Kotaku: Microsoft is Close To Buying Obsidian (Sources)

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#1 Posted by Haz (404 posts) -

Kotaku just posted this up, pretty wild but it'd be a good acquisition for Microsoft.

Microsoft is finalizing a deal to acquire the independent development studio Obsidian Entertainment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations. We don’t know if ink is on paper yet, and plenty of major acquisition deals have fallen apart in the final hours, but those close to the companies believe it is all but done.

One person with knowledge of the deal told Kotaku they’d heard it was “90%” finished. Said a second person: “It’s a matter of when, not if.”

Link

I know Microsoft is working towards acquiring and building out their first party efforts. I imagine with more money they'd be able to do far more than in the past too.

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#2 Posted by Big_Denim (821 posts) -

This would be a huge win for MS if so. I wonder what they'd have them work on. Help write for the new Fable game Playground games is working on? Develop a new IP? Take an existing IP and reboot it?

Either way, very exciting stuff.

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#3 Posted by TheHT (15785 posts) -

Man, Microsoft's really scooping devs up huh.

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#4 Posted by Tennmuerti (9441 posts) -

Thaaat's a bummer .... :(

They were just such a huge part of the recent revival of classic CRPG in recent years. And were just finding the groove witty their own mechanics systems. I really would rather they stay independent all things told.

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#5 Posted by Casepb (582 posts) -

That would be a shame if so. RIP Obsidian.

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#6 Posted by BoOzak (2494 posts) -

Now all they need to do is buy Sega and we can finally have Alpha Protocol 2.

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#7 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15647 posts) -

That’s good for Microsoft, if true. It’s... less good for me, as someone who has really liked Obsidian’s recent output. I can’t imagine Microsoft is going to pour Microsoft-level money into isometric, mechanically dense CRPGs, and it turns out that shit is exactly what I wanted out of Obsidian in the first place. My inner cynic says I can look forward to a well-written 3rd-person open-world action game with loot in 2-3 years if this deal goes through.

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#8 Edited by kcin (1000 posts) -

Obsidian titles, though consistently interesting, have always suffered for lack of budget, typically undergoing lackluster QA before release. Here's hoping we get a polished game out of Obsidian with Microsoft's financial support.

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#9 Edited by Tennmuerti (9441 posts) -

@arbitrarywater said:

That’s good for Microsoft, if true. It’s... less good for me, as someone who has really liked Obsidian’s recent output. I can’t imagine Microsoft is going to pour Microsoft-level money into isometric, mechanically dense CRPGs, and it turns out that shit is exactly what I wanted out of Obsidian in the first place. My inner cynic says I can look forward to a well-written 3rd-person open-world action game with loot in 2-3 years if this deal goes through.

My thoughts exactly.

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#10 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8777 posts) -

@kcin said:

Obsidian titles, though consistently interesting, have always suffered for lack of budget, typically undergoing lackluster QA before release. Here's hoping we get a polished game out of Obsidian with Microsoft's financial support.

This is pretty much my hopes too. Also, @arbitrarywater, I feel you, but I also wouldn't mind Obsidian getting the backing of a company like Microsoft to make a spiritual successor to New Vegas or a new ARPG. There are lots of directions the company could go. Let's hope it's in a good one, and they don't repeat a Lionhead.

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#11 Posted by Haz (404 posts) -

That’s good for Microsoft, if true. It’s... less good for me, as someone who has really liked Obsidian’s recent output. I can’t imagine Microsoft is going to pour Microsoft-level money into isometric, mechanically dense CRPGs, and it turns out that shit is exactly what I wanted out of Obsidian in the first place. My inner cynic says I can look forward to a well-written 3rd-person open-world action game with loot in 2-3 years if this deal goes through.

Part of the deal Microsoft made with the teams they acquired was that they would leave creative freedom with the developers. Since Microsoft isn't planning on impeding on the creative process with these companies, I wouldn't be surprised if they actually do fund Obsidian's projects heavily. I see this more as a good thing than a bad thing. The only negative is that their games would be Xbox/PC only - but at least they have more funding to do what they want. I have the quote below from Microsoft about the creative freedom bit from a Windows Central article.

