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2013 for games on Kickstarter
by Thomas Bidaux on 01/10/14 09:08:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

As a new year is starting, it is customary to look at the previous' year performance

Here, I shall into how 2013 has been for video games on Kickstarter.

Considering how much time I have spent looking at and talking about Kickstarter data, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to join the crowd of analysts of the platform in giving my own take of the past year – with my usual focus on games in general, video games specifically.

[reminder - for the purpose of our data analysis, we re-qualified the Ouya as a Technology project]

2013 and Kickstarter

In 2013, there has been $477m pledged on Kickstarter, across close to 45,000 projects. About 20,000 projects got funded this way.

 
$ pledged in 2013 on Kickstarter

Games represent the largest category on the platform, in front of Films, and by a large margin.

Video games in 2012 and 2013

2012 was a remarkable year – it saw the Double Fine Adventure project put Kickstarter on the map for independent video game developers all over the world and the number of video game projects explode on the platform. From $1.2m pledged in 2011, Kickstarter went to close to $44m in 2012.

Throughout that year, a number of projects reached very impressive numbers for their funding and 2012 can be seen as Kickstarter Year One for video games for sure.

So what about 2013? We saw that games as a category did very well, but you have to account for the fact that the category itself accounts for both video games and tabletop games projects.

Comparison Video Games and Tabletop Games

Yep, that’s right. Tabletop games represent almost half of the money that was pledged for games on Kickstarter in 2013. Being a board gamer, it makes me incredibly happy. But more on this later, I will keep looking at video games for now.

Video Games - 2012 & 2013

2013 was to be a key moment – would the trend of growth continue and was it going to be steady? Or was there to be a collapse as the first large projects got delivered and a certain fatigue for crowd funding crept in?

Purely looking at the total of money pledged for video games projects, it is obvious that 2013 was a better year than 2012. About 30% better. But such a snapshot can be a bit misleading – 2012 had a slow start with the Double Fine Adventure explosion happening after February.

2012 and 2013 - Month by Month

Looking at 2012 and 2013 month-by-month is interesting: you see that the end of 2012 and the end 2013 had almost the exact same volume of money being pledged. The difference between the two years mostly happens in the first half. It is not a big stretch to imagine that a plateau has been reached and that variances are created by the ”hits” (post $500k projects). And, to be honest, I am less interested in those large project performance than I am by the potential of the platform for small projects.

For Kickstarter to get a foothold in the game industry as a source of funding of interesting projects, we need to see projects of all kinds being successful on the platform.

Video games funded projects

It is reassuring to see that a similar number of projects funded in 2013 compared to 2012, and a much better indicator to see if the model is sustainable.

The following graph shows the number of successful projects per “funding tier”. The funding tiers are based on the amount of money the project raised and were empirically set by me. I think they represent meaningful tiers for independent games budgets.

Funded video games project per tiers006

So basically, between 2012 and 2013, the number of $500k projects is essentially the same (around 20), but there has been 25% more projects raising between $100k and $500k. 80% more projects raising between $50k and $100k, 60% more projects raising between $10k and $50k and 50% more projects raising less than $10k.

And to me, this looks like good news overall. It shows a wider selection of projects can get funded via Kickstarter, and not just the very cheap or the very famous. I would be ok for 2014 to see fewer shiny, large projects if that would mean a larger number of projects found a way to get funded. I think this evolution stems from the development of a community of video game enthusiasts embracing the crowd funding principles. A growth from the bottom up sounds a lot healthier overall.

Some numbers

Graphs are nice, but you probably want to have some direct numbers from all this. Worry not, I am very happy to provide the ones we have (all for video games projects):

 

2013

 Number of pledges made

1,129,522 

 Number of projects submitted

1,851 

 Number of projects funded

446 

 Number of projects that failed getting funded

1,405 

 $ pledged to video game projects

$ 57,934,417.74 

 Success ratio

24.1% 

In 2013, Kickstarter expanded its platform to new countries: Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And we also now have a full year with the British platform. I explained my thoughts on some reasons why this dones’t necessarily mean much, but if you want to know the repartition between the currencies, here it is:

 Kickstarter platform

$ pledged – Video Games 

 USD

$ 50,370,976 

 GBP

$ 5,910,926 

 CAD

$ 1,336,856 

 AUD

$ 287,084 

 NZD

$ 28,573 

(Currencies converted into USD equivalent)

Tabletop games and video games

So, tabletop games got huge this year on Kickstarter:

It personally makes me very happy (and I did contribute actively to that category myself) as I love board games, but it also makes me wonder what video game projects creators could learn from tabletop game projects.

The main problems their funding is to solve are fundamentally different. Video games have a high, fixed cost (the game development) and board games have a high, flexible cost (production and shipping of those games). That’s why the crowd funding works so well for board game as they can scale their main cost based on their popularity, a luxury video games don’t have. On the other side, video games have a lot of flexibility in the way they can deliver their projects and the way they can spread their development process over time – Double Fine and Revolution both deciding to deliver their games in two parts is clearly playing to that advantage.

