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

Crowdfunding and video games – Core principle and most common tips

Last week, I was at the Videogame Economic Forum in Angouleme where I gave a short talk about crowdfunding and video games. As I only had 30mn, and Luke Crane from Kickstarter was doing his own lecture with lots of numbers, I went more into actual advice on crowdfunding campaigns for games.

I don’t think the Core Principle will surprise anyone who follows me, but it was also the opportunity for me to put together a Dos and Don’ts list, something I meant to formalize for a while now. Those lists come with some caveats for sure, there are exceptions to them, but to most people, they should be good guides on the most common mistakes I see in campaigns.

 

Kickstarter in France and Germany

On the 13th of May, Kickstarter officially launched in Germany. In just eight days, the service will officially launch in France.

I went back to my data and looked out some numbers on the historical Kickstarter performance for creators from these countries. If anything, it paints an interesting “before” picture to compare to once we get to the “after” period.

Bear in mind that before Kickstarter is available in a specific country, a series of complex hoops had to be jumped through in order to put a project on the platform. A couple of points to keep in mind:

  1. There are a number of projects that are mislabelled on Kickstarter and  listed as American or Canadian while the company developing the project is indeed from another country. Like when (French developer) Ankama went through its Canadian subsidiary for this project (so it doesn’t appear as French in my data):
  2. There are a lot of projects that couldn’t – or didn’t want to – jump through those hoops. A number of them just passed on crowd funding, while others just went to a platform more accessible to them. Like when Frederick Raynal’s Gloomywood went to Ulule to get funding for its game 2Dark (they won’t appear either as I purely track Kickstarter at the moment):

 

Kickstarter across all categories

While I have relied on the data we regularly collect, each country’s profile is available through the Advanced Search pages on Kickstarter:

German Projects

French Projects

# of successful project per category (prior May 2015)

$ successfully raised per category (prior May 2015)

 

 

Looking at the number of projects funded, Germany and France seem pretty much on par (156 funded French projects for 169 funded German projects); and this holds true on the total amount raised as well, with around $7m in France for $8m in Germany.

The category spread is very different though. Both countries have a similar amount of success with Technology projects, but the Wireless Smart Headphones excellent success in Germany accounts for close to half the money ever raised in the country:

I will look into the Games category more in depth later.

Another interesting comparison I ran was on their relative success to failure ratio:

[ALL CAtegories] projects on Kickstarter (prior May 2015)

The success ratio in France has been around 45% against 40% in Germany. I find that very intriguing – and suspect that Germans are possibly more entrepreneurial than the French; however, the announcement for Kickstarter opening in Germany has been a lot less shared than the French announcement (double the number of shares on Facebook and about 15 times more on Twitter). It may be that the French were waiting more patiently for an official local version of the platform.

Games projects

[TabletopGames] projects on Kickstarter (prior May 2015)[Video Games] projects on Kickstarter (prior May 2015) [tabletop games] $ raised by successful projects (prior May 2015)  <p data-wpview-marker=

I was surprised to see France ahead of Germany in the Tabletop Games category, when Germany is such a big market for those games. It may be they have a more solid infrastructure for creators, making crowdfunding a less prominent avenue.

On the video game front, France has had quite a few successes, and while they didn’t have any mega hits, there were five projects raising more than $100,000.

In Germany, there has only be two projects that have been able to raise more than $100,000, despite a larger number of projects launching on the platform.

 

In a few months, I will check to see the impact of Kickstarter opening locally for a future blog post.

 

At the moment, from the projects that launched in Germany, PVP MMO Das Tal is currently leading the charge:

Kickstarter – Videogames projects during Q1 2015

In my last blog post on Kickstarter, I explained how there was a significant drop in the amount of money that went to video games over the past year. Being 3 months in 2015, now seems like a good time to review how the year has started, and how it compares to last year’s trends.

