Banner Saga Dev Frustrated at Mobile Gamers' Hesitation to Spend Money

Developer Stoic, in its work to bring The Banner Saga to iPad and Android tablets, realized that mobile gamers are reluctant to spend even a couple dollars.

When developer Stoic announced that The Banner Saga was in development for iOS and Android tablets, it became one of an increasing number of developers to port their full games to mobile platforms. But Stoic also learned one important thing in its work, especially as it collaborated with Apple: mobile gamers tend to be reluctant to spend any money.

Talking to Polygon, founders Arnie Jorgensen and John Watson discussed how the team always aimed to bring the game to iOS, but the environment turned out to be too volatile. As a result, the studio decided to begin with the PC. Watson explained, "For this game, we felt like it was sort of a niche genre. We felt like our core audience was on PC, on Steam, so there's that.

"[People will] spend $600 on an iPad, and $4 on a coffee, drop $20 on lunch, but when it comes to spending four or five dollars on a game, it's this life-altering decision."

"On the other side of the coin, shipping a game on iOS was a big question mark. Are people going to buy it? I don't know. How much can we sell it for? Not very much. We saw it as a bigger risk; what if we spent a year or two years making this, put it out on iOS, and we were just sunk? It just felt like Steam was a better fit for this — not a ‘better fit,' really, but more of a slam dunk."

And now, seven months after the game's release on the PC, the developer has the stability and security to port it to tablets. But it's not a cheap project, and so The Banner Saga will cost money. The biggest question is, then, how much will it cost? This is a problem that Stoic has struggled with during the game's development.

In fact, both Apple and Stoic have grown frustrated with the increasing reticence of mobile gamers to spend any money. Stoic's discussions with Apple have revealed that the tech giant is working hard to overcome this trend. Watson said, "Apple is frustrated, along with everybody else, about the mentality that's gone rampant in mobile app markets, where people don't want to pay anything. They think that four dollars is an exorbitant amount to pay for a game, which is very illogical considering most people's lifestyles. They'll spend $600 on an iPad, and $4 on a coffee, drop $20 on lunch, but when it comes to spending four or five dollars on a game, it's this life-altering decision. I'm frustrated with that too."

He continues, "Apple clearly knows this, and I think they're hoping developers are going to be using that on iPad Air, because it can push it now. So they're telling us to go higher-end with our game. We're still making those decisions."

The Banner Saga launches on iOS and Android tablets this summer. We thought the PC version was good, and you can read our review here. Recently, Stoic also mentioned that the game may come to consoles and the PlayStation Vita at a later date.

Alex Newhouse is an editorial intern at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @alexbnewhouse
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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183 comments
jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

I think the above opinion of the developer and from much of the discussions below are missing the biggest points.

*** one, the market is flooded (both IOS and Android) with cheap or free apps, games, etc. So much so, that you have to wade through dozens of apps/games just to find something you want regardless of price and quality seems to be the least important sales point. Rating are wildly inappropriate and all over the board, with massive bots giving even the worst steamer a average or higher review. 

The main job, heck the most important job that any console maker or platform holder has is quality assurance and gate keeping. Have the shovel ware of the 80's been forgotten so quickly! Sony/Microsoft do not allow pornographic games on their systems, they are supposed to stop broken, offensive, and very poor quality also - which they do most all of the time. Yet IOS and Android allow almost everything but X-rated content, their check on quality and severally broken apps/ games are non-existent.  They need to have much fewer apps/game but of higher quality, something people would be willing to pay for, Price=quality. 

**** games like red banner and many, many, many premium games - are wildly inappropriate for mobile devices including tablets. I thou-rally enjoyed  Red Banner (well worth is money on PC), but that 12-15 hour game does not translate well to mobile- it simply is not a pick up and play kinda game. My friend bought a Final Fantasy title for his tablet and paid ( I forgot), but after 20mins of starring and holding this tablet upto his face and chest it quickly became tiring both on his eyes and muscles. Some boss fights take 20mins, in red banner some inventory management takes that long, not to mention complex inputs.  The most popular games are those that take about as long as your on the toilet... sad but true. Paying $5,10,15,20+ or more on a game that many will simply not play - people have learned it is not worth it. 

