Skip to main content

The rise, and completely predictable fall of game developer Phil Fish

Phil FishIndependent game developer Phil Fish has announced that he is quitting the gaming industry for good. He waved goodbye to all the suckers, then picked up his ball and went home. In the process he also cancelled Fez 2, which was announced only last month. And all over a Twitter argument with a journalist.

“There’s always a threat of the whole thing just falling apart any day now,”

Anyone who’s been following Fish’s career should not be surprised. Fish was a comet, burning up the closer he got to the sun, his career flashing across the industry’s sky just long enough to leave a significant afterimage on our retinas.

Fez II is cancelled,” he wrote on his company Polytron’s website on Saturday. “i am done. i take the money and i run. this is as much as i can stomach. this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. you win [sic].” On Twitter Fish said that he “fucking hate[s] this industry.”

Fish earned a significant amount of attention after being spotlighted in the 2012 film Indie Game: The Movie shortly before his only game, Fez, released on Xbox Live (and soon after on PC). But by then he was already infamous. Fez first appeared at the Independent Game Festival in 2008 and was in development for almost five years. The game always looked great, but after the first few years concerns about its ridiculously long development overshadowed any buzz about the game itself. And Fish has never been afraid to share his brash and often unpopular opinions with the world.

In response to a handful of Twitter criticisms, Fish once (in)famously opined “people telling me they’re going to pirate my game because they dont like me. gamers are the worst fucking people [sic].”

Fez screenshot

When Fez finally came out, the charming and imaginative game proved to be lousy with bugs. Fish quickly released a patch, but it corrupted some users’ save files. A second patch was then stopped by the exorbitant fees that Fish claimed Microsoft charged developers to update games. Microsoft recently changed that particular policy, and Fish promised a patch to fix his original patch. But given his outburst over the weekend it’s unclear whether that will happen after all.

There’s no doubt that Fish is passionate about what he does did. “To me games are like the ultimate art form,” he says in Indie Game: The Movie. The documentary follows three indie game developers, including Fish, during the creation and release of their games. Fish’s clash with former business partner Jason DeGroot, who Fish perceived was trying to sabotage him, is well documented in the film. “I’m gonna lose my shit,” he says. “I’m gonna—I’m gonna kill him. I’m gonna fucking murder that guy and it’s going to get everybody in trouble.”

“…this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign … you win”

Fish’s threats ended amicably with a legal settlement, but the vehemence of this on-camera freakout would eventually prove symptomatic of his entire public persona. In his most recent spate—the one that led to the cancellation of Fez 2—he suggested that journalist Marcus Beer, who goes by the pseudonym “Annoyed Gamer,” take his own life, among many other insults. Beer had called Fish (and to a lesser degree Braid developer and Fish’s Indie Game co-star Jonathan Blow) a “tosspot,” a “hipster,” a “wanker,” and a “fucking asshole” on a GameTrailers video podcast.

Fish, in retaliation, tweeted that Beer is a “media leech,” a “middle-aged parasite,” an “inconsequential limey fuck,” and a “small commentator” who “ejaculate[s] vomit” and “sit[s] in judgement, masturbating.”

Fish was a vocal critic of Microsoft’s policies – his thoughts on Microsoft’s fees to developers, for example, were well known. When Microsoft announced that the Xbox One wouldn’t allow indie developers to self-publish, Fish was characteristically vocal in his dissent. “With Microsoft they’ve made it painfully clear they don’t want my ilk on their platform,” he told Polygon. But when Microsoft reversed the policy and the press reached out to Fish for comment, he refused to reply, sparking Beer’s fairly vicious and personal attack. Beer went on to say that he felt Fish’s silence was a snub to gaming journalists everywhere, and that the press should ignore his next project. Fish later claimed that due to the lack of details from Microsoft he “wasn’t snubbing journalist[sic]. I was waiting for the actual news to come out.” That didn’t stop him from engaging Beer, however.   

Fish has long nurtured a contentious relationship with the press. Just last week he criticized Polygon for quoting another controversial figure, indie developer Kevin Dent, in an article about those same Xbox One policies. He went as far as asking whether Dent owns shares in Polygon, suggesting that the publication is fundamentally corrupt. 

