Kickstarter Creates Access For New Ideas in the Game Industry by Michelle Spelman

Kickstarter Logo

You have about a one in three chance to successfully fund your game idea on Kickstarter.  The Games category is now the most funded of all categories on the platform.

Kickstarter has proclaimed 2012 the “Year of the Game”- and for good reason.

In the first eight months of 2012, the grassroots, creative project-funding platform has seen over $51 million pledged for games. That’s up from just $3.6 million for all of 2011 and light years away from the $48,190 pledged in the Games category on Kickstarter in 2009.

The tipping point for Games can be traced back to a video game project earlier this year called Double Fine Adventure.  They obliterated their goal of raising $400K when 87K+ backers stepped up and pledged over $3.3 million to the project.  Since then, over 10 video games have crossed the $1 million funding mark.

While Video Games represent the highest dollars pledged, Board Games and Card Games have plenty to brag about because they are successfully funded more often than video games on Kickstarter, and have earned more than $15 million in 2012.  To date, 47% of board game projects have been successfully funded, compared to 23% of video game projects.

How Kickstarter Works

Kickstarter allows creators to set a financial goal and a deadline to raise funds for their project. If the goal is not met by the deadline, no funds are collected. If the creator meets or exceeds the goal, then the money goes to the creator (it is not a loan). In exchange for the support, the creators give rewards to the backers.

What Kickstarter is... and isn't

Before considering the impact of this new phenomenon, it’s important to be clear about the platform's purpose.

From their FAQ:

“Kickstarter is focused on creative projects. We're a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, illustrators, explorers, curators, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.

The word “project” is just as important as “creative” in defining what works on Kickstarter. A project is something finite with a clear beginning and end. Someone can be held accountable to the framework of a project — a project was either completed or it wasn’t — and there are definable expectations that everyone can agree to. This is imperative for every Kickstarter project.

We know there are a lot of great projects that fall outside of our scope, but Kickstarter is not a place for soliciting donations to causes, charity projects, or general business expenses.”

The Kickstarter experience feels like a game experience

People support Kickstarter projects first and foremost because it’s FUN!  The Kickstarter formula definitely has a “game” element to it.  It’s a competitive race to the finish line, pressure to be creative and attractive, and there are definitely winners and losers, when a project gets funded…or not.

Backers can receive innovative products, creative benefits and unique experiences in exchange for their (often modest) investment.  In addition, the platform gives a human face, story and personality to ideas that would otherwise be introduced under an anonymous brand – if at all.  This is appealing to consumers for the same reasons that they are fascinated with celebrities, having favorite book authors, musicians and screen actors.

Morphology Junior

In 2009, Kate Ryan Reiling self-published her debut party game, “Morphology.”  Since then, the game has gained momentum, garnering industry awards, media attention, and reaching retail store shelves across the country.  While the original version was designed for ages 13 and up, she knew there was potential to create a junior edition that would be more approachable for younger players.  With revised rules and final product development near completion, Ryan Reiling found herself in need of $15,000 to fund manufacturing and retail launch costs.  In mid-April, she turned to Kickstarter to get the junior version across the finish line.  In 30 days, she’d raised $15,240 from 119 backers who were inspired by her vision and stepped up with pledges ranging from $10-500.

Long term potential influence of Kickstarter on the game industry

The games industry should take notice and, at the very least, monitor the pulse of game projects on Kickstarter.  If the platform maintains its current trajectory, traditional game publishers may stand to lose some of the creative resources they are used to tapping for new ideas.  

Because Kickstarter creates access to funding opportunities that did not exist before, small, independent developers may find themselves able to by-pass the traditional path of pitching their ideas to a relatively small pool of industry executives in hopes of licensing or outright selling their game ideas.  Instead, they may opt to pitch their idea to the crowd, self-produce new games and reach consumers directly.

It will be interesting to see if mid-tier and larger publishers will consider testing ideas on Kickstarter to fund projects that they deem riskier.  And while they decide, indie publishers are leveraging this tool full steam ahead.

Ground Floor

Game publisher, Michael Mindes, of Tasty Minstrel Games, has done just that.  He launched his company’s fourth game “Ground Floor” on Kickstarter.  A business building board game designed to simulate the experience of startup entrepreneurship, Mindes set a goal of raising $15,000 to fund production. The project exceeded its goal ten times over, amassing almost $117K in pledges from 1733 backers, most of whom pledged between $50 and $100 each.

Backers are often avid game fans who must certainly feel empowered to bring games they find appealing to fruition by backing them directly through Kickstarter, rather than waiting for the bigger game houses to choose for them.

