Publishers 'scared' of new IP - Schafer

Double Fine Productions founder explains what drove his studio from frontline retail games like Brutal Legend to downloadable fare like Double Fine Happy Action Theater.

Originality is generally considered a positive trait for a game to have, but it's one that makes publishers nervous, according to Double Fine Productions founder Tim Schafer.

This Double Fine Happy Action Theater pic might just be the best screenshot ever.

Speaking with Digital Spy, Schafer explained the reasoning behind his studio's move away from making big-budget retail games based on original intellectual properties.

"Publishers often don't want to release anything new, I mean they're scared of new IP, and Double Fine specializes in new IP," Schafer said. "That's always been our challenge, is getting a publisher to invest millions of dollars in something brand new like Brutal Legend."

After the release of 2009's Brutal Legend, the developer switched gears to producing smaller-scale downloadable games with greater frequency. Since the change in approach, Double Fine has released Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, the Kinect retail game Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and last week's downloadable Kinect minigame compilation Double Fine Happy Action Theater.

For more on the studio's latest, check out GameSpot's review of Double Fine Happy Action Theater.

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Discussion

92 comments
BoabDreeps
BoabDreeps

What we need is more first person shooters. Can't understand how there are so few. Oh, and the Kinect could really do with a dancing/fitness game.

Quivox
Quivox

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

darkcomedian
darkcomedian

At least they have produced some excellent downloadable games then, eh?

aussiemuscle
aussiemuscle

same could be said of movie makers. Why take a risk on something new when you could just make transformers 4 and be guaranteed to at least get your money back. I don't know why they are so worried, a sequel of something established COULD fall flat just as easily.

X-RS
X-RS

@Twilighten Balls are small and sensitive. They need to grow a vagina those things take a pounding. Beta's are a nice thought but that doesn't seem to be the answer either...too many resources used to polish a tittle, not necesarily break new ground. But honestly, how many actually new/different Ip's were released for the Wii during its boom? Not many. (And then how many trauma centers?) Just cheap as heck lame cash ins with the same mechanic. Fact is at the end of the day is people are are just too greedy. Or expect a new IP (technically a "Beta" like a-la AC) to spawn 2 (or 3 with spinoff) sequels which add some refinements.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

The problem with original IP is that it's a complete gamble. You don't get the funding for original IP when you're about to publish, you get the funding when you start (unless you're programming in your garage or something like that). People have to be paid to work, and programmers/artists/sound people/etc aren't cheap. Most companies see a lot of financial risk in a program that may or may not gather a lot of sales. If you had a million dollars to burn, yeah, you might go with it, but these publishing companies are expected by shareholders to return a profit. If it won't make a profit, they won't invest in it. If it *might* make a profit, they *might* invest, if there's nothing safer to invest in, or if they see some potential advantage further down the road. Other than that, the bottom line is profit first, innovation second (that's the problem with the corporate scientific community these days, too). It's sad. That's why I want a program like Visual DirectX, some visual RAD tool that can make excellent games with a minimum of time and mathematical ability - you know, let the computer do the calculus and linear algebra, and move the object from point A to point B while rotating this much, etc. Then the huge development costs would go away, because anyone with basic math and art skills could make a good game, with a new idea, on their own.

hleflore
hleflore

A publisher can get new IPs by working with developers to reduce cost it takes to create new IPs. Look at Sega's Shenmue it cost roughly 100mil ten years ago and nearly bankrupted Sega they should have created 10 finished the story of that series to get the money but abandoned the series. Tools were created that could have fueled development for years. Publishers and developers also need to realize every new game is NOT worth 59.99 back in the day Sega created NFL 2K5 and released it for 19.99 and shredded EA's Madden so completely that they had to create a monopoly. Make games that are worth .99, 19.99, 39.99, and 59.99. Developers throw away too much money. When creatin new IPs they should be looking at creating ecosystems and universes.

Mr__Maniacal
Mr__Maniacal

another thing why did Nintendo never have to put up with this crap.

Mr__Maniacal
Mr__Maniacal

Brutal Legend Failed because it sucked. LET GAMERS along with publishers decide if a "NEW IP" is worth the cost. create a single level and let us see it and then the decision can be made

TerrorRizzing
TerrorRizzing

well ya, the console business is pretty scary. they have to sell so many copies to even break even its crazy.

Twilighten
Twilighten

He's right in what he says... Publishers need to grow some balls!

oldschoolvandal
oldschoolvandal

New IP = Risk Risk = More or Less Money Sad but true....

