I post a compilation of Kickstarter  tabletop game projects (RPG, board, card) on Purple Pawn each week. I’ve been tracking tabletop game projects on KS pretty much since there have been tabletop game projects on KS.
Something like half of KS tabletop game projects get funded. Why? What are they doing right? What did the ones that fail do wrong? After the KS project finishes, what happens next?
I surveyed the owners of nearly every completed board and card game project on KS to find out.
I received approximately 15 responses to my survey.
On Kickstarter you can take your card game that you’ve prototyped on index cards with a ballpoint pen, and turn it into your vision. -Kevin Cook
KS is a strong crowd-funding player in the game industry, and it’s just getting started. Any competitors are far behind; they will have to grow rapidly to become serious competition. KS’s support staff is good and their site works as described. However, they have recently made it more difficult to navigate, favoring larger and more popular projects over less popular projects.
KS provides to the masses the thrills of becoming part of a community of first customers for a game, of having a direct dialog with a designer or publisher who listens, and of the possibility of helping or influencing the creative development process. KS helps create personally involved, highly satisfied, evangelical customers, as well as games that are targeted to these customers and have less initial problems.
Remember that KS is just another web page. All the old rules still apply: you need a great game, solid or appropriately priced components, and a lot of good old fashioned PR and marketing to make it work.
A KS project is a lonely entity that needs a lot of love. Simply being on KS does not mean that your project will get views, interest, promotion, or backing. A KS project needs tons and tons of promotion and publicity. For a game project, that means promotion and networking on the major game sites, starting with Board Game Geek and including other relevant, big game sites (Board Game Info , The Dice Tower, Purple Pawn, Fortress Ameritrash, BGDF, and others), as well as initial reviews (hopefully good ones) from well-read and respected reviewers. All before you open the KS project.
KS game projects fail due to under-promotion, poor project presentation, or simply being a bad game – the latter being a possibility that none of my respondents considered.
Game projects in the $1500 or under range are typically only for parts of games: artwork, minis, an expansion, etc. Most game projects are in the $1500 to $15,000 range. A typical first print run is a few hundred up to 5,000 copies. Budgeting a bigger print run for your first game means that you have an unrealistic idea of how the game market works, and we’ve covered many companies like this on Purple Pawn. You must have concrete interest in a good portion of a print run before you consider runs in the higher range.
Early-adopting gamers – the ones you are trying to court – are loyal, fervent, communicative, know a lot about what makes a good game, and have cash to spend – but don’t want to be cheated. They don’t spend $1 to get a “thanks”, but they will spend $25 to $40 without much thought on a board game if they think that they’ll get a quality game. They’ll regularly drop more money ($250+) in exchange for special perks.
Read the rest of this post for methodology, survey responses, and some additional analysis.
I surveyed the owners of nearly every completed board and card game project on KS. Around 15 replied.
My questions varied depending on whether they were sent to the owner of a funded or unfunded project. I have included excerpts of the responses below.
Questions and Answers
I have removed the names of games, companies, and people from the responses, not in an attempt to hide information, but so that the reader doesn’t get distracted among the many voices of the respondents.
Your project was a “success”. Do you feel it was a success? (funded only)
Yes, they did. No owners of funded projects felt that KS was a mistake or that it cost them more than they made, in any respect.
We raised three times our goal and used Kickstarter to promote our game and our company across a number of game enthusiast locales, both online and off. -David MacKenzie, Clever Mojo Games
[DMK] Oh yes, certainly. We raised three times our goal and used KS to promote our game and our company across a number of game enthusiast locales, both online and off.
[NV] I do feel it was a success. As the first game from a new company, the number of people who contributed is definitely a sign of success. [My partner] has a number of people who enjoy his games and I have a number of friends who contributed, but the vast majority were from people who were interested in the style of the game and I feel the price point of the game.
[NI] I do feel that our project has absolutely been a success. And as our first KS project, it has been more so a learning experience. We were not as successful as some other similar projects, but we reached our funding goal and that’s all that matters.
[TC] We do! We decided to look at funding site early on in our attempt to get [our game] manufactured and KS seemed to fit our needs so we decided to put our game out there and people seemed really supportive on the site.
[MT] Yes, for us success was defined as raising $4,000, and we raised $15,000, so we feel like we were very successful.
[MD] I feel that the use of KD was successful in getting this project funded and my new game made, yes. Until I see more sales, I won’t know if the game itself is a success, but initial sales numbers are very promising.
How did you choose your target funding level? (unfunded only)
This question is often answered on the project’s page. For funded projects, the project pages speak for themselves. For the unfunded projects, I thought a little clarity could be helpful.
[JB] It was based upon what we needed to do an initial print run of about 250 copies of the game.
[KC] This was based off of an aggregate estimate gathered from a variety of game manufacturers based on the minimum order amount required to mass manufacture our game. We also worked in the average shipping rate for standard delivery in the United States and came up with a grand total. Then we rounded to the nearest thousand.
[BK] My partners and I chose the target funding level based on the projected manufacturing costs it would take to create the game. Our goal was to raise about 50% of the manufacturing costs.
[MN] The production of my game was based on what I know how to make since the KS people state that you have to know all aspects of creating your project. This keeps unexpected costs way down as you can imagine. However I took some bad advice from a publisher and just went for the highest possible cost just to cover myself. I should have thought of ways to do it cheaper since KS doesn’t give you anything if you don’t reach your goal, but if you get more you get to keep it. I should have thought of two ways to make the game; the cheapest possible way, and gone with it. Then a plan if I get more that would make the game the way I want it that I could fall back on if I get the funding.
[DV] I targeted the funding level at 80% the printing cost. Based on experience, I knew I could fund the other 20%. I wanted to give the project the best chance of success possible by going with a lower funding level.
