Microsoft has been on a rampage of acquiring developers to boost up its portfolio of studios over the last year or so, but arguably its most notable purchase came when it added Obsidian to its lineup of first party developers. While we had had rumors of this happening in the lead up to the official announcement, it was still a surprising move. Obsidian is a beloved developer behind some of the most iconic RPGs in recent memory, so it definitely stood out as a big purchase for Microsoft and Xbox.
However, why did Obsidian decide to get acquired at all? With Pillars of Eternity having done well, and Obsidian having a deal with Take-Two’s Private Division for the upcoming The Outer Worlds, why did they decide to go with Microsoft in the long term? Speaking to Game Informer, Obsidian’s CEO Feargus Urquhart discussed why the company joined forces with Microsoft, noting that it came out of a desire for financial security and the resources needed for them to make the kinds of games they want to make.
“As a company we had to make a decision- when you’re running a business, it’s a little bit all about money,” he said. “We have a 160, 170 people, and we’re thinking about this in early 2018–where do we go? How do we do this? If we want $40, 50, 60, 70 million to make the next big game, where do we get it? And we go to publishers, and we’ve talked to a lot of publishers through the years, but it’s harder and harder as an independent developer, there’s fewer and fewer of us—I guess now one less.
“So a part of it we really had to think about: do we change the company? Do we not try to make these big RPGs? Do we do whatever we can to get these publishers to fund us? Do we go and get an investment from a company, or do we look at getting acquired? And we started  not really knowing which way we would go, and of course it ended up with an acquisition by Microsoft. But it was to be able to do what we set out to do 15 years ago.”
Microsoft’s acquisitions in the past haven’t always gone well, but I do hope that with Phil Spencer at the helm, things will be different this time. Obsidian has often had rotten luck with publishers and its games underperforming, and I truly hope that this acquisition by Microsoft brings them the financial and creative security they need to continue doing what they do best.