In 2019, the name Obsidian has been inseparable from the studio's newly released action RPG The Outer Worlds. Many of us have made the unavoidable comparison to the studio's early work on Fallout: New Vegas. On Friday, Obsidian's studio design director Josh Sawyer answered a question on Tumblr regarding a return to the studio's other RPG series.
"Will there be a Pillars 3?" asks a user on Sawyer's profile. The answer is complicated, but the short version is that Sawyer, and likely Obsidian by extension, simply don't know yet. Despite acting as one of the leaders in what has felt like a resurgence in the popularity of classic RPGs alongside studios like Larian and ZA/UM, Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire faced "relatively low sales" according to Sawyer's post.
Sawyer throws out a few possible explanations that we can imagine have already been discussed at length internally. "Is it because the first game satisfied the existing need and the audience just wasn’t interested in the second? Is it because awareness was lower for the sequel? Is it because despite the strong reviews and the strong sales for the first game, people didn’t 'really' like it?"
Sawyer goes on to say that "it would be easier in some ways if Deadfire were also a colossal critical failure." At least then, knowing surefire areas for improvement, Obsidian could seriously consider developing Pillars of Eternity 3 with a focus on fixing known pain points. Instead, Obsidian has a number of competing theories, internal and external, that could explain why Deadfire was critically successful but financially disappointing. It could be that Deadfire's classic-style real time with pause combat system was less compelling for players than something like Divinity: Original Sin 2's turn-based flaming mayhem. On Twitter, Sawyer throws out other suggestions: players are less interested in buying direct sequels or are uninterested in Pillars' 2D art style.
other reasons people have suggested deadfire sold worse than pillars 1:* ppl don't buy direct sequels (idk if buy that since BG2, ME2, and other RPGs feature direct sequels).* 2D art just isn't appealing to some people (possible, but deadfire looks way better than PoE1 imo).November 9, 2019
"I’m sure some of the people reading this think they know precisely why Deadfire sold worse than Pillars 1. I don’t have that confidence," Sawyer says. Obsidian hasn't yet figured out what about Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire kept it from selling well. Given the high player and critic meta scores for Disco Elysium, it seems that appreciation for classic style RPGs hasn't waned. Interest doesn't always translate to sales, as Obsidian has learned. It's too early to say whether the positive reception to ZA/UM's detective RPG will translate to high overall sales or whether it will face the same discrepancy as Deadfire.
Now that Microsoft has acquired Obsidian Entertainment for the release of The Outer Worlds, the future for Pillars of Eternity might look entirely different from its past. Could the Pillars series be "re-examined" as a 3D RPG closer in style to Obsidian's most recent release? It's pure speculation, but so are Obsidian's plans for the future of Pillars of Eternity itself.