The beautiful graphics, combat, and content od RBS are simply buried by a sea of clones, and shallow look a likes at the cost of free- with strings attached, and very few are willing to invest enough time to flesh out what an amazing game RBS is, so even a trial version would not work. What needs to happen is a huge change in the mobile industry- quality control, pricing control, and content control. This is not a democratic decision, this is a business . If I owned a small store, and allowed anyone, anything, at any pricing scheme to sale their wares - it would quickly become a mess, and one that would not succeed or benefit the seller or consumer. 

mattperkins
mattperkins

What the developer of Banner Saga needs to understand is 90% of Android users own a cheap smartphone, those people aren't about to pay a dime for a game or app. If they had the money or were willing to spend the money, they'd have a better phone. There's a reason most developers who make paid games focus on iOS even though there are far more Android users. It's because iOS users on average make more money and spend more money.  And amount of money made by developers far outweighs number of users to developers.

juicyjones
juicyjones

Thanks for the update. But I have to point out that someone whose title is "Editor" at gamespot often fails to notice the incorrect use of the word reticent, which specifically means "reluctant to speak," not simply "reluctant." This is a common mistake called a malapropism, which I would think someone with the job title "editor" would be fully aware of. 


So the sentence "the increasing reticence of mobile gamers to spend any money" is nonsense, because obviously the writer meant "reluctance" in this case. That is, unless you meant "the increasing reluctance of mobile gamers to speak about spending any money," in which case you must change the infinitive "to spend" to "about spending." It's exactly the same mistake as saying "She's too agoraphobic to be around spiders."


That is, unless you're just phoning it in.

will_no
will_no

I'm a gamer, and my phone is capable of playing decent games.  But mobile gaming is terrible and even though this game looks great, it was meant to be experienced on a computer, not a 4-5 inch screen.

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

hahaha  "give us money dammit!".  That all I hear.

Hurvl
Hurvl

I thought people were more than willing to spend money on mobile games, because mobile is supposedly the fastest moving sector, where all the action and all the money is right now. Apparently, it's like everything else, a few products really hit it big and the others are fighting over the scraps left behind. Even thought he may have a point, I can't help but thinking "oh, poor you". If people don't want to pay for your game, you might need to change something or just market it better or whatever. I don't know, since it's not my job to such stuff.

blackothh
blackothh

You can blame that in the millions of free apps out there already. I have Banner Saga for pc and I think it is amazing, and I would potentially get an android version just to support those guys, but if you had no clue what the game is then it would be very unlikely for someone just to buy a game on the mobile store when it has so much free stuff. And in the end that is a bad thing for development incentive in general.

jeffgost
jeffgost

why not making these kind of gmae for Vita or even 3DS? Its way better...I sold my Vita because i didn't had anything to keep playing, and honestly, i will not play this kind of game in my PC, idk, it doesn't fit for me. But on a Vita i could buy it... I loved Lone Survivor, Guacamelee, Gravity Rush, this kind of indie game could a tleast give the Vita a new breath

Zeeksie
Zeeksie

I hope this signifies the imminent death of the mobile gaming, something developers worldwide couldn't shut up about not long ago.

DawnBlue
DawnBlue

I don't buy a mobile device to play high-end games. Does anyone? If developers then expect people to want costly games that can run on only a few devices, they are wrong.


I WOULD however pay 4-6 Euros for a good game if it would actually run better / on a lower-end phone. I've bought a few mobile games (I hate free to play games that suck without spending money) because they don't demand too much yet offer a lot of fun. That's the key to selling a mobile game for me: content, not demanding graphics or anything like that.

Baconelite
Baconelite

For me it's because I hate the feeling of being milked out of my money. Games on mobile and tablets don't feel like there was put any love into them. They don't feel like they were made to be great experiences. They feel like they were made only to make money. And I will not support that, no matter the cost.

DVONvX
DVONvX

Its mobile...who cares? Mobile gaming is good when you're waiting in line for something- not if you want some genuine gaming experience.

