The Kickstarter campaign for Frost Giant's fledgling RTS Stormgate met its $100,000 goal in 15 minutes. It hit $1 million in under 48 hours. Now it's crossed the $2 million line. But Stormgate isn't a brand-new project: Its development was fully-funded prior to the crowdfunding campaign.
I recently spoke to Frost Giant communications director Gerald Villoria about the campaign, and why the company decided to go ahead with a crowdfunding campaign for a free-to-play game that was already privately funded through its early access release this summer.
Before it became the number one videogame Kickstarter of 2023, Frost Giant had already raised $35 million in its initial round of funding for Stormgate, Villoria said. That strong investor support is not surprising, considering that the company is run by previous development leads on such games as StarCraft 2, Warcraft 3 and Command & Conquer.
That $35 million was intended to be enough to get the team across the summer finish line for its Steam early access release, and also ended up paying for some other things, like putting Simu Liu in the game.
"That said, modern AAA game budgets are often measured in the hundreds of millions, and that's not counting marketing budgets," Villoria said. "So while $35 million may seem like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to what the biggest studios are spending.
"What our funding didn't cover was many of the extras and special amenities that are only possible with big publishing budgets, such as a physical Collector's Edition of our game and expanding our beta pool."
About 4,700 people have purchased the Kickstarter's $40 Deluxe Founders Pack tier so far, which includes beta access. (PSA: The Kickstarter ends January 31 if you want in.)
More than 13,000 have purchased the $60 Ultimate Founders Pack level, which includes the beta and two additional Vanguard Campaign chapters and a Fog of War shader. Nearly 2,000 opted for the Stormgate Collector's Edition box at $200, which includes a Vulcan mech statue.
The roughly 22,000 people that have supported the project so far have pledged an average of $90.
Above: A preview of the Vulcan mech statue.
Some of the drive for the Kickstarter was driven by Valve's policies about beta access to games on Steam, Villoria said.
"We always wanted to offer RTS fans a convenient way to pre-order or pre-purchase a bundle of Stormgate content, but Valve policy is that beta access for an early access game can only be offered as a pre-purchase incentive as part of a crowdfunding campaign," he said. "Valve is an important partner for us, so we looked at Kickstarter Founder's Packs as a way to address the community's desire to get in early."
And finally, it was a way for players to support the company if they don't plan on buying campaign chapters or heroes down the road, he said.
"It's important to remember that we're a free-to-play game," Villoria said. "For players out there who don't have an interest in playing the campaign or our Hero-based modes, this was a way for them to express their support and to receive a 'Founder' role that recognizes their contribution to our studio in the Discord community."
The $100,000 goal set by the campaign was the amount Frost Giant needed to actually place orders for a physical collector's edition, he said, including the molds and tooling for the Vulcan statue.
The additional funding met a number of stretch goals, adding a series of webtoon visual stories set in the Stormgate universe, additional map mutators, more Hero customization options and expanded "personalities" for the game's bots. Higher-level supporters paid for the right to put themselves into the game as player-controlled units.
The company is grateful for the support, Villoria said.
"Frost Giant isn't making an RTS because it's trendy or because we can maximize profits—the team was formed out of a shared passion for the genre and out of a sense of responsibility to our community," he said. "Fans of Blizzard-style RTS games have been waiting for the next great RTS game in that vein for a very long time."