The Kickstarter Blog

Blockbuster Effects

When a new project launches, the first thing its creators do (if they hope to be successful) is promote it to their friends and fans. This starts a ripple effect of promotion and backing that often accelerates if the project is picked up by a well-read blog or online community. This is how the majority of audiences are introduced to projects.

As we've grown, we've heard people worry that it will be harder and harder to fund projects as the total number of projects grows. They wonder: Do more projects mean greater competition for the same dollars? 

And when there's a blockbuster project, they ask: Are these projects stealing backers from other worthy projects?

For both questions, the opposite actually appears to be true. Projects aren't fighting over a finite pool of Kickstarter dollars or backers. One project's backer isn't another project's loss. The backers that one project brings often end up backing other projects as well. Each project is not only promoting itself, but the Kickstarter ecosystem as a whole.

How's the health of the Kickstarter ecosystem right now? Currently there are more projects funding on Kickstarter than ever before — more than 4,500 in all. That big number is good news for both current and future project creators.

To illustrate that point, let's look at two recent blockbuster projects: the video game Double Fine Adventure and the webcomic Order of the Stick. Both projects raised more than $1 million — and brought a flood of new backers in the process.

Double Fine Adventure

Double Fine Adventure is the largest project in Kickstarter history by pretty much every metric, including dollars pledged and number of backers.

  • Dollars Pledged: $3,336,371
  • Total Backers: 87,142
  • First-Time Backers: 61,692 (71%)

Double Fine brought a lot of new people — more than 60,000 first-time backers — to the site. Did that activity extend to other Video Games projects? To measure this, we calculated the average number of pledges per week to projects in the Video Games category before and after the launch of Double Fine. The dotted line marks Double Fine’s launch; pledges to Double Fine itself are excluded.

In the month before Double Fine, the Video Games category averaged 629 pledges per week. After Double Fine's launch, the Video Games category averaged 9,755 pledges per week, excluding pledges to Double Fine itself. The jump is similar in terms of dollars:

  • $1,776,372 was pledged to the Video Games category in Kickstarter's first two years. In the six weeks after Double Fine, $2,890,704 was pledged ($6,227,075 counting Double Fine).
  • Before Double Fine, one video game project had exceeded $100,000. Now, nine have. 
  • Wasteland 2, a million-dollar game project that launched after Double Fine, has received nearly $400,000 in pledges from Double Fine's first-time backers.

Did only the Video Games category benefit? Of the 60,000 people whose first-ever pledge was to Double Fine, 13,715 of them (22%) have backed another project. Here's their activity after their Double Fine pledge:

  • Dollars Pledged: $877,171
  • Distinct Projects Backed: 1,266

To date, new Double Fine backers have pledged an additional $875,000 to 1,200 projects. Here are those pledges by category:

Category Pledges Dollars Pledged
Games 18,055 $639,862
Design 986 $64,557
Film & Video 1,137 $46,245
Comics 897 $45,772
Technology 366 $27,022
Publishing 503 $15,552
Art 231 $12,862
Music 404 $11,918
Fashion 82 $6,034
Food 153 $4,813
Theater 36 $1,304
Photography 30 $1,147
Dance 9 $83

Games had most of the activity, but every category — even Dance — got pledges from new Double Fine backers. About $250,000 has been pledged to projects outside of Games.

Order of the Stick

Let's look at the same metrics for the webcomic Order of the Stick:

  • Dollars Pledged: $1,254,120
  • Total Backers: 14,952
  • First-Time Backers: 11,343 (76%)

How did Order of the Stick affect pledges to other Comics projects? Here are the average pledges per week before and after its launch. All pledges to Order of the Stick itself have been excluded.

Even in Comics, one of the more established categories on Kickstarter, you can see a big bump. In the month before Order of the Stick, the Comics category got an average of 780 pledges per week. After the launch of Order of the Stick, that doubled to 1,653 pledges per week.

