Swen Vincke Interview

People of the Year 2017: Larian Studios is the confusing title of this GameIndustry.biz article. Did Larian Studios win an award of some sort? Who gave it to them? Who were the other contenders for this mysterious award? Was there an award at all or was it all just a ploy to bring some attention to the Belgian developers? Either way, when we strip away the sensationalized headline, what we're left with is a great interview with Larian's Swen Vincke filled with optimism for the RPG genre's future, insights into how Larian Studios operates, and some vague hints about Larian's next project that, for the first time in the studio's history, isn't about to bankrupt it. An excerpt:

Ultimately, that chapter of Larian's story ended well. Divinity: Original Sin was a hit, selling 500,000 units in less than three months, with the studio collecting a larger share of the revenue than with any previous entry in the series. With Divinity: Original Sin II, though, in its 20th year as a studio, Larian achieved an entirely different level of commercial success, hitting that same 500,000 unit milestone in just four days after it launched in September, and passing 1 million sold just over a week ago.

"We had a bumpy ride in our history, and you need to have a bit of luck," Vincke says, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz about the company's selection for People of the Year 2017. "We had a bit with Original Sin, and we had a bit with Original Sin II also.

"Original Sin was a hit, and Original Sin II has sold a lot faster than the first one. But you never know what your competitors are doing. There could have been somebody that came out with the same genre of game, the same type of mechanics, but executed a lot better. You never know about that."

At this point, it's worth highlighting Vincke's modesty regarding Original Sin II's execution. Larian would have merited commendation for successfully taking charge of its own destiny, but we write about it here for doing so with one of the very best games of the year; behind only Zelda and Mario in terms of Metacritic score. For Vincke, though, the only opinions that truly matter are negative.

"I wake up reading reviews, and then once I'm really woken up I click on the red reviews," he says. "It's strange, because it's the dominant topic of discussion: 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was a good review, but, did you see they pointed out that?' It's all about how to do better for the next game."

And Vincke is not shy about discussing Original Sin III, which may prove to be the first entry in the Original Sin series on which Larian doesn't need to "bet everything" to realise its vision. Not only that, but Vincke believes it can grow the game's audience further still, improving the way traditional RPG systems and stats are presented to make than more palatable to a wider pool of players.

"I think there's a larger market than what we're achieving right now, so I think there's still room to expand," he says. "I disagree with everybody that says this is for a very hardcore niche. I don't think that's right. A lot of that is down to presentation, and just getting people to try it for the first time. You won't reach everybody with that, but I think there is a larger group of people that could enjoy this.

"But we have a budget for our next game, and we're going to stick to it. At the same time, we're going to try and learn from our mistakes, because there's a whole bunch of things that we could have done differently and better, and avoided wastage in development.