AyatollaofRnR
AyatollaofRnR

Mobile gaming sucks! The app store has basically created this expectation that games should be $1. Now every mobile game is going the BS free to play route with energy and cool down timers to compensate.


F2P corrupts game design. 

hystavito
hystavito

The problem with going "higher-end" on mobile is that most mobile consumers simply don't care.  They don't really want higher quality and games that had more creative and such efforts behind them.  Most of the want shallow simple games, and although I don't have a lot of respect for the mobile space I'm not really using shallow as negative here.  I'm just saying the consumers themselves want basic time-waster type games.


Most of them are getting far more enjoyment out of that $4 coffee than they could from buying a high quality $4 mobile game that they probably won't want to spend the time to learn and get deeply involved in anyway.  They aren't gamers, most weren't interested in consoles and such before, and now just because they are constantly using these devices that can handle better games doesn't mean they are suddenly going to take an interest in such games.  Maybe over time that will change, I don't know, I have a hard time seeing "everyone" just becoming interested in more serious games.  The explosion of mobile gaming (and most elements of mobile overall) is because it caters to that larger audience, it's basic human nature to want things cheap, easy, fast, convenient, little or no learning curve, and so on, those things appeal to most people.  I don't think there's a "real gamer" inside everyone that can be coaxed out by simply putting your game onto the device they have in their hands.


Come to think of it, there is some similarity here with PCs in the past.  Between the explosion of the internet and tablets/smartphones becoming so common, lots of people had a PC in their home that they used frequently.  They browsed the web, used email, started to get into social media, and they even played some games, flash games and such.  There were lots of PC games that didn't require 3D hardware and some people who were fooled by some salesperson into buying a machine that could play games :).  Of course the games were a lot more expensive than today's mobile games, even bargain bin, but also remember people hadn't been spoiled by today's abundance of cheap or free games yet and demos (see this week's The Point) were much more common.  So, how many of those people gave serious PC games a try?


TL;DR, most people on mobile don't want "better" games, and just having a device that can play such games doesn't mean they will become "gamers".

Setzera
Setzera

Since the mobile platform completely turns me away, I can only comment on my one experience.  A few years ago, I decided to spend money on a game, I think it was about $5 and was provided through the service provider's store, not a third party app.  And after playing it for a few weeks, I was told that my phone couldn't play the game, not compatible.


After calling tech support numerous times to explain that these phones are compatible, and that the game was working before they made a change on their end that just prevents usage from certain phones.  They didn't investigate in to fixing it, they simply refunded my money, which was not what I asked for.  That was the first and last time I've ever spent money on mobile games.


My stories of console and pc games could go on forever though, so don't feel too bad mobile devs, you aren't the only one who has a rare chance of getting my money.  Quality over quantity.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

The gaming scene in IOS and Android is rampant with poor quality, DLC, and free to play that is more like pay to play. Even games that you buy out right still have too many DLC hidden fees that take all the fun out of the games. And not to offend anybody, but Banner Saga is to sophisticated for mobile audiences, (take it how you want) but look 20 mobile people to your left and 20 mobile people to your right and really how many of them will buy Banner Saga and or even appreciate it.  They may actually get more sales from people who thought banner saga is candy crush saga. 

What the mobile market needs is what the video game market needed from the 1980's crash, a fresh restart and the ability to allow platforms (android and IOS) to strongly control what games go onto their systems - which includes quality control. I know, I know there are plenty of stinkers and broken games that comes through on the consoles and PC, but for the most part Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sonys consoles have pretty decent libraries, with very few rip-offs. 

It is wonderful for almost any indie start up to put a game on mobil, but you and I know there are a ton of fly by night, p.o.s. with built in devices/content to rip off youngsters and old people who do not know better. 

Banner Saga is one of the better games I played last year hands down, It deserves a console release with lowered licensing fees and some free advertising by console makers to show gamers how serious they are in bringing quality indie content to their systems. 

veryDERPY
veryDERPY

if mobile games weren't all so scummy and outright BAD value, people would actually buy something. 


