How do you make a video game that no one seems to want anymore? Game developer Double Fine faced that conundrum at the end of 2011. The company wanted to make an old-school PC adventure game, the type that had made company founder Tim Schafer a game design legend in the 1990s with titles like Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango. But the genre’s market had seemingly dried up in favor of more visceral experiences like first-person shooters. Video game publishers—the companies like Activision and Electronic Arts that provide the funding, marketing and distribution channels for most games you see on the shelf—had become increasingly uninterested in taking risks or appeasing niche audiences with their releases.
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