Microsoft Takes Over RPG Studios Obsidian and inXile

Last week we learned that Microsoft has acquired famed RPG studios Obsidian Entertainment and inXile. This is kind of big news since the teams at Obsidian and inXile go way back and have touched on some RPG history.

On Microsoft’s side, things look fairly clear. With the 5th gen Sony PlayStation around the corner (2019-2020), Microsoft continues its strategy of coming with as many exclusives as it can get. With similar hardware and user experience, it’s obvious that the console with the better games will win-out and Halo is not enough. These newest acquisitions brings their studio count to 13, after recently also taking over Compulsion Games, Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Playground Games (Forza Horizon) and Undead Labs (State of Decay).

For Obsidian and inXile, short term future looks bright. Times are precarious for mid-sized developers – just ask TellTale, Carbine and Dreadnought. So it seems like both Obsidian and inXile have secured their immediate to mid-term funding, providing their efforts bring money home. They seem to have also negotiated some creative freedom and, I sincerely hope, a project or two they’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t get funding.

After flirting with bankruptcy in 2012, Obsidian execs and employees seem enthusiastic enough about the prospect of joining forces with Microsoft:

Something similar was also said by Brian Fargo, CEO of inXile.

So great – Microsoft is happy, both studios seem more than happy, but I can’t shake the feeling that the best we can expect from these mergers is a few more good games. As for why, IGN has an informative article on what happens to studios bought by Microsoft. I’d just hate for something similar to happen to them, as the people behind Obsidian and inXile have worked on some of the best RPG games in video game history.

Both companies were founded by former Interplay employees, and in Obsidian’s case, specifically the Black Isle Studios division. Black Isle has worked on some of my favorite games of all time:

  • Planescape: Torment (easily top 5 on my list);
  • Fallout 1 & 2;
  • all of Icewind Dale; and
  • all of Baldur’s Gate titles (another top 5).

Furthermore, under their own name, Obsidian has developed:

  • Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (I & II part together in my top 5);
  • Neverwinter Nights 2;
  • Fallout: New Vegas;
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth;
  • Pillars of Eternity;
  • Tyranny;
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire.

Now that is one spectacular resume and inXile are not lacking in quality titles as well.

Sure, successful studios getting acquired by large publishers is more or less bound to happen, and none can predict how this will affect the studio. But it’s a shame when their products are suddenly tied to selected platforms. It’s almost certain that the only way we can enjoy future games by Obsidian and inXile is either on the Xbox or via the Windows Store. That means goodbye Mac, Linux and most Windows users.

Many fans will feel betrayed. inXile’s Wasteland 2 Kickstarter pitches were especially vocal in how big publishers fail to understand the passion for old-school RPGs that they want to make. And I just can’t see Pillars III with the same setting/lore from Microsoft’s Obsidian…

In retrospective, inXile and Obsidian’s transfer from Kickstarter to Fig might have been a wrong move. Kickstarter has a huge gaming fan base with PR and outreach much greater than what Fig has done for them.

While I can’t really blame the studio’s execs and employees for wanting better job security or more resources, I can question their partnering choice and call this a sad day for fans…

About Robert Nakagawa

Robert was born in Akihabara, Tokyo, which of course meant he can never escape his geekiness. He spends his time installing mods for Skyrim, getting zeroed on GoT: Conquest and running the Editorial staff at Gaming Guide. He loves RPGs and strategy games.

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