2021 Was A Massive Year For TTRPG Crowdfunders

A $1M+ campaign nearly every month in 2021!

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As you may know, I keep a record of all $1M+ tabletop roleplaying crowdfunding projects (which I imaginatively call the Million Dollar TTRPG Kickstarter Club). There are currently 25 members of that exclusive club.

Kickstarter launched in 2009. The first million dollar TTRPG Kickstarter wasn't until 7 years later, in 2016, with 7th Sea: Second Edition by John Wick. The next was two years later in 2018 when Matt Colville launched his Strongholds & Streaming campaign--the first of his three million dollar Kickstarters!

In 2021, the TTRPG crowdfunding scene exploded. 11 projects -- nearly one every month -- broke the million dollar barrier. The following year, 2022, saw 7 more join the club. 2023 so far has only only seen 2 million dollar TTRPG projects (not yet counting the Gloomhaven Grand Festival, which at the time of writing is still ongoing). It very much seems that the phenomenon is slowing down. The 'explosion' coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, although correlation is not causation.

Here's some more fun stats:
  • The first TTRPG Kickstarter to break $1M was 7th Sea: Second Edition (2016) by John Wick.
  • The first to break $2M was Strongholds & Streaming (2018) by Matt Colville.
  • The first to break $9M was Avatar Legends (2021) from Magpie Games.
  • The first to break $1M on its first day was Avatar Legends (2021) from Magpie Games.
  • The first to break $1M without physical merch addons (minis, dice, shirts, pins, etc.) was Coyote & Crow the Roleplaying Game (2021) from Connor Alexander. The only other campaign to do this so far is Shadowdark (2023).
  • The average pledge level for a million-dollar campaign is about $100. This is usually reached by including add-ons and merchandizing. The lowest average pledge level is $66 (Coyote & Crow with just the game itself) and the highest is $223 (Tanares with numerous miniatures packs).
  • Most entries are Hit Point Press with 3 campaigns over $1M and contributor on two more; and Matt Colville with 3 campaigns over $1M.
  • Ghostfire Gaming has one million-dollar campaign of their own, and is listed as contributor to three others; Hit Point Press has three million-dollar campaigns, and is listed as a contributor on two more.


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I would be interested to see what the lasting impacts of some of theses kickstarters is?

For example does 7th seas have a big community that is ongoing? Do people recommend the Stronghold book in the forums as a most buy resource?

Basically where are they now? Where they one hit wonders or lasting icons?
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I would be interested to see what the lasting impacts of some of theses kickstarters is?

For example does 7th seas have a big community that is ongoing?

I backed 7th Sea because I was still in my excited phase of just getting back into TTRPGs. The length of time involved in getting the materials and the eventual realization that I just didn't have the time to use the material was my first lesson in avoiding knee-jerk backing of projects. I hear enough about 7th Seas in on-line communities that I assume that there is an active community of fans but I've never run into it in the wild and I can't even recall seeing it in the various on-line game matching forums.

Do people recommend the Stronghold book in the forums as a most buy resource?
Yes. Matt Coleville has a large and dedicated fan base. You'll see this book reocommended in forums fairly frequently. I've recommended in EN World threads on a number of occasions. It is one of the 5e books that I've gotten the most use of. I didn't get the Kingdoms and Warfare book, but I am backing his Flee! Mortals book. I feel confident that when I back an MCDM project it will be of good quality, will be managed well, generally deliver on time, and will have great communication with backers. I put MCDM up there with Kobold Press for well run Kickstarter campaigns that are more than just pre-selling. They make their backers part of the development and play testing.
Basically where are they now? Where they one hit wonders or lasting icons?
7th Seas feels like a one-hit wonder to me, but perhaps I'm just not hanging out in the same online spaces as its fans.

MCDM is no one-hit wonder. Matt has built a highly successful company and community off of the Strongholds & Followers campaign and has consistently delivered quality content, including fanzines, video content, 5e supplements, miniatures, and is now working on his own game system.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I would be interested to see what the lasting impacts of some of theses kickstarters is?

For example does 7th seas have a big community that is ongoing? Do people recommend the Stronghold book in the forums as a most buy resource?

Basically where are they now? Where they one hit wonders or lasting icons?
My sense is some games are strongly correlated to their individual creators; others may be doing something new in a super appealing package; and finally others may already have a community baked in and they are leveraging that community to get to $1M.

The ones mentioned in the OP, I'd say they fall as follows:

  1. Individual Creator: 7th Sea (John Wick)
  2. Something new and appealing: Coyote & Crow (Indigenous SciFi? That looks boss? Yes)
  3. Community: Strongholds; Avatar; Shadowdark

Of the 3 approaches, only #3 is scalable and repeatable. #1 may be repeatable but individual's stars can fade (see John Wick for example). #2 is lightning in a bottle, and is hard to replicate
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
It is interesting to see where these games are now. I've heard of all of them and heard about the Kickstarters at the time ... but since then? I'm active in many online gaming communities and I never hear anything about really any of these games any more. I know Coyote and Crow just won the Diana Jones award, for instance, but I hadn't heard anything about that game since launch. And Seventh Sea V2 is sort of discussed as an infamous game system. I played the first edition and know people who backed the Kickstarter only to be quite disappointed.

I think the takeaway is that you can have a huge Kickstarter, but that doesn't mean you're going to have a successful product line unless you manage it like one.
 

ngenius

Adventurer
A better metric is backer numbers rather than pledge numbers. Avatar Legends had over 80,000 people who supported the Kickstarter. And on Free RPG Day, the Avatar booklet was easily the best deal available, almost all the rules were included and well explained with good sample characters. Sadly, not many people showed as much interest trying it out. Which is strange since 80,000 backers is a large word-of-mouth population for informal marketing.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Avatar Legends always seemed like a collectors product for fans of the IP. Kind of like The Expanse was for me. I ran one game and the system is fine, but I really enjoy the book more as something to read an page through.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Avatar Legends always seemed like a collectors product for fans of the IP. Kind of like The Expanse was for me. I ran one game and the system is fine, but I really enjoy the book more as something to read an page through.
I tend to think that as well. I remember when this project Kickstarted and I was going to back it immediately. Then I learned that it was a PbtA game (which is fine, I play those) but it didn't really seem to have the crunch I wanted for bending, which was the point of the game as far as I was concerned.

I know several people who did back it. They were all huge fans of the IP and none of them has said anything about the game since. I was interested in playing it to see how it worked in practice, thinking that it might be worth getting into, but none of them will run it. So, yeah, this is a read or own product as far as I've seen.
 

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