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Tim Schafer Interview on the Escapist

October 21, 2007

From the Escapist, Tim Schafer on Risk & Hope

Schafer says during the pitching (and re-pitching) of sleeper hit Psychonauts, the word “creative” was oftentimes said as a slur. “People would just kinda be like, ‘Oh, it’s very creative.’ And it really seemed like the more you could make your game seem more like something else or more derivative of something else, the more comfortable they would be with it.”

Getting an innovative title like Schafer’s Psychonauts or Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy published is an incredible uphill battle. In this interview, Schafer recounts the struggles he had, the solid reasoning that publishers have for mitigating risk, and the subsequent, favorable fan reaction to the game. It’s worth the read.

In addition to the factors that Schafer mentions, there are a couple other factors at work that hamper the “creative” games. While those who enjoy games regularly site the need for innovative games – usually while trashing a same-as-last-year-but-with-a-new-feature release – they’re usually the absolute last to take a financial risk on a game like Psychonauts, despite its creator’s list of previous games. Unfortunately, as players, we really can’t have it both ways. To see more innovation, we need to reward companies by purchasing their products new.

This brings me to a second factor that hampers innovative titles – used game sales. When I went to EB Games looking for Psychonauts, the clerk walked straight to the used title drawers behind the counter, rifled through them, and pulled out a royalty-free copy of the game. I deferred for a new copy, but I’m probably in the minority.

We can’t change used game sales any more than the music industry can stop downloads. However, in the years to come (and the not-so-distant years, too), the royalties lost to the middleman in the resale of commercial video games may be a thing of the past. The new generation of consoles all support direct downloads of titles, and the increasing cost of development coupled with the relatively stagnant sale price of games leaves no room for supporting an unnecessary middleman who, in the end, creates corporate policies that actively work to undermine the very industry that supplies it shelves.

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