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Josh Sawyer on why Pentiment owes its existence to Game Pass: “The old publisher mindset is focused on higher ROI”

Obsidian Entertainment veteran Josh Sawyer has opened up about developing penance, a small story RPG he recently directed. He explained why this game wouldn’t have been possible without Game Pass.

Pentiment director Josh Sawyer says it was only possible thanks to Game Pass

Sawyer shared his thoughts during the latest episode of the Waypoint radio podcast (first spotted by Benji Sales on Twitter), where he discussed the process of pitching Pentiment to Xbox.

He said he is always very skeptical of any new technology or distribution model because as a system designer he knows that “there are always tradeoffs for everything”. Game Pass was no exception, but this service became a great opportunity for Sawyer to pitch some of his ideas to Microsoft.

“I would never have suggested making Pentiment without Game Pass,” he said, adding that it just wouldn’t have been possible.

The old mindset of publishers and developers is generally about bigger teams, bigger investments for higher ROI, and that’s not what it’s about in this environment, in this ecosystem.

Josh Sawyer

studio design director at Obsidian Entertainment

So when you work at a company with 200+ people, it’s hard to say, “Let me take some of our most experienced developers and work on this thing.” As Sawyer pointed out, in a traditional ecosystem he wouldn’t even bother doing this because a publisher still wouldn’t pick up a game like Pentment.

That’s why he believes Game Pass and the whole ecosystem around it is the “only way I can imagine [this game] be viable.”

Sawyer also noted that he had to change his mindset to make Pentiment, as it differs drastically from other games he’s worked on in terms of scope and everything else.

My thinking for this title specifically is that it’s for a small audience that’s interested in the idea of ​​the game, and as long as this audience is interested in it, even if it’s very small, that’s probably fine. Especially on Game Pass, where people can download it, play for five minutes, and stop playing, that’s okay. They didn’t buy the game. That’s a very different prospect than asking people to spend $20-50 on something, and they get furious and disappointed because some of it isn’t what they wanted.

Josh Sawyer

studio design director at Obsidian Entertainment

Pentiment was released on November 15 for PC and Xbox. Set in a medieval world, it visually resembles ancient manuscripts and woodcuts. It is a narrative adventure about a 25-year murder investigation.

The game received positive reviews from critics and received an average score of 88/100 Metacritical.

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