But I digress as I think there is a lesson to learn from the success of board games (just FYI, the success ratio of tabletop game projects in 2013 was 53% compared to the 24% of video games):

Aim for the smallest amount that guarantees you can deliver your project.

Kickstarter is a platform that is perfect for projects that don’t aim for the moon, but promise a quality experience for the amount they ask for. I get to review a lot of projects on a regular basis from video games studios since I have started blogging about the crowdfunding of games – the vast majority of them are simply too ambitious and too expensive when considering the studio’s track record and its reputation. This is not the only point of failure there is, but this does seems to be the most common.

So, if I have a wish for games on Kickstarter for 2014, it might be “be more humble, be more successful”.

You can also find the images of the graphs there: http://imgur.com/a/mET3j

Special thanks to Potion of Wit for their help in the data-mining process...


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Comments


Rasmus Rasmussen
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I think this looks very promising for indie designers! As someone who launched his first Kickstarter in 2013, this confirms my own "gut feeling", that despite rumors, that crowdfunding is for established developers with an existing audience, anyone with a decent project and realistic expectations actually has a chance of getting funded.

My own project is small. I originally asked for $6k and got just over $7k (those interested can check http://www.salvagetradergame.com). I do not have a reputation or existing fan base in gaming, and about half my funding came from people I already knew - another interesting statistic there, though hard to measure on a greater scale. It would be interesting to see some deeper measurements, like a comparison to the type of rewards offered, the type and amount of marketing and press, and so on.

Thomas Bidaux
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Type of rewards offered, I will likely analyze later in the year.

Marketing/Press - that's a very difficult thing to properly analyze, but I will think about it.

There is a lot more I can still learn purely from the current data we are mining.

Rasmus Rasmussen
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Sweet! I look forward to a follow up then. :)

Jonathan Jou
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I'm aware that there are many good reasons not to dwell on this concern, but I'm rather curious as to how many successfully funded projects have come to fruition at this point, especially with regards to games. I'd certainly be delighted to find out that indie developers are getting the money they need to make the games people want to play, but I have to say my expectations are somewhat more realistic. What characteristics were the most indicative of success, and which projects provided the most "bang" for their buck?

As much as I want to encourage people to support and realize each other's dreams, I'm of the opinion that this sort of news might invite the unfortunate combination of inexperienced ambition and uninformed optimism, which too often produces a truly undeserving outcome where hopeful entrepreneurs dig themselves into holes their backers can't pull them back out of.

Kyle Redd
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I went through my list of backed game projects. Out of about 25 pledges (Broken Age through Night in the Woods - about 1 per month I think), only one of them has been "finished," meaning that all aspects of the original project have been completed and delivered (Tale of Alltynex).

In addition, there are two - Shadowrun Returns and Tex Murphy - that are essentially completed, in that there are only a few months or so until everything will be fulfilled.

After that, there are about ten projects or so that are well into development and that I am confident will be completed before too long, based on updates sent by the developers.

And there are also a few that seem to be having trouble, or for which the backers have received very few updates since the project was funded. These would be Sealark, Ritual Dementia, and Pulse. Sealark raised 10 times the amount the developer was seeking, so I'm not so concerned that it's been abandoned, but updates are rare and there hasn't been any footage released that I know of.

The remainder are projects that only just recently completed funding. From my point of view as a backer then, I'm pretty satisfied with how everything's been going, especially since most of the projects I've supported have started from the concept stage.

Thomas Bidaux
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That's purely anedoctal though. I backed 73 projects, and I am not even scratching the surface...

I have thinking about a method to automatically check for this, but there is no easy solution at the moment.

In regards to "completion", there is the delivery of the reward but you also have the completion of the project the creator had set himself to build. Which one would consider the more important?

Kyle Redd
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I also doubt there is any reasonably simple way to gather data on completed versus not-completed projects. Even if you were to do it manually and go through each project one at a time, as you pointed out the definition of "completed" is somewhat subjective.

Shadowrun, for example - I call it not yet finished because the game's first DLC, which was added as a stretch goal during the fundraising campaign, hasn't been released yet. But the main game certainly has, and most of the physical rewards have also been delivered.

I'm curious though: Have you gone through your list of backed projects and tallied up how many are completed, in development, in trouble, or abandoned?

Jonathan Jou
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Shadowrun sounds like it wrapped up rather neatly! Of the three projects I've backed, two are big teams working with multi-million dollar budgets which update regularly and sound like they're on schedule. I expect great things from Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numeria.

I won't talk too much about the third project. Suffice it to say the reason I'm wondering about this is because out of three projects, one of them was bigger risk and I'm curious to find out how well bigger risks paid out for other people.

Thomas Bidaux
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I think that if I ever try to tackle "completion" as a metric, I would have to stick to the main release of the game (if the project is about a game development - I would have to treat projects like the Skullgirls extra character differently).

