Schafer: Publishers are scared of new IP

Unproven franchises must start small says Double Fine boss

Double Fine boss Tim Schafer has revealed how difficult it has been to attract funding for major projects based on new IP, saying that publishers are unwilling to invest in unproven franchises.

Lately, Double Fine has changed tack with its releases somewhat, scaling back from traditionally scaled projects to smaller download titles, but has stuck doggedly to its ethos of breaking new IP with games like Iron Brigade, Stacking and Happy Action Theater.

That, says Schafer was at least in part a response to a lack of potential funding.

"Publishers often don't want to release anything new, I mean they're scared of new IP, and Double Fine specalises in new IP," Schafer told Digital Spy.

"That's always been our challenge, is getting a publisher to invest millions of dollars in something brand new like Brutal Legend."

Brutal Legend reviewed fairly well, but failed to become economically rewarding enough to merit a sequel. With smaller gamers, Schafer believes, studios have a much better chance of learning from failure without the penalties being too punitive.

"It has helped to have games that are smaller, like digital download games are smaller so the budgets are smaller, like Happy Action Theater. The whole reason it got made was that I was asking for very little money to get it made," Schafer continued.

"And once it proved the power of it, money was invested in it, but the original thing that we were asking for was very small."

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Latest comments (11)

Another way of looking at new IP, is that you can often use it as a preliminary wedge to establish a beachhead into the collective gamer consciousness. As such, even if a IP does not initially look to warrant a direct sequel, a new title within the same universe might have a good take (using the lessons learnt from the initial title)
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Patrick Day-Childs Features Writer, Pixel Enemy7 years ago
All of Tim's games are brilliant, he should be able to stand there shout "Give me money!" and get it thrown at him.
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Chris Wood Lead Game Designer, Waracle7 years ago
Its true .. there are so many games that have been released that have been brilliant, but commercial failures - and the bottom line is publishers exist to make money. Publishers in a way are only pandering to public opinion (express via their wallets) -
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Show all comments (11)
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
The problem isn't really new IP at all, but the dumb-ass "Hollywood Weekend" grosses expected out of nearly any IP these days, plus over-speculation, over-analyzing and way too much focus testing that has crippled some titles with super-easy modes and games that practically play themselves. Back in the day (not even 15 years back), I can recall many great games were allowed to find time to gain an audience and in fact, many hits were games that took word of mouth to spread as well as decent reviews.

There's almost NO anticipation for a lot of new (non-franchise) games among the most jaded gamers and some reviewers thanks to the short window between US and import releases (or no window at all with simultaneous mass launches) and when you have developers whip-cracked into making games "to score at least an 8.5" as I've read elsewhere instead of making games that are just damn good, that leads to more nonsense...

Sure, make money, make money, make money... but damn it all, at least allow room to breathe for games that NEED it in order to sell in decent enough numbers over the long haul. Evergreens, kids, evergreens...
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus7 years ago
Blame the gamers. They're the ones who turn their noses up at new releases. Of course, the industry doesn't help by making these new games $60 and then paywalling key options behind online passes, but people want to stick with what they know. No one wants to check out new horizons.
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Blair Hewitt owner/operator, Game Play Canada7 years ago
@Greg + Christopher- Your comments are bang on.
I run a small specialty shop and I see a growing trend of customer looking at the new release wall and pulling out their phones and checking the scores of games on metacritic, and not buying a game based on its score. Anything under a 9 isnt worth buying apparently.
With the lack of releases in the last couple months Ive spent my time playing games that I havent tried previously, and that were not nessecarily AAA titles, and have found many games that are fantastic that alot of people have missed or passed on. Fortunetly some of my devout customers follow what im playing and try them and enjoy them.
It is a shame!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
@ Blair

Perhaps the review sites and magazines are as much to blame, then? Anything below a 9 isn't worth playing? Given how many sites give even the most average of games an 8, and so many reviews appear to just be an extension of marketing, I'm not surprised consumers are checking metacritic and voting with their wallets for the game that's got the best overall score. Are they dismissing out-of-hand anything that's a 7 or 8 in PC Gamer or an Offical 360/PS3 magazine? Nowadays 7 or 8 means it could either be amazing and marked down because it's not CoD, or absolutely awful and they've been paid to bump it up.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology7 years ago
i find that with alot of games a good score doesnt mean its good.

sometimes the smaller,less well known received games are the best ones over a game that has been hyped to death and tunrs out to be crap..

if DF make a BL2 then ill be happy as i loved the first one (which i have almost finished (stuck on the 2nd last level)
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Sometimes I see message boards posts on GameFaqs or other sites that go something like "I'll ONLY buy a game that gets over an 8 on (insert site here)", which to me is a bit idiotic. One man's 8 is another man's 6 and yet one more man's 10. You can't live vicariously through a damn game review at the end of the day. You just need to read that opinion, get a second or third that disagrees or talks about stuff the others didn't and even then, it's STILL your call as to whether you buy or rent.
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I think part of game fun is the ability to try out games that have weird elements of B grade quality.

Ignoring the meta critic element, which is highly subject to skewed bias/manipulation you'd have to think how many film and games prior to metacritic that may have been slightly strange, or whacky in humour or off the wall that would not have made it into popular culture.

Then again, the scope of variety was a bit more limiting in the 80s that you'd invariably try out everything that was on offer
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Blazej Krakowiak International Brand Manager, Techland7 years ago
Let's not forget that for countless gamers who don't even call themselves that, choosing a game is a process just like choosing fast food or 'any' weekend action movie. They don't care that much as long as it's recognizable. A significant chunk of sales of the biggest franchises out there come from those mainstream folks who have every right to choose games the way they do.
Sadly too many publishers want to be the ones to offer the top 3 or top 5 franchises. This can lead to seeing great, fun games which are not 10-20+ million sellers as 'settling for less'.
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