I ask about 2011, a year in which the studio released three excellent titles. Is that success? Is that what this is all about? “Double Fine is a company that values its independence,” says Schafer. “We really value our employees…” there’s a slight pause, and then Schafer shouts at someone else in the room, “why are you looking at me like that?! Of course I value you!” There is muffled laughter in the background and we’re back on. “And we have a responsibility to make things happen for ourselves. It’s not enough to come up with great ideas, you have to come up with great business ideas, too. You have to protect yourself.
“But yes, we’ve been trying all these different projects, and it’s great – we have multiple teams and multiple leaders like Lee Petty, Brad Meer and Nathan Martz, people who are new, who can take on these projects. We’ll try out iOS devices, or maybe free-to-play, we’ll try licenses. We’re having a lot of fun doing it.”
Double Fine, then, is making the most of the digital era, coping a feel of all the new platforms and delivery methods. But there are frustrations, too. Schafer has watched the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN services dwindle away from fantastically promising beginnings to troubled, even fading services. “Ever since I played Geometry Wars I thought, what a great new portal,” he enthuses.
“But it seems that this year, the idea didn’t explode like it should have. Back when Castle Crashers came out, it seemed it was going to grow and grow. I just wish there was more support, more marketing, more placement on the dashboard. It could have been our own little Sundance Film festival, a great sandbox for indie development.
“But the indie community is now moving elsewhere; we’re figuring out how to fund and distribute games ourselves, and we’re getting more control over them. Those systems as great as they are, they’re still closed. You have to jump through a lot of hoops, even for important stuff like patching and supporting your game. Those are things we really want to do, but we can’t do it on these systems. I mean, it costs $40,000 to put up a patch – we can’t afford that! Open systems like Steam, that allow us to set our own prices, that’s where it’s at, and doing it completely alone like Minecraft. That’s where people are going.”
Holy gooseberry fool! $40k for a patch?! Outrageous. Sony and Microsoft need to address this on the next platforms or lose these indie devs forever.
Steam really is the best model out there isn't it?