The Past And Future Of Psychonauts 2

Until about, oh, early last week, Psychonauts 2 seemed like an idea — or maybe a wish — that would never become a video game.

But then the man who made millions making Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, offered, over Twitter, to "make Psychonauts 2 happen."

Tim Schafer, whose Double Fine Productions made the first beloved Psychonauts game told Notch he'd be into it, but it was going to be expensive.

"I was like, 'I don't think you can make for a million dollars.' The original game was, I think, $US13 million, I think you have to match the original game."

"As soon as I mentioned the amount of money he said, 'Yeah, I can do that.'"

Oh, if only previous rich people had been as ready to make this game happen.

Tim Schafer has pitched Psychonauts 2 to big video game companies. He has pitched the sequel to a game that was canceled, revived and then earned raves when it finally came out in 2005. But no publisher ever bit. They thought it was too creative or too obscure.

The failures frustrated Schafer, because Psychonauts, an adventure about a boy who can enter the minds of other colourful people and explore their thought-landscapes, wasn't supposed to be one-and-done.

"We had a lot of plot elements that were backstory in that [first] game that we planned on revisiting in the future and tying it back in," Schafer told me last week. "We had a longer story arc planned for those characters."

This is how he'd pitch the sequel to big game publishers: He'd show a 20120 fan trailer called Inceptionauts that mashed up the movie Inception and the first Psychonauts. "It's better than any trailer we ever had for the game," Schafer said. He says it even helped him remember how much he'd liked Psychonauts, which he had taken a break from thinking about after it came out. "It reminded me how much I like it," he said, adding that "I'd like to thank that fan for making the video. I used it to try to fund Psychonauts 2."

Schafer may have talked plot and setting to his potential Psychonauts 2 backers, but he demured from telling me how the new game would relate to the first, other than to tease that "I have ideas to take them to a more international setting."

He did, however, definitely talk to publisher suits about sales. "My pitch also involved how the game sold something like 400,000 copies initially. It wasn't enough for us to make money. But since then, through Steam and Good Old Games and all the places it's been, it's gotten in the hands of a lot of people." He recalls one day when a $US2 Steam sale pushed Psychonauts even ahead of Call of Duty for revenue for that day. That, he remembers, was a good day.

None of this turned Psychonauts 2 into a real project scheduled to become a game you or I could play.

Then, on February 7, Notch Tweeted.

Schafer woke up to text messages from friends telling him to check Twitter. He thought he was being sued. No, the opposite. Someone wanted to give him money.

Soon, Notch and Schafer were talking.

"He said he had no idea it would get picked up like this. He said, 'Sorry for putting you on the spot, I didn't realise it would go so big.'

"I feel like I was being proposed to on the jumbotron at the baseball game."

Schafer sounds like he wants to say yes, but negotiations between him and Notch remain private. (Notch and his team at Mojang didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.)

The man who oversaw the making of Psychonauts simply wants to worth with the man who made Minecraft. "He's been pretty successful. And, when you look into it, it's a really inspiring story. He's just a regular guy. He didn't do anything sleazy to get it. He just made it himself, distributed it himself, it's a great story. I think we have a lot to learn from him, so I'd like to do something with him.

"And I'd like to make Psychonauts 2."


Comments

    Between this and the Kickstarter project... 2012 is coming up Schafer.

    Are there any concrete facts on how many people have bought Psychonauts to date? Also have double fine recouped their costs?

    Game development sounds expensive.

      Psychonauts was originally something of a flop. It really wasn't until the last few years that people have come out and said "yeah, I loved that game, was so awesome!". I can't help but think if all these people who claimed to have played Psychonauts when it first launched actually did, there'd have been funding for a Psychonauts 2 a long time ago.

    "simply wants to worth with the man"

    I too, would love to WORTH with the man.

    Psychonatus was handled pretty poorly. I knew and was excited about it but I found it incredibly hard to buy. None of my local stores stocked it. I eventually just had to import it (which was a new experience for me back in '05).

    wow that trailer was awesome! very well made. thoroughly enjoyed psychonauts, didn't play it originally when it came out but discovered it through 1upFM's backlog podcast series. and thankfully it was back compat. with x360.

    Just me, or are we talking about that platformer with some funny dialogue.
    Good game, just suffers from 'after-hype'

      Yep, that's the one.

      Kinda like how Skyrim is about a guy who goes around killing various creatures.
      Or Arkham City is that game where a dude runs all over the place dressed up in a bat costume.

      Man, this after-hype is rife, I tells ya.

    Having not played the original Psychonauts, I'm still very in interested in playing it. I tried to get the game on X-Box soon after it's release but it wasn't even released in Australia.

    The visuals are are bit too weird, but maybe with some Pixar graphics, the sequel can be more marketable to all ages.

      Steam it up. The graphics aren't weird, they're just xbox ps2 era quality. I bought Psychonauts during the Steam christmas sale, but I would have happily paid double if not triple the $10 you can get it for now. I think it's also available on xbox arcade but don't quote me on that.

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