Kickstarter and Games – 2017 mid-year status update

Like last year, I did a mini-research on games on Kickstarter at the mid-year point. It allows me to keep an eye on any trends, and to check hard data properly a little more often. On top looking at the Games category and the video games and tabletop games sub-categories, I am also throwing in a few numbers on Kickstarter overall.

As a side note, it was interesting to see that our Campaign Review service has been very popular this year, and I updated the page about it.

A few disclaimers on this article and the data:

  • A significant change I have made in my methodology is to use different exchange rates. I used to have a fixed exchanged rate applied to all projects. I now use the average of a given year. It will have an impact on the numbers you saw in the past.
  • I use the term Semester for a half year, from the Latin semestris, “of six months”.
  • Data is, as usual, collected with the help of our friends at Potion-of-Wit.

Kickstarter Overall – a steady course

Before we get into the numbers, I wanted to highlight a few things that have happened in the first half of the year:

  • As a Public Benefit Corporation, Kickstarter has released its first annual Benefit Statement. It is a very interesting read.
  • Kickstarter launched the Hardware Studio initiative. It comes on the heels of increasing reports of Kickstarter projects being copied and beaten to market.
  • Guest Pledging was introduced, allowing to back a project without having to create a user account.
  • And lastly, but more anecdotally, Yancey Strickler, the current CEO of Kickstarter, is looking for a replacement.

The last one I wanted to highlight as I sometimes find my research in media discussing Kickstarter, and they came up quite significantly in relations to that last announcement. But to the numbers, that’s what is of interest here.

As I have mentioned in the past, the Potato Salad campaign had a huge influence on the number of projects submitted on Kickstarter. If you are wondering about that sudden spike in the second half of 2014, that’s why.

Overall, we see a decline in the total number of projects launched on the platform, on quite a steep curve. However, the number of projects that get funded is seeing a very small decline in comparison. It’s also important to note that there are indications that the second half of a year usually performs better than the first half. And that’s usually true across all the categories.

You can see this effect a bit in the total amount of money raised by successful projects:

Despite the slight decline in projects, the first half of 2017 has been the best first half for the platform historically. It is very hard to predict how the second half will go, but it is likely that it will outperform the second half of 2015, making 2017 a record breaking year, improving from 2016.

 

Quick look at the Games category

I will share these numbers and chart as is. The analysis of the two main subcategories are much more telling of the current trend.

Video Games – at a stable pace

You have observed the growth of the Games category? Well, video games are actually not growing.

Video Games are keeping the same rhythm as the previous year, with roughly 30 projects per month getting funded. The second half of the year should probably see a few more projects funded than have been so far in 2017, if it follows the pattern of previous years.

As seen in the past data analysis, the Video Games subcategory is very dependent on hits when looking at the total amount of money raised. In that sense, the first half of 2017 has been the best semester since 2015. And yet, this is a far cry from the best semesters in that subcategory.

A stable number of funded projects, a growth in the total amount raised, despite Kickstarter having lost its novelty years ago now, it is still a platform that is consistent as a source of funding for games, the same conclusion drawn on the blog post from the beginning of the year.

An interesting evolution of the numbers when looking at projects tiered by amount raised, there is a growth of the number of projects raising between $100k and $500k recently. It seems this is a range of funding that is more accessible than it used to be, and could be where Kickstarter could grow its Video games subcategory.

 

The crazy growth of Tabletop Games

If we can’t see how the Games category can be performing so well from looking at Video Games, it probably means that Tabletop Games are doing incredibly well. That is quite the understatement:

Looking first at the number of projects, it is obvious that this subcategory of projects is bonkers:

  • There is a strong and steady growth of the number of projects that are funded.
  • There was no “potato salad” speculation effect in the second half of 2014 (at least, not as visibly as in other parts of the Kickstarter platform).
  • The number of projects failing is stable, meaning the success ratio is steadily increasing (62% of the projects got funded in the first half of 2017)

Following the steady growth of funded projects, it is not surprising to see a record breaking half-year, and if current trends continue there is no way that 2017 is not going to be the best year ever for the subcategory too.

Let me share the number that I find the most mind-boggling in the mid-year update:

24% of the money raised by successful projects on Kickstarter were Tabletop games projects

Of course, the huge success of Kingdom Death Monster 1.5, that raised $12.3m, plays a role in that impressive performance. But the growth is seen across all the strata of funding:

Across all tiers (except the lowest one) this was a record breaking semester in the total amount of money raised.

 

Conclusion

With board games growing so fast, and the rest of Kickstarter being still quite stable, it is clear there is a shift not visible at a first glance on the platform. There is a slight decline, or at best stability, across all categories, with the exception of one that keeps growing steadily.
By the time Kickstarter has found its new CEO, I can easily imagine games representing a third of the money raised through the platform.

And Games projects might be blurring the line between tabletop games and video games further, like the currently live campaign of Beasts of Balance:

Kickstarter in 2016 – Deep dive into the Games category

As promised last week, here is a deep dive into the Games category on Kickstarter for the year 2016. The format will follow the same as the article I did last year on the same topic. Please bear in mind that I will exclusively look at Kickstarter, and not any other crowdfunding platform here. For a more general outlook, specifically on video games, you can read my guest article on GamesIndustry.biz.

As usual, at the end of the article you can find more graphs in the dedicated SlideShare presentation.

The whole Games category

As seen last week, like most categories on Kickstarter, Games saw a decline in 2016 in money raised compared to 2015 (-8%). This is still the second biggest year on record in terms of money raised, and in fact, there were more projects funded in the category than ever before (+14%).

The growth in the number of funded projects however comes with a decline in the total number of projects seeking funding on the platform. Fewer projects on the platform, but more projects funded – the ratio of success is climbing. The platform is maturing, the general audience understanding of what it takes to get funded is getting more sophisticated.

In terms of money, it’s interesting to observe that the overall year-on-year decline only happened at the highest tier, with the projects raising $500,000 and more. All other tiers showed growth (+18% across all those projects).

Interestingly, there were a similar increase in the number of funded projects across all tiers except for the highest tier. There was 1 less project funded in the highest tier (but considering there are fewer projects, that represents -2%). All the other tiers had at least +12% growth in the number of funded projects.

In both number of funded projects and money raised, the tier with the largest growth is the $100,000-$500,000 tier (respectively +23% and +27%). In last week’s blog post, the trends were interpreted as showing an increase in the professionalism of the campaigns on Kickstarter, and this again reinforces that sentiment.

 

Like last year, there are two subcategories making up the most of the Games category: Tabletop Games and Video Games. All the other subcategories only account for 7% of the money raised and 30% of the funded projects.

Overall, most of the decline in the games category happened for the Video Games projects. Less money (-57%) and fewer funded projects (-13%) account for the difference from last year for the Game category.

Smaller Subcategories

Before getting into the two main actors of the Games category on Kickstarter, here are a few new insights on the smaller subcategories from 2016:

  • Games. This catch-all subcategory, meant to cover any project that the existing labels don’t properly represent, has declined again. I suspect this is more due to project creators opting more and more for existing subcategories, and hoping for success by association, than any actual revealing trend.
  • Gaming Hardware. The Ouya and the Oculus campaigns haven’t had many successors. In 2016, less than $800,000 was raised by 26 projects in this category. It’s not much when you consider that the Smach Z campaign alone raised more than $500,000 (the first project to manage to do so in this subcategory since 2013). A campaign ran in EUR, it also means that it was the leading currency platform for that subcategory, raising more money than all the other currencies combined.
  • Live Games. A niche subcategory, but growing every year. It more than doubled the money raised year-on-year, with only +4% more projects. For the first time, projects in this category raised more than $50,000 (3 projects in fact). No project managed to raise more than $100,000 yet, but the highest managed to reach $90,000 in funding, so it might be a threshold passed this year.
  • Mobile Games. I have a very strong opinion on Mobile Games and crowdfunding – I believe they are not meant to do well together. It doesn’t mean nothing is happening in this subcategory. 40 projects got funded, raising a total of $460,000 between them. Also, for the first time since the subcategory was added, a project raised more than $100,000 (this game) too. Surprisingly, the 2nd currency is AUD, with 4 funded projects that raised between them $64,000. Good job, Australia! (If you believe I’m being snarky, you might be onto something)
  • Playing Cards. The 3rd largest subcategory, it saw a small decline from last year in money raised (-2%) and small increase in the number of funded projects (+4%). This said, there were larger projects than ever before. The number of projects raising more than $100,000 went from 2 in 2015 to 5 in 2016.
  • Puzzles. The smallest of all the Games Subcategories, it had 17 projects funded last year, and together they raised $350,000, almost triple the amount from 2015. This is mainly thanks to the amazing Codex Silenda campaign, that raised $210,000 by itself – and would have raised much much more had the creator not been humble (and sane) and capped the number of items you could back. Seriously, check it out, it’s incredible.