Out of my 74 projects, 18 didn't get funded. Out of the 56 others, 15 delivered everything they were supposed to to me, 13 had "No Reward" selected (I like to show support and the rewards don't always interest me), leaving 30 still "pending" (out of those, I think there are probably 3 or 4 I didnt follow closely enough and might have been settled by now). Bear in mind I don't just back video games.

Lots of people don't know that you can mark when you all the rewards delivered - it is only for you (and Kickstarter I guess), but it makes tracking easier: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/backings?ref=nav

Bart Stewart
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I heart analyses. :)

The question that comes to me after going through this information is: in 2012 and 2013, what percentage of both tabletop and computer games that were funded successfully were for games based on old/existing franchises?

In other words, who got the lion's share of game funding, nostalgia or novelty, and did that relative amount change between 2012 and 2013?

Thomas Bidaux
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I haven't tagged the project efficiently for that.

It is a good question. My gut feeling is that there were less nostalgia driven projects in 2013 than in 2012...

Bart Stewart
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Understood, and no worries.

Those are two related but different questions though: number of projects, and total amount of money pledged. My gut says nostalgia raked in a lot more cash both years, but that's the kind of thing I'd prefer to see numbers on before making assumptions.

Thomas Bidaux
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You are probably right.

I think though that nostlagia was just the foot in the door for waht is becoming "famous". I am not sure Mighty Number 9 can be qualified as nostalgia. The game promised is going to be quite modern, but the combination of fame and credibility as the reasons that it was financed so successfully are giving that "nostalgia is the key" feel.

Same for Star Citizen, you can say its success is all about wanting to relive something from the past.

Thomas Happ
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I'd like to see what the monthly $$ pledged would be for different tiers (big budget versus small budget). For example, there might be times of year that larger devs will have greater success kickstarting but smaller devs should avoid.

Thomas Bidaux
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I did that breakdown in the past - it gets a bit difficult to read (at least, I didn't find a good representation).

In terms of timing, I always feel that being on the platform during a "blockbuster" increases your chances to be found by chance as more people get attracted to Kickstarter during that period. No data I gathered makes this super obvious though. I will keep digging for an answer to prove or disprove this though.

Kyle Redd
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That is an excellent breakdown. Lots of useful insight.

Regarding the "successful projects per funding tier" chart - I understand those tiers as based on the amount of money each project eventually raised, not the amount of money the projects were actually seeking. Do you also have the data for the latter as well?

Thomas Bidaux
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I do.
It shows how much lower are the objectives are for board games compared to video games for instance.

I will see if I can put the chart quickly together.

Thomas Bidaux
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Like this: http://i.imgur.com/3G0pXbq.png ?

Kyle Redd
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Thank you. I was curious to see if there was a significant difference between the two, but the ratios for both metrics seem to be essentially identical.

James Yee
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YAY! Thanks Thomas you've helped me by doing much of the math for me! :)

While I tend to look beyond just Video games and Board games on my blog having these numbers and examples is a good "Check this out" for my readers. Thanks again!

Thomas Bidaux
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Shoot me your blog url - I am curious at what other people see in the trends too.

Micah Hymer
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I was also one of the small success stories in 2013 with Tesla Breaks the World, which raised $6,500 on a $5,500 budget. Kickstarter has definitely been a huge boon to the development process. One of the intangible benefits to Kickstarter though is that a successfully funded project that comes to fruition typically leads to the developer creating other titles funded by sales or publishers. E.g. could that developer have finished the original game (and subsequent titles) without the initial funding? Potentially one successful Kickstarter could hypothetically lead to years of success for a game developer. Impossible to track of course, but still an interesting side effect. Great article!

Andrew Beaudry
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Hi Thomas, very interesting article. I think the data is very promising for indie developers as well as larger projects, and Kickstarter's ability to make crowd funding viable will probably only expand the ways games are created.

I was wondering if you had data for what contribution price points were the most common/most viable for the developers to offer? The second half of that is more subjective because it has to do with the rewards offered, but I think it would be fascinating to see which contribution amounts per rewards is most effective?

Thomas Bidaux
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Re: contributions per level

Not at the moment. That's on the roadmap for extra data to be collected/analyzed at some point this year though.

I believe we will find strong trends that will be quite interesting, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt - the size of the project will have to be taken into account and outliers somehow identified. An interesting one to work on for sure.

Rick Davidson
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These numbers are very useful Thomas, many thanks. I was actually surprised to see the success rate as high as 24% - in today's day and age of spam I would have expected more clutter that was ignored.

I know this is a stretch (and perhaps asking too much of the data but I'll ask anyway!) but do you have any data that shows the elements that correlate with successfully backed projects? For example, length of video, number of reward levels, frequency of updates? Even anecdotal evidence would be much appreciated if you know of any trustworthy sources (ie. data-driven, not just "we think this makes a difference").

Thank you.

Thomas Bidaux
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Not at that stage sadly.

This is no easy task to find those correlations and could lead to the wrong conclusions. For instance, frequency of updates is often influenced by the initial interest in the project. Doing lots of updates with a non-audience would have 0 influence on the outcome - and people would come and blame me... :)

I am thinking about it though and if I find good indicators, I will share.


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