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Brian Fargo during his keynote at the Game Developers Conference China 2011.
|Born||Frank Brian Fargo
December 15, 1962 
|Occupation||Video game industry|
A descendant of the family that created the banking giants Wells Fargo and American Express, Fargo was born in Long Beach, and grew up in Whittier and Newport Beach. The only child of Frank Byron Fargo and Marie Curtis Fargo, he attended Corona del Mar High School, where he participated in track and field and developed a desire to create video games after his parents bought him an Apple II computer in 1977. Softline in January 1982 printed a letter from Fargo asking how On-Line Systems stored graphics in its graphic adventure The Wizard and the Princess.
Fargo started his career in the video game industry in 1982. His debut work was Demon's Forge, a graphic text adventure game he designed and marketed himself, and educational games for the World Book Encyclopedia.
In 1983, Fargo founded Interplay Productions prior to landing his first contract in 1983 with Activision for Mindshadow, a graphic text adventure game for the Apple II and Commodore 64. After the release of Mindshadow, Fargo hired an old high school friend and started work to create a role-playing game Bard's Tale for the Apple II and C64 for a then-new publisher Electronic Arts. Fargo subsequently co-designed Interplay's early RPGs, including the critically acclaimed Wasteland, where a character named Faran Brygo is a play on his name.
However, Interplay at the time was utilizing small development teams of one to three people to produce games for other companies to publish, which only allowed Interplay to break even at best. In 1988, Fargo decided to make the transition from a development house to a developer/publisher, adding the additional costs of production and marketing, with both the risk and possible reward of publishing successful games. The first title produced by Interplay in this era was the internally developed Battle Chess, followed by Quicksilver Software's Castles. The company was also experimenting at the time with new ideas and products such as Neuromancer, a video game version of the novel by William Gibson.
By 1992, Interplay contracted with an old friend of Fargo's, Allen Adham, and his partner, Michael Morhaime, to create RPM Racing. This was Adham and Morhaime's first contract to produce a game as Silicon & Synapse and was the one of the first of such finds for Fargo, who had an eye for recognizing talent in small development teams. Adham and Morhaime eventually changed the name of their company to Blizzard Entertainment, future developer of the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises.
Interplay continued to expand in the mid-1990s, adding licensed titles to its own intellectual properties such as Stonekeep, by acquiring rights to the original Star Trek and creating a series of its adaptations. Fargo also continued to find talented small developers designing innovative games. One was Parallax Software, whose demo game eventually became the hit game Descent. Parallax, later renamed Volition, was eventually bought by THQ. In 1994, Universal/MCA bought a 45% stake in Interplay, which later went public in 1998.
Interplay grew to over 600 employees at its zenith in the mid-1990s. One of the most successful groups within Interplay was formed during this period, Black Isle. Black Isle focused on role-playing games and eventually included the games of a new developer called BioWare, which was initially contracted by Interplay to make Shattered Steel. The next game they developed for Interplay, through the Black Isle division, was Baldur's Gate, which proved to be a big hit, followed by others, such as Icewind Dale and the critically acclaimed Planescape: Torment. Black Isle's celebrated Fallout, which took some inspiration from Wasteland but was unique in its own right, was a personal project of Fargo, who served as its executive producer and was involved in setting the tone and sensibilities of the game.
In 1996, the company expanded again, adding a division focusing on sports games called VR Sports and buying Shiny Entertainment. Fargo's goal in the acquisition of Shiny was to help Interplay transition into the console business, in addition to its successful PC game releases. That same year, Computer Gaming World ranked Fargo as the third most influential "industry player" of all time, as he "has shown both brilliant product vision and great business talents."
In 1998, Interplay filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock to fund future development and retire debt the company held. At the time, the market for IPOs had started to slow from the boom years of the early and mid-1990s, yet the need for capital drove Fargo to file the offering. Increased competition, less than stellar returns on Interplay’s sports division and the lack of console titles forced the company to seek additional funding two years later with an investment from Titus Software, a Paris-based game company. In 1999, the relationship between Fargo and majority shareholder Titus deteriorated, according to Fargo, due to a "different ideology of management". In 2000, Titus exercised a majority control of Interplay, and as a result, Fargo resigned his position with the company.
After leaving Interplay, Fargo looked to find outlets for his creative drive and founded inXile Entertainment in 2002, a video game developer and publisher that includes many former Interplay employees. The name inXile sprang from a joke for his post-Interplay career: initially, Fargo gave himself the title of "leader-in-exile" at the company.
InXile Entertainment released a new Bard's Tale as one of its first titles, released by Vivendi Universal Games, but has found success in a new category of downloadable games, such as Line Rider and Fantastic Contraption, continuing Fargo's string of hit games into a fourth decade. The company also developed a major title for Bethesda Softworks, Hunted: The Demon's Forge.
In 2012, inspired by the success of Double Fine Adventure's fan funded model, Fargo announced that he was going to attempt to fan-fund Wasteland 2 using the webservice Kickstarter. The project's fundraising campaign reached its $900,000 funding goal in its second day and Fargo said hopes that all of his future projects involve Kickstarter as it "offers all the freedoms that a developer hopes for." The Wasteland 2 Kickstarter campaign ended on April 17, 2012, raising a total of $2,933,252, making it the third highest crowd funded video game on Kickstarter to date, with an additional $107,152 in PayPal pledges.
On March 6, 2013, Fargo followed through on his promise to fund future projects through Kickstarter and launched Torment: Tides of Numenera, described as "a story-driven CRPG crafted in the tradition of Planescape: Torment and set in the world of Monte Cook's Numenera." The project reached its goal of $900,000 in just six hours and went on to break the Kickstarter record for fastest project to reach $1 million. The previous record had been held by the Ouya video game console which reached $1 million in 8 hours 22 minutes; Torment reached this amount in less than seven hours.
- American Pioneers: The Fargo Family History. ISBN 0-918329-33-7.
- Fargo, Brian (1982-01). "Packing Pictures, Saving Shapes". Softline. p. 2. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
- The Demon's Forge at MobyGames
- Mindshadow at MobyGames
- McLaughlin, Rus (July 21, 2010). "IGN Presents The History of Fallout". IGN. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
- Carless, Simon (September 15, 2009). "GDC Austin: How Fantastic Contraption Became A Fantastic Hit". Gamasutra. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
- Trey Walker (February 9, 2002). "GameSpot Interview with Brian Fargo". GameSpot. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
- inXile entertainment
- CGW 148: "The 15 Most Influential Industry Players of All Time".
- "Brian Fargo dev chat log". October 15, 2003. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
- Michael McWhertor (March 15, 2010). "Hunted: The Demon's Forge, A Dungeon Crawl For The Gears Age". Kotaku. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
- "GameStar: Knights of the Roleplaying Table. Brian Fargo.". May 5, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- "Wasteland 2 Kickstarter Drive ends, $3.04M raised". Wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com. April 17, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
- inXile Entertainment (March 6, 2013). "Torment: Tides of Numenera". Retrieved March 7, 2013.
- Chapple, Craig (March 6, 2013). "Record shattering Torment Kickstarter breaks $1m in six hours". develop. Retrieved March 7, 2013.