And now, to the main contenders.

Video Games

 

There is no ignoring the significant drop in the total amount of money raised for video games in 2016. With $16m, this is the lowest raised on the platform for this category since it exploded in 2012 after the initial funding of The Broken Age by Double Fine.

When accounting for the total number of projects funded though, the year-on-year change is a lot less drastic (-13%). That’s the platform 3rd best year in that regard. Before diving into the breakdown of projects per tier, it is obvious that the significant drop in the total amount of money raised is significant partly due to the absence of large projects.

Looking at the amount of money raised per tier first, the highest tier of funding was almost a 1/10th of what it was in 2015. If you ignore that tier, there actually was more money raised on Kickstarter than the previous year. Kickstarter in 2016 missed out significantly from this lack of high level projects. Of course, Fig.co hosting Psychonauts 2 and Wasteland 3 didn’t help. But even if these two projects had been funded on Kickstarter, 2016 would have been a low performing year (whether you account for the project equity of the Fig.co or not).

It seems that there’s only ever a limited volume of such large projects considering crowdfunding, meaning there will be a visible effect on the overall performance for the video games category in crowdfunding in any given year based on the volume of these high performance projects – there will naturally be years where lower numbers of these big projects come to the platform due to factors such as the long development cycles. This will likely continue, unless crowdfunding suddenly becomes more popular with studios (in the way it’s popular for Tabletop Games as we will see next), but this seems very unlikely given the current trends and the nature of what it takes to create big video game projects.

The share the projects in USD represents has drastically dropped this year. The common idea that you have to launch your project in that currency to succeed for video games should be dismissed by looking at this year’s numbers. With the projects in EUR seeing a considerable increase, they represented 18% of the money raised for video games last year, with GBP projects representing 15% of the total. USD projects, that raised 81% of the total amount of money raised in 2015 for video games, represented only 60% of the total amount raised last year.

Looking at the number of projects every week on Kickstarter, the trend is not of a collapse in the number of funded projects. There were fewer projects launched on the platform, and across all categories, but for the past 2 years it seems that the volume of projects being funded is actually quite stable.

Another unseen competitor is Steam Early Access. The minimum required quality to launch a crowdfunding campaign for a video game is such (beautiful assets, good video, demonstrable gameplay) that it wouldn’t be surprising if many projects considering crowdfunding simply decided to skip it, and go in Early Access instead, with the idea to be able to start getting revenue regularly directly on the main platform the game is sold on to the end users.

Tabletop Games

 

Over the years, Tabletop games have become the crown jewel of the Games category on Kickstarter. More projects got funded (+21%) for a larger total amount of money (+18%) than in the previous year, with more than $100m pledged to successful projects.

Recently, in a Polygon article about the upcoming PAX unplugged, the ICV2 estimate of $1.2bn for the size of the tabletop North American market was mentioned. If we estimate the market has grown a bit since that estimate, say $1.4bn, and if North America represents 45% of that market (making up numbers here, just for the thought exercise), that’s a $3.1bn global market. With $100m a year on Kickstarter, that’s 3% of the whole market transaction happening solely through Kickstarter. My estimates are of course very shaky, but they’re not totally unrealistic. That percentage is likely to be even higher when considering purely the North American market, which has historically been more culturally friendly to crowdfunding.

In the tabletop games industry, Kickstarter is not only the primary platform for crowdfunding, but is also now a key actor to the whole ecosystem.

There was more money and more funded projects across all the different tiers in 2016. Interestingly, compared to video games, the lowest tier (under $10,000)  grew 32% in the total amount of money raised.

The most significant change is for the $100,000 to $500,000 tier again. More funded projects (+30% with +31 projects) and more money raised (+39%), the average per project in that tier increased to $216,000. Again, this can be seen as a result of a more professional approach to the way the campaigns are managed.

The biggest relative increase this year was for the GBP projects, more than doubling the amount raised year-on-year, and this despite the currency taking a nosedive in the second half of the year due to the Brexit referendum results.

The USD projects are still largely dominating though, representing almost 80% of the total amount of money raised.

There seems to be a lot of growth potential for European tabletop projects on Kickstarter, especially considering the cultural importance of the region for the tabletop games business. The lower numbers at present might also be due to local crowdfunding platforms performing particularly well. For instance, Blackbook Edition, that runs its own crowdfunding platform for tabletop roleplaying games in French, has raised $1m in 2016 alone.

Compared to the relatively even and stable video games chart, it is very clear that the Tabletop Games category has steady growth in the number of projects that get funded each week.

 

Finally, at the beginning of the year, and thus not showing in any of the data present, the largest Games campaign ever funded on Kickstarter ended, raising a staggering $12.3m. Alone, it raised about 12% of what all Tabletop games raised in 2016. That was on January 7th. I feel very confident that 2017 will again be a record year for Tabletop Games on Kickstarter.

 

 

Kickstarter in 2016 – Year in review

As has become the tradition, I have made a deep dive into the Kickstarter data we collect so I can present to you a review of the past year for the crowdfunding platform.

For the readers used to my focus on games, this is my one article a year where I actually widen the scope of the research, I will follow it up with an article specifically on games next week (and if you can’t wait, you can go read my article on GI.biz I wrote on the topic of crowdfunding in 2016). If you have a curious mind, you can check last year’s post, but I will do a lot of year-on-year comparisons here.

First year of decline for Kickstarter

 

After many years of constant growth, for the first time Kickstarter saw a decline last year.

It would be very hard for me, with the limited data set available, to fully explain why. As I am only looking at Kickstarter, I can’t tell if the decline is due to the enthusiasm of the early days of the platform wearing off, the competition eating into Kickstarter market shares, or crowdfunding building an image for unreliability and losing its wider appeal. I can however share my other findings, time will tell if this decline is a trend that will continue or if it will stabilise (a bit more on that later though as we have some indicators).

The first interesting point on the decline observed is the fact that the drop in the number of funded projects (- 14.5%) is much more significant than the drop in the total amount of money raised in the platform (-7%). That means there is a higher concentration of funding per project than in 2015 – if on average projects have raised more, but the platform saw an overall decline, it would seem to indicate that we might be heading towards either a more demanding audience (the quality of the campaigns need to reach a higher quality bar to meet its goal), or more professionally built campaigns are launched on the platform (raising more money and being more reliably successful), or more likely, a combination of both.

 

What is also noteworthy is that the drop in the number of projects is bigger (-31%) than the drop number of funded projects. This is certainly coming from a more general realisation that a Kickstarter campaign is not an easy money grab. We can see the percentage of projects getting $0 (my metric for “junk projects”) has dropped in the last year, from 20% of all the projects on Kickstarter in 2015 to 14% of all projects in 2016. This feeds nicely the idea that projects on Kickstarter are getting more professional or more serious overall.

 

If you are not familiar with the format I usually use, the following graphs are showing the break down of projects based on the amount they have raised (in USD).

 

In terms of the number of funded projects, the biggest decline observed is for the lowest bracket, projects that raised less than $10,000. This group saw a -19% decline both in total number of funded projects and total amount of money raised by these projects. This is obviously not caused by more smaller projects managing to break through the higher bracket, but by the decline in the number funded projects for all the next brackets. Where we see an increase is in the number of funded projects in the brackets of “$100,000 to $500,000 raised” and “More than $500,000 raised”, despite the overall decline seen on the platform. There were more projects raising more than $100,000 in 2016 (978 projects) than any year prior. This is for me another sign of Kickstarter campaigns becoming more and more sophisticated and professional, and managing to raise more money than the prior years as a result.

