Notch offers $13 million to make Psychonauts 2

Tim Schafer claims Mojang founder agreed to meet production cost of original game

Markus "Notch" Persson, the founder of Minecraft developer Mojang, offered Tim Schafer $13 million in funding to make a sequel to Psychonauts, Kotaku reports.

The situation emerged with an offhand remark from Schafer in an interview with Digital Spy, in which he claimed to have pitched Psychonauts 2 "several times" without success.

"I'd love to do that game, but I'd have to convince someone to just give me a few million dollars, that's all," Schafer said.

A few days after the interview was published, Notch tweeted at Schafer offering to, "make Psychonauts 2 happen." He later tweeted at Rock Paper Shotgun that his offer was "serious."

According to a report on Kotaku, Schafer warned Notch that the project would be expensive, based on the $13 million production budget of the first game.

"As soon as I mentioned the amount of money he said, 'Yeah, I can do that,'" Schafer said.

Psychonauts was released in 2005, but despite near universal praise it failed to find an audience. As of June 2007, the game had sold 400,000 units, though Schafer insists that platforms like Steam and Good Old Games have contributed significantly to that figure.

"We had a lot of plot elements that were backstory in that [first] game that we planned on revisiting in the future and tying it back in. We had a longer story arc planned for those characters."

So far, a deal to start production on Psychonauts 2 has not been agreed, but Schafer is clearly impressed by Notch and what he has managed to achieve.

"He's just a regular guy. He didn't do anything sleazy to get it. He just made it himself, distributed it himself, it's a great story. I think we have a lot to learn from him, so I'd like to do something with him. And I'd like to make Psychonauts 2."

Schafer's name has become synonymous with unconventional sources in recent weeks, with Double Fine's Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a new point-and-click adventure eclipsing its $400,000 target in a matter of hours.

At present, the campaign has raised almost $1.8 million.

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Latest comments (16)

Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 8 years ago
It's a big gamble from Notch that will rest heavily on the marketing. If the gaming press were to give this as much attention as I think they might, it should build enough mindshare to ensure it does better business than the first game, but I'd put a good chunk of that $13m into a strong marketing campaign.
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Mark Gilbert Games Designer, Abstraction Games8 years ago
Notch is as much a creator as he is a figurehead in the gaming community right now, he has an army of people following his every move through his blog and twitter feeds, i wouldn't be surprised if day 1 sales of this go higher than first instance purely because he is associated with it.
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Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz8 years ago
Notch has 50 per cent more Twitter followers than the number copies of Psychonauts sold in two years. Obviously, that won't translate to 600,000 sales, but it can only have a positive impact should the project ever get off the ground.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
$13m is a hell of a budget for what I assume would be a digital release. Perhaps a KLF style burning of 1m is a quicker way to prove the point.
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I think the query is, do you need 13m to make Psychonauts 2, or perhaps its to build the title, plush dolls, and a short animation to boot?
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
I agree with Martyn that it could only be a digital release - they'd surely need multiples of that amount to publish at retail, as well as the support of a major publisher. Put it on Steam, PSN and Live (can devs self-publish on Live yet?), and with the dream team tag of Notch & Schafer it would surely drum up a lot of interest - and I'm sure a lot of websites would cover it in detail.

I think they should release a PSN/Live port of Psychonauts first though - put it up for 6 or 8, and use the money from that to help fund the sequel :) (or any other projects). I wonder what kind of conditions Notch would be asking for though - full ownership of the brand? The initial profit goes straight back to him until he's made back his investment + a percentage? I hope he doesn't stake his entire career on being a Psychonauts fanboy.
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Fredrik Liljegren Director, System Software, NVIDIA8 years ago
I find it Insane it took $13 M to do the first one, no wonder packaged goods industry is in trouble.
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Markus Hofer Creative Director, BLACKISH8 years ago
Well, that puts my $30 into perspective...
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Weston Sohlden8 years ago
My question is, what was it about Psychonauts that didn't catch with consumers? Lack of marketing? It certainly wasn't the lack of funding.
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Roberto Bruno Curious Person 8 years ago
@Terence Gage: "they'd surely need multiples of that amount to publish at retail".
Are you kidding? "Multiples of that amount" would imply a budget that so far has been required just by giganting productions like GTA IV (100 millions) and similar.

Anyway I'd like to pint that despise bombing so hard at launch, Psychonauts has grown as a classic cult over time and it's far more popular now of what it used to be.

Same goes for other games like Beyond Good & Evil or Bloodlines. All critically acclaimed commercial failures that gained popularity over the years.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Roberto Bruno on 15th February 2012 4:45pm

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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
@ Roberto - well obviously I didn't mean Psychonauts 2 would need a budget to rival GTAIV or Halo 3 or whatever, but in saying 'multiples' I meant twice that amount or more. In retrospect, that was perhaps the wrong word to use, but I stand by my point that they'd need a lot more than $13 million to develop and market a sequel if they wanted it to stand a proper chance as a retail release.

In fact, another reason they should release Psychonauts on Live and PSN is to re-ignite consumer interest and test the water for how a sequel might perform in the digital console space. I specifically haven't mentioned Steam because I expect it's already available there.
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Nick Heilmann Flash Engineer, Kixeye8 years ago
@Terence - Yes, Psychonauts is currently $9.99 on Steam. (Thank you Steam app for Android.)

And having worked on console games in the past, I am inclined to agree that $13 million is a pretty slim budget for a non-digital release these days. The combination of Schafer and Persson, plus the post-release love that developed for the original Psychonauts, would do a lot to mitigate the required marketing budget, but it wouldn't eliminate the requirement altogether. Also, the high expectations people would have for this game requires that it come out absolutely polished. They would definitely need a higher budget this time around, but I see great potential for it to be a huge hit.
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James Berg Games User Researcher 8 years ago
Notch + Schafer.. now that -is- a gaming dream duo. Those are two genuinely good guys, who are also very good at designing games and making them happen.
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Andrew Harris Game Monetization Manager, GameLoft8 years ago
Its a great idea but it can't work just because it's schafer and notch. The community isn't big enough to support a full retail release. Go in with low production costs and low retail price and let the word of mouth and reviews carry it through. This isn't a title that needs to go for $60 release. Break the mold and crush sales. Hope to see it work!
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Roberto Bruno Curious Person 8 years ago
@Christopher Pickford: well, that's actually pretty much the case.
I'm sure he will be happier if successful and richer, but I'm guessing notch would be ready even to suffer some financial loss to make the game.
And I'd like to point that he's not betting the whole sum, as even in the worst case scenario they are going to cover at least part of these costs.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 8 years ago
I think you're right there. Notch is the new Gabe Newell.
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