Did you spend money on advertising, creating media, Kickstarter fees, etc to promote your project? (unfunded only)
Our Board Game Geek banners were actually a huge success, generating an average click through rate of 1.45%. -Kevin Cook
I wanted to know if they actually lost money on an unfunded project. Worst case scenario is a promoted project that still fails.
[KC] We actually purchased advertising space on Board Game Geek, which was one of our better moves. As a career graphic designer I was able to create a round of banners to run on their website, and the cost for advertising was relatively cheap. Plus their website is very supportive of independent publishers and they ended up giving us a great deal on our ad. Our banners were actually a huge success, generating an average click through rate of 1.45%. The campaign duration was for 100,000 unique views, which accounts for a great amount of traffic visiting our project. The only problem with this was that after getting to our page, not many people were sticking around to pledge.
[BK] Minimal. We spent some money on Facebook ads, but that was it. However, we did try other forms of PR that didn’t cost money, like creating and promoting a Facebook group, sending press releases to newspapers and magazines, etc.
[MN] [Michael wrote that he attempted to get publicity from Laughing Squid, which subsequently promoted other KS products, but not his.] Other then that I just told a few friends. I didn’t even make a video, which is highly recommended. I had just heard of the website from a friend out of the blue so I just tossed together this idea I had lying around. I figured I’d get my feet wet and test the water in the shallow end. Next time I dive in I will be fully prepared and I am sure I will succeed.
[DV] We paid for banner ads on the largest board gaming sites. We also created a Flash video with music and voice-over to introduce our game and the KS concept.
What percentage of the money raised did you retain? I.e. what percent was spent on advertising, creating media, Kickstarter fees, etc? Given the percent retained, did you set your “completion” value correctly? (funded only)
I wanted to know how much of the money raised was actually received. I didn’t phrase the question well, however, since some people thought I was asking how much money they had left after manufacturing.
[BT] We raised $15,000, which was 250% of our original $6000 goal. After KS and Amazon fees, we retained $14,000 of that to use on production. Advertising ran about another $2,000 in total, from several different sources. Looking back, I would have set the target at $10,000 instead of $6,000, to cover more of the artwork and pre-production. At present, I’ve spent about $2,000 out of pocket on artwork. While I will be able to recoup some of this from the extra KS money, a higher goal would have allowed me to do even more with the art.
[NV] I set my target at exactly what I determined to be the minimum needed and we overshot it by about $1,700 USD. Out of the $9,200 that we raised, about $800 went towards KS/credit card fees and $1,000 went towards advertising (electronic and print). So, the overshoot of $1,700 covered the miscellaneous expenses associated with using KS and spreading the word.
[KB] I kept about 86% of what I made, after advertising and fees. My goal was to keep 1/2 of the production cost of the game, and I did that, though would have fallen short if I’d not made $3K over the goal.
[TC] I don’t have exact numbers but I believe Amazon keeps 5% of whatever is raised. We ended up making a little over our projected number which was six grand. Media, advertising and anything art related was created by me so the costs do not factor into what we made from KS.
[MD] I had calculated out the costs before starting the KS project, so the money raised was very close to what was actually needed to be spent on artists, manufacturing, and shipping. I had not accounted for the rising cost in gas prices and postage, so there I was a little below the target goal.
How much did each of the following (or lack thereof) play a part in the result of the project:
- Quality of the product
Good artwork available right from the project’s start makes a large difference. -D. Brad Talton Jr., Level 99 Games
By this I meant: how good did you really think your game was? Most of those surveyed answered as if I meant: how good was your product’s artwork?
[DMK] When we went to KS, all we had was the art and the rules but both of those were top-notch and they went a LONG WAY to bringing us our KS success.
[JB] None [as in, it didn't hurt them]. The quality of what we are going to be producing for all our games and products will rival that of what Days of Wonder and Fantasy Flight Games manufacture. It costs more to do on the small scale for us, be we don’t want to supply inferior products.
[BT] Good artwork available right from the project’s start makes a large difference. I’ve seen a number of projects on KS, and the more successful ones seem to have a large quantity of distinct visual resources available right from the outset.
[NV] I feel that our decision to use Ludo Fact [a manufacturer] and the quality of the artwork played a major role in the results of our project. I also feel that having a solid game was the main reason.
[KB] The quality of components was a point of contention with people. If you look at [our game] on BGG, you’ll see people complaining about stickered dice, and printing the game in China. It turns out we’re printing in China, but aren’t using stickered dice (we’re having blank dice inked) but none of this was decided until after the project completed. I think that cover and board art were huge draws. The map art was done by a contract house that makes maps for [another company]. I spent far more on art for this project than I had ever before.
[MN] I believe my expectation of production value was way too high so this may have been the deal breaker for potential backers.
[DV] The epic failure of our project remains a complete mystery to me [me too]. The game is fun, the components look great, and I think the video was entertaining. I expected to receive full funding, but after 90 days, we only had 3 or 4 investors totaling a couple hundred dollars.
[NI] I personally believe that the quality of our custom artwork really helped establish [our game] as a viable game. But the game mechanics and the theme, which we’ve been developing for more than four years, also played a significant part in the result of the project.
[TC] I believe the quality of our product really spoke to the people that helped fund us on KS. When it comes to games people want more than just clever mechanics, they want something that isn’t going to fall apart after a few plays. When we set out to create [our game], quality mechanics as well as materials were foremost in our thoughts.
[MD] I think that the quality, and especially the quality of the artists, helped a lot.
- Suitability to the audience, target locations, or economic climate
By which I meant: do you know your audience?
[DMK] As far as I know, [our game] was the fourth “big” game project on KS … [the previous] projects proved to me that KS was a viable funding source for quality game projects. Even in a recession, people need to feel a part of something bigger and something exciting. I think that quality KS projects help fill that need.
