Can Psychonauts 2 exist? Maybe, but not as you hope

Tuesday, 14 February 2012 10:06 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Is Minecraft’s Markus Persson about to descend like some benevolent fairy tale prince and rescue Psychonauts 2 from reality’s thorny tower of fiscal woe? Only in dreamland. Patrick Garratt’s trousers are on the block.

The first game, according to Minecraft developer Daniel Rosenfeld, cost $15 million to make. Do some napkin maths; nothing on that scale is feasible for a sequel. Yes, a new game could be made for PC and Mac in a smaller form, with a smaller team and a shorter play-time, and less production and no marketing, but would this be Psychonauts 2? In name, maybe.

Last week, Rock, Paper, Shotgun editor Alec Meer and I crossed swords on Twitter about the plausibility of Minecraft developer Markus “Notch” Persson funding Psychonauts 2. I don’t believe it will happen. Alec thinks it could. I said I’d eat my jeans if it does. I hope I’m right; my trousers stink.

There are significant difficulties stopping Psychonauts 2 existing, a primary factor lending to the reality that it doesn’t and almost certainly won’t. Psychonauts 2 makes no sense. Psychonauts was not a “bit” indie project thrown together by Schafer and friends after a few beers and a happy-prod of fan capital. It’s an endlessly inventive, cock-out funny computer game with between 12-18 hours of play-time that fell flat on its ass in 2005. It released on Xbox, PS2 and PC, and its initial tanking was at least partly responsible for Majesco quitting the triple-A business. Schafer said in 2007 that Psychonauts had sold a total of around 400,000 retail copies, nearly two-and-a-half years after release.

Psychonauts’ art and tone is as ridiculous as it is enthralling, about as far away from the mainstream as it’s possible to be. In truth, it’s a miracle it was ever made. It has broken platforming, a cast of mentalist children and a plot traversing a set of pseudo-physical minds. It’s insane. It had two soundtracks released, one of the game’s music and one of cut-scenes and a remix of the main theme, and is packed with a nauseating level of visual and conceptual variety.

Psychonauts was a disastrous, horribly expensive masterpiece.

Let down your hair?

Quite why anyone thinks Notch is just going to turn up with some money and allow Schafer to make the sequel everyone imagines is beyond me. Schafer has failed on multiple occasions to secure a publishing deal for a second game. There’s a simple reason for this: it’s too great a risk. I have little doubt Notch will reach the same conclusion. As Alec pointed out last week, there’s nothing to stop private investment creating a smaller scale project, and this is true. But will it be the Psychonauts 2 fans want, a 12-hour game dripping with polygons, hand-painting and a giant Schafer script? Common sense says no.

Schafer took to Kickstarter last Friday to create a new point-and-click game for PC. As of the time of writing, over 50,000 people have pledged nearly $1.8 million to make it. That’s powerful. It isn’t, however, powerful enough to make Psychonauts 2. The first game, according to Minecraft developer Daniel Rosenfeld, cost $15 million to make. Do some napkin maths; nothing on that scale is feasible for a sequel. Yes, a new game could be made for PC and Mac in a smaller form, with a smaller team and a shorter play-time, and less production and no marketing, but would this be Psychonauts 2? In name, maybe.

If Notch funds a game called Psychonauts 2 made by Double Fine, I will eat my own trousers. I’ll eat part of them, anyway. Will it be the game the relatively tiny, hopelessly devoted fan-base have been crying over for the past seven years? I seriously doubt it. Buy the original on PC, if you don’t already own it. Then put down the fairy story: the happy ending you’re looking for is in another castle.

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