Quarter-to-Quarter analysis

Before looking into 2015, I looked at Quarter-to-Quarter trends from the previous years – with the idea of providing more context when looking at the Q1 number for the current year in relation to patterns from previous years.

We are still in the early days of crowd funding, and I only have 2 years to look at properly: 2013 and 2014. Prior to 2012 the numbers are just too low, and 2012 numbers themselves are incredibly skewed by the fact that it took off after Q1.

Kickstarter Videogames - Total # of projects

Kickstarter Videogames - # of funded projects

Kickstarter Videogames - Total $ pledged

Here is how I see the quarterly patterns:

Q1 is usually a quieter month. It’s after Christmas, and there are fewer projects overall. This means that we can expect it to accrue less funds.

Q2 is a very strong period. The best quarter in both years in terms of revenues and a strong proportion of funded projects (slightly higher ratio of funded projects as well, especially last year).

Q3 is the summer. Both years, it had the lowest quarter of money raised. I suspect big projects avoid to launch during the summer (wisely). But it also has the highest number of projects submitted (possibly that’s when hobbyist projects get launched as they have more time then?) – it doesn’t prevent them to get funded though.

Q4 is the pre-Xmas insane rush period for the game industry. Getting visibility then is extra hard, we can see it has a lower than average ratio of projects getting funded (true for both years). However, projects that get funded are well provided, this is the second highest quarter per money pledged. Probably helped by a few larger projects again.

Q1 2015

 Total amount pledged per year Subcategory - video GAMES

Purely in terms of money raised, 2015 is having a great start.

As shown above, Q1 is historically not the strongest quarter, and already more than $8.5 million has been pledged for videogame projects.

# of projects per year - VideoGAMES

Looking at the number of projects though, it paints a slightly different picture. While money-wise, this year seems ahead of 2014, looking at the number of funded projects, we are in the same range as 2014 for the same quarter. And a similar ratio of projects getting funded (roughly 19.5% in both cases).

It means that Q1 2015 has had quite a few very well funded projects in proportion to Q1 2014 (and belying what was seen in Q1 2013 too).

 

# of successful project per tier (Total $ raised)

# of successful project per tier (Total $ raised) Subcategory - video games

 

So, I am left with an interesting question. Q1 2015 has started really well, from a money raised standpoint. But looking beyond those five very well funded projects, it seems like that quarter has not been performing on par with last year.

I used to tell everyone that big successes on Kickstarter were always helping the smaller projects, bringing attention to the platform and driving traffic to games that had more limited communication means. I am wondering if that effect has weakened somewhat (it was a very videogame specific effect, other categories didn’t see much of this) and if this is perhaps another part of the evolution of the crowd funding ecosystem for games. I think so, but it is still quite early to say.

And for what it’s worth, April is looking good so far.

Note on the methodology – Reminder on how data is gathered. It is automatically scrapped (thanks to a tool provided by Potion of Wit) from the publicly available data on Kickstarter.com. Because the website is evolving overtime, the scrapping methods is also changing. You may see discrepancies on old data we provided and data provided now. It mostly come from the evolving data scraping process.

Kickstarter in 2014 – [updated]

Last year I did a general overview of Kickstarter across all categories for 2013 and now seems like a good time to go through a similar exercise for 2014.

 

I should start with the disclaimers though. In 2014, Kickstarter made a lot of changes to their website, changes that making data collection not as straightforward as before. I strongly suggest to look at this year’s numbers as estimates – all the trends they highlight are probably true but there might be a few inaccurate ones in there too, especially when the related data sample is rather small. Just keep it in mind.

You can find a complete, category per category, Slideshare presentation at the end of this post.

How good was 2014?

It all depends who you are I guess. If you are Kickstarter, 2014 was a good year. More money had been pledged on the platform than ever before.

ks_2014_pledged_all

While the growth in 2014 was not the leap observed in 2012 or 2013, it was still growth. Considering the remarkable successes of the two previous years, maintaining the trend is not a small feat and in that regard, we can probably consider this another winning year for Kickstarter.