 

If you have a particular interest in a specific category, you can find slides with detailed data for each one of them at the end of the article.

Looking how each category performed on the platform is always very interesting and says a lot to what happened on the platform. All the different categories exist in their ecosystem and microcosm, and the performance of one category could very easily contradict platform-wide trend.

In 2016, there are only 3 categories that saw a growth in the total amount of money raised: Crafts, Fashion and Publishing. Crafts is a very small category overall and as such, its performance is easily subject to variation. Publishing only saw a very small growth year-on-year (+2%), but this was only true for the total amount raised, as the number of funded projects declined (-4%). The only category that saw a proper growth in 2016 was the Design category, which grew +8% in total amount raised and +5% in the number of funded projects.

All the other categories raised less money in 2016 than in the previous year, but the decline is sharper for some. Both the Film & Video category and the Music category are leading the decline in terms of money raised. Interestingly, these two categories used to be the leading ones on Kickstarter (prior to 2014), and their continuous decline is probably the most worrying. It might be that they are creating a pattern that the other categories currently leading on Kickstarter will follow in the coming years, or they might be of a nature that makes it particularly easy for Kickstarter competitors to snatch market shares from them, or they might have an ecosystem that realised that crowdfunding wasn’t as needed as for other projects (specifically, I am personally thinking that both Films and Music have existing and very solid funding systems, while this is not necessarily true for other creative environments). As stated earlier, the data set I am looking at doesn’t provide a proper answer to this question.

Looking at the currencies in which the projects are run, it is quite obvious that Kickstarter is still very much an American platform, even the EUR has now become the second currency in terms of total amount of money raised. EUR projects are still behind the GBP for the total number of funded projects though, highlighting the fact that EUR projects that decide to go on Kickstarter are probably ones that are ambitious and with a look to an international audience. I suspect many smaller projects (and more local projects) choose to go on other platforms that have been present locally for longer. This is still a win for Kickstarter in many ways as it managed to grow in a region where it has established competitors.

This is a stacked area graph showing the number of projects per week on Kickstarter, funded and not funded.

End of July/beginning of August 2014, something happened that boosted the number of projects launched on Kickstarter, but with little to no impact on the number funded projects on the platform. I have only very little evidence of this, but I think this was all due to the Potato Salad campaign. It was heavily talked about in the media and it painted Kickstarter as a platform where money was easy to raise. Certainly if a guy can get $55,000 for a potato salad, my own awesome project should be very easy to fund. The reality is of course much more harsh, but Kickstarter could see the effect on its number of project for 18 months. This flood of projects might have also had a negative impact on Kickstarter’s image, and the fact that there are fewer overall projects submitted might not be such a bad thing for them.

Finally, to conclude my analysis of the past year on Kickstarter, I wanted to share a more granular graph of the evolution of the performance of the platform over time. Looking at the amount of raised every month, last year decline doesn’t appear as a phenomenon that goes on worsening. February 2016 was the one month with a particular decline compared to the previous year and bears most of the year-on-year decline. So while there is also no hidden growth, this is the one set of data that makes me feel relatively optimistic that we are not seeing a bubble bursting, and I have very much in mind a very interesting talk from David Edery at GDC in 2010 on video games platforms, and the pattern he observed where some of them go through an “inevitable misery” decline before a “triumphant return”.

 

A look at the categories

Kickstarter asks creators to put their projects in different categories. This allows us to look at the different trends of each of those categories. While you can find a lot more details in the documents on Slideshare, I have summarized some key takeaways for each of them below.

Art

There was a significant decline in the total number of projects funded. Interestingly though, most of the drop in the money raised was on GBP and EUR project, there was a slight growth of the money raised in USD by contrast.

Crafts

A relatively small category, it was still growing this year. The number of projects that raised more than $50,000 went from 3 to 9.

Comics

The money raised in that category saw a small drop (-5%) year-on-year, but 2016 is still the second best year ever for that category. It is interesting to note there were no $500,000+ project this year and the total number of funded projects grew +9%.

Dance

While the amount of money raised has been comparable to 2015 (+3%), the number of funded projects dropped by -12%. But more interestingly, the number of projects launched dropped by a whooping -30%. [loss of KS zeitgeist?].

Design

After a stellar growth in 2015, the Design category is one of the few that kept growing in 2016. The growth happened mostly with non-USD project (the total amount raised for USD projects declined a bit in 2016), especially with the EUR projects, following the trend observed last year. Like for most categories, the total number of projects launched on the platform declined, even though more projects got funded in the end.

Fashion

The Fashion category is very stable year-on-year. Almost the same amount of money was raised, even if a fewer number of projects got funded (-11%). This was the first year where 4 Fashion projects raised more than $500,000, helping maintaining the total amount raised.

Film & Video

2016 wasn’t great for this category. In terms of total of money raised, it dropped below the level of 2012 (-38% from 2015’s amount). The number of funded projects also saw a significant drop from last year (-25%). The decline is seen at all Tiers of funding. Small or big, there were fewer Films funded on Kickstarter in 2016. The one subcategory that saw a significant increase is the Animation subcategory, where $3.6m were raised in 2016 compared to $1.8m in 2015.

Food

The Food category dropped below the $20m per year mark in 2016, with a sharp decline of the number of funded projects (-32%). Projects in EUR were some of the few that saw growth from the previous year, raising more money in total than the British and the Canadian projects.

Games

Like last year, I will do a deeper dive into this category next week. For now, I will note that following the trend, less money was raised in this category than during the previous year. However, the total number of projects funded actually grew, and the decline in the total amount raised was mostly true for projects run in USD. Projects in EUR and GBP raised more money in 2016 than in 2015. The percentage of the projects seeking funding and getting in also grew to 37%, the best success ratio in that category since 2010.

Music

This category follows the same pattern as the Film & Video category: a significant decline for the 3rd year in a row. Both the total amount of money raised, 2016 was the worst performing year since 2011, but the total number of projects funded, it was the worst year since 2010. For the music genre, Country & Folk subcategory is #1 for money raised as well as for number of funded projects in 2016.

Photography

The category has been stable in terms of total amount of money raised, mostly thanks to 2 projects raising more than $500,000, as the total number of funded projects here again saw a decline (-15%).

Journalism

This is still a small category, and while it also saw a decline in both the total amount raised and the total number of funded projects, this was also the very first time Kickstarter had projects raised more than $100,000 in that category. And it wasn’t just one project, but four of them, highlighting one of this year’s trends that a significant part of the decline on Kickstarter is affecting the smaller projects on the platform.

Publishing

Like last year, there was a slight drop in this category’s total number of funded projects, however, the total amount of money raised did see an increase (+4%). All that growth came through projects in EUR and… in AUS (Australian Dollars)! Like for many categories, the drop in the number of projects launched on the platform has declined way more (-28%) than the decline in the number of funded projects (-4%).

Technology

After a stellar year in 2015, the Technology category saw a small decline in the total amount of money raised (-1.5%), and a more significant decline in the number of funded projects (-18%). Again, this comes with an even bigger decline in the total number of projects submitted on the platform (-28%). The one axis of year-on-year growth was for projects in EUR, which was the second currency on the platform, raising more money than projects in GBP for the first time. Also interesting to note was the growth of the Wearable subcategory (+11% money raised).

Theatre

A fairly small category that last year dropped to its lowest amount of money raised since 2011. In 2016 the decline continued, with this time even fewer projects getting funded than in 2011.  And once again, the one area of growth was with projects in EUR, that raised more money than in 2015.

All the slides

A note on the methodology

Like for all previous blog posts on the topic, we have been using the data on the Kickstarter pages themselves (with the help of Potion of Wit) and the collection method is not without its own issues. Please consider all of the numbers presented here as estimates.

State of crowdfunding for games – first half of 2016

Half of 2016 is behind us and it’s a good time for me to make one of those regular checks on the trends in crowdfunding and games.

The Games category

001-totalamount-games

002-projects-games

Compared to the last 4 semesters*, the first half of 2016 has seen a similar number of projects being submitted, but more projects getting funded overall, reaching a ratio of funded projects of 35%, compared to 31% in the previous period.

003-totalamount-tier-games 004-projects-tier-games

The total amount of money raised is lower than either half of 2015, but that is mostly due to a smaller number of very high performing projects. If you ignore the projects that raised more than $500,000, there has been more money raised for games. There have actually been more game projects funded than in all the other tiers for the past 2 years.