[JB] Because our initial products are targeting niche and previously under-served markets, we have already developed a world-wide interest in [our games].
[BT] [Our game] was launched in the wake of [another game], a similarly themed game (which is entirely different in execution, but is still the most common comparison). [The other game] costs $100 and was well received by the gaming public. Pitching [our game] with almost twice as many characters and at a third of the price leveraged those comparisons in a positive way.
[NV] The game is, I feel, perfectly situated in its price point. It will retail at $24.99 and as it is a card driven board game with wood components, a two piece telescoping setup box and is being made by a well known company, the game is an excellent value for its cost in components alone. [My partner] has a number of games already out and that are coming out in the next two years so the value of the game play itself is a deal at $25 USD. The audience is board gamers in general. I did not set out to specifically target any single group, though the art style and theme of the game will appeal to those already familiar with games in that time era.
[KB] The target audience is obviously rail gamers, and I think the game hit the mark with them. We’ve run the game at Puffing Billy tournaments [for train game enthusiasts] at Origins and Gen Con the last few years and have gotten lots of positive feedback.
[MN] This may have been its strongest point since the target audience is Internet users. Other games like World of Warcraft are very popular too. Also Chess is for intellectuals of all ages and has a massive following. I think the harsh economic climate is also good for low cost forms of gaming that do not require a computer.
[MT] I have no idea. The game is funny to us, and we give it away for free, so we hope it is right for the audience (young people on the internet).
[MD] I think the interest in the subject matter, more than the suitability, was a factor in the success.
- Backing levels, product price
I thought about this question only after I had sent half of the emails, so I neglected to ask this to many of those surveyed.
[BT] Allowing player involvement via the backing levels–and not just vanity involvement like your face on a character, but real design involvement–gained a lot of support, as well as made the game a better product in the end. Including these rewards is one of the best decisions that I feel was made for the project.
[KB] The $60 backing level with free shipping was a huge factor in the success. The game’s SRP will be closer to $70. Also, all of the backing levels included bonus cards that won’t be available in the retail box. I was surprised at the number of backers at the $250 level, which gets backers free [our company] products for life. It shows that people really have confidence in the line moving forward.
[MT] Although many projects have been successful offering high-end products or dozens of reward levels, we believed going in that a low price point and an extremely simple pricing model (two rewards; standard and premium) told the most understandable story to our backers.
[MD] The options at higher levels definitely helped I think.
- Promotion (advertising, word of mouth, etc)
The biggest factor for us was that no one knew we were there. -Benjy Kaplan, Epicure Games
Here you are: the deal breaker. Almost always, good promotion = funded, and the inverse.
[DMK] KS provides a portal where people from all walks of life can find projects that interest them. The word of mouth from so many diverse viewers played a big part in our decision to put [our game] on KS.
[KC] Just getting people to talk about your project in forums, game stores, or on the street is always a big win. I would have to say of all factors, promotion is the most significant. You can have a great product on KS, but if you haven’t built up a fan base ahead of time, there’s very little chance you’re going to make it. I made the mistake going in thinking that KS is a giant community of independent investors waiting for projects to spend money on. KS is merely of a way to facilitate creating and launching a project, everything else has to come from you.
[JB] Significantly. Word of mouth was all we had to rely upon at this stage of things, hence the poor result.
[BT] Having a downloadable version of the game that players could print up and play made it clear that we were serious about providing a solid, diverse, and expandable game. I would say this is the absolute most successful element of our promotion. Working with BGG on advertising was also extremely successful to get the project talked about and better known.
[NV] This is definitely one of the most important reasons we succeeded. Early on, a member of Board Game Geek rallied behind our cause and was instrumental in ensuring that people heard about the game. I believe that he single-handedly brought in over 25% of the contributors through his efforts. We also had a small off the cuff presence at Board Game Geek Con by having handmade copies of the game available to play wherever we were sitting. People came up and were interested in the game and got a small business card featuring [our game's] information.
[BK] The biggest factor for us was that no one knew we were there. Networking may have played some role, but what we noticed was that the more successful projects had a large base of support to begin with. We started to get the word out after our project was on KS, but other projects, we discovered, started doing that months before. By doing so, by telling people to look out for their projects on KS, they drew in a lot of contributions from the get-go. A project that appears so successful from the beginning will only breed more success as time goes on.
[KB] I don’t really know how much advertising helped. People who played the game at Puffing Billy tournaments really helped spread the word on forums, and I know that helped.
[MN] This was the most obvious failure on my part, but like I said it was more of a test flight so even though I didn’t fly far it did get off the ground and I learned what I needed to learn. I told my friends on Facebook and a few other groups online. None of them contributed but a few strangers from KS put up $25 each. One I think found me because I used words in the description that only professional chess players would use. This may have made me pop up on a search for that word since it would most likely be the most interesting thing Google would come up with for someone like us gamers. I know my audience and how they think. This is key to effective marketing and Google placement.
[NI] We made a Print and Play version of the game available for free download so that potential backers could try the game out before pledging. The greatest success of the project, though, had to have come from the reviews … on Board Game Geek. We were languishing in the doldrums and those reviews really garnered us the attention we needed to reach our funding goal.
[MT] We released our game as a free online download over a year before we went on KS, and began collecting email addresses of players. This mailing list was crucial to our success; we also created incentives for our backers to promote our project for us (by adding content to their games at certain funding levels).
[MD] Promotion worked, but was difficult also getting the word out beyond a limited area. Word of mouth helped, but it was difficult for promotion beyond that.
- Networking (connecting with people on KS through updates, connecting on social media or other sites, …)
Promotion is advertising and review copies; networking is talking to your fans.
