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Crowdfunding and Video Games: 2018 Mid-Year Update

It has already been six months since my last check on the crowdfunding trends for video games. With everyone taking it slow because the summer is coming (I am joking, everyone is rabidly preparing for gamescom), here is the latest data and what I make of it. This is part one, as I will do another blog post on Tabletop Games.

As a reminder, I use the word “semester” for half years.

Video Games on Kickstarter

Looking at the total amount of money successfully raised through Kickstarter for video games, the first half of 2018 is at a level with the first half of 2017, sitting at +$400,000 from last year. It puts that semester as the best half year, in total amount raised, since the second half of 2015.

The total amount of money pledged so far in 2018 is the highest it has been for the past 3 years.

But the money pledged only tells part of the story, as we know now.

Looking at the total number of video games campaigns seeking funding on Kickstarter, there is an obvious, regular decline. The numbers are going down overall: a -13% drop from the previous semester, compared to a -5% drop from the previous periods.

The total amount of video games campaigns launched is at the lowest since the first half of 2012.

Interestingly, that drop in number of projects is not ostensibly affecting the overall number of projects being successfully funded. The number of funded projects compared to the previous semester is about the same, going from 168 funded projects to 166 funded projects.

The drop in the total number of projects is mostly centered on projects that fail to reach their funding goal.

Looking at the corresponding “Success ratio”, this is at its highest for video games projects since 2013.

I do not believe that this means that it’s become easier to get funded. It probably derives from creators with the inability to put together a good campaign moving away from crowdfunding, as it is now understood how much work is required to manage a successful Kickstarter.

It is an interesting data point though, as there seems to be a perception from some studios I am talking to that crowdfunding a video game has become near impossible.

Looking at the number of campaign per tier of funding secured:

  • the past semester saw a higher number of projects raising between $50k and $100k than the previous two semesters
  • the number of projects raising between $10k and $50k and the number of projects raising less than $10k are at the lowest since 2013
  • this was the highest number of projects raising more than $500k in a 6 months period since 2015 (equal to the second semester of 2016)

It is hard to tell if the low number of projects raising under $50k highlight a trend of projects with smaller goals, and potentially lower production values, are receiving less funding, OR, if successful projects overall are managing to raise more money (bringing more projects to the higher tiers).

The decline over the years in the number of funded projects doesn’t affect the number of projects raising more than $50,000

Looking at the amount of money per tier of funding secured:

  • With two projects raising more than $1 million in the past semester, it should not be too surprising to see that a significant part of the money came from the larger projects.
  • The total amount of money raised by projects in the $100k to $500k range is at its lowest since 2012. Projects in that tier raised the lowest amount on average since 2011 (prior to video games reaching scale on Kickstarter).
  • Projects in the $50k to $100k tier have raised $1.5m+ in the first six months of 2018. It was also the highest average amount raised during a six months period since early 2012.

Projects in JPY (Japanese Yen) are only second to projects in USD in the most recent semester, in terms of total amount of money raised. It would be easy to think this is entirely thanks to The Good Life, and its $720,ooo raised. However, I wanted to point out there were 4 other projects in JPY last semester that got successfully funded, including “十三月のふたり姫 ” that raised about $65,000.

I think this is important to keep in mind as there is still a notion that you have to run your projects in USD in order to be successful. Your project’s quality and your capacity to build and engage with your community matter more than the currency you choose to run your campaign in.

(Disclaimer: I am working on The Good Life campaign.)

Video Games and Other Crowdfunding Platforms

In January, I wrote an article for PC Games Insider on crowdfunding and video games, in which I drew a picture of the state of crowdfunding for video games, not just only on Kickstarter, but across four different platforms: Kickstarter, Fig, Ulule, and Indiegogo.

I have since then refined my methodology, and found that I had overestimated the Indiegogo and Ulule numbers, especially in the case of Indiegogo. Both platforms are only anecdotally relevant to crowdfunding for video games, except for a rare outlier running on the platforms once in a while (Noob, the video game on Ulule in 2017, for instance).

It does leave Fig as a second platform to keep track of, which is relatively easy as they curate their campaigns and the volume is small enough to handle manually. Here are few high-level data points on Fig’s performance over the past few years – just keep in mind the fact that Fig is a curated platform when comparing its numbers with Kickstarter’s.

Fig is a much smaller platform than Kickstarter, with fewer projects. It has done very well whenever a high-profile project was released on its platform, but it is interesting to see its level of funding outside of these large projects is modest, raising on average $40,000 for its successfully funded projects.

There is a higher ratio of projects funded on Fig than on Kickstarter, probably thanks to the curation process. However, the percentage of projects getting funded is significantly lower than previously, in this past semester. The low number of projects means this not necessarily statistically relevant.

Beyond the curation, another important differentiating factor for Fig is fact that the campaigns allow users to back for a reward (like on Kickstarter), or as an investment in the project.

The graph above highlights Fig’s strengths when it goes to lower-profile projects, where it displays an ability to raise Project Equity funds.  In the first semester of 2018, 75% of all the money raised on Fig was through this scheme, up from 66% the previous semester which had a similar profile (roughly same size of projects and same number of projects). As before though, this might not be statistically relevant considering the low volume of projects.

Kickstarter and Fig Numbers Side-by-Side

Adding Fig numbers doesn’t tell a very different story when considering the total number of projects funded during the past 6 months. There is a slight drop in number over the past few years, but projects haven’t fled to another platform.

As for the total amount of money raised, this is likely the same story too. Large projects have chosen Fig over Kickstarter in the past couple of years, but none in the past 12 months (with the exception of The Good Life, that tried to get funded on Fig in September last year, but didn’t manage to reach its goal then).

It is interesting to note that the five projects that were successful on Fig this past semester raised a total of $57,000 through the reward scheme of the platform, putting the emphasis on the equity side of their model to get successfully funded, setting the platform apart from Kickstarter which solely relies on the rewards system.

Considering the total amount of money raised in the past year on Fig, and the amount of money it requires to function, it might be interesting for its team to consider either widening its reach and loosening the curation criteria, or, to focus solely on high-profile projects that are making a significant impact on the amounts the platform raises.

In a couple of months, I might do a deeper dive into the Fig campaigns as there is much to learn in looking at each of them.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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