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Spurned by traditional publishing, Obsidian turns to Kickstarter
September 14, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

September 14, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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The traditional publishing model has not been kind to Obsidian Entertainment.

Though it's managed to produce a number of beloved titles like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas in the last decade, the studio's difficulties with publishers have resulted in several game cancellations, missed sequel opportunities, and multiple rounds of layoffs.

One of those layoff rounds came around the same time when the Irvine-based company missed a Metacritic average review score goal for Fallout: New Vegas, which meant Obsidian reportedly missed out on a bonus payment from its publisher Bethesda.

But now Obsidian is avoiding publishers altogether for its newest proposed title, and is following in the footsteps of Double Fine and InXile Entertainment (Wasteland 2). It's launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new game styled after classic Western RPGs, codenamed Project: Eternity.

Obsidian compares Project: Eternity to the classic isometric, party-based RPGs produced by its famed designers (Chris Avellone, Tim Cain, and Josh Sawyer) when they worked at Black Isle Studios -- games like Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment -- but this time it's based on an original IP and not a Dungeons & Dragons property.

The studio says it wanted to create an epic PC RPG for years but found it almost impossible to secure funding for the project through traditional means. With Kickstarter, the company believes it can now fund the title, as well as develop a closer relationship with fans.

"Plus, we don't have to make compromises with a publisher," reads a statement Obsidian posted on its Kickstarter page. "We make the development decisions, we market the game, and we don't have to answer to anyone but you – our fans."

Obsidian is asking fans to donate $1.1 million over the next month to help it build a new RPG for PC -- the campaign has already received over $150,000 in pledges just hours after launching.


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Comments


Luis Blondet
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Shut up and take my money!

Jakub Majewski
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Any bets on how many days it will take them to reach the goal? I guess there's probably not much doubt they will reach it...

Simon Ludgate
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Maybe the bets should be measured in hours, not days? I'm going for 14 hours.

E Zachary Knight
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Well, its been less than a day and they already have over $300k. They will probably hit their goal tomorrow or Sunday.

Jakub Majewski
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Well, well - you win, Simon! :)

I was being cautious, because it felt to me like the Kickstarter bandwagon had lost most of its momentum after - it seems - everyone jumped on, and new game projects started failing. Clearly, I was wrong, and the projects that failed... well, simply weren't successful.

Jonathan Jennings
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i'm curious if enough devs turn to kickstarter is it possible publishers would start to reconsider their publishing practices? granted I doubt the users will be able to publish AAA titles but in the case of things like the OUYA and a few other high profile games we can see that if the people want it they will pour out support financially to see a vision come to fruition.

Jonathan Jennings
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Kyle Redd
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Of course I'm looking forward to this, but what little is known of the story and setting so far is disappointing. It looks to be leaning towards a "save-the-world" type of game in a somewhat generic fantasy setting. After Planescape, I would really hope Avellone would be more inclined to shake things up a little and go for an RPG that's closer to reality.

Alan Rimkeit
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"inclined to shake things up a little and go for an RPG that's closer to reality."

Why? What do you mean "closer to reality"? It is a DnD fantasy style RPG, which are still very popular with a very devoted demographic of people. I think they are playing it safe by doing this because people like me, of which there are many, will buy this game simply because it is made in that genre. Which is very intelligent on their part. It pretty much guarantees sales. This is the main reason that they are all ready funded and will continue to gather even more money to make their game even better. I say go Obsidian! This is good for them. They get the freedom to create the game that they want with out someone breathing down their necks and telling them what to do.

Pallav Nawani
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Feel free to make your own game.

Felix Adam
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I'm sure these guys can deliver, but so little is shown in the video... Not even a piece of concept art? Give me something more to look at than a track record :)

Andrew Grapsas
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"We're going to build a game! FUND US!"

Uh... okay. It's a game. By people who can build games. But, is it a game I want to play? I can't tell because... they basically tell me nothing about it.

While I am a twitchy kickstarter backer (I've been backing good looking games left and right), I can't justify this one :( I just don't know if I'll want to play it.