Video Games

007-totalamount-videogames 008-projects-videogames

Looking into video games though we can see that most of the money raised by games this semester wasn’t by this subcategory. A meagre $8.2m was raised, compared to more than $20m in the previous period, and this despite having more or less the same number of projects funded.

009-totalamount-tier-videogames 010-projects-tier-videogames

When breaking down the projects per tier of funding, it’s obvious that what has been missing in the last 6 months is a couple of large projects, as all the other tiers have actually raised more money than in either of the two 2015 semesters. We are not at the levels of 2014, but it is reassuring to see that despite less money being seen, the amount of funded projects has actually stayed about the same. Even more surprising, there has been a decline in the number of projects raising less than $10,000, with the other tiers having stayed the same or grown from the second half of last year.

011-success-videogames 012-junk-games

As fewer projects were put on the platform, but a similar number of them got funded, we can see that the ratio of successfully funded projects has increased. And the same happened with “junk” projects (projects with $0 pledged to them), possibly indicating the notion that Kickstarter projects are not easy to get funded is sinking in to the larger audience. As John Romero has learned the hard way.

I feel like this is when I should plug the workshop we are putting together. In a couple of weeks, the day before Develop in Brighton, I will run a 1-day crowdfunding workshop for video game developers. If you are interested, check out the Evenbrite page (UKIE members can get a discount too): https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/crowdfunding-for-video-games-tickets-26113940499

And before I move on to Tabletop Games, in case you can’t figure out which project raised more than $500,000 in the past 6 months, here it is:

 

Tabletop Games

013-totalamount-boardgames 014-projects-boardgames

015-totalamount-tier-boardgames 016-projects-tier-boardgames

Board games are still doing incredibly well on Kickstarter. The category is constantly growing, on all the positive metrics: number of funded projects, amount of money raised, and even ratio of funded projects.

I don’t think much needs to be added, it seems like there is healthy relationship between those projects and crowdfunding, that might not be as natural, or as elegant for video games. These past 6 months, projects in the tabletop games categories have raised 6 times as much money as video games, and 4 times more projects got funded.

 

 

As a final note, our friends at Potion of Wit, who provide us the data, have set up a Twitter bot called Bloomwatch. If you are a crowdfunding entuthisast, check-it out – it posts about projects passing key milestones, starting from the moment they pass $50,000: https://twitter.com/BloomWatcher

 

*Semester = a half year, from the Latin semestris, “of six months”. Not an American high school semester, you heathens 🙂

Games on Kickstarter in 2015

As promised, this is the second part of me looking at the past year and Kickstarter, this time looking at games and only games. It might help for a more general context to have a read of the previous post on Kickstarter as a whole for last year. Like in that article, you can find a fairly substantial deck with slides at the end for you to look at all sorts of numbers on that category.

The Games category

Overall, last year was really a good year for games on Kickstarter. As we saw, it was one of the 3 categories that really pushed the growth of the platform.

31-ks_games_2015_USD_pledged

32-ks_games_2015_USD_raised

 

From a financial point-of-view, the Games category raised 78% more money than in 2014. And even compared to the previous record, 2013, this is a 30% increase. All around, a very strong year in that regard.

 

36-ks_games_2015_fundedratio

What is also very good is that the total number of projects that got funded is also increasing. The growth is of 14% from the previous year. The total number of projects itself is growing much faster, but again, that’s in line with the trend across the board on the platform, and the fact that the growth of funded projects doesn’t follow at the same pace is not necessarily a bad thing – the quality of projects is not necessarily there to justify it.

 

35-ks_games_2015_USDraised_pertier_b

It is also an healthy sign that the financial growth happens across the tiers. It is easy for a few very large projects to carry that growth all by themselves, and while they obviously play a big role, they aren’t the only reason.

The only Tier that stayed flat is the $100k-$500k one, which is also the only tier with fewer projects than the previous year:

34-ks_games_2015_fundedprojects_pertier_c

I am going to look at the subcategories more in detailes. I have decided to do this in 3 parts, following the size they all represent:

37-ks_games_2015_subcategories_moneyUSD

38-ks_games_2015_subcategories_fundedprojects

I will do a quick overview on Games (the generic subcategory), Gaming Hardware, Live Games, Mobile Games, Playing Cards and Puzzles, before delving in Tabletop Games and Video Games, each one having its own part.

Smaller subcategories

The struggles of Mobile gaming

The Games, Gaming Hardware, Live Games, Mobile Games, Playing Cards and Puzzles subcategories, all taken together, represent 497 funded projects for last year, and $7.5m raised. That’s 22% of all the Games category funded projects and 5.5% of the money raised there.

It doesn’t mean those subcategories are not interesting, there are many things happening around them still.

The Games subcategory is a bit of pot-pourri, gathering all the odd projects that the other subcategories didn’t represent properly, in the mind of the creator. There are a surprisingly high number of Pen & Paper roleplaying games in there, despite being usually associated with Tabletop Games. There is not much to say on the trends in that regard. It seems that the addition of more subcategories that happened in 2014 has reduced the number of “orphan” projects that were ending there.

Gaming Hardware is very interesting. When it was added in 2014, Kickstarter retroactively applied it to a few projects, including the OUYA and the Oculus Rift. leading to this:

40-ks_games_2015_hardware_usdraised

41-ks_games_2015_hardware_projectspertier

There hasn’t be a “homerun” gaming hardware in quite a while. Still, 5 projects last year managed to raise between $100k and $500k, led by the FOVE VR device. This is a niche, and I suspect a number of creators actually choose to list projects that could fit here in the Technology category.

The Live Games section is also very niche, serving the LARP community with its own subcategory. The largest project to date (with still 17 days to go) is the revival of the Mind’s Eye Theater for Werewolf and sits currently at $76,000. I can see this growing over time, while still being niche. This is the type of projects that can be very local and community driven and I am not sure many people are aware that more LARP related project are actually being crowdfunded:

42-ks_games_2015_livegames_projects

I noted that the 3rd currency for Live Games is the Swedish Crown, behind the US dollar and the British Pound. LARP is strong up North I hear.

One of the first question to people coming to me with a video game project is “Is it a Mobile Game?”. Those games don’t get funded the way PC or Console games get funded and still many people aren’t aware of this. This is a very small category. First, very few of them get funded:

43-ks_games_2015_mobile_projects

Then, the ones that do get funded, few raise a significant amount of money:

43-ks_games_2015_mobile_raisedpertier

In itself, this is fine, but I think this is often something that people are just not aware, and they try to fund project of a scale comparable to the PC video games projects they see mentioned in the media.

The Playing Cards subcategory is the largest of those small ones. For a long time now, creators have been offering customized playing cards games on all sorts of popular art style or intellectual properties (especially when a company like Bicycle makes it particularly easy to manufacture them). It made sense for Kickstarter to add this as a subcategory, and this is a thriving one:

44-ks_games_2015_cards_raised

There is also an interesting spread across the different sizes of projects:

44-ks_games_2015_cards_projectstiers

Finally, Puzzles is a very niche segment overall. We are talking 15 projects funded last year, the same as in 2014. None of those raising more than $50,000.

Tabletop Games

2015 is the best year across the board

It seems fair to say that board games are doing incredibly well on Kickstarter. I would love to see some industry-wide numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if crowdfunding was a notable portion of those.

45-ks_games_2015_tabletop_usdraised

46-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectsratio

So, not only 2015 was a great year financially, with a significant growth from 2014, but also the best year to date, it was also a good year for the total number of projects that got funded. also an all time high and in constant growth since the launch of the platform.

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_usdraisedpertier

Again, looking at the amount of money raised for each “tier” of project, this is a very healthy trend: there has been more money across all the tiers. the large projects weigh heavily, but that doesn’t mean we have an issue of a growth happening only from the top.

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectspertier

Doubling on the previous statement, more projects got funded on all tiers.

48-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectpercurrency

There are many stories that projects need to be released in USD on Kickstarter to get funded. And while there is a high ratio of funded project there, I suspect the rumours are pushing a confirmation bias.

Well, actually, projects in GBP have a higher success rate. Good job on the British tabletop industry!