How about for non-Comics projects? Of the 11,343 people whose first pledge was to Order of the Stick, 2,455 of them (22%) have backed another project. Here's their activity:

  • Dollars Pledged: $206,766
  • Distinct Projects Backed: 722

More than 700 projects got pledges from Order of the Stick's first-time backers. Like Double Fine, they pledged to every category:

Category Pledges Dollars
Games 3,017 $109,549
Comics 710 $43,437
Design 293 $21,796
Film & Video 232 $9,433
Publishing 257 $7,216
Technology 75 $4,129
Food 72 $3,521
Music 88 $2,981
Art 62 $2,382
Fashion 15 $1,321
Photography 21 $563
Theater 19 $374
Dance 5 $62

Combined, Double Fine and Order of the Stick raised more than $4.5 million, and their first-time backers have pledged another $1,083,937 to 1,000 other projects. Double Fine and Order of the Stick's achievements have inspired tons of press and even other projects — as of today more than 35 projects have been launched by first-time backers, and 4 have already been successfully funded. Fellow blockbuster Wasteland 2 launched after being inspired by Double Fine. 

These projects illustrate how the Kickstarter ecosystem is strengthened with each new project and backer. We'll keep an eye on these trends and share more findings when we have them. Thanks for reading!

(Update: we originally noted that over 200 projects had been started, but not all of these projects have yet launched, or necessarily will launch.)

Comments

    1. Christian_catalini_catalini.com.small

      Creator Christian on March 29, 2012

      Interesting, descriptive analysis, although it does not really get at causality. Competition may well be increasing on the platform once you define the relevant set correctly.

      Is the arrival of those two projects on the platform really exogenous? The before/after approach is definitely a good route, but I am not sure the control group is a credible one.

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      Creator Jonathan Jaeger on March 29, 2012

      The key thing you're trying to refute, "One project's backer isn't another project's loss," is a little hard to measure now when you're just looking at how everything is up and to the right in terms of funding for video games. You could just have a series of hits in a short amount of time, you could have a ton of new backers from all the press and virality of the projects that start to pledge more in this time period, or a number of other factors.

      I think something that would be interesting to measure over time is if there is a tipping point in a category. For instance, if you have 1000 video game projects at once, does the number of absolute dollars pledged in a given time period stop going up at a certain point as project numbers increase.

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      Creator Grant Rodiek on March 29, 2012

      My card game project was on the site when Double Fine launched. We had 505% of our initial funding goal and never really had a slow day. I always believed that Double Fine's project helped us, now there's a bit of data to back that theory up. Great stuff.

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      Creator Dan Vedda on March 29, 2012

      My feeling about htis is reinforced by Kickstarter's stats. While things may change in the future, the concept is new enough to many people that the thrill of discovery is fueling a lot of contributions. As much as I've talked up the Kickstarter site, most of the people I've mentioned it to--even those in the perpetual cycle of scrabbling for arts funding--have been unaware of it or its potential. I'm surprised by this, but only a little. My feeling is that as long as the Kickstarter community is growing, the cannibalization of project dollars won't be an issue. I can't begin to predict when or if it will top out...but it's growing now.

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      Creator Mark Ewing on March 29, 2012

      Christian - causality would be nigh impossible to establish in an ecosystem like Kickstarter since you cannot assign subjects to the treatment - and even if you could do that, you couldn't get a representative sample of backers to infer the results back to the population as a whole. I think more care could have been taken to exclude the Wasteland 2 data from the Video Game category as it came in with some momentum of it's own.

      The other side of the coin that isn't being considered here is the quality of projects listed. You may find evidence that the median dollars contributed to non-blockbuster projects is lower than before (not saying that's the case, just hypothetical) yet there's no way to assign a quality metric to projects. As more and more people try and fund through Kickstarter it's inevitable without some form of censorship that low quality projects that only a few people are interested in become prevalent.

      Still, the fact that there have been several million dollar projects all back to back with only two of them in the same category is telling. The fact that a $900,000 project was funded is telling.