Jeremy Reaban
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Something like 10,000 (so far) people feel differently.

edit: 27,000 people now. And fully funded at $1.125 million with 31 days left

Bruno Patatas
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For people that love RPG's, what they already describe about the game is enough to attract their attention (and money).

Obsidian is telling as much (or even more) than Double Fine did with their Kickstarter.

Andrew Grapsas
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Yup, definitely are telling as much as Double Fine.

That being said, Double Fine was, "Hey, let's support game development on Kickstarter!" to me. This is... "Hey, me too!"

I like RPG's. I've liked some things that Obsidian has done in the past; but, I'd rather throw my bones to indies that explain what they're building, at this point. Other people feel differently; but, hey, that's just me, mayhap.

k s
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Publishers are one reason I went indie, now I'm not really a fan of gaming on PC but I still say go for it Obsidian :D

Steven Christian
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The limited $20 Tier is pure brilliance, and adds some urgency to the decision, even at the lowest level (to receive the game).
It is the first game that I actually funded..

Alan Rimkeit
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They made NWN2 and that is all I need to know. Please take my money too! Isometric RPG's are my favorite ones on the PC ever. This and Baldur's Gate EE are so on my list of games to get. Wasteland 2 as well. Damn my wallet bleeds with joy.

Ron Dippold
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Update: It's already funded. Took about 24 hours, though I don't see any way to tell /exactly/ when it launched.

Update^2: They were utterly unprepared to be funded in 24 hours, took a while for them to figure out just what the heck the stretch goals should be. Which is kind of an enviable problem - but it is a problem. They've done awesomely well, but if they'd done a few more things up front could have (in my opinion) raised the funding level even further.

Update^3: They seem to have things mostly under control now. Just got an update with more substantial info about mechanics and even an art sample. Sure, not much concrete about the setting, but they're laying down the mechanics and it feels like they're riding the bull now.

Michael Hartman
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So this is what Kickstarter is going to be now?

AAA studios getting gamers to pre-pay for games year(s) in advance just so they don't have to deal with publishers?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Licentae Libertas
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Coming soon: Activision's Call of Duty Kickstarter

Jonathan Jennings
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i don't think that's such a bad thing, it's funding by committee , if I like a game I get to invest in seeing it come out while trusting the developer enough that they get maximum creative ability ...as long as it falls within the needs of the users but then again if i didn't have faith in those behind the project or think it was a worthwhile investment i wouldn't invest at all.

Duong Nguyen
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What's wrong with that? They get to keep their IP out of the publishers hands and reap the rewards of their own IP, putting them in a much better finical position than before. Gamers get the games they want and traditional publishers now have competition and will start to offer fair and competitive contracts with indie studios.

This combined with Valves GreenLight and other free form capital investment forums will free up indie studios from the traditional publishing model, leading a new wave in innovation in games and entertainment in general.

Ron Dippold
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Well, that's not all of it (I'm still Kickstarting some small stuff like FTL - and I'm very happy with the result), but if all it did was get me an RPG as good as Planescape: Torment it would be worth it.

There is zero hope for this through a normal publisher - even Bioware is trying to turn Dragon Age into Mass Effect.

Looking at my Kickstarter account, I've backed 26 projects. No failures so far, some happy successes, and most of them are certainly not what you would call AAA.

It's for things people want that publishers are afraid to take the risk on.

Michael Hartman
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Licentae Libertas: That's exactly the problem.

Dave Smith: So you want to prepay - in full - for games from AAA studios that already have millions in investment/funding? Games that would already get made with or without your prepaying? And when the games get canceled you get no refund? Let me guess, you also pre-ordered an iPhone 5?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Jeremy Reaban
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I guess you aren't familiar with Obsidian. They do contract work for various publishers, never getting to keep the IP and never reaping the benefits of the good sales. But taking flak from when the publisher decides to publish the game before its fully tested.

This Kickstarter gives them a chance to publish their own IP and release the game when it's done, not when the company they are doing work for tells them to.

So it's not a case of the game being made if not for KS. It wouldn't.


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