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As One Million Dollar Kickstarter Ends, Another Appears!

As you may know, I started keeping track of the Million Dollar TTRPG Kickstarter Club a while back. What I've noticed is the increasing frequency of these Kickstarters which gross a million dollars or more -- we've gone from a position where we'd have one every few years to where they're coming in at a clip of about one every three weeks right now.

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When John Wick made a million dollars with his 7th Sea Kickstarter way back in 2016, it was the biggest news ever. That Kickstarter was the most successful TTRPG Kickstarter campaign in history (at the time) and that million dollars was jaw-dropping. It wasn't until two years later in 2018 that Matt Colville became the second million dollar Kickstarter creator with Strongholds & Streaming, which nearly doubled Wick's success.

Avatar Legends (the biggest TTRPG Kickstarter in history) ended today on nearly $10M with over 80,000 backers. And just two days ago, the Tanares RPG 5e project hit a million in its first day. Dungeons of Drakkenheim ended just a few weeks ago on $1.2M, and Heliana's Guide to Monster Hunting made $1.8M just a few weeks before that. We've reached a point where million dollar tabletop RPG Kickstarter are so common that they're starting to overlap.

The 9 million+dollar Kickstarters so far this year are:
Note that that represents a span of just 6 months. In the 12 years since Kickstarter's creation in 2009 until the start of 2021, 4 TTRPG projects beat the $1M mark. In the six months since March 2021, until the time of writing, a further 9 projects have done so. That's about one every 3 weeks. It's almost becoming not-news!

Of course, this is great news for the hobby. But what do you think the cause of this year's explosion of massive TTRPG Kickstarters is?
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


Blue Orange

Adventurer
Woah. Out of the 9 Kickstarters on that list, I've backed 6 of them.

Statistically likely since a high-earning Kickstarter has many supporters, no?

Kind of like the way you poll Americans where they'd prefer to live, and the winner is usually New York; sounds weird until you realize a certain number of people are always going to list their hometown, and that's the biggest city in the country, so...
 



And also: to be fair, I back TONS of Kickstarters. I think I might have a problem.

I don't back THAT many, but still ... backing RPG kickstarters has been a pandemic thing for me, since all the money I'd saved to go travelling overseas this year is just sitting around doing nothing and it looks like that won't be changing for a while. So I've got a few pending. Pretty soon, they're going to start delivering all these pretty hardbacks, and I'm going to need to buy a new bookcase.
 


Henry

Autoexreginated
I’d love to know what the change in trends has been, myself. I’ve only seen like 4 Kickstarters/crowdfunds I’ve EVER been enticed to join, (not just RPGs), and I’d be curious to know what inspired the purchases (Other than just, “cool idea”.)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Of course, this is great news for the hobby. But what do you think the cause of this year's explosion of massive TTRPG Kickstarters is?

Well, this has been the the Year of Covid. Loads of people more or less locking down - not spending their money going to movies, restaurants, concerts, conventions or vacations. Boredom and unspent cash and even more time spent online interact and, voila?

Other path - creators are locked down, looking for an avenue of expression in a year of anxiety, and thus greater impetus to put forth ambitious offerings?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I’d love to know what the change in trends has been, myself. I’ve only seen like 4 Kickstarters/crowdfunds I’ve EVER been enticed to join, (not just RPGs), and I’d be curious to know what inspired the purchases (Other than just, “cool idea”.)

I've backed two of these very large RPG kickstarters, both because I was specifically interested in the settings in question.

This past year, with my own employment situation secure, I have been a bit more free with my money for small businesses.
 

MGibster

Legend
Do you million dollar Kickstarter folks have a club where you call get together to drink scotch and smoke cigars? I think Kickstarter is great in that some of those games never would have been published via conventional means. But Kickstarter allowed them to connect to an audience and see the games made. That's just not something I imagined would have ever happened.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Do you million dollar Kickstarter folks have a club where you call get together to drink scotch and smoke cigars? I think Kickstarter is great in that some of those games never would have been published via conventional means.

I have to wonder. A great many small games would never have been published by conventional means. But, if you can clear nearly $10 million, it would seem pretty obvious that a conventional publication would have been successful, too. Maybe not as thunderously large, but successful.

I would like to see someone do an analysis of the impact of these large kickstarters on the success of smaller efforts. It is not clear if this is a "tide raises all boats" situation, or a case of these few sucking the wind out of the smaller projects' sails.
 

MGibster

Legend
I have to wonder. A great many small games would never have been published by conventional means. But, if you can clear nearly $10 million, it would seem pretty obvious that a conventional publication would have been successful, too. Maybe not as thunderously large, but successful.
Yeah, that's true. And these bigger Kickstarter success stories usually have big names attached to them or something else going for them. But I wonder if some of them wouldn't have been published simply because they didn't want to risk producing a flop? The nice thing about Kickstarter is that you get the funds up front.

