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

More successful campaigns but smaller shares of the pie!

Screenshot 2024-02-01 at 16.07.35.png

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.

Million Dollar TTRPG Crowdfunders-10.png
 

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Loren the GM

Adventurer
Publisher
Anecdotally, I have successfully backed 300 projects on Kickstarter. with my first pledge during Double Fine Adventure way back in 2012. Most of my pledges span video games (a lot of my early pledges), TTRPGs (the largest percentage), and board games. While there are quite a few that are still within their development window and so I can't comment on their delivery, going back through my historical data reveals that I have 7 projects (2.33% of my pledges) that have very long term delays (multiple years) but are still in active development, and 9 projects (3% of my pledges) that have been abandoned (all but one of these are video game related, the other is a TTRPG supplement).

I do think most projects seem to overshoot their estimated delivery date (especially when it comes to physical items; digital delivery seems to be easier to accomplish closer to the planned dates), although with the pandemic and fallout from that, I think it is really hard to say how much that is really a continuing trend or just an effect of the global situation. I think we'll know more over the next couple of years on that front as to whether creators are better at planning out their fulfillment, if production and shipping settle down any as industries, etc.

So, while I would say there is some risk involved in backing projects on Kickstarter, the majority of projects in my experience do deliver, at least eventually.

Also, I think there is some part of myself as a backer that has helped me become more savvy as to which projects seem more likely to be successful and which carry greater risk.

For instance, I back significantly less video game related projects now than I did in the early days, because that sector has shown that it has a higher chance of failure, and if the game is successful it will show up on Steam eventually (and usually go on sale pretty quickly). For me to back a vide game now, it has to be a project I really want to see made that isn't going to see the light of day without Kickstarter funding (so usually really small indie games, often with a single developer, with incredibly niche scope).

TTRPG stuff has less risk, since the core of most projects is writing and can be released in digital form without fancy art if need be. Printing introduces a bit more risk, and definitely potential for delays. A lot of the smaller campaigns that are being run for short adventures or specific types of supplements are really low risk, often with a lot of the work already being completed. (Shoutout to Morrus and the EN World Publishing folks who create a product first so that digital fulfillment is instantaneous, and print has no delays other than those inherent to the print and shipping process).

For board games, the risk is often less about delivery and more about if the game is good or not. I've really slowed down backing board games for that reason, and usually wait until after release and there are some reviews, unless the game does an amazing job of showing me what gameplay will be like.
 

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jolt

Adventurer
The problem with Kickstarter is that it doesn't provide a pledge management service; that's why companies like Backerkit (et. al.) came along in the first place.
 

Honestly, I'm not so sure? The vast vast majority of kickstarters seem to get delivered. Late, usually, but they get there within a not-ludicrous timeframe (and honestly, anyone backing a KS probably should factor in a reasonable 'inevitable time overrun' buffer, especially if any physical rewards are offered). There's a few prominent ones that have been complete no-shows or have been years late (Far West, 7th Sea Khitai, etc), but they're mostly easy to name because they're so notorious. Not that this helps improve the mood of a backer of one of those campaigns, but I don't see any indication that people are backing away from KS as a platform. More that the funding butter is being spread over too many slices of campaign bread.
Yeah so few KSes fail to deliver that I don't think that's a major concern for most RPG products, particularly non-physical ones. I haven't had a single KS (or similar) where I pledged for a PDF, where I didn't get that PDF within a reasonable distance of the goal (like I don't think it's ever gone a year, even).

If I was backing heavily-physical KSes like minis, I think my attitude might be a bit different, those seem to have a much higher failure rate. The only KS I have had fail was one I honestly backed assuming it might, which was a small videogame project, where I didn't think they were asking for enough, but liked the concept enough to back it anyway.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
The biggest warning sign, IMO, for any Kickstarter is a ton of elaborate physical stretch goals, which all create possible delays, huge increases in shipping fees and other points of failure.

I understand there are incentives to add more physical stretch goals, but honestly, they should be mostly limited to making the core product better, rather than additional, new products. And even the upgrades to the core product should only be committed to once all the numbers are crunched. I've seen a bunch of folks get themselves in trouble promising something wildly unrealistic and then having fulfillment grind to a halt when they spend months trying to make the ridiculous promise come true.
 

I understand there are incentives to add more physical stretch goals, but honestly, they should be mostly limited to making the core product better, rather than additional, new products.
Yeah I have to admit if I see stuff like "KS this adventure/setting and oh hey for $80 extra you can have this big set of minis* to play it with and for another $40 you can have a themed dice tower, and for $300 extra you can have an iron-bound wooden box to store it in" and so on, my eyes tend to glaze over and I just don't KS that, not even at a PDF level.