47-ks_games_2015_tabletop_0usdratio49-ks_games_2015_tabletop_projectsuspended

Trying to find anything to compensate those excellent trends, I wanted to share the ratio of $0 projects (my junk ratio) and the number of projects that got suspended by Kickstarter. In both cases, the tabletop subcategory is actually performing very well.

2015, officially the best year ever for boardgames on Kickstarter.

Video Games

Maturation means more money, but not for more people

I suspect the main interest for many of you, the Video Games subcategory had a good year in 2015, financially:

50-ks_games_2015_videogames_usdraised

But looking at the number of projects funded, it is clear the good performance was driven by large projects:

50-ks_games_2015_videogames_projectsratio

This is the 2nd year in a row that we see fewer projects being funded on Kickstarter. There is no sharp drop, so this well be the system being refined and the communities being more demanding in terms of quality before funding projects.

51-ks_games_2015_videogames_usdpertier

52-ks_games_2015_videogames_projectspertier

The range of projects that are less common from 2014 are the $10k-$50k and the $50k-$100k ones. We keep seeing a growth of the very small projects, year-on-year, though.

There are more projects than ever trying their hand at getting funded on the platform though. I suspect the quality bar to get funded is just getting higher. For most projects, it now necessary to have a demo of the game already available and the ability to show a rather advanced stage of the development process, much more so than in 2013. The fact is also that video games projects don’t scale the way board games to. The average for a funded Video Games project is $43,000 while  the average goal for a funded Tabletop Games project is $9,700. There are many differences in the way both medium are built and developed and the ecosystem in which they evolve that mean that they will always behave differently as far as crowdfunding is concerned.

Now, last year, Kickstarter opened up to many important European countries, including Framce, Germany and Spain. And while it help with the growth, it was rather disappointing:54-ks_games_2015_videogames_usd-percurrency_b

54-ks_games_2015_videogames_projects-percurrency

Projects in EUR as their currency are ranked 4th, ex aequo with projects in Australian dollars. I would expect there is a significant margin of growth there.

Finally, I wanted to mention those two indicators as with the Tabletop games:

 

52-ks_games_2015_videogames_0usdratio

56-ks_games_2015_videogames_suspended

The junk ratio (proportion of projects that raised $0), while higher than the one for boardgames, is quite under the average you see on Kickstarter (20%). And even there has been a significant increase in the number of projects suspended by Kickstarter, overall the subcategory has not a massive amount of those.

As a conclusion, despite seeing a larger amount of money being raised for video games, I would put 2015 at the same level as 2014. There has been a small decline in the total number of projects being funded – no bubble bursting here IMHO – and opening up to more European countries didn’t have any significant effect for video games. Overall, it seems crowdfunding for games get a bit more sophisticated, increasing the bar for funding, while still being a very beneficial process for the few projects perfectly fit for the model, such as were Shenmue 3 and Bloodstained last year.

 

Parting words

To finish this blog post though, I wanted to share 3 projects, currently live now, each one quite original, all of them with an art direction I particularly appreciate, and that I hope you will find interesting.

If you do, you can back them of course, but more importantly share them around.


 

All the slides

Kickstarter in 2015 – Review in numbers

While I might have missed the symbolical January window to post about the past year, this review of Kickstarter in 2015 in numbers will hopefully still be of interest to all of you. Like for the blog post I did last year, I have put together a massive PowerPoint deck with tons of numbers and details across all the different categories of projects on Kickstarter. Unlike last year, I won’t discuss the game category in depth in this blog post though. But don’t be disappointed, I will make a dedicate games post for this shortly.

Kickstarter has grown 35% in 2015

1-kickstarter_2015_total_USD_pledged

2-kickstarter_2015_total_USD_raised

In 2015, the total amount of money going to funded projects increased by 35%. That’s $160m more than in 2014. And if you wonder what that means for the platform, that’s an extra $8m, just for their 5% fee (there is an extra fee for the payment processing) for a total of $30m for the year.

Financially speaking, there are two ways to look at the size of Kickstarter projects. Kickstarter usually talks about money pledged, meaning the amount of money that was promised to projects, not considering if those projects reached their objective or not. The other way is to only look at the money that was promised to projects that reached their goal successfully.

Because of the nature of crowdfunding and the way people back, the difference between these two numbers is not huge. Almost 90% of the money pledged actually went through to projects meeting their goals.

3-kickstarter_2015_total_projects 4-kickstarter_2015_total_projects_successratio

Looking at the total number of projects, we get a more precise picture: Despite the significant growth, the total number of projects that were funded stayed about the same (we are actually talking about a 0.9% decline). This is the first time since the platform launch that this happened, making the impressive financial growth last year clearly related to an increase in the average money each projects raised.

The growth of total number of projects is significant though, meaning more creators are coming to Kickstarter to finance their projects, but this doesn’t translate in more projects getting funded.

If you are not familiar with the format I usually use, the following graphs are showing the break down of projects based on the amount they have raised (in USD).

6-kickstarter_2015_total_moneyraised_tiers

7-kickstarter_2015_total_fundedprojects_tiers

On the money raised, it has increased in all tiers except the lowest one (projects that raised under $10,000). Obviously the higher the tier, the more potential it has to raise more money, with no ceiling on the amount of money that can be raised by the higher tiers.

On the total number of projects per year, there is a decline for the under $10k tier, a negligible growth for projects between $10k and $50k, a significant increase for the projects between $50k and $500k, but more importantly, there were 75% more projects which raised more than $500k (from 80 to 140 projects).

8-kickstarter_2015_healthindicators

An incredibly interesting indicator is looking at the percentage of projects that raise $0. I call it the junk ratio and that might not be very kind, but it shows the proportion of projects that are so low quality, that nobody actually pledged on them. That means the person behind the project couldn’t convince their friends nor their family to at least pledge a little to show support.

We can see a form of gold rush coming to the platform, but it is probably a good thing this doesn’t translate in an increase of the number of projects getting funded. The wisdom of the crowd in action in a  way.

11-kickstarter_2014-2015_moneyraised_percategory

A lot of the growth of the past year happened thanks to projects in the design category, taking the number 1 spot in front of Technology and Games which are respectively 2nd and 3rd. Most of the other categories stayed at the same level they were in 2014.

12-kickstarter_2014-2015_moneyraised_percurrency 13-kickstarter_2015_projectsratio_percurrency

In 2015, Kickstarter expanded in many EUR countries, which saw a direct impact on the amount of projects and the money raised by projects in EUR. (Note: we can’t tell where the backers are from, those numbers are based on the currency the project is presented in)

EUR is 3rd currency on the amount of money raised, even if it is still 4th, behind Canadian dollars for the number of projects funded (despite more projects overall).

A look at the categories

Kickstarter asks creators to put their projects in different categories. This allows us to look at the different trends of each of those categories. While you can find a lot more details in the documents on Slideshare, I have summarized some key takeaways for each of them below.

Art

Bigger projects are becoming more common. In 2015, the number of projects in the $100k-$500k band doubled.

Crafts

A relatively small category, it has nearly doubled in a year. Woodworking is the single biggest subcategory outside of the generic Crafts one. Also, there is a Taxidermy subcategory.

Comics

2014 saw a significant drop in the money raised in this category.  Last year it bounced back to its highest ever (money and number of funded projects). About half the projects in the Comics category get funded.

Dance

2015 was the worst year since 2011 for this category, which is also the smallest on the platform, even though for the first time a project raised more than $100,000. The number of projects that raised between $10,000 and $100,000 dropped down by half in a year. Interestingly, this is a category that seems to be very popular in the UK (48 funded projects last year, out of 295 in total).

Design

I mentioned it at the beginning, 2015 was a big year for design projects. The category is the one that raised the most money in 2015 and it grew across all sizes of projects as well. Also notable, the projects in EUR are only second to projects in USD in total money raised in this category (GBP is still 2nd in the number of successful projects).

Fashion

This category is still growing steadily year-on-year. Notable though, the ratio of junk projects (projects that raised $0) is quite high at 28% (the average is 20% across all categories for 2015).

Also. There is a Pet Fashion subcategory.