[DMK] Connecting with all of our backers through the project updates was a HUGE part of [our game]‘s success. The one thing I thought other projects were missing was that sense of family. It seemed they were not really making that connection. Maybe I went overboard, but I posted 55 updates during the 60 day project and I posted another 23 updates in the five months following the project’s completion. I reported on every aspect of the design, production, distribution, and aftermath. I solicited input, suggestions, comments, and feedback at every step. I gave out free wallpapers. I treated every backer like an investor…because that’s really what they were.
[JB] We have been using Facebook and Twitter rather extensively to promote our games and awareness of our company.
[BT] I felt there were minimal returns from Facebook and Twitter connections. On Facebook, people conduct all sorts of social business. However, on BGG and KS, the focus is on the game and the project. These focused social networks had much higher returns than Facebook and Twitter, where the game designer is competing for attention against movies, video games, viral videos, and party invitations.
[NV] Between KS updates, BGG posts and getting the word spread through sites such as BoardGameNews, Purple Pawn, Wired, and several other quality sites, I feel that networking is mandatory. You need to keep your audience entertained and engaged. Follow up on questions, clarifications when required are not extras to be included as time permits but are absolutely required to get people on board.
[KB] [Our company] picked up several Twitter and Facebook followers as a result of the project. I was diligent about posting updates on both social media networks.
[MN] I answered every comment the day it was posted and I think the few people that did comment really appreciated this and will be brought in to my new projects with even more enthusiasm then if they had just heard about me. Like seeing what an old friend is up to.
[NI] Facebook and other social networking media that we used had little if any effect. Friends and family can only take you so far. In hindsight, I really wish that we had more prototypes to send off for review.
[TC] Advertising our desire to have people fund us on Kickstarter was mainly word of mouth though we had people we hadn’t met fund us as well. The fact that people we hadn’t met funded us based on what they saw really made our day!
[MT] Exposure on social media (Reddit, forums, blogs, Tumblr) was very helpful to us. We noticed a big bump in backers when we got social media exposure.
[MD] Networking helped spread the word, but most was done through networking with people whom I already knew.
- Presentation (video, pictures, initial write-up, etc)
This refers to the quality of the KS project page.
[DMK] Preparing the video was a little daunting, but fun. The fact that we had GREAT artwork to showcase and a good looking prototype to show off really helped sell the project to our backers.
[JB] The video is not at all what we wanted, but with a budget of $0 and an iPhone, we cobbled something together. We are currently in the process of developing a web series for [our games].
[KC] Presentation was huge for instilling trust, having people in your video isn’t required, but it definitely helps.
[BT] A good video and write-up are helpful. I found that pictures of the prototype and game components were more exciting to players than hearing me talk in a video.
[NV] I am lucky in that the graphic designer of [our game] has a full graphic design degree and is skilled in video editing, photography, drawing and composition. Also, as a writer, I believe that having created the majority of the updates in advance helped to ensure that we had the necessary content to keep people involved in the project. I would have liked to have added more thematic game play walk-throughs for a bit of added fun.
[KB] I’m not sure how much my KS video helped, but a friend did a Board Game Teach video tutorial for the game, which went taught the game in detail. I also did Close-Up updates on the KS project that I’ve heard helped immensely.
[MN] The only thing I did as far as presentation was to rewrite it (several times) to get it to not sound so boring, yet also clearly state the complexity of the game. I had a friend tell me that without a video showing what is going on even he could not focus on all that text and make sense of it. Some people did however so I know it was at least comprehensible.
[TC] would like to think the way [our game] was presented played a role in getting people to back us but seeing as that’s my department I can’t really say if it did or not.
[MT] We didn’t break our backs on this, but we did try to tell a simple story about what the game was, who we are, and why we wanted to make it. Ultimately, we offered a free DIY version of the game, which probably spoke more about the quality of the product than our presentation.
[MD] I think that the video helped a lot compared to other projects I have seen which only had stills.
- Brand (name and reputation of people/company involved in the project)
None of those surveyed felt that their brand or reputation meant very much for their project.
[BT] By sending off a number of review copies, we were able to leverage the reputation of well-known members of the gaming community as well, and I feel their reputation and recommendation contributed as much to the game’s success as the company’s, if not more.
[NV] [Our company] is a brand new company, but as we are co-publishing with [KB's company], we had some legitimacy. By having the game tied to an established company, we could assure that the game would not be vapor ware. Also, [my partner] as the designer helped to show that this was not a first time effort from someone with no experience.
[KB] I can’t really say much about this. I’m not sure rail gamers that this was directed to know that much about [our company].
[MD] I think that the names of artists helped quite a bit. [I concur; they wrangled up an impressive list of artists.]
Did the project provide any residual effects: increased web traffic, subscriptions, inquiries, etc.?
The number of visitors to our website … skyrocketed during the period that our Kickstarter project was active. -Nathan Isaac, Hostage Entertainment
There’s success and then there’s success. Even an unfunded project can be a success, if the costs are few.
[DMK] One special connection was made as a result of KS, and that was our association with … our graphic designer on [our game] and hopefully on future projects. We made a lot of connections through our KS project, built up our own brand name, and built a foundation that we’ll be able to expand in the years to come.
[JB] Nope [project was poorly promoted].
[KC] The residual effects from posting on KS have been great! We got some great feedback from our fans, and made many friends along the way. I think that our time spent on KS has been the most beneficial period in the entire development process.
[BT] There has been a lot of increased interest in our upcoming games, such as [another game] and in existing products, like out app store products.
[NV] We continue to receive pre-orders through a temporary site. These will be shipped out just after the KS games but only by a few days. I have had a number of inquiries about an iPad/iPhone version of the game but have not yet found a company/programmer who will do the game justice.
