, upset fans, and make a mess of things... and they KEEP doing that, year after year, never learning to step back and just let their employees do the damn job they were hired to do.

In other news... Psychonauts 2? Yes please!

Trishbot:
I'm happy to see the business model changing. I think we can all agree that games have progressively begun losing their originality and instead defaulted to publisher's "game development by numbers" rules of game creation (online multiplayer, online passes, cutting content out to release as DLC later, annual sequels of diminishing quality and substance, etc.)

Many developers have been vocal about how publishers want them to add stuff just to check it off their list of blurbs to put on the back of the box, usually to the detriment of the core game itself.

Freedom from that narrow-minded view of game development can only be a good thing, though in an ideal world we'd have publishers smart enough to know that these people making games know what they're doing most of the time.

It reminds me of how comic book CEOs and editors often think they know how to tell a better story than the professional writers they hired and give editorial mandates to them that screw up their hard work, upset fans, and make a mess of things... and they KEEP doing that, year after year, never learning to step back and just let their employees do the damn job they were hired to do.

In other news... Psychonauts 2? Yes please!

On the contrary, the current trend is the inevitable result of the money men learning what does and does not reliably make money in the video games industry. The key word there is "reliably." Whether a game is good or not does not have a direct relationship with whether it is profitable or not. Just look at Psychonauts. Critical success, financial failure(until recently, apparently... Steam had something to do with that no doubt). Now to be certain, this situation doesn't make me happy, but it's hard to argue that the companies that have found a reliable pattern of crappy sequels aren't making money.

Money men are the bane of art. Unfortunately, art is expensive(especially modern multidisciplinary art forms like movies and video games). Eventually we will reach a point where -like in the music industry- cheap tools can produce near industry standard levels of quality. We aren't quite there yet, and until we are, most producers will have to choose between freedom and outside funding. This is why I support crowdsourcing, as it manages to help pave a middle ground for proven artists.

fix-the-spade:
I can see video games going the way of music, with creators increasingly using direct sales or online distribution and the major publishers finding themselves pushed into a corner.

That makes Mr. Schafer the Reznor of the games industry...

I am incredibly okay with this!

Need to plasy more psychonauts, need a controller my pc recognises first!

SkarKrow:
Need to plasy more psychonauts, need a controller my pc recognises first!

Wired 360 controller?

Well, I bought Psychonauts this year, so I suppose I contributed a little bit to that, at least. Have yet to play most of it, though, since I've got so many other games to try working through.

I'm glad that when I bought Psychonauts last year, the money went to the creators of the game. Feels much better than knowing that the publisher gets most of the money and I hope that everything works out for Double Fine, it's a great studio that deserves to do well.

fix-the-spade:

SkarKrow:
Need to plasy more psychonauts, need a controller my pc recognises first!

Wired 360 controller?

You see I don't have a 360 so all I got knocking abotu are dualshocks, a gcn controller, a few dreamcast pads, etc. =p

Nah, I literally just oredered a wired 360 pad and Dark Souls PTD 20 minutes ago, I'm currently wondering why crysis doesn't have a fucking shortcut (no mashing the 4 key 4 times does not count) for the cloak but it has a dedicated night vision but that's by default half a mile across the keyboard from the rest of my hand.

Edit: Aware of the suit shortcuts thing that makes crouch cloak and shit. But what if i want to crouch and not clock, hmm!?

Also, I'm aware my indignation at this is a good 5 years late.

Edit 2: Grumble grumble grumble. Forget it.

Sarah LeBoeuf:

Schafer didn't accompany that statement with any sales figures, so it's unclear if he means Double Fine made more from Psychonauts in 2012 than any previous single year, or all of the years it's been on the market combined.

either way, thats pretty fucked up.

i dont think that a lot of people brought that game after double fine acquired the rights.

the ones that invest several years of their life creating it, get shafted the most..

As someone who's never played Psychonauts before and picked it up in the last Steam sale.

I contributed to a thing!

SkarKrow:

fix-the-spade:

SkarKrow:
Need to plasy more psychonauts, need a controller my pc recognises first!

Wired 360 controller?