NOT spending a dime for anything mobile

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

It's mobile gaming we are talking about. Make the game «F2P» and force them to pay 1$ each time they want to progress. 

nurnberg
nurnberg

Gamers still spend too much money on mobile.  This DLC-ridden scam genre needs to die.

ebonyflame
ebonyflame

If they truly feel that way, there is always PS Vita and 3DS. A PS3/PS4/Vita version would make some decent money and so would a 3DS version. It seems plainly obvious to me that the game should appear on those platforms as well. If a developer wants to make some cash and free to play is not their desired method, it seems odd that they would go to iOS before these other options. I would pay money for a Vita version.

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

Who wants to spend more money on games on any platform? That's why we use Steam and buy the humble bundles. By the way is this game any good?

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

I miss the days where publishers & developers cared more about getting their baby into as many gamers' hands as possible, now it is all about locking content behind pay-walls and it apparently doesn't matter that the thing you worked hard on never gets seen by anybody.

This awful business model in mobile gaming and all forms of pay-walls in general, has only got itself to blame.

It's a sad state of affairs for anyone interested in any form of gaming nowadays. I feel sorry for some of the developers especially, since they are suffering also.

Aqua10
Aqua10

Considering how saturated the mobile market is with low quality titles and freemium game with extremely exploitative monetization schemes it's not really surprising that people no longer rush to buy new games there at full price.

The abundance of those freemium titles is also why people are less willing to spend money on a title upfront, even if they would actually get a lot more entertainment value out of it. 

Brokensaint058
Brokensaint058

Ah Banner Saga, not a very good pc game either. Won't bring anything exciting to the bitter phone users, they knew what they were choosing and they chose poorly.

Barighm
Barighm

Welcome to business 101! When you routinely charge people $1 to $5 for a game, it creates a frame of reference, thus when you ask for anything more than that, people will assume the price is too high. It's not a matter of cheapness, but of comparison. That's just how we work, folks!

commando-robbo
commando-robbo

The mobile market is saturated with poor quality/re-skinned cash grabs and has lost any credibility it ever had.

As a gamer I won't even consider playing on mobile, I would rather wait and hope that a great game makes it's way to the vita (wink wink).

On that note PvsZ 2 best come to Vita aswell because I will notplay on mobile.

Kiyosuyo
Kiyosuyo

Most of these mobile games are absolutely terrible. You should be paying us to waste space on our phones with these pathetic excuses for games.

sofalover
sofalover

What, you mean these 'real gamers' don't spend money on their mobile device apps.  Quell my surprise and cry me a river, how about not following the crowd and develop for a real console.  I'm glad suits like him fail, they are  cancer in the industry, bottom feeding the casual market chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. 

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@mattperkins First off that is the dumbest chit I have ever heard, Just because one platform costs more then generally another does not, nor has ever influenced buying. 

mattperkins
mattperkins

@juicyjones If you care about the usage of words and how things are spelled online, you have serious social issues. People who have real friends don't go online to correct how others type.

hammerfall22
hammerfall22

@hystavito I love to play good games on pc. But... if you are talking about smart-phone... I just want casual game. 

Conjuration
Conjuration

It's ridiculous like going to tap on Load Comments, but then in that split second, a bunch of ads pop up right under your finger and you tap that instead...for example

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@ebonyflame I have a creeping suspicion that the dev is an Apple fanboy.  Probably one of those people who drops $800 on an iPad and $4 for coffees.  So of course since he loves his iPad he wants to play games on it.


Normal hardcore gamers don't do that.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@ebonyflame Right now Nintendo and Sony have such a strange monetary setup for their mobile platforms it is very hard to bring anything indie to them. First off the devkits and toolsets needed to port the game would be expensive- while other publishers and developers get a better deal. Then licensing fees would kill em - they would have to sell millions to make a profit, while sony/nintendo give cheap deals to 1rst party and Asian partners for nothing. 

think IOS/Android is bad - console mobile Nintendo/Sony some have said is a rip off, it really is who you know. 

megatronx2
megatronx2

@snacky_smorez It's not bad. Very nice visuals and pretty nice music. THe gameplay is bit basic, and most of the game you'll be reading dialog and making decisions from choices coming up within the dialog. 

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

@sofalover The game is on the "realest" console there is! Tunnel snakes rule!