* = Which will always be shown in renderite rather than as actual minis of course.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
Riskmanagement for backing crowfdfunding projects is a skill in itself, some have it, some don't. I pretty much don't back software projects anymore, if they succeed I'll buy the eventual product (like with Dungeon Alchemist). With physical products like board/card/miniature games it really depends on who's running the KS, how it's presented, what they're offering and for how much. I will back the occasional STL KS (for 3D prints) and did back the occasional RPG project. But as previously mentioned, the RPG projects often have LONG delivery times and by the time they completely deliver, a LOT of my interest has waned or they deliver something else from what I expected (Legend of Keepers 5E)...

Certain companies like Palladium (Robotech KS), Soda Pop Miniatures (SuperDungeon Legends KS), Modiphius (Siege of the Citadel KS), and Mythic Games (Darkes Dungeon KS) I'll actively avoid (forever) and will point people to those KS projects when they want to back something from those companies or just want to (pre)order something from them.

Other companies like Ulisses-Spiele, CMON, etc. I'll praise till they really F-up. They picked up defunct KS projects, complete them and deliver them without additional backing costs!
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Riskmanagement for backing crowfdfunding projects is a skill in itself, some have it, some don't. I pretty much don't back software projects anymore, if they succeed I'll buy the eventual product (like with Dungeon Alchemist). With physical products like board/card/miniature games it really depends on who's running the KS, how it's presented, what they're offering and for how much. I will back the occasional STL KS (for 3D prints) and did back the occasional RPG project. But as previously mentioned, the RPG projects often have LONG delivery times and by the time they completely deliver, a LOT of my interest has waned or they deliver something else from what I expected (Legend of Keepers 5E)...

Certain companies like Palladium (Robotech KS), Soda Pop Miniatures (SuperDungeon Legends KS), Modiphius (Siege of the Citadel KS), and Mythic Games (Darkes Dungeon KS) I'll actively avoid (forever) and will point people to those KS projects when they want to back something from those companies or just want to (pre)order something from them.

Other companies like Ulisses-Spiele, CMON, etc. I'll praise till they really F-up. They picked up defunct KS projects, complete them and deliver them without additional backing costs!
Totally agree regarding software projects. My worst experiences on Kickstarter have been with software projects. Moreso with video games than with TTRPG tools, to be fair, but I just don't back software projects any more. I'm also at this point with hardware. Unless it is a really groundbreaking and cool idea that I'm willing to back and "lose" money on just to see the attempt made, it is my experience that it has been rarely worth backing things like card chargers, 3D printers, funky high-tech outdoor gear, music instruments, etc. I hate saying that because that is really in the spirit of Kickstarter, but so many of them are not really that innovative and I'm almost always more satisfied finding and buying an existing product then backing some passion project by a non-proven business/inventor who is only pitching a slight variation that doesn't really offer much more than products I can already buy retail.

I do still back shows and documentaries like Journey Quest, Vox Machina, Dreams in Gary's Basement, Blackmoore, etc. Most inevitably miss their release goals, but I've never been burned and many may never have been made without crowdfunding, and I've always enjoyed the result, even if years late.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I have gotten to where for TTRPGs I only back a product if it either has a very short delivery date (like most EN Publishing KSers) or they provide a free quickstart or early draft or similar that lets me not only know what the actual game is going to be, but shows me that they are far along in the design process with a strong vision for the design. As much as I like Matt Coville, i declined to back the MCDM RPG because it is just too far out and the design is still in flux. I wish they had waited until they had a solid foundation and gave us a quickstart with Shadowdark levels of utility.
 

Clint_L

Legend
I back my Kickstarters with the underlying assumption that if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. I almost never back a first-time KS unless it is a pre-existing company with a good reputation. I'm mostly in it for the miniatures and terrain, and it's still enough of a niche hobby that we collectors can communicate with each other and build a good sense of who are reputable and who aren't.

So if it's a company with a proven track record - your Dwarven Forges, Dungeons and Lasers, and Reapers - then I love Kickstarters. But each of those companies starts out with a very clear offer and plan. In the case of DF, the prices are still high, but you are guaranteed access to the highest quality terrain available. D&L and Reaper offer amazing value, and a lot of the fun is watching those stretch goals unlock as the KS goes. But each SG is carefully calibrated to not break the bank, and prices and costs are clearly communicated at each step.

On the other hand, there are a lot of KSs that offer an improbably bevy of miniatures for prices that just aren't realistic. I stay away from those; at best; you'll probably be waiting years for product that turns out to be much lower quality than promised, and at worst, you've just set your money on fire.
 


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