[BK] It did. We increased traffic to our Facebook page, and to our website. We also received emails from people who discovered us on KS, asking for more information about the game, and when it was going to be released. Ultimately, KS was a great promotional tool, even if we did not receive funding.
[KB] Lots of new Twitter/Facebook followers/friends.
[MN] A few people told me they wanted to keep informed of my future projects but that is it. If anything it inspired others and allowed me to show them how simple it was to get started.
[DV] Nope. It sank without so much as a ripple. [This one is a mystery to me, as the company is, at least relative to the other companies in this post, relatively established, and they paid for promotions and posted about the project in several locations.]
[NI] Using KS definitely gave us a great deal more visibility than we had previously known. We had a website and a page on Board Game Geek, but these can only do so much, especially if you don’t have the funds to advertise or even get your project off the ground. KS gave us access to a community with a respect for creativity, and a genuine desire to see our project succeed. And, no doubt, the number of visitors to our website and Board Game Geek page skyrocketed during the period that our KS project was active.
[TC] The project produced a lot of web traffic and questions. Posting our game to Kickstarter proved to be a great way to advertise [our game] as well as [our company].
[MT] We got a lot of media attention and dramatically increased web traffic and downloads of the free game. After the project, we received many requests from people who wanted a copy but missed the KS.
[MD] Not much. There was increased traffic and some talk on Board Game Geek, but not much.
Were there any surprises, e.g. people donating at levels you didn’t actually expect, total amount pledged or raised, etc?
I never expected the $1500 level to be picked up, and it was there more as a wild possibility. All three of these slots were bought. -D. Brad Talton Jr., Level 99 Games
Here is the most surprising result of this survey: most respondents said that many, many people chose the highest or very high levels of support, in the $250+ range. Wow.
[DMK] Well, raising three times our goal was a BIG surprise to me and I was really amazed at the number of backers we received. But the biggest surprise was the involvement and support that they gave to us freely. Our backers proofread our rules, they gave us advice and artwork of their own, and they spread the word among their friends. Ya, the generosity of the backers was the greatest and most welcome surprise.
[KC] We were very surprised by the levels that were receiving the most backers. We posted a beta test level at $200 that gave investors access to an early closed beta. This beta test box was basically the same as our retail version that cost $75, the only difference was that the game pieces would be created using a different process that circumvented the mass-manufacturers. It’s ended up being our most popular investment level… and I still can’t tell you why.
[BT] I never expected the $1500 level to be picked up, and it was there more as a wild possibility. All three of these slots were bought, and the game has expanded in a good way because of it. I thought maybe we would get to $9000 if we were lucky. Needless to say, the response exceeded all expectations.
[NV] The individuals who believed in the product enough to donate at the $250, $500 and $1,000 levels were a surprise. The $1,000 donation was from a lifelong friend of mine who I’ve helped out in the past and wanted to repay the assistance. Our $500 dollar contributor is [also] well known.
[KB] As mentioned, I was surprised to get 9 backers at the $250 level.
[DV] The few pledges we received were of higher values than I expected. I expected most pledges to be at the $50 level to receive a game and name credit on the game boxes. Several pledges were for $100+.
[NI] We had a lot of people actually pledge $250 just to get a street on the game board named after them. And a lot of people also pledged $150 to receive a custom copy of the game. We hadn’t expected so many people to actually pledge at these higher levels, and in fact if not for these we may not have reached our funding goal.
[MT] We planned for pretty much every contingency except success, and were caught off guard when we were funded quickly. We never thought it was possible to raise $15,000 for our game.
[MD] There were a few surprises. A couple of people donated at levels higher than I expected.
Have you delivered the rewards to all backers? If not, when do you expect to do so? Did you experience any delivery problems (delayed product, no contact info, shipping problems, returns, etc)? (funded only)
I.e. what happened next?
[DMK] Oh yes, the backer rewards went out ASAP when the shipment from China arrived. The only problem was…and is…that one guy never sent me his address so he never got his rewards. I never heard from him so I hope he’s ok.
[BT] We’ve announced September as a tentative shipping date. The game is currently going to press, so there’s no news to report on this front so far.
[NV] We have not yet shipped the game to our backers at this time. After the project ended, our graphic designer continued to work to finish the artwork and we have been working with Ludo Fact to ensure that there are no printing issues. I also decided that it would be better to have frame-less cards and that added a bit of time to adapt the cards. We are on the same time frame as [other game] it seems. They just received their proofs and we are receiving ours very shortly. The game will definitely be ready for GenCon 2011 as planned. All but 2 people provided their contact information and I believe that by the time we ship, we’ll have the last 2 people’s addresses so there should be no issues with shipping.
[KB] [our game] will go to press by the end of May, as promised in the project. It will be 3 months after that before backers get product.
[NI] We have not received the first print run yet, and so we have not shipped any rewards to our backers. They will be the first to receive copies of the game, along with all rewards, as soon as we receive the first shipment in late June. We had originally planned a late April, mid-May release but encountered a number of delays. Since this was our first game, there were a lot of issues that we had not planned for. We didn’t realize that we needed to get “CE” approval to sell the game in the EU, and we also did not budget for a UPC (and ultimately decided to register an ISBN instead). We also had some unexpected delays while working with a new graphic designer to update and polish the look of the game. Next time we’ll be ready for these issues.
[TC] The rewards have been on hold while we figured out which materials we wanted to use for the game. Initially we wanted to use neoprene for the game board and were going to give heavier metal challenge coins (one of the KS rewards) but we ended up having to go with a chipboard mat due to the industries inability to manufacture neoprene in the size we needed at the prices we were looking for. As a result we couldn’t go with the heavier coin as it would have destroyed the game board. Now that we have signed a production contract we are able to choose the proper materials for the KS rewards and they should be out to our rocket racers in the very near future.