Film & Video

Once the leading category of projects on the platform,  for the second year in a row it is seeing a decline, both on the amount of money raised and the number of projects funded, and this is across all ranges of projects. This doesn’t look like a bubble bursting though. Also interesting, this is a category that’s not showing a lot of projects in EUR. Like a couple of other categories, I suspect this type of very localized content is already quite strongly supported on other platforms that were present locally way before Kickstarter launched there. Finally, across the many subcategories, Documentary is the largest with 22% of the funded projects and 37% of the money raised.

Food

The Food category saw a small decrease from last year, but nothing incredibly drastic. The category is not incredibly popular on the EUR platform. Important thing I learned though: there is a Bacon subcategory.

Games

As mentioned previously, I plan on a whole blog post for this category. Interesting to note though, 2015 has been the best year ever for this category, both on the amount of money raised and the number of successfully projects, and the Tabletop Games subcategory is the largest by a significant margin.

Music

This category follows the same pattern as the Film & Video category: a slight decline for a 2nd year in a row) and EUR is the 4th currency. For the music genre, Country & Folk subcategory is #1 for money raised, and the Rock subcategory is #1 for funded projects.

Photo

The category saw a slight growth from 2014. However it is one of the categories with the largest ratio of junk projects, with 26% of the projects collecting $0.

Journalism

This is quite a small category (second to last), but it actually grew significantly from last year (+63% in money pledged). It is also the category with the largest proportion of junk project, with a third of all projects not raising a single dollar.

Publishing

While the category grew when you look at the money pledged to its projects, the number of funded projects actually declined slightly. It seems still fairly stable though. Like the Music and Film & Video categories though, EUR projects are representing a fairly small number of the money raised, being the 4th currency in amount of money pledged, just slightly more than projects in Australian Dollars. It has a fair share of junk projects with 25% of the projects at $0 pledged to them. The largest subcategories are Artbooks for the total amount of money raised and Children’s Books for the number of funded projects.

Technology

The second largest category on the platform, Technology grew in the past year both on the number of funded projects and the total amount of money pledged to its projects. There were about as many funded projects in that category using the EUR as their currency, as they were using GBP.

Theater

A fairly small category, it has declined last year to its lowest since 2011. Very interesting to note that it is incredibly strong in the UK with more than a third of the funded projects being in GBP.

 

All the slides

A note on the methodology

Like for all previous blog posts on the topic, we have been using the data on the Kickstarter pages themselves (with the help of Potion of Wit) and the collection method is not without its own issues. Please consider all of the numbers presented here as estimates.

BUT. I would like to point everyone to this blog post from Kickstarter. In it, they present the successes of 2015 in the Game category and a few numbers. Our own numbers are incredibly close: 2,259 funded projects (Kickstarter) / 2,258 funded projects (ICO); $144.4m pledged (Kickstarter) / $145.6m (ICO). I am very happy with those margins of error.

The crowdfunding bubble isn’t bursting – Gamesindustry.biz feature

The fine folks of GamesIndustry.biz have invited me to be part of their year end series to write an article on crowdfunding and video games in 2015.

So for once, I encourage you to go read me elsewhere: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2015-12-08-crowdfunding-for-video-games-in-2015

Stretch Goals – Best Practices for video games crowdfunding [Part 2]

Last time, I went over how a campaign should plan its stretch goals and communicate about them, but I didn’t say much about the nature of stretch goals themselves. So it is time to discuss that.

And before I go into my thoughts on the topic, I think this requires an extra disclaimer. While I have a strong opinion about how stretch goals should be planned and announced, the nature of stretch goals is a much more complex topic, one where the nature of the game, the profile of its communities, the capabilities of the studio play such big roles that it would be hard for me to establish rules the way I did in the previous piece. For this reason, take all of the below as general guidelines and if anything feels inappropriate or odd for your own project, it is probably because it is and you should ignore what I say. On with it.

Read more

Stretch Goals – Best Practices for video games crowdfunding [Part 1]

Following up on my medium.com piece on the Yooka-Laylee campaign, I feel there is a need for a dedicated blog post on the most common mistake I see on crowdfunding campaigns, both large and small alike: the management of Stretch Goals.

Stretch Goals?

For those who are not familiar, Stretch Goal is the terminology now commonly used for the additional goals creators add to their campaign for actions and features they will implement once they raise beyond their original goal. They became more and more common as crowdfunding soared in popularity. I believe their origin lies with the tabletop campaigns, where adding new rewards to a campaign became a popular formula to expand beyond its initial objective. The first campaign I saw use this very efficiently was the original Zombicide campaign, which raised $780,000 in April 2012.

Stretch Goals are not just creators trying to keep their campaign going strong after reaching its initial goal. There is also a strong demand from backers, who wants to see the project they support expanded on with the extra cash raised. The pressure to promise more content is very real and can become a very insidious trap. But more on that later.

How to manage Stretch Goals

Beyond the few campaigns I got directly involved in, I have provided advice for a lot of campaigns over the last 3 years. I have also now run 3 workshops with creators on how to properly manage a crowdfunding campaign. I have put my most frequent advice from these experiences below:

DO NOT ANNOUNCE ANY STRETCH GOALS WHEN YOU LAUNCH YOUR CAMPAIGN

There is nothing to gain from announcing as you launch, and everything to lose. I will use a very extreme example to illustrate this: Zombie Playground

Zombie Playground was a campaign launched in May 2012, right on the back of Kickstarter’s first big wave for video games. It had its initial goal set at $100,000, and in the middle of that first wave, might have been deemed as easy to reach by the creators. From the very beginning, they set a series of Stretch Goals, that they called Milestones. They had 5 Milestones, starting at $100,000 (for the basic pitch), to $2,000,000.

ZPG_01

ZPG_02

 

And this is the description they had for $2m:

ZPG_2m

And right here, in the first sentence, you have the biggest issue with announcing your Stretch Goals early: “Complete vision of the Zombie Playground school world.”

The campaign didn’t go well (lots of reasons for that, you can read the updates if you are curious), and it raised “only” $167,000. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that raising more than $100,000 is not a small achievement for any campaign, but here, it was seen as a big failure by the backers… And rightfully, they were more than $1,800,000 short for the “complete vision” of the game.

Like I said, this is an extreme example, but this is very true for any project with Stretch Goal announced from day one.

Stretch Goals are moving the backers’ perception of what is the goal of the campaign

I will go a bit further:

There is nothing to gain by announcing Stretch Goals early

Let’s go through what might happen to your campaign. For the purpose of this article, imagine you are trying to raise $100,000. To make my point, let’s say that you have roughly three potential outcomes:

  1. Your campaign fails to raise its objective. The Stretch Goals you have announced are useless, and if anything they might have convinced some backers that the game they wanted wasn’t the one at $100,000, but the one you would do at $150,000 for instance. It might have convinced them you would not reach that goal and decided them in not backing you altogether. Following the 20/48 rule, you have shot yourself in the foot there.
  2. Your campaign is successful, but not by a vast margin. You might have reached your goal midway through, after the momentum of the first few days, and many people have moved on from your campaign to other things. While announcing you have reached your goal is a nice beat, announcing your Stretch Goal is not. They were already announced. If anything, you are inviting data-driven people to make their own back of the envelope calculations on your chances to reach those Stretch Goals, dismiss the ones they deem as out of reach. Re-igniting interest is difficult during a campaign, and you don’t have the announcement effect to help you here. Potentially, you have anticipated your success the wrong way, and all the Stretch Goals look out of reach to your backers and have no beneficial effects.
  3. Your campaign is widely successful. You reach your objective in the first few hours of the campaign. You might have suddenly passed through a number of Stretch Goals that will now be taken for granted and provide no benefit to your campaign promotion. The pacing you have set for your Stretch Goal might be very off – there might be too many small Stretch Goals that are too easy to achieve and you need to keep them coming (especially as you have set a precedent for them), or they might be spaced too far from each other and run into pacing issues. This is clearly the best problem to run into, but again, you leave yourselves in a situation where you lost control of an important aspect of your campaign.

There is simply not a scenario where you benefit from having your Stretch Goals at the beginning.

