The Year of the Game

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Last week, Reaper Miniature Bones and Planetary Annihilation became the 10th and 11th Kickstarter projects to cross $1 million in funding. Both projects belong to the Games category. In fact, seven of the eleven projects that have crossed $1 million this year are games, and an eighth is a comic about a game. This has been the year of the game on Kickstarter.

In 2012, more dollars have been pledged to Games projects than to any other category. Here are the year's leading categories by dollars pledged through August 31st:

1. Games — $50 million
2. Film — $42 million
3. Design — $40 million
4. Music — $25 million
5. Technology — $16 million

In 2012, Games has gone from the eighth most-funded category in Kickstarter history to the second most-funded. Here's how much money has been pledged to games each year:

2009 — $48,190
2010 — $519,885
2011 — $3,615,841
2012 — $50,330,275

Here are those same numbers in graph form:

This year, 23% of all dollars pledged have been to games. Last year, just 3.6% were. Of the 36 projects that have raised more than $500,000 this year, 20 have been games.

Why now?

The catalyst for the category’s growth happened in February, when a video game project called Double Fine Adventure raised $1 million in its first 24 hours. The gaming world hasn’t looked at Kickstarter the same way since. Double Fine signaled to game developers that they could use Kickstarter to do something that previously seemed impossible: make the game they wanted without outside interference.

You can see Double Fine's impact by the jump in the number of game projects launching each month beginning in February:

Gamers have noticed too: they're Kickstarter's most frequent backers. People who first back a Games project have backed 2.43 projects on average, compared to 1.78 projects for all other backers. Game projects have brought game backers who have inspired more game projects that have brought even more backers, and so on.

As you can see below, it's a cycle that has produced more dollars pledged to the Games category each month ($7 million) after Double Fine than the previous three years combined ($4 million):

Board & Card Games and Video Games

The Games category includes two subcategories — Board & Card Games and Video Games — and we can further break down these numbers accordingly. A lot of the attention has focused on Video Games, but Board & Card Games has also seen a lot of growth. Here’s a graph showing dollars pledged to each subcategory by year:

Video Games have doubled dollars pledged to Board & Card Games, however the opposite is true when it comes to the number of successfully funded projects. Here's a chart of successfully funded projects by month:

While 47% of board game projects have been successfully funded, just 23% of video game projects have been. Video Game projects raise more money — the average successfully funded video game raises $96,000 — but more Board & Card Game projects are funded, though often on a smaller scale.

Kickstarter + Games

Games give players the power to take control and decide what happens. Kickstarter gives backers the power to take control and decide what happens. The combination of the two has produced some memorable events. Incredibly, all of this has happened in the six months since the launch of Double Fine Adventure. While it's still too early to understand the full impact, it's clear that big changes are happening in the world of games.

    1. City Federation Inc. on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    2. Dan Strickland on

      Great insight! Incredible growth in this category -- $50K in '09 to $50M in '12 to-date. Am most curious on how these trends continue to evolve. 2012 is year of the game, what does 2013 hold? Love the analysis, do share more!

    3. Eleri Hamilton on

      Would really like to see a Role Playing Game category- it is often hard to find those, because they don't really fit Video or Board & Card.

    4. Richard Bliss on

      In 2011 when I launched my Podcast, Funding the Dream on Kickstarter, people wondered why the focus on the game industry. As we approach 100 episodes, the game market continues to grow and show tremendous growth. In addition, they have shown an incredible willingness to share what they learn. The latest episode is with Dice Hate Me Games who has had three successful Kickstarter projects. They share what it takes to be successful on Kickstarter as a Game Project Owner.

      You can listen to the episode here -

    5. Taylor Pratt on

      Board and card gaming is a great fit for kickstarter because it's very niche-specific. Most people have zero interest in backing a board game, and those who do have very high quality standards, but those who do will back projects with great enthusiasm. Since more big-name game designers and publishers have gotten into kickstarter as of late, the platform has become legitimized in the hobbyist games community (there are still detractors, but they are diminishing in number). Due to the limited market, they are usually smaller-scale, but because every board games project is a passion project ("I got into the board games industry to make big bucks" said nobody ever) these projects tend to have clear direction presented in their video appeals, and oftentimes the game in question is already partially or fully completed, with the only issue being funding. This is why these projects tend to be smaller-scale but successful, as opposed to sometimes overly-ambitious video game behemoths that offer only a grand vision and a few bits of concept art to go along with a massive goal. That generally only works if you're Tim Schaefer.