[MT] The games have been printed and assembled, and we’re just waiting for them to clear customs and arrive in the U.S. The only delivery problem we had was unexpected delays from our vendors while they scaled up production.
[MD] I am in the process of shipping out the rewards now.
Will you re-list this product on Kickstarter? If not, what are the next steps for the product (what’s been happening with the product since the end of the Kickstarter campaign)? (unfunded only)
I will re-list it in a few months when I get settled. This time I will do it right. -Michael North, Atomic Island Studios
I.e. what happened next?
[JB] We will certainly consider trying KS again in the future if we have the ability to drive people to the site. We have since gotten the funding outside of KS as most people who wanted to invest were not willing to sign up with Amazon Payments.
[KC] We would really like to. According to the community response, the game is well loved and has already attracted a small following. Our major obstacle at this point is finding a way to bring down costs. Many people viewing the site thought that $75 was too much to pay for an indie board game. We’re currently working on a cardboard version of the game that shirks the posable figurines in favor of die-cut cardboard pieces. We would like to get this version out in the $30-$40 range.
[BK] KS was our first option for finding funding, but not our only option. Since KS, we’ve managed to find investors through other means. [Our game] is currently being produced, and will be on shelves soon.
[MN] Yes I will re-list it in a few months when I get settled. This time I will do it right. Including having a much lower goal and production plan.
[DV] I’m not sure about the future. Creating the video ate up a lot of time and effort. Vendetta continues to gather pre-orders on our web site and we hope to have it printed later this year.
How many similar non-Kickstarter projects have you done prior to this project? How did this project compare to your previous efforts? How likely are you to do your next projects on Kickstarter (or a similar site)?
I.e. compare this experience to your previous experiences. What did you think? The questions was supposed to be comparing publishing a game on KS vs publishing NOT on KS, but some respondents missed the “non-” part of the question.
[JB] None, but we have one set up for [another game] and MIGHT launch it in the next month or so.
[DMK] [Our game] was our first major game project and our first exposure to KS. We’ll definitely consider KS for future projects. We’re also considering Springboard .
[KC] Well, this was our first shot at a board game. Our company’s founders all have roots in the video game industry working as artists and designers on computer games.
[BT] [Our game] on KS was by far the most successful project that we have ever done, and I think that I will definitely use it again in the future.
[NV] This is the first board game that I’ve put together and also the first major project that is personally motivated. The main drawback of KS is the 5% cut they take, though they do bring a large presence of people to the table.
[BK] This was our first product. KS is a great way to get a project off the ground, but at this point, we’re off and running. It doesn’t make sense for us to go back to KS.
[KB] [our company] is co-publishing [NV's game]. That KS project has a lower SRP and subsequent backer price, so seemed less stressful. That could be because the project was driven more by [NV], though.
[NI] This is our first KS project, and hopefully not our last. I really enjoyed using KS, and since joining I’ve backed a number of other games. It’s a great platform for game designers to make their ideas a reality (but be prepared for the workload).
[TC] We are currently planning another Kickstarter project for our second game.
[MD] I have released two games before this one. Both were funded internally. I found KS a great way to both gauge interest and spread the word about the product, as well as raise the necessary funds. Based on this, I am very likely to use it again.
Did you encounter any problems with Kickstarter, customer support, or web issues? Are there features you would like Kickstarter to include or support?
According to all respondents, the KS staff and site worked flawlessly. Everyone had nothing but praise for the site’s main functions and the support given by KS personnel.
There were some complaints about the new search and page layouts, a complaint that I share. You can’t see a list of game projects ordered by submission/ending date, for instance. I would also like them to provide better embedding features (e.g. change the width of embedded projects) and table lists of projects. Other rare complaints:
[DV] Just after we listed [our game], KS changed their web site format and it became mush harder to locate projects. I liked the old system better. For example, within each type of project, they have several sub-headings that are unclear as to the status of projects contained in the heading.
[NV] They need an RSS feed for games. They need to allow people to select Shipping Options set up by the person running the project to allow International Shipping and different types of shipping. They also need to promote their non-mega projects a bit more on the front page.
[MN] I would like to ask that KS get with Stickam or something and make a room where project producers and backers could actually chat on video and with a small chat box. See also Justin.tv and Ustream.
[MT] I wish they had better analytics on the contribution page.
Is Kickstarter right for the game industry? How so?
I can’t really speak for other companies but we plan to use Kickstarter for our games from now on. -Timothy Chadwick, 42 Games
[DMK] I think the number of game projects successfully funded on KS is answer enough…yes. As for how…it is a magnet for creative types and for those who want to be a part of that creativity. How can it NOT be a good fit for games?
[JB] I don’t know. Other game folk have gotten things funded through this program.
[KC] It’s great for the game industry, and my hope is that it keeps getting better. There are so many game designers out there with great ideas but no means to produce them. On KS you can take your card game that you’ve prototyped on index cards with a ballpoint pen, and turn it into your vision. Before going to KS we shopped [our game] around to a few major manufacturers of board games in the U.S. Only a couple bothered to reply to our submission, and in those rare cases didn’t offer us any reason as to why they were passing on our idea. It comes down to the fact that there aren’t many options available to independent developers, and KS allows creators to at least get their ideas out in the open. At worst you get some good feedback, and at best you get to realize a dream.
[BT] KS is an amazing tool for game designers and publishers. There are 3 main reasons: It’s low risk to the publisher. You don’t have to print a game on the speculation of its popularity. It promotes player involvement. Players are directly responsible for getting the funding and making the game a reality. This creates a sense of connection to the game. It gauges community interest. If your KS project fails, then your game may not be right or ready for the market. It’s easier to learn this via KS than by running demos and distributing copies.