Fish on twitter

“There’s always a threat of the whole thing just falling apart any day now,” Fish says in Indie Game: The Movie. He was talking about Fez and his quarrelsome relationship with Microsoft, but the quote seems almost prescient at this point, and he may as well have been talking about his own career. Even if this whole thing is a poorly thought out bluff or Fish simply changes his mind once he cools down, his public character will always overshadow whatever he deigns to create in the future.

Yet it takes someone who feels as strongly as Fish does to make a game a like Fez, and to stick with it through five years of problematic development. Indeed, it seems that it’s through games that the man expresses himself most effectively. There’s no vitriol in Fez; only quiet humor and beauty with subtle depth. The real shame of what occurred here is that if Fish stays good on his promise to “take the money and…run” then Fez is the only glimpse into his complicated soul we’ll ever get.

So long, Phil Fish, we feel we hardly knew you. Here’s hoping we can get better acquainted some time down the road.

Editors' Recommendations

Michael Rougeau
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mike Rougeau is a journalist and writer who lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and two dogs. He specializes in video…
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has instant open-world character switching
Peter and Miles perched next to each other in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

Insomniac Games has finally confirmed whether or not players will be able to switch between the two playable versions of Spider-Man while exploring the open world of Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

Ever since it was confirmed that Peter Parker and Miles Morales would both be playable in Marvel's Spider-Man 2, the question of whether or not players would be able to switch between them at any time in the open world arose. Although Marvel's Spider-Man 2's gameplay debut at the PlayStation Showcase didn't confirm whether or not that was the case, Creative Director Bryan Intihar revealed the answer in an interview with Eurogamer: yes, you can. 
"We have content designed around Peter, we have content designed around Miles, and we have content where you can play either. You'll be able to -- in the open world -- freely switch between them with a simple button press," Intihar confirmed. Insomniac Games also confirmed to Eurogamer that Peter and Miles will each have their own skill tree, although they will also share a third. For the most part, it looks like players will have a lot of freedom about how and with whom they want to tackle any sort of open-world objectives or sidequests.
Things will get a little more restrictive during more linear story missions, like the one we saw during the PlayStation Showcase, though. "When you're playing the main story, we control when you switch between Pete and Miles ... it's done in service to the story when we're making those switches, for sure," Intihar told Eurogamer. "So, as you saw on that gameplay reveal, which is a segment of the main story, we are predetermining those based on what we want to do for how the story plays out."
Marvel's Spider-Man 2 will be released exclusively for PlayStation 5 sometime this fall.

Read more
The best games on PlayStation Plus, Extra, and Premium
A person plays Crash Bandicoot using a PS5 DualSense controller.

PlayStation Plus has gone through several iterations and changes since it was first introduced. Originally, the service wasn't required for online play at all and rewarded subscribers with extra discounts and free monthly games. Once the PlayStation 4 generation began, it was required for online play, but still offered those same benefits.

Now, PS Plus is divided into three different tiers of subscriptions. The basic tier, PS Plus Essential, still gets three games per month added, while the Extra and Premium tiers will have a varying number of games added to their catalogs. With hundreds of games already and more coming and going all the time, even the most dedicated gamer won't be able to play everything on offer. To help you get the most bang for your buck, and so that no hidden gems go under your radar, here are all the best games to play on PS Plus Essential, Extra, and Premium right now.

Read more
Wordle Today (#713): Wordle answer and hints for June 2
Someone playing Wordle on a smartphone.

Scratching your head looking for today's Wordle answer? We have the solution to Wordle (#713) on June 2, as well as some helpful hints to help you figure out the answer yourself right here. We've placed the answer at the bottom of the page, so we don't ruin the surprise before you've had a chance to work through the clues. So let's dive in, starting with a reminder of yesterday's answer.
Yesterday's Wordle answer
Let's start by first reminding ourselves of yesterday's Wordle answer for those new to the game or who don't play it daily, which was "jazzy." So we can say that the Wordle answer today definitely isn't that. Now, with that in mind, perhaps take another stab at it using one of these Wordle starting words and circle back if you have no luck.
Hints for today's Wordle
Still can't figure it out? We have today's Wordle answer right here, below. But first, one more thing: Let's take a look at three hints that could help you find the solution, without giving it away, so there's no need to feel guilty about keeping your streak alive -- you put in some work, after all! Or just keep scrolling for the answer.

Today’s Wordle starts with the letter H.
Today’s Wordle uses two vowels, but not in succession.
Today's Wordle relates to the weather.

Read more