You see I don't have a 360 so all I got knocking abotu are dualshocks, a gcn controller, a few dreamcast pads, etc. =p

Nah, I literally just oredered a wired 360 pad and Dark Souls PTD 20 minutes ago, [s] I'm currently wondering why crysis doesn't have a fucking shortcut (no mashing the 4 key 4 times does not count) for the cloak but it has a dedicated night vision but that's by default half a mile across the keyboard from the rest of my hand.

I use my Dualshocks3 on my PC. Google Motion In Joys DS3 tool. It lets you use a wired DS3 control as an XBOX360. Games will still tell you to press the xbox buttons, but if you're familiar with an xbox control you can figure it out.

Michael Collett:

SkarKrow:

fix-the-spade:

Wired 360 controller?

You see I don't have a 360 so all I got knocking abotu are dualshocks, a gcn controller, a few dreamcast pads, etc. =p

Nah, I literally just oredered a wired 360 pad and Dark Souls PTD 20 minutes ago, [s] I'm currently wondering why crysis doesn't have a fucking shortcut (no mashing the 4 key 4 times does not count) for the cloak but it has a dedicated night vision but that's by default half a mile across the keyboard from the rest of my hand.

I use my Dualshocks3 on my PC. Google Motion In Joys DS3 tool. It lets you use a wired DS3 control as an XBOX360. Games will still tell you to press the xbox buttons, but if you're familiar with an xbox control you can figure it out.

I'm already well aware of that, and I used it for a bit, but it's kind of stiff to say the least, with all of my various dual shocks of many colours. It's much easier to just stick in the wired 360 pad that cost less than 20 anyway.

This is perfect. For years developers have been losing tons of money because SOP dictates the publisher gets the rights. We don't live in that world anymore. And as more tools are developed that are accessible to developers without publisher funds, the more free the market becomes.

I AM THE MILK MAN.

I MUST DELIVER THE MILK.

Sarah LeBoeuf:
If you're making money they'll be in business with you, and if you're not important to their bottom line, they will cut you loose and let you die... That's what businesses should do. They're not here for emotions; they're here to make money."

I'm not sure I will ever agree with that rationale, since it seems to lend itself well to rationalize all sorts of wankery.
Mr Schafers company is also a "business", and apparently it's making money without covering their game boxes with the blood of clubbed-to-death baby seals by just being nice to their customers and authentic as they are and presenting themselves as such (with the Double Fine KickStarter or more recently Amnesia Fortnight).

Seriously if you haven't done it already and even tangentially like Double Fine, go and spend some money on it right now: http://www.humblebundle.com/double-fine
The 10 videos documenting the development of the 5 games are brilliant and well worth a lot more money. And you'll get to play all the prototypes too.

The reality is, businesses don't "have to" do shit, not even make money although that is always prefferable. Their respective owners or in a lot of cases unfortunately their shareholders decide what that should be. And those shareholders more often than not don't have any sort of emotional ivestment into the respective companies and couldn't give less of a toss who they do business with, how they treat their employees or anything of the likes. It points more to a failure of the stock market over the last few dozen years than anything else.

Whelp, now that I know that the money is going directly to Double fine I better buy me another copy on steam.

It's an awesome game
I hope they make more like it

That's nice and I'm glad for them, but why can't they update the version of Psychonauts on GoG like they did on Steam?

it's great to see that developers have ways to make the games they want instead of what the publishers want. Seeing more adventures with raz would be awesome!

I HELPED!

Wasn't disappointing.

Always good to see the dedicated get rewarded for their work.

It is really goddamn annoying that developers expect 9999999 bazzillion dollars the very day game is released
If working in a milk farm has thought me something, then it is, that you shouldn't expect all gain in a single day
it is like expecting all the milk from a cow the day she pops out a calf
(ridiculous that is)

More to the point- I'm glad I bought the Psychonauts
Maybe too late, but at least I did it eventually

Nice to see they get some recognition. Double Fine is full of honestly nice and talented people...

By the way, I would rather see an HD version of Psychonauts for PSN and XBox Live than a sequel. Far less investment with a lot of return.

Which reminds me, yet again, that I need to get Psychonauts. But good for Double Fine. It's nice to hear some good coming from an industry that seems to be pumping out more bad news than a Fox reporter. (Zing)

 

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