On Kickstarter There Are More Successful Projects But Creators Earning 30% Less

More successful campaigns but smaller shares of the pie!

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A report from Polygon, which used data from Tabletop Analytics ( site which collects data about Kickstarter campaigns) indicates that while the tabletop segment of the crowdfunding platform is still growing, individual creators are getting smaller shares of the pie.

Individual creators earned an average of 30% less in 2023 compared to 2019, despite there being 22% more successful campaigns.

Interestingly, Kickstarter has historically shared data directly, but this year has declined to do so. Head of Communications at Kickstarter, Nikki Kris, told Polygon that "We’re not disclosing specifics around the total dollars raised at this time". However the data is available from Tabletop Analytics which draws from the public-facing campaign data on the platform.

In 2023 Kickstarter as a whole earned $10.2 million less from tabletop than in 2022; but in 2021 the decline was far steeper, a drop of $33.6 million--most likely caused by the ending of the pandemic lockdowns. However, it's still $50 million up from before the pandemic, while individual creators are 30% down. More campaigns, less money for each one.

Of course, the number of TTRPG million-dollar Kickstarters doesn't seem to be suffering. 11 in 2021, a drop to 7 in 2022, and then 10 more in 2023. Kickstarter is also starting to face competition from Backerkit which is starting to get a few million-dollar campaigns of its own.

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mamba

Legend
For some reason, I was just under the impression that creators were able to make a bit more through crowdfunding than they would through conventional publishing means. But I guess being able to fund something doesn't mean people are being paid more.
might depend on the case, but you are probably correct that KS will not generate more in sales than publishing your book on your own site would. Your best bet is to have a built in audience either way (known designer, popular youtube channel, …)

What KS does however is take some of the risk out, you are not spending 20k or whatever only to find out that sales ended up being 5k
 
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Cergorach

The Laughing One
This is a little disheartening. For some reason, I was just under the impression that creators were able to make a bit more through crowdfunding than they would through conventional publishing means. But I guess being able to fund something doesn't mean people are being paid more. Man, it's tough making a living with RPGs. My hats off to those of you who do it.
Many of those projects wouldn't stand a chance in hell if you were to publish through the traditional method. These numbers mean very little, just that consumers spend less on TTRPGs then in the previous 4 years, what a surprise... They only indicate revenue, not profit, the really important part for the folks running the KS. I also wonder how many of the smaller KS companies have increased their KS output?

I personally don't back too many RPG KS, even less now then previously. I was mostly into (miniature) boardgames and STL KS, but there I've also dialed down drastically. No more room for physical products and a huge backlog of STLs to be printed (and no room for the printed 3D products), eventually everyone runs out of space... I do occasionally back a KS, like the recent expansion for the Conan boardgame or some very interesting/special STL KS. But it's peanuts compared to what I backed previously. For the KS RPGs, fulfilment time is often quite a while, by the time the book comes out my interest might have waned. Many projects are by people that have very little KS experience, thus a risk. I have a huge back catalogue of pdfs (thanks to DTRPG, Humble Bundle, Paizo, and Bundle of Holding). It's just more cost effective and less risk to buy via other channels, especially during sales. Not spending a lot of money on KS dreams (that often disappoint) leaves me with money for when I really want something and gives me the ability to buy it now.

I'm also of the opinion that many are reinventing the wheel over and over again, having almost all physical 2e/3e/4e D&D products and a ton of D20 products gives me a large library to mine from. If I want a book on building strongholds, I can just use the old stuff in my 5e game, instead of waiting and hoping the KS product is good and comes out in a timely manner... And the prices people ask for just the pdfs are not insignificant anymore...
 


Loren the GM

Adventurer
Publisher
Some interesting stats pulled from this source, specific to TTRPGs on Kickstarter, and has data going back to 2011:
  • 2023 saw the greatest number of projects ever (1754), beating the previous record in 2021 (1396).
  • 2023 had the 2nd largest funding total ever (~US$58M), and better than 2022 (~US$51M), but not coming close to the blockbuster total in 2021 (~US$82M)
  • Contrary to much speculation earlier in the year during the OGL debacle this year was not the end of 5E, at least on Kickstarter. 5E related projects made more money this year (~US$29M) than any other year except 2021, and took up a larger share of the total value (~51%) than any previous year. Projects funded at a reasonably high rate historically (87%).
  • Without any statistical analysis, 2023 looks like a continuation of historic trends that were disrupted by the pandemic in 2021. The number of projects increased, the level of funding increased, the proportion of projects that were 5E increased, etc, all in a way that seems to continue on from the previous years, with 2021 being an obvious outlier.
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Categories:
  • RPG - these are projects that would generate a new RPG entry in the RPGGeek database. They are mostly new RPGs, but also include new versions of older games that are different enough to count as new RPGs. Note that a new RPG based on the mechanics of 5E but playable without the 5E rulebooks would be listed in this category, not the next one.
  • 5E - these are projects explicitly for D&D 5E. They have to provide gameable content explicitly for 5E (e.g. 5E stats). They may also provide content for other RPGs as well (e.g. a project that had both 5E and Pathfinder 2E content would be listed as 5E). This includes adventures, supplements, setting books, etc. As noted above, new games that use 5E mechanics but are fully playable without 5E are listed in the previous category.
  • non-5E - these are projects that fall into three sub-categories: system neutral supplements; supplements (adventures, settings, etc.) for a game other than 5E; or new editions of RPGs that are mechanically identical (e.g. reprintings, translations, etc.) to previous editions.
 


Loren the GM

Adventurer
Publisher
so the reported drop

is in the non-5e market then, and even somewhat larger than that

Did not expect that
Also consider that there are OGL projects counted within the RPG category (anything that would be considered a stand alone game but built on the 5e OGL). So also a portion of that category counts toward the 5e market in some way.

Edited to add: the reported drop Morrus is mentioning is for the Tabletop category as a whole, not for the TTRPG sector. Kickstarter doesn't differentiate between project types, so Tabletop is an encompassing category that includes board games, card games, TTRPGs, gaming accessories, and a lot more.
 
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Loren the GM

Adventurer
Publisher
A couple more useful charts, digging into the data presented (specifically on TTRPGs, not the entire Tabletop category). Based on this and the info in the Polygon article, the Tabletop category as a whole is down on Kickstarter, but that category is much larger than TTRPGs. It is all forms of tabletop gaming (board, card, TTRPG, accessories, etc.). So the TTRPG sector is actually up by about $6 million over last year, but Tabletop is down as a whole.

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MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
Another data point to throw out there.

The central premise of the article seems to be that the amount individual projects is raising is lower than before.

I know that I as a publisher am running campaigns for smaller books than I used to with smaller goals. With things like Zine Quest I'm not the only one. I've got a Kickstarter running for a small PDF right now. I know it's going to be an order of magnitude smaller than the $20,000 I've raised for a large hardcover book, but I'm doing that on purpose and things are going how I expect them to go.

So I'm making less money per project, but since they are smaller I can do more of them, and make more money overall.
 

brodahisou

Drunken Bard
Is it possible that the reason Individual creators earned an average of 30% less in 2023 compared to 2019 is due to higher production costs and the rise in add-ons?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Is it possible that the reason Individual creators earned an average of 30% less in 2023 compared to 2019 is due to higher production costs and the rise in add-ons?
They don’t know how much profit creators are making, just what funds they are raising. Production costs aren’t part of the data. Not sure how add-ons would reduce funds raised—they increase them.
 

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