How much creative freedom will those new studios have? How will Xbox utilize them in its portfolio?

We're on the cusp of two billion people playing games right now, and we think that's going to double to four billion in the next five years. We have to globalize in terms of our approach to that. You'll see us looking around the globe for the best studios. We're looking for that creativity, we're looking for teams that have shown that they can create amazing compelling experiences. It's really about their innovation, creative freedom, across all types of games. We want to bring that to our gamers on Xbox.

Creative freedom was one of the most important pillars in the conversations we had with these developers. We're not dictating what they do and when they do it. We want creative ideas from them. We picked those studios because they've shown they can create those ideas and those experiences that customers want.

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#12 Posted by Relkin (1095 posts) -

Obsidian has a pretty rich history outside of games with isometric camera angles, so I'm all for them getting to work on another big budget title. That being said, I hope the still have the opportunity to make some classic CRPGs now and then.

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#13 Posted by MATATAT (1224 posts) -

Let's hope they don't smother them. Ideally we get some decent games out of it though.

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#14 Posted by BaneFireLord (3555 posts) -

If MS can be hands-off and dump a lot of cash and time on Obsidian, this could have some good outcomes. The current regime at Xbox gives me some hope.

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#15 Posted by berniesbc (249 posts) -

Look for Rorie to quit after he cashes in his sweet Obsidian stock options.

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#16 Posted by TheFlamingo352 (331 posts) -

I dunno how well they'll be treated over there, but Obsidian is one of my favorite devs of all time and I doubt they're gonna get Rare'd into making Xbox avatars.

This decade's CRPG renaissance has been fantastic, but I'm hoping this deal lets Obsidian (and Microsoft) push RPGs forward for the next generation of consoles.

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#17 Posted by Colonel_Pockets (1312 posts) -

Crazy! Obsidian makes really good RPGs. Hopefully Microsoft's resources will allow them to make technically stable games.

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#18 Edited by nasher27 (288 posts) -

I’m also in the camp that views this as a huge win for me. I love FNV and KOTOR2, and like someone said both of those games would definitely have benefitted from more development time/budget.

Personally I’ve been disappointed with how they’ve chosen to make smaller-budget crowdfunded projects recently. I know they are beloved to those fan bases, but they are really not my cup of tea. Imagining Obsidian going back to making AAA titles has me excited.

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#19 Posted by frytup (1230 posts) -

Hmm, yeah. I dunno.

On one hand, given the time and money management issues Obsidian has had in the past, dumping the entire ownership team and shoveling a bunch of money at them might produce some cool stuff. On the other hand, big budget Obsidian is not the Obsidian I like best.

At the very least, I hope they don't switch the Pillars IP over to some horrible first person nonsense. An isometric CRPG with a $20 million budget would be pretty amazing.

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#20 Posted by Corvak (1963 posts) -

@frytup: I suppose time can always change, but smothering is not Microsoft's strategy with recent (Post-Mattrick) acquisitions. Minecraft for example, is relatively unchanged, and still largely controlled by Mojang itself. MS did put out a Windows 10 version, they've kept the old java version going, mostly for the modders who keep building things for it.

I think the shift from Fallout NV to Pillars has really shown that Obsidian is capable of stellar work when they aren't held to strict constraints. FNV is still probably the best modern fallout, and suffered more from a cut QA budget than anything else. Pillars has been great, and the current regime at MS doesn't make me fear them the way it did in the 360 days.

That said, depending on why Obsidian is potentially for sale, which could be as simple as owners wanting to cash out when the company is on a post-Pillars high note - MS would be far preferable to say, Activision or EA.

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#21 Edited by ThePanzini (722 posts) -

So far all of MS acquisitions have been either existing partners or studios living hand to mouth and barley surviving, after POE 2 and Tyranny underperforming Obsidian have probably been in a very tough spot.

An interesting question if true is what do MS do with Obsidian? I don't really see MS investing heavily other than providing a safety net but also I can't really see a CRPG doing well across Xbox and the Windows Store.

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#22 Posted by TheRealTurk (418 posts) -

Better Microsoft than some other companies. EA will be looking for a new victim now that they're nearly done forcing BioWare to dig their own grave.