I would like to see someone do an analysis of the impact of these large kickstarters on the success of smaller efforts. It is not clear if this is a "tide raises all boats" situation, or a case of these few sucking the wind out of the smaller projects' sails.
I didn't back the Blue Planet Kickstarter in large part because I had just spent $200+ on the Zombicide wild west Kickstarter. Most of our entertainment budget's are finite so it's possible more people buying the One Ring means that fewer people funding smaller games. On the flip side, I don't know if a game like Thirsty Sword Lesbians or Blue Planet is really competing against products designed for 5th edition D&D or some of the other big success stories. But I'd be interested in seeing such analysis as well.
 

John R Davis

Adventurer
KS certainly helps the little guy. Even if it only raise 3k say, it means you don't need to spend an initial risk of 1.5k on art, editing and such and then trying to sell and market on say drive thru. With KS within the month you know your exact budget.
 

Aldarc

Legend
KS certainly helps the little guy. Even if it only raise 3k say, it means you don't need to spend an initial risk of 1.5k on art, editing and such and then trying to sell and market on say drive thru. With KS within the month you know your exact budget.
I saw several Twitter feeds talking about how Kickstarter has become an arms race for indie games designers. It's not enough that you have created or written a good game, as many also have to pay to promote, be good at layout and graphic design, cultivate a community as a content designer on YouTube, etc.
 

MGibster

Legend
I saw several Twitter feeds talking about how Kickstarter has become an arms race for indie games designers. It's not enough that you have created or written a good game, as many also have to pay to promote, be good at layout and graphic design, cultivate a community as a content designer on YouTube, etc.
I would imagine just figuring out how to manage the Kickstarter itself can be quite a challenge.
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Well, this has been the the Year of Covid. Loads of people more or less locking down - not spending their money going to movies, restaurants, concerts, conventions or vacations. Boredom and unspent cash and even more time spent online interact and, voila?

Other path - creators are locked down, looking for an avenue of expression in a year of anxiety, and thus greater impetus to put forth ambitious offerings?
Indeed. More than half my clients I teach online now, and in my spare time, I released my own first two books, and have many on the way. Had I been driving around constantly for clients, no chance I could have done this.

Personally, I have never backed a KS though, it seems so strange to be paying for extra features in a PDF let alone pay for a book months or even a year early, and without a review on its quality. Is that stuff usually not written yet?
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
I have to wonder. A great many small games would never have been published by conventional means. But, if you can clear nearly $10 million, it would seem pretty obvious that a conventional publication would have been successful, too. Maybe not as thunderously large, but successful.

I would like to see someone do an analysis of the impact of these large kickstarters on the success of smaller efforts. It is not clear if this is a "tide raises all boats" situation, or a case of these few sucking the wind out of the smaller projects' sails.
Totally agree about trying to figure out how these are impacting the larger field.

I think we have to look at some these projects on a case-by-case basis. Judging by the comments the Avatar campaign was a real outlier, bringing in a ton of backers who'd never backed anything before, or who weren't gamers at all, some even saying they don't plan to try to play, they just want to show their support for the franchise.

That's a big difference even compared to the One Ring campaign, where a lot of backers might have been Tolkien fans first, and interested in playing the actual system second, but basically everyone seemed to be in the gamer space. As exciting as Avatar looks as a game (I backed it for that reason!) that let people push a fandom button that almost none of those other campaigns provide.

And then, to me, there's all the 5e stuff, which I think should be considered--for the purposes of this kind of analysis--as a separate Kickstarter category. Deliver high enough production values and/or famous designers or streamers, and watch those numbers soar. To me those campaigns are just part of the 5e story. Those aren't going to steal any thunder from small non-5e projects, only from small 5e projects. Likewise, something like Avatar or The One Ring aren't going to pull funds away from those 5e projects, big or small. To me, all 5e projects are in corner of Kickstarter, and indie projects are in another, with no interaction between the two, and then you have a lightning-in-a-bottle outlier like Avatar, which was probably helped by very appealing design decisions and Magpie's pedigree, but I bet would have still cracked 5 million no matter what the system. Something like Avatar, imo, doesn't draw funds away from anything, and I'd wager it might help the indie projects in the long run, what with new backers and gamers (who aren't, in this rare case, immediately sucked into 5e's gravitational pull).
 


Stereofm

Adventurer
I have backed lot of KS, and most of them delivered everything, even if often late. The ones who did not deliver were almost exclusively about minis though. Probably the production effort is more important on them so it allows less room for poor planning.
 

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