Psychonauts 2’s new publisher Starbreeze dumps $8 million into game

New gameplay shown

Tim Schafer and Double Fine have announced that Psychonauts 2 will be published by Starbreeze (The Darkness, Payday 2), who is bringing eight million dollars to the table, more than doubling what was raised on Fig (a crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter that has direct ties to Double Fine). Double Fine is also contributing funding to the project, but just how much is not confirmed. Based on Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson’s claim of Double Fine looking for $18 million to fund the game (the original cost $11.8 million), then that suggests about six million being fronted by Double Fine.

To make that eight million back, Starbreeze will take an 85% initial revenue share, dropping to only a 60% share of profits. The other 40% will be divided between Double Fine and its Fig investors, who unlike Kickstarter backers are entitled to a return based on the project’s success. Despite this, Double Fine will retain “100% of the intellectual property.” Whether or not this implies retainment of creative freedom is not clear.

In the announcement video, Schafer and the team show off some platforming and new areas. Gameplay appears identical to the original game, swinging on horizontal bars, walking on tightropes, and jumping with psycho balls. The art looks fantastic, but can that same platforming work in 2018? Even for its time, the original was praised for its style and humor, but was held back by sub-par platforming. 

In general, style does not make up for lackluster gameplay, but Psychonauts‘ platforming and combat was just acceptable enough to wade through to get to the jokes. I can’t imagine Psychonauts 2 having drastically different gameplay, but with systems seemingly identical to the original title, I can only hope there are improvements including to overall level design.

As far as the big investment by Starbreeze goes, it was known from the start that a large portion of the budget would be handled by (at the time) an unknown publisher, but something feels weird about proper developers and publishers using crowdfunding to get additional funding. I suppose the idea of Fig and Kickstarter being platforms for game makers to have projects 100% funded by fans to allow complete creative freedom rather than serve as mere venture capital is a fantasy. There is no explicit word on how much creative freedom Double Fine will retain, but it makes me wonder.

Starbreeze invests $8 million in Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2 []

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