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#23 Posted by BigBoss1911 (2927 posts) -

Lets hope they don't go the way on Ensemble

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#24 Posted by Shindig (4813 posts) -

It could work. I don't know how much Xbox exclusives sell but the PC crowd might be up for whatever they put out.

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#25 Edited by Tennmuerti (9441 posts) -

Creative freedom is all well and good as neat words on paper a giant corporation puts out. If I had a cent for every time that was said by a major games publisher ...

But seriously if people think that a Microsoft owned studio will not be developing their next game with Xbox heavily in mind that's just ... come on. It's just not sound business. It's the whole point of MS is making these acquisitions in the fist place. And by their vary nature isometric, systems heavy, classic CRPGs with a huge amount of text dialogue are not what is going to be happening on an Xbox. Their priorities and design directions will inevitably shift. (and no before people mention it dragonage is not the same thing, even the first game compromised heavily and did not break any major ground on consoles) They have to by the very nature of even basic things like UI design and accommodating a control scheme, which trickles down to overall game design. Even if Microsoft is a corporate overlord saint and is as hands off as possible, if you are owned by a bigger company you will inevitably course adjust your priorities to be mindful and inclusive of their business.

That's fine for all the people who don't care about classic CRPGs. But for those of us who do, keep in mind CRPGs have been effectively a dead genre for a decade. For a decade people who love those classic CRPGs got basically dick, while everybody was off chasing mmos, mobas or Bethesdas rpgs or Cod or whatever. It was only with the introduction of kickstarter that all the little nerd grognards (including myself in that camp) now grown up had an opportunity to put their new found money into something they loved as kids. Pillars of Eternity was one of the first few very successful kickstarters. It was also concurrently followed by Larian Studios and InXile also making games in similar veins, to where we have a market, an honest to goodness revival of a dead genre! We finally have games coming out in this very underserved and still a for all intents and purposes a hyper niche genre! I'm sorry for being selfish but no, I don't want to loose that all over again. Obsidian's PoE games are also the ones that are most closely adhering to those classic crpg formulas. Which is why their exit from this space would be so significant. Divinity games are still very much doing their own thing with their own brand of goofy narratives. And inXile's output has been very haphazard. Only recently did we get Pathfinder: Kingmaker as a new contender and oh boy, let me tell you if people think Obsidian's games are buggy (even if they have actually not been any more buggy recently then most every major game under the sun coming out these days, if not better), these Kingmaker guys are on a whole other tier of bugs, I think i found 20+ in character creation alone.

At the end of the day, lets be real under Microsoft Obsidian would not be putting out games in the template of Pillars. And you are either fine with that or not. It's just for me personally sad to see my favorite only recently resurgent favorite genre get cannibalized already. If you want some empathetic perspective, imagine no games coming out for your favorite geanre for 10+ odd years, fun times let me tell you.

Thankfully like I've mentioned above there are now more developers and players in the market so Obsidian exiting it will not necessarily spell doom or anything, but it will still be very significant, Obsidian and Larian were basically the two main dogs pushing that sleigh.

Now don't get me wrong I actually would totally not mind Obsidian branching out of classic CRPGs and doing something in the vein of FNV or Alpha Protocol or KOTOR2. Like other people have said they made some fucking stellar games in those other spaces. More of those too? Yes sure, please! Hell I was probably the biggest AP evangelist and apologist on these boards years back; and pushed FNV as the by far the superior non isometric Fallout way before it was all cool on youtube and cemented as the now "popular" opinion.

It's just with them being independent the opportunity to choose your direction and go and make that one more classic CRPG is always there on the table. This is just not going to be the case under Microsoft developing with a console in mind too. At the very least even if they went back into that classic isometric space, in those conditions the design of such games would significantly change, away from what I crave, very unabashedly selfishly.

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As far as pining for Obsidians brand of good writing. A word of caution.

Their most recent output of PoE2 has been very lackluster in that department specifically. And there has been some upheaval in Obsidian regarding that too, with one of their most recognized writers/management/owners/designer figures Chris Avellone leaving on bad terms. And you could feel the effects of that on the final product very clearly in retrospect.