Valen_Ca
Valen_Ca

Man, it's a shame that Brutal Legend didn't do better, I liked that game and given the ending Tim should at least tell us what happened after the end of the game.

CrackSnack
CrackSnack

Psychonauts was awesome as hell. If you haven't played it, do it now. Since then they have only made 'meh' games.. I know there's been this sequel 'curse' looming on developers recently, and I personally like new IP's, but I would kiss someone's feet if they decided to release Psychonauts 2.

dxdevilex0
dxdevilex0

Have to agree with this.Because anything new comes with a risk.

gameking5000
gameking5000

I can't be surprised that they're scared given that the new IPs this year have been very average

jhcho2
jhcho2

@Shadow4020 It may be. But obviously it depends on who is making the game. Double Fine Productions may not have that ability.

FatmanAB
FatmanAB

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mjulstein
mjulstein

IP is for Intellectual Property. It's basically new franchises, new mechanics, new everything. Seems like most publishers want to pay for games that have pitches that are starting with "It's game like Call of Duty where..." rather than "This is a brand new idea where..." Not a fan to this myself. I love DF games, and I hope that their new game mechanics will be well received so they get to self-publish or get other publishers in the future. However I miss some multi-platform releases from them. As of late they've stuck to Kinect and re-releases on PC/Mac. Really excited for the super secret Ron Gilbert project going on though! Can't wait!

Rifqi_Hb
Rifqi_Hb

what's the meaning "new IP"?

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

I never played Psychonauts because it looked like a kids game.... A friend showed me a little of it and.....I still wasn't interested. Brutal Legend was too ambitious, my issue here comes in the form of I don't want to play armchair commander with a interface that keeps me as close to the ground as possible and still have to physically fight things off myself......the rest of the game is awesome though, I just hate the RTS battles. I haven't touched any of the DLC games because none of them appeal to me...... Does all of this make me a bad person??? I'm sorry but I'm more into Mortal Kombat, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, KOTOR, Mass Effect and generally games for adults......or nerds in some cases...because I am kinda a nerd.

raziel2kain
raziel2kain

with all respect to this guy and his company, i think double fine is not capable of introducing an AAA title to the board. that's why they started making some just-good dlc.

raziel2kain
raziel2kain

brutal legend was original and the setting was unique, but there were many problems in vehicle driving, and combat soon became repetitive. almost all of the side quest of the game did add not a new thing to the game. so originality should come with great gameplay, setting and story, altogether.

caketoo
caketoo

This is news? Has anyone ever payed attention to any form of entertainment its all the same crap. This is why movies get horrible sequals same with games and their yearly installments. A name brand people know is what business is all about, then you can exploit it for money!

Shadow4020
Shadow4020

Originality isn't worth the risk?

Elann2008
Elann2008

Not all publishers are. Smaller production teams will be of course because they aren't exactly deep in the pockets. If they all had major capital to stir the pot with, they would take more risks with new IP's. I can't blame them.

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

While Schafer has had some problems with games like psychonauts, among others, Brutal legend practicably sold itself, no reason for them to switch, but it's his company, and it seems to be working, so I guess that's good...

SuprSaiyanRockr
SuprSaiyanRockr

Nevertheless, I would love a Brutal Legend sequel. Does DF own that name, or does EA?

Bardock47
Bardock47

Double fine being my favorite dev, I kinda hoped for an interview that was a beat meatier

BxPunisher103
BxPunisher103

@demon_306 Very true. That being said, M-rated games have been advertised and celebrated much more heavily in this gen than previous ones it seems. I do take the rise of the Internet and social media and whatnot into account for that as well, but still... Gaming in general has shifted toward a more "adult" audience (And I'm using that term very loosely). The popular games, the ones heavily advertised on commercials and websites such as this one are often M-rated titles. Comparing the mascots of 80s and 90s gaming with today's illustrates my point. E-rated titles don't get as much recognition these days from snobbish publishers and gamers who deride them as "kiddie". (I'm sorry but going on a massive killing spree doesn't exactly scream "adult" to me, either...) Just take a look at Gamespot's Most Popular Games List. How many of those titles are rated E? The youth may share part of the blame but the "adults" aren't much better from my view.