IMHO, the best way to present your Stretch Goals at the beginning of a campaign is as follow:

  • Acknowledge that in fact, were you to reach your goal, you have made plans to add Stretch Goals to expand on your projects
  • Do not give too many details about those goals (like the exact content of those Stretch Goals or the amount at which you want to set them)
  • If you know that there are some elements in your campaigns that people will want to see and you have planned them in Stretch Goals, it is ok to hint at them being considered as Stretch Goals, if you were to be lucky enough to reach your goal

The objective at the beginning is to keep all the focus of the early campaign to be on the initial goal, and the initial goal only, and to keep Stretch Goals as new beats to keep the momentum of your campaign.

There are backers that will always be asking about them. Some will in fact demand them, holding their precious pledge hostage if you don’t promise X, Y or Z. And you know what? That’s fine… Tell them you are not comfortable discussing these things while your campaign is still not funded, and things will come in time. And if they don’t want to pledge now, they shouldn’t. Invite them to keep an eye on the announcements you do as the campaign advances (“Hey, why don’t you follow us on Twitter or Facebook to make sure you don’t miss when we announce the Stretch Goal to port the game on N64 as you have been asking?”).

 

Let me give you some examples with a couple of current campaigns.

Everspace

The campaign was launched on August 6th and will end on September 11th. They are asking for €225,000 and have currently raised €156,000, and by all metrics, this campaign is going well.

This is what they have on their page about Stretch Goals (they changed the order of some the goals, but they announced them from the very beginning):

Everspace_Sg

For a €225,000 campaign, they already have announced Stretch Goals going up to €725,000; and the goals range from €50,000 to €125,000 each. The campaign is probably going to settle around €7,000 on average per day, taking them 10 more days to reach their initial goal (likely a bit less as getting close to the goal usually helps a campaign). Then, with 15 days to go, they will likely reach 2 or 3 Stretch Goals.

They won’t go to the point where they will reveal those goals 06 and beyond. They are missing out on announcing what the most exciting Stretch Goals are going to be.

Holding on their Stretch Goals, they would have had been able to announce them mid-campaign, they also most likely wouldn’t have changed their goals in the first few days, as it would have given them some time to understand what were the most important requests from the community and plan accordingly.

Pauldron

The campaign was launched on August 10th and will end on September 9th. They are asking for $5,000 and have currently raised $4,000. It’s very likely this meet its funding goal.

This is what they have on their page about their Stretch Goals:

pauldrong_Sg
At their current pace, they might raise $20,000, an excellent performance considering their objective. But if you look at those Stretch Goal through the lense of a potential backer,  I cannot see them as positives. Why not wait for the game to be sure to have “better art” before backing it. Surely, the devs think their current project is going to be ugly if they phrased it that way?

This is clumsy and the exact same plan could be a positive if only presented differently… Keeping the goals secret, to only announce the $10,000 “art boost” after you have reached $5,000, it suddenly becomes an awesome new feature, instead of an admission of sub-par art as it stands now.

The project is also at a stage where it is not safe from sudden success. With such a “low” objective, a simple featuring in a large media outlet could take it beyond all those Stretch Goals in one instant. Not that it would be bad, but as you have to re-plan all your strategy for Stretch Goals in that instance, everything that has been announced cannot be used anymore as part of your plan. $10,000 to port the game to both android and iOS sounds incredibly low to me for instance.

Going to a recent, but completed project:

Bloodstained

Concluded on June 13th this year, the campaign’s goal had been set at $500,000 and raised $5,545,991 after 33 days.

And this is what their Stretch Goals are looking like, after the campaign:

bloodstained_Sg

They met all their announced Stretch Goals, all 27 of them.

While they did announce Stretch Goals from the beginning, they only had Stretch Goals to $850,000 initially (4 Stretch Goals), and opened new Stretch Goals, but only to up to $2,000,000 on their second day (when they were at $1,500,000). This is what their Stretch Goals were looking like when they made the first update at the time:

bloodstained_Sg_update1

 

Passing all their initial Stretch Goals was a non-issue, they even gave away 3 Stretch Goals that had been unannounced at the time (showing generosity, as they should in such circumstances). But they only set 2 new Stretch Goals. After 2 days of campaigns, being at $1,500,000, it was obvious they would pass those in a breeze (they passed $2,000,000 on day 5).

But they kept very much in control of the pacing and the promises made (something you need to be very careful about, it is oh-so-tempting to over promise during the high of a campaign).

Here is the rhythm at which they unlocked their Stretch Goals:

Bloodstained on Kickstarter

As you can see, the longest they went without a Stretch Goal being met was 3 days. They also didn’t meet multiple goals per day very often. This was limited to the very beginning, where they had momentum, the very end, where a huge additional momentum also happens, as well as on Day 16.

You will notice I highlighted Day 12 to Day 16… These Stretch Goals are very interesting, they were for the 8-bit music Tracks. The Campaign broke down from its usual $250,000 on average per goal, to do 6 smaller Stretch Goals every $40,000 at that time. They could have easily packed them all together, but by breaking them down, changing the rhythm pattern at the moment of the campaign reached its slowest point, they guaranteed things were still happening at a decent rhythm. There is no doubt the team behind the campaign has very deep understanding of how crowdfunding campaigns function.

I won’t want to go too much into it, but they also put together an achievements system, a parallel system to the Stretch Goals to unlock more content, not based on meeting financial goals, but on meeting some other metrics, mostly based on community activities, an excellent way for them to motivate the existing community to spread the word on the campaign (and stay engaged with them after the campaign):

Bloodstained_achievements

An excellent addition to a campaign, as long as you have the critical mass to make it work (I wouldn’t consider it for a campaign raising under $500,000).

Planning your Stretch Goals

Enough looking at others, how should you plan your own stretch goals?

The same way, I was looking at 3 possible outcomes for your campaign in regards to the announcement of Stretch Goals, you should consider 3 scenarios when planning them:

  1. Your campaign is going to make it, but just about. You don’t need any stretch goals in that case. Or maybe one, to announce towards the end, in case the last couple of days go very well. But this is a scenario you should look at outside of considerations with Stretch Goals. If you just make it, will you be able to make the game you promised? A very very important question to ask yourself, throughout your planning phase.
  2. Your campaign gets funded, but only mid-way through. Your Stretch Goals need to account for the fact that you are going to be in the mid-campaign “death valley”. You probably need those Stretch Goals to be relatively small, in order to meet some of them before the end, where you may want to have one a bit more ambitious, counting on the last days momentum to meet it.
  3. Your campaign is funded in a matter of hours. Hurray. You have the best problem in the world. Plan to have a few nice Stretch Goals that you can easily give right away, and more planned to space nicely along the rest of the campaign. You probably want to have Stretch Goals of different (financial) sizes, that you can swap around as you announce them to fit with the current rhythm of your campaign.

Armed with those 3 strategies, keep them close by, and see what happens at launch. And adapt. One of the great strengths of a crowdfunding campaign is the actual feedback you get from your backers. Your well thought out plan might be going to the gutter when the initial feedback for Stretch Goals is not about a port for your game to the N64 as you had planned, but to have more hats added to the game. By planning well you can rebound more easily. As you can reshuffle what you had planned, and be more prepared in terms of budget estimates if things unexpected get massively requested.

All games are not equal

This said, this is an ideal scenario. One that doesn’t account that each campaign and each game is its own unique snowflake. There are many games that don’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can add to them, and the granularity at which you can go.

Narrative games for instance, don’t lend themselves for that unique hat for in-game characters that only backers can have. This is the kind of thing that will get you further in a multiplayer game though. You may want to add extra chapters for example, but those don’t come cheaply.

Don’t try to shoehorn a specific piece of content just for the sake of having the right Stretch Goal

It is important to embrace your game identity and make sure everything you promise during the game fit its nature.

Let me illustrate this with the Strike Suit Zero campaign, that I collaborated on.

The campaign was very specific. It was put together not to fund a new game, but to finish one already in production. Because of this, we had some very specific constraints: we couldn’t add any Stretch Goal that would compromise the release date. And because the game was already relatively advanced in production, adding new content wasn’t an option (we had already added some risks there with some of the rewards for the backers).

The Stretch Goals for the campaign we couldn’t pace ideally, so they had to be quite chunky as it meant adding resources outside of the core team who were working on delivering the game.

