Obsidian isn't sure about the future of Pillars of Eternity. After the sequel failed to live up to the lofty expectations set by the original, Obsidian is left to believe that major structural changes are necessary if a third game is to be made.
Responding to a fan question about a trilogy, Pillars of Eternity director Josh Sawyer said "I do think that the relatively low sales of [Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire] mean that if we consider making another Pillars game in this style, we're going to have to re-examine the entire format of the game."
Sawyer was left to speculate as to why Deadfire performed worse commercially than the original Pillars -- a question he didn't really have an answer for. "Is it because the first game satisfied the existing need and the audience just wasn't interested in the second," Sawyer asked. "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? Maybe it's a combination of all of these things."
Both Pillars games were crowdfunded -- the original on Kickstarter and the sequel on Fig. At the time, the first Pillars of Eternity was the most successful video game Kickstarter ever, pulling in $3.99 million from 74,000 backers. Deadfire actually fared better, netting $4.41 million from approximately 34,000 backers. (Although, the disparity of earning more from half as many people can possibly be chalked up to Fig's model where few people invested large sums in hopes of making a return profit.)
However, post-development, Obsidian was clearly not content with Deadfire's sales. It has left the studio gunshy about jumping into another Pillars game -- even if that decision is partially also Microsoft's call now. Sawyer wraps up his thoughts by lamenting "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, which is one of several reasons why I am leery about trying to direct a sequel. I couldn't give [Obsidian's] audience the game that they wanted and without understanding where I went wrong, I would be guessing at what the problems are and how to remedy them."
Josh Sawyer [tumblr]