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      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    7. SunTzuGames on

      I'm so happy to see this development... and yet so sad, when I must turn to other alternatives, if I want to get my board game funded :-S

    8. Missing avatar

      Faark on

      Wow, thats awesome information and I'm impressed about your openness. Thumbs up!

    9. Lucas Seuren on

      Double Fine maybe changed the future of how indie games are going to get funded.

    10. Timothe Loya on

      Yes, please. Since the games category is making you some of the most money, how about giving it some more attention in the category market. At the very least add the Roleplaying Games category, since we are neither book, nor board or card game, and most definitely not video game. Please again.

    11. Harald Korneliussen on

      Some observations:

      * Computer gamers have a big online presence, and are quite quick to catch on to new ideas like Kickstarter's treshold pledge funding system.

      * Still, it's mostly niche and/or indie games which get funded. Double Fine is an example: They are adventure games legends, but the days when adventure games like Monkey Island were bestsellers is long gone. Psychonauts too was a critical success, but hardly a commercial one.

      * Less obviously, board gamers also have a big online presence. And if you've been to boardgamegeek, you know we love discussing mechanisms, auctions, etc. Kickstarter's funding model is a great "game" mechanism in itself, and we love great mechanisms. And stats, oh man, stats. Kicktraq was started by a board gamer, and that was no accident.

      * A few famous computer game designers, like Tim Schafer, are in the position of being artistically highly respected, but financially quite restricted in making the sort of games they would like (in Schafer's case, adventure games). But basically all board game designers are in that boat. Only very few board game designers in the world do it full time, and some explicitly reject it even if they could (ideological amateurism is alive and well in boardgaming!).

      * Even those who are full-time professionals have a long history of releasing more personal, more niche games with tiny publishers, which they probably make very little money on! Reiner Knizia, for instance, has games published with Nestorgames (a one-man print on demand operation!) and Steffen Spiele. Kickstarter is ideal for such purposes. Donald X. Vaccarino has already caught on - he has a game now on Kickstarter with Indie Board Games.

      * Larger publishers like Queen games, are now also embracing Kickstarter (to fund projects they are more uncertain about the markets for, I'd wager!)

      I think treshold pledge funding will spread to less pioneer-y communities in the coming years.

    12. Chad on

      It is amazing how much kickstarting games has grown, but I was just thinking and I think there is a lacking aspect. It would be interesting to see some sort of collaboration with valve(Steam) to gain more awareness. A lot of people I know still never hear about a lot of projects on here that would love to play the games. It would be interesting to see a I backed it page that shows on steam to help show what gamers are up to.

      I came to that idea by the fact that I would love to see the Planetary Annihilation reach their upper goals, but I'm not exactly who to share to. They recently revamped the steam community and I think a kickstarter tie in could be very interesting.

    13. Ben Isak Green on

      I'd love to see a monthly breakdown to see if Double Fine affected board & card game projects.

    14. Elliott Bledsoe on

      good to see some figures around this emerging trend in crowdfunding, but i'd like to know how much money has actually been raised for games, not just how much as been pledged. fred?

    15. Missing avatar

      jone on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

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      Peter Cohen on

      @Ben Isak Green. It might be quite difficult to be sure there is a specific Double Fine effect though Kickstarter do have some data they can analyse.

      As others have pointed out role-playing games are mixed in with board and card games. The Order of the Stick reprint drive, the comics project mentioned in the blog post, had already raised over half a million dollars when Double Fine launched. It's hard to be sure how much of an extra kick it got from Double FIne, it certainly got some, but I think it would have just made a million dollars anyway and that would have influenced games projects.

      This blog post in March looked at how Double Fine and OOTS backers went on to back other projects in the following month. $640K was put into other games projects in the monitored by Double Fine first time Kickstarter backers but that is reduced to quarter of a million once around Wasteland 2 was removed. How much of the rest went to other video games and how much to board and card games? Judging by how nearly $240K was put into non-games drives by these new Kickstarter backers, some would have gone to board and card games but probably the overwhelming majority went to other video games.

      In the same period OOTS backers who were new to Kickstarter put over $100K into games drives. How was that money split between video games (including Double Fine and Wasteland) and board and card games?