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#26 Posted by DrDarkStryfe (2459 posts) -

Obsidian is likely dead without this deal. They have always skirted on the edge of running out of money, and Pillars of Eternity 2 pretty much bombed.

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#27 Posted by frytup (1230 posts) -

As far as pining for Obsidians brand of good writing. A word of caution.

Their most recent output of PoE2 has been very lackluster in that department. And there has been some upheaval in Obsidian regarding that too, with one of their most recognized writers/management/owners/designer figures Chris Avellone leaving on bad terms during the project. And you could feel the effects of that on the final product very clearly in retrospect.

I'm pretty sure Avellone was gone before PoE 2 was even in production. Really, though, he didn't have much to do with the overall story of PoE 1 either. He wrote two companions, one of which is just straight-up bad.

Personally, I think the writing in Deadfire is better. More focused, less pointless wordiness and overuse of adjectives. Arguably a better plot and better paced.

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#28 Edited by Fear_the_Booboo (1053 posts) -

@drdarkstryfe: Did it? That’s sad to hear, I’ve always liked those games but never finish them cause how long they are. I thought Pillars 2 looked super cool but didn’t buy it because I have not finished Divinity 2 still. Now I feel bad.

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#29 Posted by Tennmuerti (9441 posts) -

@frytup: You're right, I was a little hazy on the timing of when he left.

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#30 Posted by ll_Exile_ll (3010 posts) -

This feels like the type of news that I'm supposed to be disappointed by, but honestly the idea of Obsidian being at a point where they can make AAA type games again is pretty exciting. KOTOR 2 and Fallout New Vegas are the best games in their respective series as far as I'm concerned, and I've been disappointed that Obsidian hasn't really been doing anything of that scope recently.

Obsidian getting the budget to work on a project the scope of something we'd see from Bethesda, CD Projekt Red, or Bioware is pretty exciting.

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#31 Edited by Hayt (1641 posts) -

This is a bad outcome.

As someone that likes the niche nature of Obsidians games and plays them on PC this is surely going to kill both those things. I don't want to have to buy their games from the Windows store.

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#32 Edited by JohnyMyko (1820 posts) -

“Unfortunately, we don’t comment on rumors or speculation other than to say that the Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac still holds up,” said an Obsidian spokesperson.

This is a great answer

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#33 Edited by ArbitraryWater (15647 posts) -

@haz: I hope you'll excuse my skepticism toward any sort of corporate claims of "creative freedom", even with someone like Phil Spencer at the helm. I guess I'll put it another way: Given the backing and financial security of a big console manufacturer, I don't see Obsidian prioritizing games in the vein of Pillars of Eternity or Tyranny. You're not going to stick that kind of CRPG on a console without compromises, and if you have the money to make something more ambitious, why wouldn't you?

Now, I should say that I'm still on-board with whatever they try, even if I want to be selfish and have an endless supply of Baldur's Gate. With the possible exception of Dungeon Siege 3, everything Obsidian has done has at least been interesting, even if their ambitions haven't always panned out. Maybe having a publisher who doesn't screw them over constantly would be a good thing, but I've been a pretty big fan of their current scrappy crowdfunding phase.

@tennmuerti said:
As far as pining for Obsidians brand of good writing. A word of caution.

Their most recent output of PoE2 has been very lackluster in that department specifically. And there has been some upheaval in Obsidian regarding that too, with one of their most recognized writers/management/owners/designer figures Chris Avellone leaving on bad terms during the project. And you could feel the effects of that on the final product very clearly in retrospect.

I agree with pretty much everything else you said, but I'm going to push against the "Chris Avellone is the patron saint of all good RPG writing" narrative for a second, because it's something I've seen pop up in recent years and I think it's kinda bullshit. The man is talented, no doubt, but the idea that he's somehow the cornerstone of all the good storytelling that Black Isle and Obsidian ever produced is nonsense. I also think the writing in Pillars 2 is better than you're giving it credit for, at least in terms of NPC companions and basic prose. The main story thread goes a little too far up its own lore hole for my tastes (I cannot imagine anyone who didn't play Pillars 1 getting anything out of it), but the actual writing writing is less wordy and purple than the first game. I also liked Tyranny a lot, even if that game feels like it's missing a final act and was clearly intended to be much longer than it is.

