‘I never would have made Pentiment without Xbox Game Pass’, says director Josh Sawyer
Obsidian's latest hit narrative adventure owes its existence to Microsoft's subscription service
➡️ The Shortcut Skinny: Pass the Pentiment
💥 Pentiment director Josh Sawyer says the hit narrative adventure game owes its existence to Xbox Game Pass
😲 Microsoft’s gaming subscription service guaranteed an audience for the “very niche, very unusual” game
👀 Sawyer thinks Pentiment wouldn’t have been commercially viable using a traditional publishing model
✋ But does see a limit to how beneficial Game Pass can really be
Obsidian’s recently released murder mystery game Pentiment owes its existence to Xbox Game Pass, according to the game’s director who said he wouldn’t have considered making it without Microsoft’s gaming subscription platform.
In our Pentiment review roundup, we noted the game has received a glowing critical reception and many Xbox Game Pass subscribers are now discovering it through the service.
Released on Xbox Game Pass earlier this month, Pentiment is a narrative-driven adventure game with an art style that apes medieval illuminated manuscripts (which may soon earn it a spot on our pick of the best Xbox Series X games). The player takes control of an artist in 16th-century Bavaria who must unravel a murder in an isolated Abbey.
Speaking on the Waypoint Radio podcast, director Josh Sawyer noted the game is “very niche, very unusual” and said he was only confident pitching it to publisher Xbox Game Studios because it could find a “very enthusiastic audience” through the company’s subscription service.
“I never would have proposed making Pentiment without Game Pass,” Sawyer said. “I literally wouldn’t have done it. I just don’t think it would have been possible.”
Xbox Game Pass’s locked-in playerbase – reported to be over 25 million strong – guaranteed an audience of players who could play Pentiment on the day of the game’s launch, Sawyer said. He also noted that it was made with a small team of only a handful of developers and could be worked on without needing to “break the bank”.
“The old mentality of publishers and developers is generally focused on larger teams, larger investments for a higher [return on investment],” said Sawyer. “That’s not really the point in this [Xbox Game Pass] environment, that’s not why things exist in this ecosystem.
“In a traditional model, I don’t think I would have even bothered [pitching the game] because no one’s going to pick that up. Even if my boss were supportive of it, it would have been so incredibly difficult to get a publisher to pick it up.”
Although Sawyer praised Xbox Game Pass for enabling players to try out new games they otherwise might overlook or ignore, he said the platform faced the problem of curation. Only approved titles are allowed on Game Pass, and players are willing to spend only so much of their time choosing between them before they switch off.
“There are so many games, how do you get that attention?” Sawyer said. “From my perspective working as part of an Xbox studio, and Xbox having Game Pass, for me it’s easy to pitch something specifically for that platform, but it is a curated platform and there are trade-offs that come with that.
“Ultimately, I am very glad for Game Pass because it does afford opportunities like this, but I think it’s totally reasonable to look at it and say, ‘Yeah, there’s a trade-off here for both developers and potentially for the people using it’.”
If a conversation-driven gumshoe adventure through the early modern period is your idea of a good time, use our Xbox Game Pass discount to get some money off the subscription service.
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