Gigglefitz
Gigglefitz

Speaking of risk, didn't nintendo risk quite a bit with the Wii? Motion control, less powerful (ie CHEAPER), broad target audience, not even DVD playback.... it brought in a whole new group into the gamer fold, and made a golden Everest in money for it. I can credit a risky game like Psychonauts with getting my wife stared on gaming, and the amount of money we have spent since benefits the whole industry. Risk = reward. I work hard for my money, you should work harder to get me to give it to you. I'd like to think costume quest and stacking are a better value than brutal legend.

jamccain
jamccain

me want Psychonauts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HollowNinja
HollowNinja

From any other person, I'd bash the guy straight to hell... but with the way Schafer's games have done, it's hard not to understand why he feels this way.

demon_306
demon_306

@BxPunisher103 That is a great point towards the subject, but I also find our youth as a serious part of the problem. As kids, we all wanted to be like the "cooler" older kids so we tried to act like them, so kids are becoming more drawn to the more mature themed popular games like say, CoD. Most people from the older generations will say as kids they played games like Star Fox, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, LoZ, etc. A wide variety of creative games, but now kids are only playing Mature games like CoD and this also doesn't really help those publishers and devs making kid games or E games. It's also a bit disturbing seeing kids around 7 on xbox live knowin every swear word in the book. Basically, the mainstream of video games is seriously beginning to affect the youth as well.

Crazyguy105
Crazyguy105

I think the Psychonauts release fiasco still haunts him to this day.

megakick
megakick

He is saying its not worth spending millions of dollars on making games its' not appreciated so better to go small, lower overhead, less risk and better chance to pay out.

eyeball2452
eyeball2452

I think he means to say that his games are mediocre and not worth full price, therefore, putting half baked games out as DLC is a better business model.

Deano
Deano

that's why we have so many shooters and even remakes of games like x-com and syndicate that weren't FPS get turned into shooters as remakes. it's like everyone has adhd and can't even sit down for a game that takes more than 5 mins to learn and is turn based,

toddx77
toddx77

This what happens when things go mainstream. Look at comic con. Used to be a convention for comics and now its this huge event that host stuff that isn't even remotely related to comics *cough* glee and that in turn drives more people to con making it more difficult for the real fans to go. The same thing has happened with video games now. This generation they have gotten to mainstream and the mainstream is not going to try anything new. Its sad us real gamers who have been here since the beginning or a few gen before have to put up with this.

nephili232
nephili232

I will hate Tim Schaffer for the rest of my life for the piece of junk that is Once Upon a Monster. I have never been more frustrated in my entire life trying to get that game to work for my kids. It's mind blowing how poorly designed that game is.

jubdeidamasta
jubdeidamasta

If people would stop buying all the cookie cutter games and sequels this would change.

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

And sadly only Psychonauts is on my "My favorite" list, and Double fine's other titles is on "Don't play / buy those games" lists... :( and truthfully I don't really like with what they doing recently...

Gigglefitz
Gigglefitz

At least the gaming industry awards show season isn't as over the top as hollywood's. :)

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

That's why I began looking for indie games, you can find amazing ideas there if you can avoid the trap "this is ugly, therefore, I won't play it"

BxPunisher103
BxPunisher103

@Rocker6 The thing about Call of Duty's success is that it has mainstream appeal. Sure, the games may more or less be a slightly-improved version of the previous game but the typical person buying a CoD game doesn't care about that. For most players, it's probably just a diversion from the stresses of daily life. They're not the guys who frequent video game forums or keep up with the latest news on the industry. For them, it's just, well...a game. It's kind of like movies. Most critics hated the last Transformers movie but it was a box-office success, primarily for the same reason people continue to buy CoD games: for the brief escape from everyday life. I'm not disagreeing with your argument as I think you've made some fair points. I'm just pointing out why CoD is the success it is. Personally, I don't care for the games, or most FPS games myself. Also, it's not like the 80s and 90s weren't without derivative games and imitators -- we just don't remember them.

Rocker6
Rocker6

@brokenspirit116 Mainstream market is already filled with stagnation and lack of creativity,so these fears aren't unproven.Most games are sequels,only offering slight improvements and changes over their predcessors,while most new IPs are heavily copying other popular games.Everything is getting stale,and we need more mainstream games that will bring something new to the table... Yes,gaming becoming more mainstream brought some good things,but it also brought many bad things for the consumer that would once be considered laughable,perhaps even illegal,while today,they're a well accepted standard... And no,they won't choose to change anything unless we gamers choose we want something different,which obviously isn't happening,since few demand it,and that is the main problem,gamers have low standards and will settle for much less than they could get...

Atomic_Porkchop
Atomic_Porkchop

The game industry has now become like the movie industry...safe, mindless drivel that is a sure bet and doesn't challenge the status quo. Not all games mind you, but the big publishers...

stormwar2025
stormwar2025

Im sorry to say but that trailer reminds me of what people see when theyre high...