The studio ended up meeeting its objective mid-way through the campaign, and missing its second Stretch Goal not by much (the Mac and Linux versions were done in the end though). There was just no margin of maneuver by which Stretch Goals could have been added in a more granular way at the time. And that’s okay. The main goal was to fund the end of the development, and that happened.

No Stretch Goals

Stretch Goals are now seen as component of any campaign. I spend a lot of time discussing with creators about to launch their campaigns, and they all have them planned out (even if too many of them also plan to explain those extra goals from day one). But… it doesn’t have to be. Some projects are very complete by themselves, and it shouldn’t be a mandatory step in your campaign if that’s the case.

Exploding Kittens had a great approach to this. They blew their goal almost immediately, they were very happy they could make the game they had been working on, and just didn’t care about Stretch Goals (they went with a campaign achievements system, which Bloodstained’s took inspiration from). And some backers might get angry about this, the logic being “the money you get from the campaign should go towards making the game”, but that’s simply not true. If you set the right goal, that’s what should go towards making the game. Everything extra, you can dispose of the way you want. Stretch Goals will get you further money-wise, but also will make you commit to more development. Ponder what you really want to do, and choose your battles wisely. Sometimes, less is more.

 

TL;DR

Don’t announce any stretch goals. Be humble about your initial goal, be focused on the early days of your campaign.

Plan for different scenarios.

Don’t feel like you need to have Stretch Goals because everyone else have them.

 

The giants hiding a growing problem – Video games on Kickstarter on the first half of 2015

I used to check Kickstarter numbers every month. But as things were getting busy on other fronts, I settled to check on the numbers every quarter, or when I have a conference coming up where I am talking about the topic, whichever happened first. I keep an eye on projects though, but that doesn’t allow me to get a proper grasp of the trend… This 2nd Quarter of 2015 has been particularly active, with lots of big projects doing really really well (and remember, that’s even before Shenmue 3), so I was going into the spreadsheets with that in mind, and expecting a strong rebound for video games on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.

 

A few reminders on the data collected and how it is presented:

  • Kickstarter changed the way creators can categorize their projects in April 2014 and added new subcategories to the Games section.
  • The data presented only includes projects that ended before the 1st of July 2015. So yes, it is already much bigger purely with the Shenmue 3 campaign.
  • All amounts are converted to USD. However, I used a fixed exchange rates and the data is spread across many years, with wide variations in the real exchange rates.
  • I have changed the definition of money raised. I used to take all the money “pledged”, but this wasn’t very accurate. I now only look at the money pledged by projects that met their goal.
  • The data is collected automatically (thanks to our friends at Potion of Wit), sometimes some projects are missed or not properly parsed. If you run similar scripts, you may have different results.

 

The hidden, slow decline

While we are only half way through 2015, looking at the year so far is a good way to get an impression of the current trend.

totalUSDpledge_successfulprojects_peryear_videogames

At the beginning of July, video games projects had already raised more money than the whole of 2014. And this is without two of this year’s heavy hitters, Shenmue 3 and Bard’s Tale 4, (who have raised more than $7.8m between them). However, this is not something to be celebrated. While it is nice to see that Kickstarter is still a platform where a project can gather a lot of support (2014 was a very scarce year as far as big projects were concerned), the truth is, 2015 so far is the worst year yet for “regular” projects:

 

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_videogames

The majority of the money raised by video games was through very large projects. If the current trend continues, projects that raised less than $500,000 are on track to garner less money than in 2014.

In 2013, there was a significant correlation between large projects hitting the platform and smaller projects getting more support. The big projects were bringing more visibility to the smaller ones. This behaviour has now gone apparently.  The below graphs better illustrate the situation:

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_videogames_sans500ktier

This is the same graph as previously, without the $500k+ projects. While projects under $10k might be on track to raise an equivalent total as in 2014 (or a bit more even), projects between $10k-$50k, $50k-$100k and$100k-$500k are underperforming compared to last year.

We are not talking about a few projects that should have been in that $10k-$500k bracket over performing as big hits. Looking at the raw numbers of projects involved, it is clear there is a drop in those tiers (and I doubt the rest of 2015 will be massively different):

fundedprojects_pertier_peryear_videogames

If anything, I don’t expect as many big projects for the second half of 2015.

But, wait! This isn’t the only way to look at it? Maybe there has been fewer projects overall?

Not really:

totalprojects_peryear_brokendown_videogames

If we can imagine more projects than last year to get funded (or in the same range), it will be thanks to the steady growth of the  small projects (the ones below $10k; for those, Kickstarter is getting stronger with time I suppose). But overall, the total volume of projects submitted to the platform is growing, meaning the proportion of projects getting funded is going down.

So the “success rate” is going down? How bad is it?

To be fair, this is more a symptom of Kickstarter just getting crowded, sometimes with very low quality projects.

One way to quickly measure those low quality projects is to look at those projects that got $0 pledged to them:

successratio_vs_0usdratio_videogames

In 2015, we are getting a smaller proportion of projects getting funded, while the proportion of projects that got $0 pledged to it is increasing. $0! It means even their mums didn’t support their project… That’s almost 150 projects at $0 pledged in the first half of 2015, against 189 for the whole of 2014.

This emphasises the burden on project creators to promote their projects as the discoverability on the platform is not helped by those low quality projects.

But, Thomas, you are not accounting for the mobile games you said? Maybe it is changing the trends?

Let’s look at mobile games then. It was introduced as a new subcategory in April 2014, so please remember the numbers for that year are only partial numbers. So, how big are mobile games on Kickstarter?

totalprojects_peryear_mobileb

So, for every mobile game project, you have 3 video games projects. That’s actually a lot!

Sadly, they haven’t read my blog and they don’t know that Kickstarter is not a good platform to fund a mobile titles:

totalprojects_peryear_brokendown_mobile

For every mobile game project that managed to get funded, 8 video games projects reach their goal. Less impressive…

And then, there is how much they raised:

totalUSDpledge_successfulprojects_peryear_mobile

In 2015, video games raised 70 times more money than mobile games.

This is how the mobile game projects are doing per tier:

USDpledged_peryear_tiered_mobile

And yes, mobile projects also tend to have a much higher ratio of projects stuck at $0 pledged:

successratio_vs_0usdratio_mobile

 

More than a third of the mobile game projects don’t get a single dollar pledged to them…

In conclusion, Mobile games are not where the secret success of video games is hiding.

Where is it going?

I wish I knew. I don’t like the trend. While Kickstarter is growing (more projects gets funded; more money is pledged) this growth is at the extremes: very small projects and very large projects. Here I was hoping that the wave of big projects would benefit projects across the board.

So, based on all of the above there are a number of thoughts I currently have:

  • The Kickstarter fatigue is real and the large projects didn’t make it disappear, and it might be affecting mid-size projects the most. If anything, the big projects are hiding the issues.
  • Mid-sized projects are in that odd budget range where it might either feel too expensive for what the game is, or too cheap for its ambitions. If you compare industry budgets to make PC and Console games (the platforms that are relevant to crowdfunding), those mid-tier budgets are actually very low. Most PC games these are probably above $500k than below. The audience might be wising up to this and prefer to go for the project closer to their full budget cost (which is arguable as I believe the Kickstarter “hits” are as under budgeted as the other ones).
  • There might be a lot happening outside of Kickstarter. The last time I properly checked the other platform and their relative weight for video games on the crowdfunding space, they were representing an incredibly small proportion of the projects (both for number of projects and the $ amounts raised). it might be time for me to do another pass on Indiegogo and see if it has increased its market share.

Overall, I think this is a maturity issue. Big projects go for low hanging fruit, using their brand power, and small projects are struggling to build a proposition where they can make the audience care about them. This is a shame, there is still so much potential for crowdfunding to grow, but there is a need for better best practice to be implemented across the board. That’s also true for large projects: I can’t believe Shenmue 3 was so successful when the campaign was poorly put together and terribly mismanaged (if you want examples then feel free to seek me out at the next conference I am attending). Crowdfunding sceptics have another great case study of fans being mishandled; potential projects creators will have  wrong expectations based on that performance. The ecosystem needs a “growing up” moment, probably starting with more transparency.

I recommend reading this Polygon article on the topic too: ‘Big indie’ Kickstarters are killing actual indies

 

Appendix – List of projects that raised more than $500,000 in the first half of 2015