Devoted Tim Schafer fan offers to fund Psychonauts 2, set new business model

Notch's generous offer isn't just promising for Psychonauts fans but for everyone else too. Except maybe the big publishers.

So here’s an interesting little development. In a recent interview with Digital Spy Tim Schafer commented on how he’d absolutely love to fulfil fan wishes and do a sequel to Psychonauts, but his attempts to pitch the concept to publishers had met with little success. “I’d love to do that game,” he said, “but I’d have to convince someone to give me a few million dollars. That’s all.” It’s a tale all too common in an industry that is, as Schafer simply puts it, “scared of new IP.” Psychonauts might be regarded as a cult classic amongst gamers but it’s no Modern Warfare, God of War or Gears of War, and that makes it practically brand spanking new in the eyes of risk-averse publishers.

Suddenly in steps Double Fine superfan Notch “The Minecraft reference is obligatory” Persson with an offer via twitter to finance a Psychonauts sequel. “Let’s make Psychonauts 2 happen,” he said. Oh-ho, you little joker Notch! Way to get people’s hopes up. You’ll earn your black belt in trolling in no time you loveable Swedish indie rascal. Wait, what’s this? “I’m serious,” he tweeted shortly afterwards in response to Rock Paper Shotgun, who wanted to confirm he wasn’t merely taking the piss or indulging in eccentricity. Meanwhile Tim “TimofLegend” Schafer was still snugly tucked up in bed, presumably drafting the further adventures of Raz in the beautifully demented wonderland of his dreams. He awoke to a flurry of text messages urging him to check twitter ASAP. “Man, so many tweets. I assume this is all people asking for codes to Happy Action Theater and Rise of the Martian Bear?” When the realisation dawned his reaction was beautifully understated. “Oh wait. Hm. This is interesting.”

Not a single drop of ink has been spilled to guarantee any of this so it’s all still up in the air at the moment. If it DID happen however then you might be interested to know this wouldn’t be the first fan-funded (singular fan that is) Double Fine project. Development of both Costume Quest and the Mac version of Psychonauts were financed by a chap named Steven Dengler, founder of currency conversion site XE.com and another megabucks-rich fan of Double Fine’s gaming ouvre. In fact Dengler himself politely interjected during the lull in twitter dialogue to suggest Tim and Notch move the discussions offline. Giant Bomb’s big-haired news hound Patrick Klepeck reports Double Fine have given him perhaps the clearest answer we’re going to get for the time being: “Tim and Markus are talking. Who knows what might happen?” Frustratingly vague, as Patrick himself puts it.

Notch has since confirmed he’s talking to Tim via email and that Tim is “cool with me saying whatever I want about it. He’s, like, super awesome.” Aww bless! Even if nothing comes of this it’ll be heartwarming if Notch and Tim Schafer became Best Friends Forever. If all this does pans out however and we get a Notch-funded Psychonauts sequel then it’s not just a good thing for Psychonauts fans. It’s potentially a good thing for games development as a whole. As things are the games industry is somewhat reminiscent of the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s, where financial and creative control were concentrated in the hands of several big studio heads and their trusted producers. Everything below them was tightly controlled through a policy of vertical integration intended to eradicate or at least drastically minimise the financial risks involved. Directors with strong, independent creative vision still existed but they were few and far between, much like how the games industry doesn’t have as many Tim Schafers as it should. Even the stars were mass-produced like items on a factory line, carefully managed and controlled to maximise profits. It’s no wonder a lot of them turned to drugs and vice like so many game developers do nowadays (I kid).

Obviously the gaming industry isn’t quite as rigid as the Golden Age of Hollywood, nor anywhere near as hostile to indie devs as the likes of RKO and Warner were to independent film makers. Unless a developer finds itself in the enviable position of outright owning its own IP and being able to fund its own projects (like Valve) however, they still rely on the publishers for funding, promotion, distribution etcetera. My comparison may be a bit ropey in places but look at how many developers are outright owned by a big publisher and tell me it isn’t completely inaccurate. If Notch’s offer pans out and we get a Psychonauts sequel it sends a message to the industry that there’s more than one way to fund a non-indie, non-iOS game. A system like this might seem a bit pre-Renaissance but some of the greatest works of art in human history exist thanks to the patronage of wealthy individuals. Not that I’m comparing Psychonauts to the Mona Lisa and Tim Schafer to Da Vinci or anything, although why not? An artist is still an artist whatever their chosen medium.

Psychonauts is available to purchase from Steam and GOG, and maybe at your local game store if you’re really lucky. Since Double Fine recovered the rights to it last year the proceeds on every copy bought go straight to Tim and friends in San Francisco instead of some big anonymous publisher somewhere else, so you can buy it safe in the knowledge you’re supporting the developer directly.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.