Obsidian and Paradox Discuss Pillars of Eternity Deal

Quite a few articles have popped out of GDC, including a fair amount of comments from Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart and Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester, like this interview from Rock, Paper, Shotgun:

RPS: Up on stage you were talking about the benefits for Obsidian, that you get to focus all your time and resources into development. What does Paradox get, exactly, out of the deal?

Wester: First of all, it's a big prestige thing for Paradox to do this partnership with Obsidian in the first place. We're big fans. It takes us to the next level as a publisher. We show that we can not only provide smaller projects from smaller developers, but help companies like Obsidian as well, to hopefully succeed in this niche of the market they've cut out.

Urquhart: Bluntly, if the game does well, they do well. Just to call it and say, yes, obviously there's a financial relationship, but it's great for the game. They've done a great job of saying, hey, we're going to support it this way, whether it sells one unit or a billion. That's a great. Putting what you're saying on the table.

Wester: We have an initial commitment to the game that makes us tied to the game to begin with. We have a lot to game from this game being good, because otherwise we lose a lot of money on this proposition.

Urquhart: That's ultimately it. I think it's the. It's interesting, because when I think about where the industry is going and where it's changing, it's interesting to see how many more. I don't want to call you guys a boutique publisher, because that's the wrong thing. You're not. There's boutique publishers. I think of them as very one-off, where there's six people in an office somewhere and everything else is outsourced. That's not what Paradox is by any stretch of the imagination.

But I think a lot of it is, it's interesting to see how you can use these other publishing groups to hook up with funded games like this, to support each other. I have friends at big publishers, and they feel a lot of the time like. They make a great game for their publisher. It moves the needle for the publisher that much. For us, if we do something and it kicks ass, it matters to both of us.

RPS: But it's an interesting situation to be in. The notion of publishing a Kickstartered project is new. One of the things that you don't necessarily know is, you had all this interest in the Kickstarter, but is that the full amount of interest for the game? Did everyone who might have thought about buying the game contribute their bit?

Wester: No, not really. For everyone who will pay up front for the game, there are 10 who will buy the finished game. That's always the math. I wouldn't call this a traditional publisher-developer relationship either, because that's very important to emphasize. This is more of a partnership between two strong and independent companies. When we truly publish a game, we go in and fund it from day one and we have a lot of things that. This is a project from Obsidian, by Obsidian, with help from Paradox to bring it to market and reach the maximum audience. It's different.

Urquhart: I hate the use the way to associate. It's almost a mindkill for me to say this, but I don't want to associate the idea of Kickstarter with preorders. It's not the same thing. However, it is kind of the same. There's a certain similarity in some ways. There are only so many people who go out and preorder a game versus the people who end up paying for the game, ultimately end up buying the game. It's just different. So these are the people that. I would love to say that I could say ice to the Eskimos, but I can't. People need to see proof of something and its success before they buy it. And maybe it's just our gut. We've been doing this a while. Our gut and our hope is that this will work. We could have a conversation in however long and say, whoops, we were wrong! And we'd still be drinking beer and crying.

Wester: On the other hand, it wouldn't be the first time we were wrong either, so it's not a big deal that way. I would be kind of devastated if this project tanked, though. When you look at it, it fulfills all the boxes for me as an old-school RPG player. If the game is crap, of course it's going to fail. But if the game is good and we still don't reach that audience we want to reach? I would be disappointed. I think this game deserves to be played by a lot of people.

Polygon also has an article-style interview:

Urquhart said that following the Kickstarter campaign, producer Brandon Adler was torn: he had to not only contribute to development on Pillars of Eternity but he had to think about marketing and Kickstarter backer rewards as well. He could see Adler wilting under the need to "have two brains," essentially doing two jobs at once and preventing him from focusing on the game.

"That was the pressure on our side to be open to the idea of talking to someone about marketing and distribution," he said.

Paradox will support Obsidian through publication of Pillars of Eternity as well as all the game's DLC and expansions. As for people criticizing Obsidian for partnering with a publisher after going through Kickstarter to avoid doing so, Urquhart expressed that he is bracing for this criticism and wants backers to know that no money was lost but partnering with Paradox will allow the team to focus less on things like shipping rewards and more on making the game the absolute best it can be.

"It's very important to me that everyone understands this is a decision that we made together," he said. "Could we have done this ourselves? Yes, we could have farmed out backer fulfillment. We did not need to do this, but we think it's best for the game and ultimately for our backers."

According to Urquhart, Adler and the team are relieved they can now zero in on finishing Pillars and Paradox can take charge of the t-shirts. The team is sincere in reaffirming every dollar from backers has gone into the game and "everything we said we'd do, we'd do."

Ad does Eurogamer, which concludes our round-up:

"A lot of publisher handling is just relationship management. It's asking what's going on, it's handling that relationship, everybody patting everybody on the back and burping them.

"I feel like I could just call Paradox and say - excuse my language here - 'What the f***?!' I probably never would, but we could have a quick conversation about a situation and not do this dance. And that's great."

Paradox boss Fredrik Wester agreed. "It's a personal relationship that I feel works. This is not like our first awkward date. We've both been in the industry for a while, we know the ups and downs. We've both had some failures, both had some successes. We've both released some buggy games in the past and now we both want to release a really great gaming experience.

"Two or three years ago we had to publish games we couldn't really stand behind and that damaged our reputation, because we needed the cashflow," Wester added. "Now we're in a totally different position.

"If we don't think Pillars of Eternity is up to standard, we're going to tell these guys. And we're opinionated people, we're going to come back with tons of opinions. We have a QA team of eighteen people who're going to play the game for weeks and weeks and give their feedback."