Obsidian CEO talks future of The Outer Worlds and Microsoft purchase

The CEO of Obsidian Entertainment, Feargus Urquhart, has opened up about how the developer’s acquisition by Microsoft may impact the future of the upcoming RPG The Outer Worlds. The insightful interview also saw Urquhart talk frankly about his history in the games industry and why he thinks big RPGs are as important to the market as ever.

Urquhart gave the candid interview with Game Informer, openly discussing Obsidian’s current inner workings and how the company will approach the future. According to Urquhart, Obsidian has “three-ish” development teams which are currently working on a variety of projects beyond The Outer Worlds, including a potential sequel to the sci-fi adventure. The “three-ish” teams referred to by Urquhart are comprised of the main team that is focused on the completion of The Outer Worlds, a small team finishing up on Pillars of Eternity, and two other separate teams who are working toward something new and unannounced.

While Urquhart remained tight-lipped about what these new projects entail, he did take a moment to hint that work had already begun on a sequel to The Outer Worlds. Urquhart was hesitant to talk too openly about the possibilities of a sequel, however. In light of Obsidian’s acquisition by Microsoft, the ownership over rights to the IP is something of a gray area. The CEO did, however, note that in spite of these questions over ownership, a sequel to the game was very likely going to happen.

In regards to Obsidian’s deal with Microsoft, which was announced back in November of 2018, Urquhart explained that in order for Obsidian to keep making the kinds of games it was intent on, the cost of development had to be confronted. Urquhart jokes that while not everything is about money, the realities of running a business require things to be all about money, especially given the budget needed for Obsidian to make a game as expansive as The Outer Worlds. 

While traditional publishing deals were considered, Urquhart says that as the industry continues to change, the amount of funds needed for large RPG projects become more and more difficult to acquire for an independent studio.

According to Urquhart, the Microsoft deal will allow Obsidian to continue to make the kinds of “inclusive, agency-driven RPGs” that made the developer so attractive to Microsoft to begin with. Obsidian has a 15-year history in the industry, over which the company has sought many ways to fund and bring its specific flavor of RPG to audiences, but with this new Microsoft deal, Urquhart hopes that Obsidian has made its future secure. Urquhart notes that while Microsoft is obviously keen to see The Outer Worlds succeed, its approach has been very hands-off, allowing Obsidian to do its own thing with the game.

Urquhart was also asked about why he thinks more studios don’t venture to make big, meaty RPG games anymore and if the positive response to something like The Outer Worlds has been a validating experience for the team.

“Is it validating? I don’t know…I think there is an absolute place for these games,” the CEO responded, “I think that it’s something I personally like to look forward to…it provides the kind of experience that I think is important.”

Urquhart sadly noted how few of these RPGs are making to the market these days, so he hopes that The Outer Worlds will be that game for someone.

The game is certainly shaping up to provide that kind of Fallout-level RPG to players, which is no accident given how Urquhart describes the games original pitch. Obsidian said he was keenly aware of the hit and miss nature of the sci-fi genre in games, specifically noting that the team was not interested in making a clean cut, shiny version of a sci-fi world.

“The pitch became Fallout meets Firefly” Urquhart said, speaking to the team’s goal of bringing a grittier, perhaps more playful edge to the sci-fi genre.

The shadow of the Fallout franchise looms large over the interview, with multiple references like the one above, littered throughout Urquhart’s comments. Though clearly fond of his days working on the post-apocalyptic RPG, his tone was never one of derision but almost always of respect.

“I didn’t want to leave Fallout, I didn’t want to leave the place were I’d kinda grown up in the industry” says Urquhart, though he went on to say that the choice to walk away and form an independent studio was made so that he and his team could keep the spirit of these big RPGs alive.

The Outer Worlds will release sometime in 2019 (August 6 if recent news is to be believed) for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.