Launching in 2003, ArtistShare is regarded as the first online crowd-funding platform. It would inspire IndieGoGo (2008) and Kickstarter (2009) along with a host of other sites that allowed anyone to contribute to the development costs of a certain product or project.
Even at the dawn of Kickstarter, no one in the board games industry could have predicted the role it would come to play in pushing the hobby into the mainstream, not to mention be responsible for the countless number of titles that have been successful churned out. Reflecting on it now, it’s hard to imagine a world where crowd-funding and board games didn’t go hand in hand, as it makes perfect sense. I would argue gaming (and I include video games in this) is simply perfect for crowd-funding channels as you get the game cheaper than retails, usually with bonus perks – it’s basically supercharged pre-ordering.
And the proof is in the pudding – enter Exploding Kittens.
Exploding Kittens is a board game and the No.1 backed project in Kickstarter’s history. Launched in January 2015, Elan Lee’s party game was backed by 219,382 individuals raising a total $8,782,571 – which puts it 6th on the most funded of all time list – smashing its $10,000 goal and then some. Mind blowing.
Elan Lee is a Californian game designer who spent years working for Microsoft developing games for PC and Xbox. Specialising in alternate reality games, Lee teamed up with Shane Small and Matthew Inman from popular comic site, The Oatmeal to bring this hilarious party game. Having never been involved in tabletop gaming, the group would have had a real challenge to get the support of a board game publisher to deliver on their idea. In launching a Kickstarter campaign, they took ownership of their idea, and the rest they say, is history.
Board games predominantly do well on Kickstarter. From its inception in 2009, board and card game projects on the site have raised over $215 million with 89% percent of campaigns being successful – those that reached their fundraising goal. These figures dwarf the numbers for other genres, most note worthy video games. Pledges to video game projects, including hardware and mobile games, have hit $190 million, of which 78 percent went to ultimately successful projects.
When it comes to gaming, in the digital world of Kickstarter, analogue is most definitely king!
Kickstarter is very much at the forefront of the current board game renaissance, an industry that in 2015 was worth over $1.2 billion in the US and Canada alone with ever growing markets in Europe and China. Further signs of this “golden era” comes with Amazon reporting double digit increases in board game sales year on year for the past decade.
For me personally, Kickstarter has become my preferred way to buy my board games. Sure, you usually have to wait a while for the game and you could face astronomical shipping costs, but it;s the knowledge that you are helping bring someone’s labour of love to fruition. It not only supports current developers, but it inspires the would be designers that they can make their own mark in the ever evolving industry. Also, the set up of crowd-funding requires that the designer pitch you – they have to sell you their vision! It provides a personal touch, is something that is missing from traditional marketing campaigns associated with AAA titles.
Funnily enough, I have actually bought a few games from retailers following successful crowd-funding – Cards Against Humanities and Funemployed that I discussed a few weeks back on Tabletop Tales are two such examples. Some truly incredible games have been born from Kickstarter – the insanely popular Zombicide and the wonderfully resourceful Tiny Epic series of games (both of which I will be covering in the coming weeks!)
As the big publishers, such as Asmodée Éditions, build their monopoly (no pun intended!) through buying out smaller publishing houses (the EA of tabletop gaming?) the variety is potentially jeopardised. Kickstarter ensures that even the very smallest of designer has the chance to share their game with the world. For some established publishers, it has actually become the preferred method of releasing games – for example SteamForge Games, Gamelyn Games and CoolMiniOrNot.
In the past two years I have supported a grand total of 35 projects – only two weren’t successfully funded! Another six I opted out of before the deadline due to various reasons and five are currently pending. A few current projects I think are worth taking note of (and selfishly because I want to see them get funded so helping spread the word!) are:
DeathBot Derby – a two player card game that is essentially Robot Wars. Looks great, decently priced and is looking for $4000 by 2nd November.
The Pioneers Program – an apocalyptic city building game that has wonderful art and looks great fun to play. UK based this time, so its a £15,000 target by 30th October.
Of course, there are hundreds more live right now that may be of interest to you. As I have been writing this, a project called Beer Empire: The Board Game has just appeared. Not really for me, but that may appeal to others.
Kickstarter truly is a magical site to even just browse, filled with wonders and the empowering feel-good knowledge that anytime you click that pledge button you are helping bring something into existence. And when it comes to board games, there is no doubt they have made themselves more than comfortable in the crowd-funding scene as they continue their assault back into the mainstream.
NEXT WEEK: By the time this is posted, I will be getting my tan on with a beer in hand. I will be back in a fortnight with a look at some of the best Halloween themed games!