Celebrated developer Double Fine is contemplating shuttering its ‘Presents’ indie publishing arm.
That’s not because the initiative is a failure. Far from it, in fact – the program just successfully delivered the anticipated indie game Knights and Bikes, from micro-studio Foam Sword.
Double Fine, of course, is the studio founded in 2000 by its highly-regarded CEO Tim Schafer. Schafer made his reputation as a leading game designer during his years working on adventure games at LucasArts. Serving on titles such as The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango in various writing, coding, design and production roles, Schafer forever cemented his reputation as an industry icon.
At Double Fine he and his team have delivered games as diverse as Psychonauts, Happy Action Theatre and Broken Age. Double Fine moved to support indie developers in 2014 by launching the Double Fine Presents initiative. The publishing program harnesses Double Fine’s resource, network, presence and considerable reputation to bring the works of independent developers to larger audiences.
However, in June this year Double Fine was acquired by Microsoft, which has its own substantial game publishing capacity.
Speaking to Destruction at the PAX West game festival, Schafer revealed that he is unsure about how to proceed with Presents.
“How Double Fine Presents will evolve is kind of an unknown,” he told the publication. “It doesn’t make sense to do exactly the kind of publishing stuff if we can’t do it – like if the platforms are limited. From a business sense, I don’t know if it structurally makes sense to have a publisher within [another publisher]. It’s a complicated issue.”
Schafer seems to be alluding in part to the issue of platform exclusivity. If Microsoft decided Double Fine most focus on the former’s own Xbox One and Windows PC platforms, that may limit what Double Fine can offer indie studios. The very point of Presents was to give smaller teams a means to overcome the discoverability problem. Platform exclusive games can certainly thrive, but as far a visibility is concerned, less platforms may simply mean less exposure.
However, Schafer appears to remain confident Double Fine can do continue to serve its contemporaries in some capacity.
“We’ve been through a lot of deals, seen how they happen, how platform-holders operate, how the press works – all these different things that maybe a first-time indie dev doesn’t know about,” he said to Destructoid. “We thought we could help them with that and also kind of pick our favourite games and give them more exposure. Whether or not we’re still hands-on publishing those games ourselves, we can still be fulfilling that mission of just helping indie devs even though we’re a part of Microsoft.”
Schafer went on to point out that Double Fine initiatives like indie game showcase Day of the Devs will very likely continue – and are part of Presents. The status of the publishing platform itself, however, remains a mystery.