I guess my point is, I still think Obsidian is generally best-in-class for RPG writing these days, even if it now feels like Larian could start to give them a run for their money after Original Sin 2. After Torment: Tides of Numenera, I don't have a ton of faith in InXile (or, rather, I don't have faith that InXile is capable of facilitating what talent it does have well) and what I've played of Pathfinder Kingmaker seems... fine? Maybe a little generic? Oh, and I guess Bioware still technically exists and is making a Dragon Age 4 if they don't get sunk by Anthem.

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#34 Edited by Tennmuerti (9441 posts) -

@arbitrarywater: No worries, I actually don't subscribe to that narrative (heh) either. But I felt it warranted a mention since he was still a very major figure in that company in overall capacities, not so much for individual pieces of writing.

And I might agree with you on PoE2 companion writing if their quests/arcs were actually fleshed out properly, but they just weren't; not compared to the first game, even developers are on record saying they cut big corners in that department. They were interesting and going in some good directions, just didn't really get there and felt a bit incomplete in a lot of cases.

The main story on the other hand is way too generic straightforward go save the world kind of job for my tastes, that takes almost any personality and nuance out of the main narrative. Even in the game itself it exists more as a starting excuse and then is there on the sidelines rather then being a deep inter woven thing. How grandiose it is trying to be compared to what most the game itself is at odds. And the ending as well as things leading up to the ending are so self contradictory it feels like stuff was cut out and rewritten, rushed and simplified yet still managed to eat its own tail with bad plotholes. The said significant cutting up of main narrative closing content was also if I recall later confirmed by Obsidian themselves. It just didn't leave me feeling ... well anything in the end, other then shrug and kinda uninvolved. And that's not what i would ascribe to a strong rpg narrative. It wasn't baaad, just eh... Nobody is going to be talking about it down the line in years to come lets say just that. Personally ill take a more wordy style of writing if the end result has more coherent and interesting continuous thought to it. Plus lets not forget PoE1 also had the unenviable task of having to do the initial set up for the wholly new rpg setting from scratch.

The more day to day quests and interaction that make up the bulk of the game, I would totally agree with, were still well done in PoE2. I'm not going to shit talk those. They were very much solid and well with Obsidians past standards.

And yes compared to their contemporaries/competition Obsidian is still probably best in class. I might have been a bit harsh earlier.

Tho, hmm, I think Hairbrained outdid them in the past, granted on a much smaller scope, nonetheless. Oooof I really want Hairbrained to get back into narrative heavy stuff now. But I also don't want them to stop pushing the Battletech envelope either :D

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#35 Posted by hassun (9831 posts) -
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#36 Posted by jkz (4283 posts) -

I love Obsidian and this scares me. I hope it works out. Even their most flawed games have always had something to them that appealed to me—a certain temperament, an earnestness. Hope there's truth to the "retaining creative control" stuff, but that rarely holds true in the long term when it comes to these sorts of acquisitions. Either way, this news was, at the least, a good reminder of just how dear I hold Obsidian as a developer. Hoping for the best.

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#37 Edited by Mikemcn (8565 posts) -

Well that sure would murder their independent creative ability. What if Pillars of Eternity but an action-RPG, you know, to open it to a wider audience...

You either die a great studio or you live long enough to see yourself become a present-day Bioware.

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#38 Posted by mems1224 (2478 posts) -

Awesome. This would almost certainly mean a well funded, full 3d RPG from obsidian.

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#39 Posted by konig_kei (1025 posts) -

Man, I don't want to use the Microsoft store. It's gonna be a rip from me.

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#40 Posted by isomeri (3106 posts) -

Sounds like Microsoft are starting to position themselves to the near future when subscriptions and content matter more than hardware. I'm not saying that MS won't be investing in hardware as well, I mean Netflix still rents DVD's out in the US, but they will probably slowly transition towards streaming.

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#41 Posted by The_Greg (534 posts) -

I like Obsidian. Hopefully this is a kind of 'hands-off' acquisition. Buy them and give them the money and time to make their games, but don't do what EA did to BioWare and completely kill what was amazing about them.