      Kickstarter is still being discovered by so many that hard analysis would be incredibly difficult to do because the base of people contributing is changing so much. Penny Arcade didn't really start talking about Kickstarter until after the Double Fine game launched. Now they talk about it a lot. That's a new base of people coming in that will change the dynamic of future projects being funded.

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      Creator Alexia Anastasio on March 29, 2012

      I would be interested in seeing the research and statistics of the film category in relation to projects imdb starmeter and marketing efforts.

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      Creator Keith Waters on March 29, 2012

      Absolutely amazing! I love kickstarter. I know this the future for independent creativity. This article was so informative and gives me hope more hope when I start my project.

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      Creator Lisa Yao on March 29, 2012

      This seems consistent with many communities. The first time I ever heard of etsy.com was from a vendor at a flea market. I’ve since lost myself in etsy many more times than I wish to admit. Did that vendor cannibalize their own business by driving me to etsy? No, I still purchased from the original vendor. But that vendor did expose me to many more etsy vendors and many more products. Does the woman who I bought a dress from years ago care that I have since purchased dresses, and other things, from other sellers? I hope not! Likely she’s benefited plenty from other vendors’ clients who have then gone to discover her.

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      Creator Kevin Clark on March 29, 2012

      This is great data supporting a lot of things we already know about web communities - more people coming in means more people staying. And once you've put money down once you're much more likely to do it again. It seems really intuitive that there isn't a crowding-out factor here, and it's nice to see some data on how strong the forces are in the opposite direction. Thanks!

    10. Kims-profile-pic.small

      Creator Kimberly on March 29, 2012

      Fabulous post, it was interesting to see the data and community growing. The Kickstarter Eco system is expanding as more and more people discover crowd funding. Making the jump from having a project supported by friends and family to reaching and getting funded by a target audience is the challenging part (and the validation I suspect we all seek).

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      Creator Dexter on March 29, 2012

      If there's anything to take out of this, I think it's that gamers and comic readers really don't like dancing.

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      Creator Arctic Architecture on March 29, 2012

      Is data publicly available on overall donations per project category (such as Games, Design, Photography, etc)? Seems like Games have the potential to be hugely successful, along with Music projects, but it would be interesting to see the total breakdown of funding based on each category. There are only a few posts matching the Data tag of your blog and I didn't find any info there. The comment before mine notes that gamers and comic readers don't back Dance projects. Does anyone?

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      Creator Matthew Walker on March 29, 2012

      I can say that I got lured in by a couple projects, and have since backed several others that I never would have known about otherwise. :)

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      Creator Craig Sloat on March 29, 2012

      I've pledged to 4 projects since I saw the order of the stick drive and now I L O V E Kickstarter and really want a Shirt/Jacket ^____^

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      Creator Carlos Leituga on March 29, 2012

      Curious about Kickstarter Staff's opinion on the Kick It Forward concept. http://kickingitforward.org/

    16. Kthero_avatar.small

      Creator Shervyn von Hoerl on March 29, 2012

      I actually think that one of the newest things to happen on the Kickstarter site that has the greatest potential to drive growth is the ability to see what your friends are funding. I know I have backed several projects because I learned about them when my friends backed them, even though they never mentioned a word about it to me, and even though they know I am an addict.

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      Creator Tony Cleaver on March 29, 2012

      Excellent data- and quite inspiring. Admittedly, I have pondered whether or not my 'non' game, 'non' techy product design might get lost in the fray of such popular project categories. So your data illustrating that Backers of such categories go on to back other categories "even dance" (and the world 'does' need dance too) was nothing short of tantalizing. And when you think about it- a given number, plus more ... can hardly equal less. That little kernel of knowledge (though fundamental in retrospect) was not so obvious. Thanks for taking the time with this. I stand 'renewed,' and will present my project soon.