[NV] I believe it is good for the game company but only as the initial propulsion into moving into a more sustainable direction. Handing 5% of a game over is a lot in an industry that isn’t known for its massive profits.
[BK] KS is a great place for passion projects. We see movies and comics on there all the time, and those projects are funded by fans. The game industry has the same sort of fan base. If utilized correctly, KS can be a great resource for independent game developers.
[KB] I think it is, but not alone. It’s necessary to spread the word through gaming channels too. Without BGG advertising and forums, the project would have not succeeded.
[MN] Well it depends. These big game corporations don’t have anything to gain from it other than stealing ideas or hunting for game designers like me. But it opens the door to the other 99% of mankind to get in to the game design world. This will open the doors to human creativity. I believe we need things like this to balance playing field and get people to start using their imagination. We have all this technology in our reach now and so few seem to be using it.
[DV] Hard to say. I have seen all levels of success by games on their site.
[NI] KS is a godsend for the hobby and gaming industry. Never before have game designers had this opportunity. With the advent of KS, the only thing stopping you from getting your game published is yourself. If you’re willing to put the time and energy into a KS project, you’ll discover that you can see your game on the shelves of hobby stores across the U.S. and around the world without having to go through the conventional industry channels.
[TC] I can’t really speak for other companies but we plan to use KS for our games from now on.
[MT] Absolutely! Now that the tools of game authorship are available to amateurs like us, anyone with a great idea can make a game. In our case, the main obstacle was funding, and KS completely solved [it].
[MD] I think that it can be. It is not for every small publisher or every game. I think that one needs to have a strong product first, and not simply rely on KS to get funding for a game which isn’t well designed/playtested. However, for a person or company with a game idea looking to go to market and not wanting to go through another company, I think that it can be very useful.
Any advice to people considering using the site?
Stay active in the project – don’t just post it and wait for the money. -Kevin Brusky, APE Games
[DMK] Involve your backers, connect with your backers, and make them a part of the project not just a source of cash.
[JB] Like everything else in the world of retail and service, it all boils down to advertising. If people don’t know to go to KS, they’re not likely to stumble across your project.
[KC] Self-Promote beforehand. Price aggressively. Have a working version of your product to show on your page. Be gracious to anyone who contacts you. And above all else have fun, and don’t take failure personally. Some of KS’s greatest success stories have come from failed projects who learned from their mistakes and applied this knowledge to future projects. Let your community know who you are and make sure you stay active on the site, posting updates and comments whenever you can.
[BT] Make sure your campaign begins and ends during a weekend: response on the weekends in generally higher than during weekdays, since people have more free time and are able to do more leisure browsing and purchasing. My own campaign ended on a Friday afternoon. Afterwards, I got several messages from people who said they wished they had backed, but were at work during the 11th hour and thus weren’t able to jump on at the last minute. Factor in advertising and pre-production budgets, not just the cost of printing. Use reward levels to get people involved in the game. Make your rewards more than just pre-orders. Let players try the product before they buy it, or provide some sampling of the final product. People like to know what they’re getting into.
[NV] Keep your reward/pledge levels streamlined. The fewer options, the better. Wrap any promo giveaways into the basic copies for KS pledges. Don’t charge more for some extra cards. Make sure to do updates no more than 3-5 days apart to keep people on the fence interested. Have a good video plus additional artwork. Get your initial few backers really interested so they spread the word more. Bring people on BGG together to assist in the project. Proof readers, art review, suggestions are all good ways to get people involved.
[BK] Be sure to build up a fan base first—and make it as large as you can. Do all that grunt work before you start your KS project.
[KB] Stay active in the project – don’t just post it and wait for the money. Lots of updates showing game play and components is critical. Get the word out on BGG, and advertise on BGG and Purple Pawn. Get press support by supplying games to the major podcasts.
[MN] Make an awesome video. Think like your audience. Get your link out there any way you can. Publicity is free and is the best form of advertising. See if a college newspaper will cover your story.
[DV] Know going in to it that it is a die roll and you have no modifiers. You get what you get.
[NI] Get your marketing plan together before you launch your KS project. Get control of the manufacturing/production from the very beginning of the project. Do your research beforehand. Have prototypes in hand and send them to reviewers. Get the game in the hands of good reviewers who really care about board games and who will be passionate about your project. Create a great video, and don’t skimp on the artwork. And stick with it. It can be frustrating, but the reward of reaching your funding goal is indescribable. Don’t rely on your friends and family alone. If that’s all it took, you wouldn’t need to use KS. You’ve got to reach your market and build a community around your game. That’s the only way you’ll succeed.
[TC] Make sure your project is clear and concise before you post it to the site for evaluation. KS will not let just anyone ask to have their project posted for funding, they expect you to have some semblance of an outline put together before you post.
[MT] Build an audience for your project before you launch, and make a simple pricing structure so that potential backers clearly understand what they’re getting and aren’t overwhelmed by the options. Some other advice: build the shipping cost into the reward price. We tried to do it separately and it was a big mess.
[MD] Make sure that you have a good, well developed idea. Try to spread the word as much as you can. Remember that KS is for raising funds, but that is not the end of game production. There is still marketing, manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, etc. to contend with. Do your homework.
Some other general articles about success and KS include the following:
 KS is a crowdfunding site. A project owner asks for funding for a project, and people pledge to contribute at various funding levels, each of which offers a different reward should the funding be successful. Contributions are only gathered from the pledges if the target funding level is achieved; otherwise, nothing is collected.
I briefly looked at some other crowdfunding sites, such as IndieGoGo, but they don’t contain much game content. There is a new site devoted solely to games called Springboard.
 Disclaimer: a Purple Pawn advertiser or partner, past or present.
