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Brian Fargo interviewed about Microsoft acquisition at Eurogamer

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Brian Fargo interviewed about Microsoft acquisition at Eurogamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 20 November 2018, 00:32:26

Tags: Brian Fargo; inXile Entertainment

Microsoft's acquisition of Obsidian was the subject of rumors for months before it was finally announced, but their acquisition of inXile came to us a complete surprise. Many are wondering why Microsoft would be interested in Brian Fargo's troubled studio. Today, Robert Purchese from Eurogamer has the first post-acquisition interview with Fargo. I wouldn't exactly say it provides a satisfying answer to that question, but otherwise it's a surprisingly interrogative piece. Here's an excerpt:

How long has the deal been in the offing?

Brian Fargo: I'd have to think about when the exact day was it became very real, but the conversation started back in April, and as you might imagine with Microsoft, it's an incredible vetting process you need to go through, both as a person and a company. Yeah, it takes quite a while.

Who approached who - what was the reasoning behind it?

Brian Fargo: I've known Noah Musler a long time [Microsoft business development bigwig who has old ties with Feargus Urquhart and Obsidian as well]. He dropped me a message one day and said, 'Hey, um, I have a crazy idea - you want to come up and talk about something?' I said, 'Sure, let's do it.'

For me, it's always... My goal is to always get my company in a safe harbour so we can spend as much time as possible working on our games and honing our craft. That can come if you sell 2 million units - that's a great way to get there which everyone hopes for. Or, a deal like this. But at the end of the day that's all I ever cared about.

How was the studio doing before the sale - were you in good health? Could you have continued to operate indefinitely without Microsoft's involvement? Because Bard's Tale 4 didn't set the world on fire, Torment: Tides of Numenera didn't seem to do well commercially, and Wasteland 3 isn't due until next year. Were you on the rocks?

Brian Fargo: Well listen, I'm a clever guy and I'm a survivor, so I always have a plan B, C and D at all times. There were a few companies wanting to give us big contracts recently so I always had that as an option, and some of the projects were really interesting. I would have had to continue to adjust my business model; right now we're primarily crowdfunding and publishing ourselves, so perhaps I would have had to mix it up a bit and continue with things like Wasteland 3 but maybe do a work-for-hire contract at the same time.

I found with inXile I've been constantly flexing both our size and our business strategy to survive, so I would have continued doing that.

Anyway, presumably alongside Wasteland 3, you're beefing up to make something new for Microsoft?

Brian Fargo: Yeah, we will be.

Are you working on something now?

Brian Fargo: Well, we've had a project in development for some time we haven't announced that they're quite keen on, so we'll be looking at that and saying, 'Okay, what does this product look like now we're going to be given extra time and resources?' Evaluating how we could make it better.

Was that game part of the deal? Or was it more Microsoft acquiring inXile and then looking at what you could do?

Brian Fargo: They were certainly looking at what we had in development as an indicator of where we were going. They were interested in us because we are a self-sufficient company that can do good product without hand-holding which they could see, with a little extra resource, could really be pushed up a notch. That, as a general sense, was a motivator, and then in addition they were able to look at what was in the pipe and say, 'These guys are really doing some interesting, innovative things.'

So what sort of size are you looking to bulk up to?

Brian Fargo: In the short-term we talk about increasing it 30 per cent or so. We're not trying to become multi-hundred-person teams but just filling the holes we've been desperately wanting to: having a full-time audio person, having a full-time lighting person, having a cinematics person - these things that could help us improve what we're doing.

For the last few years you've made isometric games but presumably Microsoft wants you to make something flashier? I always thought The Bard's Tale 4 was a good indication of where you could go, and what you could do in 3D with Unreal Engine. Is that the direction the one you're going in? Are isometric games off the table?

Brian Fargo: Ultimately we get to decide what we're going to make - they've been very clear on that. They've not once said 'we'd really love you to do more of this or less of that' - that's never been a conversation. Really it's going to be up to us, and very much us talking to our fans about the things they'd like to see. We're not necessarily walking away from isometric at all. There's still some great things you can do with it that haven't been done yet.

Just to be clear, and I believe Microsoft has said something along these lines anyway, but inXile being similar to Obsidian Entertainment does not mean you're going to be lumped together, or does it?

Brian Fargo: There's absolutely no plans to lump us together or have us work in the same office or anything of that nature. What could come out of it, of course, is we're going to have a tighter relationship. We're going to be less competitive and more like brothers, and as we compare notes I'm hoping there could be some synergies so we can help each other across town. Any number of things could happen, but that will be for me and Feargus [Urquhart] to talk about, for something we think is good for both of us. But ultimately, no, we're not being merged out.
Other topics mentioned in the interview include the PS4 ports of Bard's Tale IV and Wasteland 3 (still happening) and the fate of Fig (if it dies, it dies). In the short term, inXile's plan is to keep on doing what they were doing before, except with bigger budgets, better graphics and hopefully smoother launches. The unannounced title that Brian is referring to is undoubtedly the Wasteland: Frost Point/Frostpoint VR game that the studio has been working on since last year. As for Obsidian, Robert plans to interview them also, but apparently it's been "trickier to organize".

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