      The big bounce this year in board game success in the chart above is shown in April. That is the month that the Ogre Designer's Edition, launched bringing in over $900K. So was that boosted by Double Finers? Wastelanders? OOTSers? (Steve Jackson is known for developing both board and card games and the GURPS role-playing system and one of the stretch goals was to launch a video game next year.) Or did Ogre bring in a mass of new board game backers? And then there is Zombicide. It launched just a few days before Ogre. Whilst Ogre had a U-shaped drive with money concentrated in the first few and last few days, Zombicide started quietly with its thirteen biggest days both in terms of money and new backers being the last thirteen. Did it draw backers from Ogre or any of the other three projects I have named? Did CoolMiniOrNot have their own publicity drive bring in people from outside? It's interesting to look at Zpocalypse, briefly the largest completed board and cards game drive, at see how it surged on 11th April, the day that Ogre launched. So did Ogre feed that with new backers and then did both Ogre and Zpocalypse backers start supporting Zombicide? With Relic Knights now in its last three days, there are now four half a million dollar board game drives and three of those are CoolMiniOrNot projects. I wonder what percentage of their backers also back other people's games.

    17. Missing avatar

      Kim Leonhard on

      Thank you Kickstarter, for being honest and transparent! This gives me even more trust in you! I hope there will be even more stats in the future. And yes, Double Fine Adventure was the differance for me as far as "Hmm, this looks interesting" to "This IS awesome!". Keep up all the good work, and I hope the best for kickstarter both now and into the future!


    18. Jelly Paladin on

      Absolutely agreed that 2012 has changed the games industry and that we're seeing a great cycle of projects attracting backers who attract more projects. I showed up for OUYA rather than Double Fine--but however I arrived, here I am backing sixteen game projects in under two months, having fun spreading the word outside of Kickstarter, and even preparing to launch my team's own project next year. I'm excited for gaming's crowd-funded future and I'm sure there are other indie developers who also can't help but walk away inspired.

    19. Fred Benenson

      @elliot: Since our launch, $47.72 million has gone to successfully funded projects in the Games category. This is out of a total of a little over $51 million to all projects that reached their deadline, which means over 93% of dollars pledged to Games were to funded projects. We update stats like these daily on our Stats page:

    20. Missing avatar

      Michael987 on

      Interesting statistics

    21. Tim Ellis

      I agree that better catagorisation is needed. At the moment a Games project can be a "Video Game" a "Board/Card Game" or just a "Game" - that means it is not possible to look for games that are not "Video Games" There should either be more sub-catagories, (including "Other") and a necessity to be in one of them, or it should be possible to search/browse for projects EXCLUDING a particular sub-catagory

    22. Brian Holme on

      i love the video its cool how ou took diffrent projects films and compiled them

    23. Diego on

      I think one of the main barriers for board games is that a LOT of kickstarter money is raided via foreign sales. Importing physical products can be costly and complicated, so people like me (I'm in Brazil and love to kickstart good games) stick to videogames.

    24. Josh on

      Game publishers had better take note. They may lose some of their most successful developers to Kickstarter if this phenomenon continues. I know I personally would rather back a game I want, than to wait for a game the publisher will dump out on me.

    25. Bahut Acha on

      2012 is the best year for gaming and we will see plunty of this type of games @

    26. TERRAN GAMES on

      NEW APPROACH - We asked for clarification from the HELP CONTACT to know if we can incorporate a TV tie-in for our project, but haven't heard back [it's been over a week]. Perhaps we should've started here.

      To our knowledge no one has combined live TV with a KICKSTARTER project. We want to have a drawing for the folks at the low end buy-in. We won't be drawing individually, we'll designate all the low-end supporters by blocks. Winners will get the basic part of the game when the TV morning show celebrity draws one of the blocks [this of course, assumes we can get the TV program to cooperate]. For example - 400 people elect to support our pdf level. We have 100 extra items [because of printing minimum requirements]. We want to designate the 400 pdf supporters into 4 different groups - A is 1-100, B is 101-200, etc. One of the 4 groups will be selected at random to receive an additional bonus item - the basic game.

