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Fig investors see 245 percent returns, including a profitable buy-out (update)

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The investors who backed Outer Wilds sold their shares to Annapurna, who is now publishing the game

An observatory looms over starting village in Outer Wilds.
Newly revised visuals make Outer Wilds more glossy than ever.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive

Fig, the platform that blends traditional rewards-based crowdfunding with equity investment, has announced its first set of financial returns. The results? Fig said investors made a 245 percent return. It’s a positive sign for the future of the platform, but the situation is also a little odd. One game in particular, Outer Wilds, hasn’t actually come out yet and how exactly investors were paid out on it isn’t entirely clear.

Fig is supported by two types of funding: Backers, who contribute at lower amounts and who do not receive equity returns. Then there are investors, who contribute at higher amounts (typically $500 or $1,000) and receive dividends. So far, Fig has helped bring three games to market: Kingdoms & Castles, Trackless and Solstice Chronicles: MIA. Those games are available on Steam, either separately of in a Fig bundle.

But the fourth game that it includes in its calculations, Outer Wilds, hasn’t come out yet. Its release window, which is some time in 2018, was announced formally only just yesterday. More confusing, the announcement didn’t come from Fig. It came from the game’s new publisher, Annapurna Interactive, which is better known for titles such as What Remains of Edith Finch, Gorogoa and Florence.

So what’s going on here?

Our interview with the team at Mobius Games, the creators of Outer Wilds, from 2015.

When investors put equity into a game on Fig, they receive in return something called a Fig Game Share. That’s a share of the revenue generated by a given game. When Polygon reached out to the Fig team about the situation with Outer Wilds, all they would say is the following: “Fig Game Shares make it possible for purchasers to earn returns based on many sources of revenue generated by the video game, such as from advances, publishing, distribution and buyouts, which can even be generated prior to a game’s launch.”

So were investors who owned Fig Game Shares of Outer Wilds bought out by Annapurna? And if so, how were terms agreed on with investors? Fig won’t say.

Polygon asked Mobius Digital, the development team behind Outer Wilds, and it was reticent to speak about the subject as well. All they would say is that the extra funding provided by Annapurna allowed it to create a more rich and complex experience for players. The game has received a complete graphical overhaul, and all of its many secrets now have answers instead of dead ends. Mobius said that it’s looking forward to demoing the game that they’ve worked on together for the last six years at this year’s PAX East.

We’ve also reached out to Annapurna but have not yet received a response.

Regardless, investors in Outer Wilds got paid well, to the tune of 220 percent return on their investment according to Fig. It’s just not clear how.

If you backed the Outer Wilds campaign on Fig we’d love to hear from you and learn more about your experience. Click my name above to find my email, and drop me a line.

Fig has more than a dozen titles coming in 2018, including Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire and Julian Gollop’s Phoenix Point, the spiritual successor to the original XCOM. Fig’s earnings were down 28 percent overall in 2017 compared to the year previous, however, and the initiation of new campaigns has slowed in the opening months of 2018.

Update (March 19): After our original story was published, we received an email from Scott Pease, the original Fig investor on Outer Wilds, who volunteered to explain the situation with Annapurna Interactive.

“It’s really pretty simple,” Pease said. “They made a buyout offer. We as investors talked about it and ultimately decided to take it.

“From my perspective, we got a nice return with no risk of the game ever not releasing. But most importantly, the devs got a boost from Annapurna. [...] When I looked at Outer Wilds, the art was already pretty good, but I could see that with some more time and money it could really be something special… I hope they have achieved their potential — the trailer looks pretty sweet!”