Renowned game designer Tim Schafer, whose credits include some of the greatest adventure games ever made (Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island to name a few), recently spoke to GamesIndustry about the unusual path that led Microsoft to acquire Double Fine in June 2019.
Acquisition was not something in our plans. I always wanted to be open to it. We’ve always maintained all of our intellectual properties at Double Fine, and we invested in our own tech for the first many years of our development. […] There’s been a lot of investment money going around in games the last five years. There’s been a lot of talk of investment from overseas, and we were getting interested in what we could do if we had some kind of funds, what we could do for the game and how we could invest in and grow the studio. That just led to us talking to everybody, and we talked to Microsoft. But they don’t really make those kind of small bets; they only make really big commitments to whole studios.
So an acquisition wasn’t on the plan, but when we heard about their philosophy starting with the acquisition of Mojang — how they’ve had success by acquiring but not absorbing companies, not interfering with them and letting them be creatively who they are — that’s really worked out and been successful for them, and that seemed really appealing to us.
Later in the interview, Tim Schafer also confirmed that Microsoft never interfered in any way with the development of Psychonauts 2.
We’ve been given so much creative freedom now. Nobody has probed Psychonauts 2 to second guess our decisions or anything like that. We’ve been trusted to handle the creative side completely, but we can opt-in to all these resources, like having it tested for accessibility and mental health checks. We had the resources but were left creatively to our own devices. And that’s been great.
This choice seems to have paid off. Originally crowdfunded via Fig in the early days of 2016, Psychonauts 2 was finally released to warm reviews this past week. Our own Rosh Kelly rated it 9.5/10, adding that it delivers on all of its promises.