After wading through way too many questions and comments about hair and pancakes in the Tim Schafer IAmA on Reddit today (no one asked about him about being robbed in the Hottest Man in Games), I finally discovered some interesting pieces of information about video games, mostly involving his studio, Double Fine.
When someone asked Tim to tell them “how [they] continue [to be] relevant in the game biz after so many years and so many financial flops,” naming Grim Fandango and Full Throttle in the process, he gave this answer:
Full Throttle was actually a big hit. Gave me the money I eventually used to found Double Fine.
Every game we’ve made at Double Fine has made a profit. We just haven’t had a blockbuster yet. Luckily our business plan isn’t dependent on blockbusters. You can make a lot of money off a game that sells less than that if you keep your costs down and plan ahead.
Defining the word ‘blockbuster’, Tim added that “in the old days, it was selling a million copies. These days, it’s like six million or more.”
Considering that some of Double Fine’s PlayStation titles include non-mainstream titles like Costume Quest, Stacking, Psychonauts, and Brutal Legend, it’s great to hear they all made a profit, even if Steam was a big contributor to this.
Speaking of some of their older games, Tim was asked which one he’d “love to make a sequel to,” naming Psychonauts first (this made Chandler happy), followed by Costume Quest, and finally Brutal Legend, which has “lots of untold stuff” in its world.
As for why he made Brutal Legend, Tim went into great detail, revealing just how well it’s sold in the process:
I always wanted to make an RTS since Warcraft and Herzog Zwei. And I wanted to do it with hot rods and demons, like the custom car art I grew up with. Then I also had a story idea about a roadie for a heavy metal band who goes back in time like Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, or the end of Evil Dead II. Then I realized the two things would go great together. And tada! It turned into our [best] selling game do date.
Getting even more personal, Tim was asked what kind of game he’d make with an unlimited budget and no worries about profits:
The truth is I always act as if I didn’t have to worry about profits, had all the money in the world, and no technical limits. Maybe that’s why my games are considered “niche,” why they go over budget, and why my programmers have to work so hard. So basically, I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing right now!
Things went even deeper when someone wondered if he’d prefer to be an independent developer or work for a major studio:
I’d rather be independent and I’m not comfortable when I have to explain my actions to a higher authority. I don’t like having a boss, and when you take somebody’s money, they’re your boss. The exception to this is kickstarter–I took the backers money, so they’re my boss, and I like it!
Finally, if you were worried whether Double Fine was having any financial trouble, they “have money in the bank, and we don’t owe anything.”
Which is your favorite Double Fine game of all time? Let us know in the comments below.