For the creators on the platform, the outlook is a bit different.

ks_2014_projects_all

On one hand, there has been more projects submitted to the platform than ever before: an impressive 46% increase from the previous year. When put side-by-side with the number of successfully funded projects, a 5% year-on-year increase, it tells a different story.

Kickstarter looks to have reached the point where the wider audience is fully aware of its existence. As a result it attracts more creators than ever, and we are probably seeing lower quality projects getting submitted in larger numbers.

This is very much illustrated by the percentage of projects that had $0 pledged towards them:

ks_0usd_total_b

 

Who was it good for?

Back in September, I looked at how 2014 had been for Video Games on Kickstarter, and I did some projections showing that the numbers were going down from 2013. I won’t go in depth in any of the subcategories, but this is an interesting overview across all categories, showing their progress from 2013:

ks_2014_categories_pledged_compared

There has been a significant drop in the amount of money pledged for Comics, Films and Games on the platform in the past year. On the other hand, it was a fantastic year for Technology projects while Food and Design projects also performed very well.

But that’s only half of the story. As we have observed in the past, it is very easy for a few very large projects to weigh heavily on the overall amount of money pledged in one category.

ks_2014_categories_projects_compared

Year-on-year, looking purely at the number of funded projects, the only categories that saw a significant dip are Art, Music and Films. This helps illustrate that Games saw more projects getting funded than in 2013, despite gathering less money…

In a way, this means (in Games at least) that Kickstarter is getting more democratic and benefits more creators with projects with different scopes. And just to illustrate that thought, here is the Games category broken down per funding tier:

ks_2014_projects_games_tiered

You can find this kind of break down for all categories in the Slideshare presentation…

All things considered though, we can say that it was a good year for picnic lovers.

 

What changed in 2014?

Kickstarter added another four currencies to its platform and opened projects to five new countries: Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Ireland.

The overall impact on the platform was not very significant:

ks_2014_currencies_all

The projects in GBP are still doing relatively well – along the same scope as last year.

It is worth noting that the Danish projects, the best funded of the newly added Scandinavian countries, did so through a few projects that raised more than $250 000 (including the very well performing Sitpack project). Anecdotally, 75% of those projects are Design projects. Denmark, right?.

Meanwhile, there hasn’t been a single EUR projects above the $250 000 line. Of course, large EUR countries such as France and Germany don’t have a direct access to Kickstarter and generally create their projects either through USD or GBP. It is worth noting however that the EUR integration didn’t seem to have much of an impact on Kickstarter’s development.

2015 will be interesting in regards to currency. One challenge that Kickstarter faced was that payments in USD were made through Amazon Payments, while all the other currencies were using an in-house solution. It meant that existing backers, with their card on record on Amazon, had to go through an extra step to be able to pledge money to a project not in USD. Now, all projects will share the same payment platform, regardless of currency. It should help the “exotic” currencies and remove a potential friction point in the process. On the other hand, no longer using Amazon Payments may have a negative impact too. Only time will tell in that respect.

 

Kickstarter in 2014 – Across all projects categories

UPDATE – I had a chat (very friendly) with Kickstarter and they highlighted that it was hardly fair to compare video games and tabletop games between 2013 and 2014 the way I did as they have added 5 new subcategories that further dilutes projects and increase the perceived dip for the two historical main subcategories. I have reviewed my numbers and added the new subcategories to the relevant pre-existing ones.
The slides represent this change now. To be clear, only the last slides were affected – the Video games and Tabletop Games sections.

Kickstarter and video games – 1st half of 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to the Ludicious Festival in Zurich to talk about crowd funding and indie video games. As usual, it was heavily geared towards Kickstarter, as it is still the very dominant platform. I took this as an opportunity to refresh the numbers I had on the platform and look at the current state of crowd funding for video games in general.

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