As Banner Saga 3 sails past its Kickstarter goal of $200,000 in less than a week, Stoic’s technical director John Watson has told MCV that the series as a whole would not exist without the support of crowd-funding.
"Banner Saga, really, is an improbable game," Watson tells us. "It is unique in many ways, and very expensive to make. The art and animation style are shockingly labor-intensive.
"I guess I could say that Banner Saga is an ‘impractical’ game from a development and business perspective, and it is unlikely that a risk-averse corporation would attempt such a thing. It’s not the type of game that one would have made as a pure business decision. Our game would not exist in its current form without that original backing of crowd-funding."
Indeed, the first Banner Saga game met with such great success on Kickstarter that Stoic didn’t feel the need to do the same again with The Banner Saga 2. However, Watson now admits that the game "had difficulty gaining awareness" without the support of crowd-funding and that he’s met many people since who "[weren’t] even aware that Banner Saga 2 had been released."
For Banner Saga 3, Watson tells us the studio did consider funding the game via private investment, but eventually decided against it.
"We realized that it wasn’t a good fit," he said. "More money will make the game better without a doubt […] but will it really make the game more profitable? Probably not. We’d rather spend the extra money on development costs instead of promotional costs.
"Taking any kind of money will relieve some of the budget pressures we deal with on a daily basis, but with investment money you have to pay it back, normally at a 3x rate. So if we took $500k investment, we’re paying back $1.5mm back in the end. If the game is not more profitable because of the investment, you’ve just undermined your ability to keep the studio running and making the next great game."
As a result, Stoic chose to stick with Kickstarter this time round rather than take the game to a newer crowd-funding platform such as Fig, which has recently seen a lot of success with Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2, and more recently Obsidian Entertainment’s Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the latter of which met its $1.1m goal in less than 24 hours.
"Fig.co is a great platform, and we are friends with some of the people who run it," says Watson. "For Banner Saga 3, we preferred to go with completely traditional crowd-funding and avoid taking investment money. We are investing everything we have in Banner Saga 3, and are hoping to bolster that budget with crowd-funding, but taking on investment for Banner Saga 3 doesn’t make sense to us. […] Investment works better for a ‘blue sky’ new game where your direction and design isn’t yet fully formed."
The Banner Saga 2 "launched well" according to Watson, but sales suffered due to a lack of awareness about the game
Needless to say, Watson’s been extremely pleased with how the Banner Saga 3 Kickstarter campaign has been received by the community.
"The reception has been very exciting and gratifying. People are ready to see the final act in this story, and we are anxious to tell it. We have been fortunate, during the entire five year history of our studio, to have some of the best followers and fans.
"We intend to continue engaging our community throughout development. One of the centerpieces of our Kickstarter campaign is the ability for backers to participate in limited Alpha-Testing of in-development battles, which we hope will provide a focus and motivator for continued interaction."
With 35 days still to go until the end of Banner Saga 3’s campaign, Stoic will now focus on funding its stretch goals, the first of which is the option to play as long-standing series enemy, the Dredge. Stoic is asking for another $50,000 to make playable Dredge a reality, and each of the three planned Dredge heroes will come with their own stories, abilities and combat animations.
"We’ve really poured our blood, sweat, and tears into this series, for over five years now," says Watson. "Seeing the entire three-act story completed and available for players will be an immensely satisfying moment. I hope that the series continues to astonish and delight people for years to come, and I look forward to gazing back at it from the future."