Obsidian Being Acquired by Microsoft


So Jason Schreier over at Kotaku just broke this:

Well…it would again appear that MS isn’t messing around with bolstering their first-party lineup. While I know a lot of the talent responsible for the likes of New Vegas and KOTOR II have long moved on, I’m intrigued by the possibility of AAA funding for their brand of narrative RPG. Add any future games of theirs to Game Pass, and it just adds even more into the value proposition there (at least on Xbox One, I know for those that want to take advantage of Game Pass on PC, it’s still pretty spotty).

But at the very least, if this gives a studio that always seems on the brink of closure some stability, then I’m all for it.


I’m not so sure about this. It might be Obsidian’s only option to stay open and they should take it if that’s the case but that said… Depends on what MS wants from them, if they want more good CRPGs how well would those sell on Xbox or the MS Store? If they intend to inject money and staff into Obsidian and order the next Witcher 3, that’s going to cost a lot of money and time in order to enter an already competitive genre. They don’t have any RPG IPs to get Obsidian on unless you want to reboot Fable.

I’m just trying to figure out what Obsidian brings to the table besides being a studio that makes games in a genre I’ve felt MS has largely ignored for awhile now.


I’m just trying to figure out what Obsidian brings to the table besides being a studio that makes games in a genre I’ve felt MS has largely ignored for awhile now.

I mean, isn’t that enough? Seeing a hole in their first party portfolio, and wanting to fill it?


This is going to sound shitty, but I’ve avoided Obsidian’s recent CRPGs like Pillars of Eternity and Torment mainly due to the lack of voice acting. Reading reams and reams of text just caused me to glaze over within the first 30 minutes and I end up never giving the games a fair shot. And trying to play those games on a couch was just a recipe for a headache from trying to read tiny text. If this acquisition means that Obsidian has the budget for voice acting and the ability to make Alpha Protocol sized games, then I’m definitely onboard with it.


How are Obsidian right now? I feel like some of the people who have left have had things to say about workplace conditions there and management issues (on top of the eternal attempt to avoid doing a Black Isle, or Interplay, or Troika… the CRPG market has not been great to many not called Bioware).

Oh, and:


Can’t wait until all the talent that makes Obsidian Obsidian leaves or gets weeded out so a bunch of random people can make bad tech demos or get forced to make a terrible idea for a game and get their entire studio shut down because of a change in leadership within the company.

It was bad enough there was a falling out with Chris Avellone already, but this is looking like the final nail in the coffin.


I’d recommend Pillars because the main quest stuff actually has a lot of voice acting. The writing is also pretty simple, there’s no reading mountains of paragraphs or huge exposition dumps, which makes side quests much more fun. It’s no worse than the Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun games.


Yeah, it does seem like things have been a hot mess at Obsidian lately, huh? Will getting a giant cash infusion from Microsoft help that? Ehhh…not really sure. On one had, having stability will ideally help work conditions, but there are plenty of game studios with stability that are still a hot mess. Money can’t fix bad management and a toxic culture. Time will tell.

If nothing else, Obsidian seems to have pretty great PR.


I see what MS could want in them I’m just not sold on Obsidian making games that will succeed under exclusivity and the risk of not meeting expectations in a console RPG space is high in a future with middling to exceptional Console RPGs coming out frequently and there’s no way CRPGs achieve much of a footprint on a primarily console market as they are really only finding minimal success now with a nostalgic crowd.


I get that the hangup is totally on me, and once I get passed the front-loaded world building, I’m sure the games get more compelling. But I really have no nostalgia for Infinity Engine RPGs, instead getting into CRPGs with KotOR on Xbox. So it just seems like a lot of effort for a style of RPG that I’m not sure I even like all that much.


This makes a lot of sense to me, because what Microsoft desperately needs more than anything if they want to start focusing on first-party output to compete with Sony’s slew of “prestige” games is writing talent, something Obsidian, even if it’s not at its peak recently and much of the staff has changed, is still known for. I mean between Gears of War, Forza, Halo (recent entries at least), and crackdown, MS is sorely lacking in games with engaging plots and is in desperate need of people who can write characters you’d like to see more of. This and the Ninja Theory purchase seem like acquisitions that are very much in line with their plans to produce their own Last of Us or HZD. Personally, I’m pretty excited to see they’re taking this goal seriously.


