Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming service has been a huge success for the company, but along with a huge amount of new gamers playing games, according to Obsidian Entertainment head Feargus Urquhart, it’s changing the way studios measure the success of their games.
In an interview with the New Musical Express website, Urquhart covered a wide range of topics, ranging from how Obsidian got its start, games that never got made, how experience matters in developing unfamiliar genres, its acquisition by Microsoft, and how Game Pass has changed the gaming market.
Obsidian is best known for being the developers of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Fallout: New Vegas, and more recently Outer Worlds, the Pillars of Eternity series, Grounded, and Pentiment. Despite the critical acclaim, good feelings, and popularity, however, Obsidian no longer measures success through sales.
With Game Pass being a good way for people to try games before buying them, getting as much play time on the service as possible is a priority for making sure that games can really be called “successful”. Play time metrics are good for games that are long, like RPGs, or who favor replayability, but for shorter games it’s a bit more of a struggle.
We’ve not changed how we’ve approached our games based upon Game Pass
We’ve not changed how we’ve approached our games based upon Game Pass. I can’t go off and spend a billion dollars and only a million hours get played on Game Pass, ‘cause people aren’t paying that much for their subscriptions. And so a lot of it is really kind of looking, ‘Okay, well what do we think success is?’Feargus Urquhart
Game Pass does, at least, let Obsidian be able to experiment with other games, such as Grounded and Pentiment. Both are big departures from their old RPGs, with Grounded being an open-world exploration game and Pentiment being a visual novel set in the Renaissance. However, even with the financial risk imposed, Obsidian was able to take those chances thanks to its acquisition by Microsoft in 2018.
The studio’s acquisition also helped Obsidian to be able to make more of the expansive RPGs that its fanbase has come to love, and has helped it to make successful games. Grounded, for instance, has sold over 1.6 million units on Steam alone.
Exactly how Game Pass continues to influence Obsidian in the future remains to be seen, but with how positive the reception has been for their games in the past, hopefully they can continue to make games that people will want to be playing for a long time.