    18. Missing_small

      Creator Peter Cohen on March 29, 2012

      The caveat that I would place on the conclusion of the article is that Kickstarter and this sort of organised crowd-funding over multiple otherwise independent projects is new. From an ecological perspective, all projects are feeding on the disposable income of KS subscribers or potential subscribers. However, the number of KS subscribers is growing because not everyone has heard of the concept. I first heard of KS through OOTS and have now seen it mentioned again by another route which I believe to be independent.

      The newness of KS is indicated by the fact that it is growing exponentially with the monies raised doubling every few months. Once this curve flattens out, then it could be claimed that the smaller projects are competing with the large ones more directly. Until it flattens, the large projects bring in new people who might be interested in the smaller projects.

      What can help neutralise this is if the larger projects are committed to the philosophy of independent funding, whether this is inExile promoting Kicking it Forward or a more informal approach. I can think of examples such as punk music, science fiction or comics fandom etc where an interest community leads to different bands, fanzines etc. promoting each other, for example a band can use its own label to publish music by new bands. KS is unusual in that it crosses communities of interest. The above statistics do indicate that the indy spirit can cross categories. I am interested to see whether the design and technology categories can fertilise the arts and entertainment categories in the same way that they do design and tech.

    19. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Dan Nolan on March 29, 2012

      Makes perfect sense. There is a huge untapped market out there consisting of everyone who's never heard of KS. Each person who joins because they heard about the project elsewhere only adds to the available market of buyers in KS. I came in through Order of the Stick, which I spent almost a thousand bucks on, and then proceeded to several thousand more on other projects. Why? Because there's a button at the top of every page that says Discover great projects.

    20. Chaotic-gaming-studio-logo.small

      Creator Chaotic Gaming Studio on March 29, 2012

      Well then I hope not to worry of competitors when it comes to my newest project, This made my hope go up thank you kickstarter! also my project is an MMORPG :) So Seeing this makes me want to spread the word way more, We already have 80 likes in the first 24 hours!
      -CGS

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      Creator Shane Ayers on March 29, 2012

      Does that take Wasteland 2 into account?

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      Creator Drekfletch on March 29, 2012

      I can believe that a popular project is beneficial to other projects. When I first came to Kickstarter, after I pledged I went and browsed projects to see what else was here. Because I've backed projects and know what Kickstarter is, just hearing about a project here validates it to some extent.

    23. D.small

      Creator R. L. Fink on March 30, 2012

      My concern is that many worthy projects get lost in the noise. How many would-be patrons can find all the interesting projects in a sea of 4500 prospects?

      I have three suggestions:
      1. have a section for 'worthy underdogs'
      2. allow multiple levels of filtering, for example - publishing/fiction/about to end
      3. increase the number of 'Staff Picks' from three to nine

    24. Dawn.small

      Creator ET3D on March 30, 2012

      I agree with R. L. Fink that it's not easy to discover projects here. It's still easier than on Indiegogo, for example because there's a distinction between video games and other games, but it starts from not having an obvious way to get a list of projects. The only way I know is to click "See more popular projects" which is not intuitive. Then there's a sorting that's not obvious. I would like a way to get a subset of projects and then sort it by remaining time, percent pledged, that kind of thing. Get the subset by searching, categories and subcategories, tags. As the number of projects grow it will become more important to have such ways to find them, to have "people who pledged for this also pledged for that" and other kinds of discovery options.

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      Creator TheChosenOne on March 30, 2012

      We need way more options on all parts of the site. Easier to browse starrted projects, sort of remaining time, already funded or not and as above said also on other parts of the site. Kickstarter in that aspect is not very user friendly.

    26. Untitled-1_9f99.small

      Creator TheChosenOne on March 30, 2012

      starred* And edit function would be nice aswell. Even if only possible XX minutes after posted message.

    27. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Jody Kline on March 30, 2012

      I think there will be some adjustment, but as the network effect intensifies, I think there will be a lot of opportunities for 'impulse' backers at the $5 or so level. Right now I think a lot of backers are looking at it as a sort of preorder, so the $50 contributors are probably limited pool. If you can tap the general RPG audience for $1 or $5 just because it looks interesting, etc., then I think that can negate any dilution.

