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Interview Brian Fargo interviewed about Microsoft acquisition at Eurogamer

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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".
 

Shin

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Most of the issues with Numenera and Bards Tale IV had to do with fundamentally bad design choices, not budget.

Maybe he means having big bro Microsoft dictating their every other move is a good thing since he has only come up with flawed game concepts so far at inXile?
 

Zed Duke of Banville

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imweasel

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First Brian blamed the lack of quality of Inxile's games on "muh evil publishers!!11!!". Now he is blaming the lack of quality on budget constraints. :roll:

I like you Brian, but fuck off with your bullshit. Seriously.
 

Bigg Boss

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Your engine was already built for you. Maybe don't hire Mark Morgan, just rip some more tunes off Aphex Twin? Go back to Wasteland 1 graphics even.
 

corvax

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I smell some intellectual dishonesty here . You can still make solid games for $5m. Fargo & Feargus - you're just being greedy. You were never satisfied being a smaller studio making kickstarter games. It kept you afloat. You made some decent games. For that, thanks. But it's over now. You want to go big, compromise, reach a wider audience. Go ahead. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
 

Kyl Von Kull

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Errr, I hate to be this guy, but didn’t Fargo and Obsidian’s management make their best games while they had the resources of a fairly large publisher to work with? Interplay even had an unhealthy obsession with consoles!

Not saying this is going to end well, but the idea that they’ll never make anything good again strikes me as a little histrionic.
 

The Bishop

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The most fascinating thing for me in all of this is how smoothly the switch between taking the biggest dumps on publishers to being the best buddies again went. No other high profile kickstarter made anti-publisher theme quite so central to their campaign than W2 did. I remember people being concerned with Fargo's future in the industry considering the abandon with which he was burning all the bridges, at least verbally. Yet surprisingly, no bad blood resulted from it. I suppose it's not words that big business cares about the most. People in the publishing probably went "wow, he has nothing, yet he made people pay him money for it; well played Brian, well played!"
 

Tigranes

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I smell some intellectual dishonesty here . You can still make solid games for $5m. Fargo & Feargus - you're just being greedy. You were never satisfied being a smaller studio making kickstarter games. It kept you afloat. You made some decent games. For that, thanks. But it's over now. You want to go big, compromise, reach a wider audience. Go ahead. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Obsidian has never been a "5m budget games" company. POE is an anomaly. From Day 1 it aspired to be a 100-200 man AA/AAA RPG maker. Aliens RPG, not Pillars, was the projected growth path. In that sense, the acquisition is a natural step for them. Who knows if that means they'll make anything good again. Getting acquired now is a bit different than, say, if MS fully backed Stormlands & bought them out then.
 

Terra

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As for Obsidian, Robert plans to interview them also, but apparently it's been "trickier to organize".
Feargus got deownered already?

I'd love to be optimistic about these things but it only ever seems to end one way. Maybe for now they'll have free reign to produce better games with bigger budgets, without any meddling, maybe whoever is heading up the division that oversees them *gets it* but sooner or later, that guy moves on/gets fired/shareholders shed some tears. Then there's a change. Then comes the broader audience preamble, and it's downhill from there till you hit BioWare-ville.
 

IHaveHugeNick

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The most fascinating thing for me in all of this is how smoothly the switch between taking the biggest dumps on publishers to being the best buddies again went. No other high profile kickstarter made anti-publisher theme quite so central to their campaign than W2 did. I remember people being concerned with Fargo's future in the industry considering the abandon with which he was burning all the bridges, at least verbally. Yet surprisingly, no bad blood resulted from it. I suppose it's not words that big business cares about the most. People in the publishing probably went "wow, he has nothing, yet he made people pay him money for it; well played Brian, well played!"

I think you got that backwards - it's the publishers who have changed their approach. 2012 Microsoft wouldn't even contemplate the idea to buy an indie studio that makes games for a niche market. Same goes for the rest of the big 5 - they are far more willing to fund small and medium games than they were 5-10 years ago.
 

J_C

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Yet surprisingly, no bad blood resulted from it.
Why would it? It happened years ago, publishers change (some of them), developers change, people change. Fargo didn't specifically went on a rampage to bash publishers in an offensive way, his act was almost like a satire, how he exaggerated how publishers worked in the past.
 

Thal

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The most fascinating thing for me in all of this is how smoothly the switch between taking the biggest dumps on publishers to being the best buddies again went. No other high profile kickstarter made anti-publisher theme quite so central to their campaign than W2 did. I remember people being concerned with Fargo's future in the industry considering the abandon with which he was burning all the bridges, at least verbally. Yet surprisingly, no bad blood resulted from it. I suppose it's not words that big business cares about the most. People in the publishing probably went "wow, he has nothing, yet he made people pay him money for it; well played Brian, well played!"

It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business. Before their interests didn't align, now they do.

Doesn't mean that Fargo didn't care about gaming. If he didn't, he wouldn't have made BT4, or Wastelands. In fact, a chance to leave his mark and retire with a bang was probably as big motivator to him as money was. This is a proud man we're talking about, and given his history in gaming, you could also say he's earned it. Now he has resources to reclaim his place in the sun. Having said that, companies such as MS will obviously go for mass market, and you don't leave your mark on a niche markets anyway.
 

IHaveHugeNick

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Its undeniable that out of the Feargus-Sven-Fargo trio, Brian made the least compromises for the mass market and is probably the only one who genuinely gives a shit about oldschool sensibilities. He may have done a shitty job, but at least he tries. Others were just using them as a selling point, but Fargo certainly loves his classics.
 

Feyd Rautha

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Do you think there will be a director's cut of Bard's Tale IV now? I mean if they are going to release it on consoles they have some serious optimisation to do. Maybe MS can help them with that or whatever.
 
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So Fargo is basically saying that Microsoft threw a pile of money on his kickstater like an autistic codex's user expecting a gem but will have to content themselves with a piece of shit like numenera without even saying something about it. Even a 5-years old can tell lies better than this.

Not saying this is going to end well, but the idea that they’ll never make anything good again strikes me as a little histrionic.

Wait a second, since when did inXile do anything good?

Anyway, we saw this before. Fargo delivered again.
 
Last edited:

Kyl Von Kull

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So Fargo is basically saying that Microsoft threw a pile of money on his kickstater like an autistic codex's user expecting a gem but will have to content themselves with a piece of shit like numenera without even say nothing about it. Even a 5-years old can tell lies better than this.

Not saying this is going to end well, but the idea that they’ll never make anything good again strikes me as a little histrionic.

Wait a second, since when did inXile do anything good?

Anyway, we saw this before. Fargo delivered again.

Not inXile, Brian Fargo, who made some great stuff at Interplay.
 

BEvers

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Its undeniable that out of the Feargus-Sven-Fargo trio, Brian made the least compromises for the mass market

Yeah, I still remember how Feargus and Swen added health bars to a PnP system that didn't have them because focus groups got confused, added hint pop-ups to their puzzles because, yep, focus groups got confused, and bemoaned that the spiritual successor to PST wasn't "Twitch-friendly" enough.
 

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