Game designer, Jeff Spelman, of Flying Pig Games LLC, has been observing the Kickstarter landscape and says, “The platform is especially appealing to small indie game publishers and inventors as a vehicle that legitimizes their ask for financial support from friends and family.  More importantly, it also creates a new pathway for support from outside those immediate circles.  That unprecedented access stands to change how some new products reach the marketplace.  Kickstarter can remove common financial barriers, clearing the way for worthy ideas to be realized that might never see the light of day otherwise.”

Some seriously compelling statistics

Click here to see a full list of most successfully funded board and card games on Kickstarter to date.

Current hotbeds launching most Kickstarter projects in the games category

Source: ThingsWeStart.com 

       
  1. Seattle
  2.    
  3. Los Angeles
  4.    
  5. Philadelphia
  6.    
  7. San Francisco
  8.    
  9. Chicago
  10.    
  11. Washington D.C.
  12.    
  13. Salt Lake City
  14.    
  15. San Diego
  16.    
  17. Portland
  18.    
  19. Austin

Successes and dollars pledged per year: broken down between video games and board/card games 

Also see Kickstarter Blog: The Year of the Game

Kickstarter Chart: Dollars pledged to games per year
Kickstarter Chart: Monthly breakdown - video, board, card games

Successfully Funded Games

Most successfully funded projects raise less than $10,000, but a growing number have reached six and even seven figures. Currently funding projects that have reached their goals are not included in this chart — only projects whose funding is complete.

 (Table source: Kickstarter)

Category

Successfully Funded Projects

Less than
$1,000 Raised

$1,000
to
$9,999 Raised

$10,000
to
$19,999 Raised

$20,000
to
$99,999 Raised

$100K
to
$999,999 Raised

$1M+

Raised

All

29,544

3,489

20,217

3,516

2,045

266

11

Music

8,607

911

6,550

851

286

8

1

Film & Video

7,609

745

4,838

1,178

788

60

0

Art

3,005

555

2,155

218

75

2

0

Publishing

2,272

393

1,528

231

116

4

0

Theater

2,233

312

1,727

146

47

1

0

Games

930

60

435

192

184

53

6

Food

860

51

484

213

108

4

0

Design

848

72

325

162

211

76

2

Photography

845

127

591

97

30

0

0

Comics

743

116

486

77

54

9

1

Dance

672

62

575

28

7

0

0

Fashion

509

60

345

70

29

5

0

Technology

411

25

178

53

110

44

1

Unsuccessfully Funded Projects

Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing in more ways than one. While 12% of projects finished having never received a single pledge, 82% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded.

Category

Unsuccessfully Funded Projects

0%
Funded

1% to
20% Funded

21% to
40% Funded

41% to
60% Funded

61% to
80% Funded

81% to
99% Funded

All

37,800

8,087

23,140

4,354

1,536

486

197

Film & Video

11,718

2,728

7,300

1,147

384

118

41

Music

7,255

1,787

4,047

957

329

102

33

Publishing

5,016

1,240

3,060

474

177

43

22

Art

3,201

670

1,894

413

152

51

21

Games

1,813

183

1,306

197

80

31

16

Design

1,470

138

961

238

97

21

15

Photography

1,403

316

825

181

56

18

7

Fashion

1,356

314

822

163

29

23

5

Food

1,255

115

881

159

70

25

5

Theater

1,227

271

704

162

60

19

11

Technology

915

130

632

96

29

13

15

Comics

883

135

549

127

52

16

4

Dance

288

60

159

40

21

6

2

Have you had experience launching a project with Kickstarter?  Have you ever helped fund a project as a backer?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!  Please weigh in and join the conversation!  Your relevant comments, observations and questions are welcome.  Please post below.

Michelle Spelman

 Michelle Spelman is Editor and Inventor Relations Liaison for Chicago Toy & Game Group. She is a game inventor, and co-founder of Flying Pig Games LLC, creators of award-winning Jukem Football card game. She is also founder of Cincinnati Game & Toy Industry Professionals group, and is the Cincinnati Children’s Toy Examiner. An independent marketing consultant providing contract services, executive coaching and strategic direction, she’s in her sweet spot when she is working with companies focused on women and family-oriented products and services.

In the spirit of full disclosure, It is important to note that the author of this article did not receive any form of compensation or other incentive from any of the entities mentioned in this article in exchange for including them in the story.  However, the author is affiliated with Flying Pig Games LLC and is married to Jeff Spelman quoted herein.  This a matter of circumstance and did not influence the objective content of the article in any way.