I mean, I think if the acquisition goes through, it’s driven by a few things:

  1. By all accounts, Obsidian has not been doing particularly well financially. If that is in fact the case, I could imagine that this acquisition is not overly expensive from MS, if Obsidian’s options are to either get acquired or shut down. This is all just guesswork at this point, and I don’t know if it’s the case, but from a MS perspective, this could be a low-risk/high potential reward investment of buying low on the studio.

  2. It honestly seems like MS really is taking a more ‘Netflix for games’ approach to their Game Pass service. And by that, I mean that they don’t necessarily need everything to be a top tier best-seller to be worthwhile. They’re trying to curate a diverse catalog of exclusive games, the same way that Netflix has thrown all sorts of money around at different TV shows/movies/projects to be exclusive to the service, so they can market it as having something for everyone. The more studios they have contributing to that, the better, and they were missing an RPG element in there.


I’ve never even played that era of game besides trying a few minutes of Planescape Torment, but I was sucked into the genre by those Shadowrun games because the set-up allows for a ton of room for novel style writing that can’t really be translated into the big budget Bioware style that really lets the writing staff show off some fantastic character and theme work.

It seems like a hurdle, but if you can get into a good pulp novel, you should be fine.


Fwiw, Pillars 2 has fully voiced dialogue, with just some (but not all) of the narration left out. And if you mean Torment: Tides of Numenera, that’s not actually an Obsidian game.


Totally agree. Sony’s tentpoles (from Naughty Dog to rebooting God of War to Horizon to Spider-Man; even Sucker Punch are maybe being directed into that direction) possibly lack the best writing but they’re certainly up there with ok writing in the medium (even playing with genre using known writers if we bring in stuff like Until Dawn that Sony funded despite being a project that started out on PS3) or otherwise controversial writing (hello David Cage). Sony’s exclusive output as a whole is reaching for the space David Cage thinks he’s in.

Meanwhile I just played through Gears 4 and I’ve not seen a game more desperate to tack towards Uncharted (not helped by the direction given to the protagonist VO to give the absolute most Nolan-North-esque of performances). The only thing that makes me curious about Gears 5 (beyond thinking the 360 games were pretty uneven too but had enough moments and spectacle to be worth it) is the trailer seemingly running as far away from that protagonist as possible. But I’d put the Gears 4 writing firmly in the sub-Uncharted area of not having the charm to pull off what it wanted to go for. And MS have to hope on Crackdown or the next Halo for their next narrative game that might respond to Sony? This move would make a lot of sense even if mainly to bring in people who know who to hire as additional writers to help their existing IPs react to where Sony is (and seems to be doing very well both commercially and critically).


I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just am tired of these stories ending in tears.


I’m kind of excited to see what happens. It’s not like it changes the quest case scenarios – being studio closure or enough talent leaving to fundamentally change what they can make – since those were already pretty realistic fears. At least this way they have funding for whatever they do next, and based on the not-quite-successful-but-still-really-interesting stuff they tried with Tyranny, and everything they learned from Pillars that can now be set free of the constraints of Infinity Engine baggage, it looks from the outside at least that they’re poised to do something really cool next.


“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 good though


I never really get “The Talent left” arguments. Naughty Dog has had most of its staff since their acquisition leave the company (Notably Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin after Rubin fell on his sword to make sure the PS3 had an actual GPU in it) and are lauded. It feels like an automatic disqualification of the people there because they don’t have “The names”. It’s like saying Rockstar lost all their talent because Leslie “The Benz” Benzies left even though their legion of world wide studios are executing on it and their studio talent doesn’t build “Names”. It’s a beeve I have built with the discourse™ over the years that suddenly studios become illegitimate because one “name” leaves the company.

Also yeah, I’m interested to see if MS would really let them loose with one of the FASA IP’s (If there ever was a right time for a strong, AAA Shadowrun game to get put into production) or if there was something new they could bring. I’d be interested.


I’m referring primarily to Rare, which is just a hollow shell of its former self with all the original staff that made the company so special long ago gone.

The second mention there is a particular jab at how Microsoft treated Lionhead by mandating they make a Fable spinoff that basically had no market or any real connection to the franchise to speak of, AND THEN closed the studio when management changed because of a bad call that was completely out of their hands.

I’m not a fan of how Microsoft treats its third party buyouts. If it’s a company that found its place by appealing to a particular audience or building a certain creative style, Microsoft has a bad habit of re-directing that creative direction in disastrous directions that would feel like death sentences if not for the knowledge that the company just doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing half the time (coughwindows10cough).

We get some success stories, like Remedy, but more often than not, getting bought out by Microsoft feels just as foreboding as getting acquired by EA.