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Feargus Urquhart talks about new crowdfunding platform Fig and Obsidian's future

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Feargus Urquhart talks about new crowdfunding platform Fig and Obsidian's future

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 19 August 2015, 17:26:19

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment

Those of you who read our forums probably already heard about Fig yesterday. If you haven't, well, in short, it's a new, highly curated, video game-specific crowdfunding platform created by former Double Fine COO Justin Bailey, which aims to combine traditional rewards-based crowdfunding with equity-based investment to achieve larger budgets for game development. What makes Fig notable to us is that RPG bigwigs Brian Fargo and Feargus Urquhart, as well as Double Fine's Tim Schafer, are members of its advisory board. They will be responsible for curating the projects on the site and all have promised to launch their own future crowdfunding campaigns on it.

Our more perceptive readers quickly noted that while inXile had only recently concluded their crowdfunding campaign for The Bard's Tale IV on Kickstarter, Obsidian had not returned to crowdfunding since their initial outing back in 2012. Perhaps, then, the founding of Fig is a sign that Obsidian's long-awaited next crowdfunded RPG is not far off? This interview on VentureBeat with Feargus and Justin Bailey may point to that. Here are the relevant bits:

GamesBeat: Does this mean that the companies involved. Will Obsidian, InXile, and Double Fine not use Kickstarter in the future?

Urquhart: For our next games, absolutely [we won’t use Kickstarter]. But to be clear, we just worked with another company to do a board game. We did the Pillars of Eternity card game. That would still be something we’d use other crowdfunding sites to do, just because it’s not what we do, but it’s connected. I don’t want to say we would never do anything affiliated with any of the other crowdfunding outlets. But for games, this is why we’re getting together to do this together. And I’ll say together once more.

GamesBeat: For someone who’s used to the traditional Kickstarter investment or preorder system, how would you explain the difference in this equity funding?

Urquhart: To answer the why of it, it’s not just about how to be different from an Indiegogo or Kickstarter or things like that. It’s about having things keep on moving forward from 2012, when there was that huge boom in crowdfunding for video games. That changed our company immeasurably. We have our own brand now. We get to make Eternity games now, so long as we make good ones. That’s awesome. Allowing game-makers to have that opportunity is great.

Now, the difference is, what can we do from there? That’s what Fig does. That’s the connection. It’s not just crowdfunding. If we want to make bigger stuff, if we want to involve people even more in what we’re doing, this takes crowdfunding to a point where people can fund $50,000 games, or $2 million games, or $5 million games. Hopefully we can even get to $10 million and $15 million games. That’s great for the independent game development scene, allowing that. That’s what the difference is. It’s about why we want to do it.

GamesBeat: Feargus, we know we’ll see some sort of Obsidian games on here. Is this going to be what people would expect from an Obsidian game, an RPG sort of experience?

Urquhart: We can probably say it’s going to be an RPG. [Laughs] Obviously we like certain genres and setting. It wouldn’t be for our first one, but there’s definitely a setting we’d love to return to and make an awesome game in. That’s something we’ve been talking about a lot lately.​

GamesBeat: Are traditional publishers responding to this kind of crowdfunding revolution in any way? Are they coming back to some of these studios, saying to Obsidian or Double Fine, “We’d like to take more chances on you guys?” Or are you guys just off doing a new thing and they don’t notice?

Urquhart: I get asked a lot about how publishers have responded to us doing crowdfunding. Unfortunately some of the funniest stories I probably can’t tell you. But the thing is — if I had to guess, they watch it, but it’s not — take Activision and Call of Duty. One, they can fund it themselves and it’s $100 million they’re spending a year, I’m guessing. It’s just not a part of their world. We’re talking about the next Star Wars movie relative to something like Clerks. They’re in totally different worlds.

But because, as you see studios like us, the studios that have been successful, even in comparison to something like Gearbox — they haven’t done crowdfunding. Because of Borderlands, they have a firm base like the rest of us. That changes the conversation when we’re talking to publishers. We have our own brand, more of our own brands. We’re a little bit more financially secure. And so I think it’s changing the conversation between the bigger independent developers and publishers. I think they like it.

What’s interesting, I think, is that if you look at more of the boutique publishers — sometimes I don’t know if they like to be referred to that way, but if you look at something like Deep Silver or Paradox or 505, for them, that changes it a lot, because it all depends on how much we want to do the publishing of our own games. It can create these interesting partnerships, like we did with Paradox and inXile did with Koch for physical distribution of Wasteland 2. That’s where it’s changing in particular.

What’s great for us is that we can also look at it like, what can we do with Eternity now? How big could we take Eternity now that we have it and it’s ours? What I mean by that is, you’ll start seeing larger ripples in the impact on the larger publishers. Not this year, but in years to come.​

We know that in the past Feargus has talked about "Kickstarting a Skyrim", and back in May, he even said they were "looking at that right now". According to Justin Bailey's LinkedIn account, Fig was founded in March. It looks like that wasn't just talk. The comparison with Gearbox is telling. If I may editorialize, I believe the ultimate goal here is to transform Obsidian into a company that can finance its own Fallout: New Vegas-calibre hit and dictate terms to publishers and investors, instead of being beholden to their whims. If Fig is a success, maybe they'll be able to pull that off sooner than we imagined.

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