They need to fix the MS Store though. I just cannot get over how awful that thing is.

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#42 Posted by clush (704 posts) -

Well, at least it's not EA.

Everything else remains to be seen.

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#43 Posted by Efesell (4256 posts) -

Listen for a while there Obsidian was beholden to Atari who gave them practically no budget and no time to make their games and they still somehow turned in some fuckin' great games. It's where they earned the reptuation that still holds now even though its largely not a thing anymore of having very good games when they occasionally decide to function as intended.

So..I think I trust Microsoft more than that actually.

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#44 Posted by hakunin (547 posts) -

Prediction:

If this deal goes through, and whatever project doesn't get cancelled before release ...

It will release to underwhelming sales and MS will shut down the studio.

RIP Obsidian, I don't see this going well. Call me a cynic.

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#45 Posted by Justin258 (15547 posts) -

So there's some sentiment in here that the next Obsidian game will inevitably be a watered-down RPG made for mass appeal and more casual RPG fans. Which is fine, that's definitely an outcome that I can see happening, but I don't think it's impossible for MS to fund another PoE style CRPG. My understanding is that those games sold fairly well and they've gained some traction over the last few years. And MS seems intent on covering their bases right now, trying to get a bunch of different kinds of exclusives instead of just a handful of open world cinematic third person action games (hello, Sony). As far as complexity being dumbed down for a controller goes, remember that both Pillars of Eternities, both Divinity: Original Sins, and Wasteland 2 were ported without compromise (in gameplay and mechanics) to consoles. In the case of Wasteland and Divinity, their controller schemes actually work pretty well. Pillars is a slightly different beast with more Baldur's Gate-y combat that Temple of Elemental Evil-y combat, but it appears to work fine from the videos I've seen.

So I'll just wait and see what comes of this. They could crash and burn and become another Lionhead. They could wind up releasing the greatest CRPG ever made. They'll probably make something more in the middle.

I bought Forza Horizon 4 off of the Microsoft Store. It's a pain to navigate but it still only took like two minutes to buy it, so I'm not worried about all of their games being on the Windows store. In fact, if it's on the Windows store, that means I can buy it there and play it on my Xbox if the PC version lacks controller support like PoE1 and 2 on PC.

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#46 Posted by Efesell (4256 posts) -

Also it's only reasonable to assume that Microsoft is seeking them out to let them make the games that they make and see how it goes, I'm not afraid of suddenly having them diverted into making wildly unrelated shit.

They might totally bomb at this and go down in flames but a studio like Obsidian was always ready for the one devastating failure that spells the end, they couldn't really afford that whether independent or not.

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#47 Posted by Blackout62 (2189 posts) -

Per Obsidian's response to the rumors: "Gold Dust Woman" is a serious underrated dark horse of the album.

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#48 Posted by Raven10 (2278 posts) -

As long as I don't have to stream my playthrough of their next game on Mixer to get enough XP to level up without buying XP boosters I'm probably okay with this. I loved Pillars and Tyranny and I think it is a shame that we might not get any more of those types of games from arguably the best studio making them, but I will wait hopefully for the result of this.

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#49 Posted by soulcake (2566 posts) -

As long as Phil Spencer has a lot of say in this and not some suit who only cares about his shares, i think obsidian will be fine. And with a bigger budget i am really curious what they could do. I still think KOTOR II is the best modern western RPG out there.

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#50 Edited by Big_Denim (821 posts) -

Hm...okay then. Looks like I'm the only one with a bit of optimism in this thread :(

I'm optimistic that Microsoft has learned their lesson from this gen and need to acquire multiple studios that can offer high-caliber experiences across many different genres. Right now they're basically the online shooter console. I would hope they're acquiring Obsidian with the thought of 'hey, we don't have anyone that can make great RPGs without a total rehaul of the company...can you help us with that?" We shall see. But I'm hopeful.

Brad and Jeff make an excellent point on the latest podcast as well. This may be a deal they know has niche appeal but may just win over a few PC-centric gamers to finally give game pass a shot. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this would allow them to offer Tyranny and POE games via Game Pass, right? Or would that require Paradox sign-off since they published those?

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