      Essentially, we want to have a certain group of PDF level winners [of the chosen group] to get the extra printed decks of cards [rather than try to sell them over the next few years] as a thank you for supporting us, and involve a local TV show to do the drawing [to ensure fairness and pump up the local volume], but we want to be sure this doesn't break any of the KS rules. Still waiting on an answer.

      In the meantime, a fast moving thread on the subject of boardgames on KS generated discussion on the WHY of bringing games to KS:

      "...this is a chance to put out one of my better designs in a quality format, which is how I roll. ...there's not a lot of profit built into it, but that wasn't where I was going.

      KICKSTARTER gives me an opportunity I won't ever get anywhere else. Getting one of my games into the hands of an audience larger than [my previous big seller]... The quality will be to my standards and I am completely confident that anyone who jumps on board will be more than satisfied with what they receive for their backing.

      I also hang out at BOARD GAME DESIGNER'S FORUM. There are a lot of great little designs over there that aren't getting much love because very few of the guys over there can afford to [self publish to get their game into stores]. God Bless the ones who can - more power to 'em. But for the hundreds of other designers who would just like to get a quality short print run done without committing to the whole enchilada of it taking over their lives and getting on the roller coaster of fame and fortune... well, they could do a lot worse than following *my* model of just selling a great item to the backers which may or may not ever show up on shelves.

      At least they'll have something out there in people's hands worth having instead of only being able to share with family and friends. I'd say that's worth a shot. It'll work or it won't. If it does, it'll make my day like nobody's business. If it doesn't I won't be crushed. Not everyone can win the race. At least I got on the horse."

      You wonder why game designers have flocked to KICKSTARTER? I'd suggest this has a lot to do with it.

    27. Chris Surguine on

      We need more stats and data visualizations like this! Keep em coming!

    28. Seumas Froemke on

      I was a bit shocked to see the average game backer has backed 2.43 projects on kickstarter and the average overall is 1.78 projects. I'VE . . . BACKED 230. . .
      And as someone who has backed 230 projects, I have to say there is still a lot to be desired as far as navigability and sorting. Both in searching for new projects and in reviewing your already backed-projects. (I would kill for a very clear and simple way to get a "recently launched" per-category and sub-category option, for example).
      Of course, the real telling part of the videogames section isn't in the amount of projects launched and the revenue gained from 2012, but the successes and failures of those projects as they reach deadlines in 2013. I keep a very tight spreadsheet tracking as much data as I can about each project that I back, including color coding of status and fulfillment. It'll be interesting to watch it evolve in the next year.
      The best thing Kickstarter can do to ensure this trend continues is to start actively vetting (as much as possible) submitted projects. This "hands off" approach is going to come crashing down around you as soon as a few funded projects turn out to be scams and more turn out to simply be failures (in execution; not intent) that don't come to fruition and/or fulfill promises. As soon as that happens more than a few times, it's all over. The only thing maintaining Kickstarter's revenue is maintaining a sense of trust in coming to this "marketplace" of ideas and projects and if there's no serious vetting going on other than filling out a form properly and the project creator being a US resident, there won't remain much reason to come to Kickstarter over another place. In the long run, this "backing game" will be won by whoever competes the best by providing the safest and most vetted environment possible.

    29. Missing avatar

      adoreachild on

      As kickstarter is providing different interesting games which attract more people towards it. So, as number of user increased so, the performance will also improve.

    30. Stormfury

      It's nice having a say in what games get produced for a change. As a multi game backer (Board and Video), I have grown frustrated with the redundant madden 37, Halo 50, and Gears 27 we are constantly forced to endure.

      Kickstarter offers up the opportunity to take a chance on titles that would otherwise get shot down such as Dead State, Castle Story or Xenonaughts.

      It's a win for developers AND players alike.

    31. Tom Hessert on

      Wow that is some amazing growth in the games category.

    32. Missing avatar

      bgameshq on

      Welcome to BestBoardGamesHQ which is home to your guide on helping you find that the best board games for those special occasions. Here you can find the a board game for any occasion such as adult games, family games, kids games and much more.

    33. Kevin Mitchell on

      What about games that are funded and then either don't deliver or are delayed over a year of delivery. This data is conveniently left off most of the pages. There are some major games that ran into serious issues post funding, and they were allowed to start other projects. To me these reports are just glam stats used to cover for the deep-seated issues at hand behind allowing gaming companies to abuse this system.

    34. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    35. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    36. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

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