With Psychonauts 2 ready to release, Double Fine is starting to think more carefully about what it will do next. The studio was acquired by Microsoft in 2019, pulling the previously independent outfit into the Xbox Game Studios framework. For the first time in Double Fine's 20-year history, it is operating with true creative and financial stability – who knows that this team will create with that type of support behind it.
Of course, what Double Fine will turn its attention to next is something of an open question. While we know what many of the other studios that were acquired throughout 2018 and 2019 are working on at Xbox – Ninja Theory, Hellblade 2; Obsidian Entertainment, Avowed; Undead Labs, State of Decay 3; and Playground Games, Forza Horizon 5, and Fable 4 – Double Fine has been solely focused on delivering a Psychonauts sequel that's 15 years in the making. Until now, that is.
GamesRadar+ spoke with Tim Schafer, studio head at Double Fine, to get some insight into his plans for a future that may not include any further adventures for the Psychonauts crew. "I mean, it's a very expandable world because every level is so unique. You're not going over the same ground if you make 16 more levels. But I think for us as a studio, the real question is, like… there's a bunch of other things we also want to make! Do you know what I mean?"
"I feel like it's harder for people to ask for that. It's easier to ask for a sequel. Like, 'give us another sequel!'," Schafer shouts, "because they don't know about this game, because it doesn't exist yet… but there's this other game we could also make. And so, never say never, you know? It took us 15 years to come back to the first game. So," he continues, laughing now, "so maybe the next Psychonauts game will be made by our kids. Who knows!"
Looking to the future
Whatever it will be, the Double Fine game to follow Psychonauts 2 will likely be some time away. Lisette Titre-Montgomery, art director at Double Fine, tells me that the five-year production cycle of the game – from its crowdfunded origins on Fig to it being published by Xbox Game Studios – has built a lot of expectation within the studio, and she's eager to turn her attention to something new.
"I think I'm excited. Mostly. Well, I'm worrying. You're always worrying when you're a creator that the people aren't gonna like your stuff," says Titre-Montgomery. "But I'm excited for the world to see this game. It's been five years of putting our heart and soul into something, and you want the team to feel that validation. So yeah, I am excited. And I'm also extremely looking forward to what we're going to do next. I'm looking forward to seeing what other wacky ideas we'll have, now that we have some time and space to really think about it."
Schafer and Titre-Montgomery are clearly excited about the future of Double Fine, so much so that they can hardly stop themselves from talking about whatever weird and wonderful ideas the studio is playing around with behind the scenes. Schafer tells me that whatever the next game is, it'll be true to the spirit of Double Fine. "We've always been a company that follows its inspiration."
"In other settings, people will often ask the question: 'What would you do if you weren't afraid?' I think that's a great question for Double Fine, because we can remove the fear of 'what if I pitch this to a publisher and they don't sign it?' You know, what if I can't pay the team in three months," Schafer says, alluding back to the countless times in Double Fine's history where the studio's future was on the razor's edge.
"'If you remove that fear, what would you do?' Suddenly it's like, wow, I have this game idea that I've always loved… it opens you up to things like that, which is a great place to be. And it doesn't necessarily mean one type of game or another – and it doesn't mean every game has to be huge – it just means that we can follow our inspiration without the fear that we had before."
If I took any impression away from the studio leads, it's that Microsoft isn't going to force Double Fine to build something that Double Fine doesn't want to make. "I was going to make a joke, like..." Schafer trails off as he leans into the camera and drops his voice to a whisper. "Help us, they're being super mean to us," he says, erupting into laughter, "but it's been great."
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