After a week of teasing fans with cryptic images and hidden codes, Obsidian has finally announced Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, and confirmed that they will be crowdfunding the game via Fig.
#PillarsOfEternity2 is the sequel to Pillars of Eternity, a PC #RPG in the vein of classic Infinity Engine titles such as Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. Expect real-time combat with the ability to pause the action, a party of recruitable NPC companions, 2D painted backgrounds, puzzles and devious traps. There'll be dungeons, there'll be dragons, and this time there'll also be ships and sea monsters.
Check out the campaign trailer for Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire:
The first game was Kickstarted in 2012, and eventually released in 2015 to rave reviews. Despite the success of the first game, Obsidian has announced that Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire will also be crowdfunded, this time on Fig. Now that Pillars of Eternity is an established property why are Obsidian asking the fans to fund them again?
What the Fig?
Kickstarter may be the big name in crowdfunding, but Fig has recently made a name for itself as a combined crowdfunding and publishing platform for indie games.
Fig aims to strike a balance between titles from well-known independent studios as well as titles from up-and-coming indie teams. Their advisory board includes Tim Schafer (CEO Double Fine), Brian Fargo (CEO InXile Entertainment), and, what do you know, Feargus Urquhart (CEO Obsidian Entertainment).
Given the professional connection, it's likely that we'll see Fig become the go-to platform for Obsidian games. They've already hosted InXile's Wasteland 3, another sequel to a crowdfunding success which has now smashed its goals.
Pillars of Eternity 2 is seeking $1.1 million in funding, with $2.25 million open for equity.
Is Obsidian Too Big To Beg?
Some may find it distasteful that after the breakout success that was Pillars of Eternity, Obsidian is going back to crowdfunding to make the sequels.
The studio took a risk in the jump from making sequels and spinoffs to established franchises (KOTOR 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Fallout: New Vegas) to their own original intellectual property. Now they're arguably in a position to make a successful sequel without asking for money from the public.
On one hand, as long as the crowdfunding well is available and remains a source of funding revenue and advertising, it would be naive not take take advantage of it. On the other hand, the spirit of crowdfunding was intended to fund indie projects that would otherwise struggle to find corporate backing, not a cash cow for established companies to milk over and over again.
Difficult Second Album Syndrome
But there's a curious industry trend, where having a successfully crowdfunded game doesn't always mean that the creators can go on to carry the franchise by themselves.
A good example of this is The Banner Saga 2. Stoic Studios decided not to crowdfund the game since the first was so successful, but this proved to be a mistake. Despite being a follow-up to a successful game, the sequel's sales numbers were very disappointing, perhaps because it lacked the marketing advantage that comes with being on Kickstarter. With The Banner Saga 3, Stoic has wisely returned to crowdfunding, but the second game remains an industry cautionary tale.
For smaller studios, crowdfunding remains a critical source of publicity in a world where they run a real risk of being buried under the huge AAA game releases with millions of dollars of advertising money behind them.
Obsidian may be critical darlings, but isometric old school RPGs are still minnows in the food chain compared to, say, Fallout 4 or Final Fantasy XV. It's also a mistake to think that Obsidian are very comfortably in the green financially. They've recently made layoffs, and been open to the idea of being bought by a bigger studio. So far they remain independent operators, and that might be for the best when it comes to bringing their creative vision to life.
Obsidian's latest original RPG Tyranny, which wasn't crowdfunded, also performed poorly compared to Pillars of Eternity, despite Tyranny being a stellar RPG in its own right.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Obsidian reach out to their core audience, those RPG fans whose contributions and devotion made the first Pillars of Eternity possible.
By Our Powers Combined
I, for one, welcome the announcement of a new Pillars of Eternity game, and I don't think it's unreasonable to draw upon the community to help fund its development. There are a lot of expectations for the sequel to be the Baldur's Gate 2 of its generation, and that's a tough legacy to live up to. But I'm sure Obsidian want it to happen, and so do lots of fans.
Tyranny, despite its good ideas, suffered from a tight budget and ended up feeling somewhat rushed and compressed. If the Pillars of Eternity franchise is going to blossom in a big way, it's going to need to leverage the financial muscle and long term fan engagement that come with crowdfunding.
In short, Obsidian knows that it must gather the party before venturing forth.
Are you excited for Pillars of Eternity 2? What do you think of the new crowdfunding campaign?