      Also, I've been keeping an eye on http://rpgkickstarters.tumblr.com/ to find new opportunities, as well as watching Fred's Kickstarter profile.

    28. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Tyler Gallant on March 30, 2012

      I signed up to back the Order of the Stick project, and I have subsequently dropped four times the amount I pledged on that project across nine other projects. I definitely sift through the categories every weekend to see if anything catches my eye. There are several other projects I have on my watch list while I look to see more information before I decide to pledge -- I tend to shy away from one-and-done projects.

    29. Fb_profile_picture.small

      Creator Juan Varela on March 30, 2012

      Mmmm, I backed both of those and I'm currently backing the Wasteland 2 project but that is because there are projects that interested and I was familiar with from before. From both of those communities I have received links to other projects (computer gaming and webcomics) but to be honest I wasn't very impressed so I haven't jumped in. Although in a couple of cases I was tempted to drop $5 or so. I guess people can pledge $5 or $10 or $20 multiple times but the project will definitely benefit from having a large fanbase to start with and above all good presentation.

    30. Garfield07.small

      Creator Merele on April 3, 2012

      Funny to read these comments some say it is good but some say it is bad ^^
      To those people who thinks that more backers and blockbuster projects are not helping smaller projects: Think about this before Double Fine i didn't even know about Kickstarter, I Only pledged on Double Fine and Wasteland 2 yet , but i did check out a lot of projects and I'm pretty sure if i find one I'm interested in will pledge some :)

    31. Walterportraitavatar250.small

      Creator Walter Jeffries on April 4, 2012

      Fascinating. I had wondered about this and those graphs confirm what I had thought would be the case. Now that our own project has started its run I'm seeing that people I brought to Kickstarter who had never done it before are poking around finding other projects to support too. One of them told me it is addictive and she must be careful or she over spends as she window shops and finds all sorts of things to back. The rising tide's floating many boats.

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      Creator Jason Darby on April 11, 2012

      Big projects will bring in lots of new people that will ultimately bring in more $ for other projects. I saw KS due to DF, though i missed the opportunity to pledge, then Wasteland came along i pledged on that, also Jane Jensens Adventure project and Shadowrun.

      The downside to everyone seeing this success is that the number of projects could increase at too fast a rate, which will outweigh the benefits of these big projects bringing new people. When this would be would be anyones guess.

      Hopefully the smaller projects don't get left behind and it ends up with only big well known people getting somewhere... though its important to have the right things in place before setting up a KS project, and some fail because they are very badly presented.

      Anyway interesting to see how this all works out.

    33. 1708212-zombie_pigeontron_legacy_tron_legacy_18012795_100_100.small

      Creator Elciled on April 12, 2012

      I signed up for Double Fine's project, and since then I have only backed 2 rpgs including Wasteland 2, because I'm an unemployed artist so I have no money, otherwise I'd back more. (I do like dance, but it's hard to enjoy it from the end of the world where I live).
      Now, if there are multiple projects I want to back but I have money only for some of them, what way would I decide how much money to give which project? Based on their goals, how much they already made, and even their rewards. Not purely on who's more famous, and certainly not just to add to a goal already surpassed by millions.
      So I think there should be more ways to sort and find projects on the site, according to goal, goal met, type of game, type of music, etc. It's only logical that you'd feel safer with a famous guy's project, you're giving your money away for strangers here, knowing who they are helps. And the people who don't care about the small projects still wouldn't care even if there were no big projects.

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      Creator Scott Picunko on April 15, 2012

      One thing I would find really helpful is a simple hit counter. It would make it easier to tell why a project is behind on it's funding. If you're getting a low number of visitors, you'll know you need to step up your promoting. If you're getting lots of visitors but not many pledges, then there's some issue with your project that you need to explore further.

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      Creator duann Scott on May 3, 2012

      Awesome, thanks for sharing, we see similar trends on Shapeways.

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      Creator Remas Haytham on February 7

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.