Barighm
Barighm

@sofalover Woah, there cowboy! You just said you're glad the developer of the Banner Saga will fail (which he hasn't). Frankly, I'd like to keep the better developers around. You even called him a suit (which he isn't; he's the dev), then accused him of "bottom feeding" after he admits the PC crowd is better suited to the game.

Next time you're about to get angry, count to 10 first, then think about what you're saying.

sortajan
sortajan

@sofalover Don't know what Banner Saga is, do you? Might wanna look into that.

mattperkins
mattperkins

@jenovaschilld Dude your response has got to be the dumbest comment ever made in the history of online comments. No one is influenced by cost when buying something? If that was the case how's come so many people go with the cheapest Android phones over the highest end ones? Because cost is a factor. And how can you explain someone who switches from a $650 iPhone to a $250 Android one because they said they can no longer afford another $650 phone? Cost didn't influence their decision? Come on. Think before you comment. People buy store brand food over name brand food because it's cheaper, it's about the cost. If name brand food cost the same as store brand, no one would buy store brand. If a Lamborghini cost the same as a Ford, no one would own a Ford. Price influences most people's decision in one way or another. And some people just buy the most expensive. They will avoid the cheapest, and go with most expensive and that an extreme case to show price influences what they buy. And also there is proof that people who own cheaper phones spend less money on other things. You don't go cheap on a smartphone and then start spending lots of money on apps/games. You don't buy a $250 smartphone and then spend $150 on a case. Matter of fact there's stats that back it up. over 60% of all developer's income comes from iOS, even though Android makes up 85% of all users. That shows the 15% spends far more money than the 85%. But the 15% has a higher average income too. That's been proven as well. You really should do research before commenting.

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

Thanks for the reply. Would you recommend the game? Also, how is the turn based strategy gameplay?

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@mattperkins @jenovaschilld My comment has completely flew over your head in regards to your OP, I was not referring to the cost of 'the' platform but of the software, games, and apps. 

And as for the rest of your rant, based on what I assume was a dream - comparable app to app, game per game on either platform - IOS people show no higher buying potential then those on Android. (ignoring platform launch first)

Also if you read my post a couple higher then this one you will see I go into great detail regarding price. 

Much like most of your rants on here you read two words and then purge whatever you have on your little mind to anyone that would be dumb enough to listen. IOS platform people are NOT going to spend more on a game then Android people just because they have it in their pockets, nor do they. 

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

@snacky_smorez The game's story is complex with a plot that is powerful and epic, read reviews on steam to give you an idea. Also the battle is like FF tactics, but also like Agarest wars too. 

All in all very satisfying with a grown up story and gameplay that is like Vandal Hearts meets Oregon Trail.  Little hand holding. 

Also play a game called Blackguards, it too is similar and very good. 

megatronx2
megatronx2

@snacky_smorez I would, especially at a good price. Strategy element is pretty good, although no where near as deep as something like Xcom remake. Game has some charming and magical moments that also remind me of Asterix cartoons for some reason ( especially the main couple reminds me of couple from Asterix vs Cesar animated movie). Overall had pretty good time with it.

mattperkins
mattperkins

@jenovaschilld What's this I see? iOS still favors Android in Developer revenue and the article is from this year? Wow Android still lags in profit for Developers. So much for your dream, no proven buyer potential damn.

Read up:  http://bgr.com/2014/06/26/ios-vs-android-developer-revenue/


The fact is besides that proof is the fact the less you spend on one thing, the less money you spend on other things. This is merely logic and common sense. And by your comments it's obvious you have a cheap phone and don't buy much of anything. But either way it's always been known those who spend more on one product tend to spend more on other products and those who spend less on one product end up spending less on others. There's more than this as proof. Apple users spend more money on average than Android users when online shopping, in real life they spend more on average on purchases in person (using NFC chips to track sales). So yes there's proof of more of a buyer potential for iOS than with Android. 90% of Android users don't buy anything. So yes 90% only using free apps/games equals low buying potential of apps/games. But the fact is you refuse to do research. And you just ramble on. This what I mean by you being dumb.

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

@megatronX2 Awesome! Thanks for the info and the recommendation. Xcom remake is great.