Great questions and such interesting responses. Thanks for the great post.
This was an exceptional article! Thanks, Yehuda!
Thanks, Yancey. Give me a KS API!
Readers may also be interested to see Kickstarter’s own analysis of their numbers. http://blog.kickstarter.com/post/5014573685/happy-birthday-kickstarter
One thing that jumped out at me from that report: 90% of projects that reach 30% will be successfully funded. That is a shockingly low tipping point and just reinforces the notion that a strong kickoff sets the pace for the rest of the funding cycle.
Great info. Thanks for this. And thank you for that link Solis! Some terrific numbers in there.
A gracious Thank You to all of the contributors on this posting…the information and comments are invaluable to someone like myself that is moving in the direction of a Kickstarter promotion. Please visit our site and Join our Facebook crew if you are interested in keeping up with our progress… http://www.playcrossbones.com/
Thanks for this info… we’ve started a new kickstarter board game project and hope to do more… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/miniongames/venture-forth-adventure-board-game
Another question that would be an interesting fact to gather would be the quantity and percentage of International supporters for each project. Especially considering the comments regarding the unexpected requirement of ““CE” approval to sell the game in the EU” and other hurdles or shipping variables associated with the support of International sales.
Superior survey and article. Some people have urged me to fund game projects on KS and now I know some of the perils. I’ve got a lot of homework to do.
I noticed with Vendetta that most of the rewards were “vanity” rewards – get yourself named/mentioned in the game or rulebook, etc. The over-achievers, such as Eminent Domain (not surveyed) and Alien Frontiers, on the other hand, offered more product and promo related thank you gifts.
it is very hard to run a kickstarter project, but its worth the effort and the hard work. i have been promoting my kickstarter project…
…by every means possible without being a spammer. i have extended my social network very well and my project is well thought out. I spent about 4 months planning it, then i started pre-promoting it by word of mouth and not online. thanks for the good advice, i added some of your ideas to my kickstarter campaign.
You’re right. I under-emphasized the importance of how to choose reward levels, how to choose a target funding amount, and how much an existing fan base will get your project moving initially.
Hey, this is some fantastic data and one of the few surveys that talk to the unfunded projects, too. It’s great work.
Has anyone done any data mining and analysis on succesful Kickstarter projects?…
Not sure if these will answer all of your questions, but there is quite a bit of analysis out there. We share quite a bit of data, and many project creators have done great jobs analyzing their own experiences in a data-driven way. Some highlights: * T…
[...] researching all the successful game projects I could find and learning from what they did right (Purple Pawn has a very helpful article on the [...]
http://kck.st/xth1gt I started my kickstarter and It is coming along well support if you can thank you
[...] the concept. PurplePawn.com, a gaming news site, also has a very informative article about How To Succeed Or Fail At Kickstarter. I suggest you check out both if you’re interested in understanding how Kickstarter is [...]
I have submit one project to Kickstarter, but it was rejected. I need help with creating a project that will get accepted. If someone can help me please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great post. You helped us a lot in creating our project. Thanks
This post has so much valuable information that will help me prepare for my own kickstarter campaign this fall. Thanks!
Hi i will need help with my Hip-Hop project in Los Angeles, CA by RoWllin Stoned: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/762014615/rowllin-stoneds-first-album-and-two-music-videos?ref=email
Let me know if u can help.
Loved the article, but I’m in Canada, so I can’t use Kickstarter, im stuck using indiegogo:
I was wondering if anyone had any tips for this site as well?
How about a little cross pledging…although mine’s not a card game, I enjoy them and would be willing to support.
Thank you for posting such an in depth and informative article / interview on the Kickstarter experience! Even though my campaign is for a product design and not a game, I found lots of relevant insights. Since I’m brand new to the freelance / independent creator thing, I made the ignorant mistake of not pre-promoting prior to launch. I’ve never been easily social, so I’m forcing myself to get comfortable with Tweeting and Pinning and all that stuff. A little late to help my current project, I think, but I hope to build a small but sincere online network that will help support me for my next efforts.
If anyone is curious, my project is an iPod nano pocket watch: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/simonkwan/podkit-watch-clipclok-ipod-nano-case-watch-module
And hey, good luck everyone else who is out there working on their dreams!
Thank you for this informative article! I wanted to let you know about a feature film we’re producing – Lessons from Violet. It will be the first romantic comedy about human trafficking. As the movie Life is Beautiful got us to laugh while revealing the reality of the holocaust we are aiming to do the same with the issue of human trafficking. The awards given to our screenplay seem to indicate that we’re headed in the right direction.
Let me know if you’d like more info about it or if you’d like to do a story about it. We’re in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to build a team around Lessons from Violet:
I look forward to your thoughts!
Johnson Lo | Press Relations
Morning Star Pictures
824 Maple Street, Suite 3 | Santa Monica, CA 90405
o: 310-314-5598 | f: 310-314-0060
We just launched a new KS RPG project. http://goo.gl/oDLhX
This is our second go at it. The first time we were unsuccessful. We learned from that and this time approached it with trying to get as much media attention as we could. So far it is off to a slow start but the media has been kind!
This article really help me alot..I Feel That My New Thriller Film Should Do Great.
I Don’t know too much about the young girls campaign, however, there are a lot of worthy projects on K.S. In Face We Just Launched a Feature Thriller Film On K.S. Please Have A Look See.
WATCH OUR NEW MOVIE TRAILER! (Suspense/THRILLER)
A FEATURE FILM about how a state attorney can prosecute the guilty by day then have the audacity to kill the innocent by night.
Wow, this thread seems to continue to be found so I thought I’d share my blog site here as it has much more details and more up to date info on running kickstaters and publishing games.
Also we started a Facebook game design guild to help everyone (over 650 people already) here: