10th January 2014 by Thomas
With a new year starting, it is time for two customary types of blog posts: retrospectives and new year wishes. Here, I have decided to combine them both for you.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 $10k.
And to me, this looks like good news overall. It shows a wider selection of projects can get funded via Kickstarter, and not just the very cheap or the very famous. I would be ok for 2014 to see fewer shiny, large projects if that would mean a larger number of projects found a way to get funded. I think this evolution stems from the development of a community of video game enthusiasts embracing the crowd funding principles. A growth from the bottom up sounds a lot healthier overall.
Graphs are nice, but you probably want to have some direct numbers from all this. Worry not, I am very happy to provide the ones we have (all for video games projects):
|Number of pledges made||
|Number of projects submitted||
|Number of projects funded||
|Number of projects that failed getting funded||
|$ pledged to video game projects||
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:
$ pledged – Video Games
(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”.
Special thanks to Potion of Wit for their help in the data-mining process.
Oh, and I didn’t forget that I promised this blog to cover two purposes: have a wonderful new year, we wish you and your families all the best for 2014!
3rd September 2013 by Thomas
It has been some time since I last checked on the progress of Kickstarter in the UK for the blog. With Kickstarter launching in Canada next week, it seems like an excellent time to look at the performance of the GBP projects again. I have pulled some data (from early July) and tried to get a feel for the current trend.
24th June 2013 by Thomas
I have promised to write a post-mortem on the Strike Suit Zero Kickstarter for a while now. I haven’t done so for many reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to have the game out and most of the rewards delivered before doing so. The fact that the game has been released is one of the most interesting points here, and a good way to get a complete view of what the Kickstarter did for the game beyond the campaign.
For lots of reasons outside of my control as well as the studio’s, I won’t be able to share sales number for the game. It is unfortunate but hopefully, there will be enough to learn from here to still make it valuable.
As a short side note, I probably need to clarify my role with the studio: I am a Non-Exec Director of Born Ready Games and worked as an executive producer for the title (not hands on, providing on-going feedback on the project). ICO has been providing the PR for the game in Europe since it was first announced (back in 2011).
10th May 2013 by Thomas
I haven’t had much time to follow-up on the past events – apologies for this. Quo Vadis was great again this year, very interesting discussions there and a LOT of discussions on crowdfunding… That intrigued me, so I looked at the statistics for video game projects and where they are coming from on Kickstarter (the most discussed platform then).
Here are some figures I pulled on the repartition of projects for the year 2012 – they tell quite a telling story: Read the rest of this entry »
18th April 2013 by Thomas
I have been a bad boy. It has been weeks since my lecture at the Indie Game Summit during GDC and I haven’t put the slides on the blog. Hopefully, anyone interested in them already got a look at them on SlideShare, but I do need to share them here as well, and I need to share more.
First things first, here are my slides from GDC:
13th March 2013 by Thomas
With Diane taking a much deserved break, I took on to write on the regular blog post on what we think are going to be the trends in our space for the coming year. Not to put her to shame, I decided to be even more late in delivering this than she usually is. It is also likely to be a different kind of look at the trends, hopefully, it will be equally interesting. If not, come back in a year.
Tags: 2013 trends. console, Android, crowdfunding, esport, F2P, Gala Net, gamstick, indiegogo, iOS, kakaotalk, kickstarter, line, merchandising, MMORPG, nvidia shield, occulus rift, ouya, PC, trends, whatsapp
26th February 2013 by Thomas
I will be talking at 2 events in the near future, in both occasions, it will be about crowd funding and Kickstarter. While this probably comprises less than 2% of my time, I think it makes feel event organizers that much more comfortable in inviting me talk about the topic.
I am not selling anything to the audience and I have no agenda when I come as a speaker. It makes me scratch the itch, so we are all winning in the end.
So, what’s cooking?
16th January 2013 by Thomas
Kickstarter launched in the UK a bit more than 2 months ago, I wanted to have a look at the initial set of data. That data sample is quite small still, projects usually run for 30 days, so you only really have 2 months and half (kinda – see below) to look at, but still, it seemed interesting to check the early days.
I also want to point out that the data collected was done differently this time. I have gone away from the manual collection of data and now run a fairly simple script to collect my info. This is still limited to successful projects only, but there is no lower limit on the amount those projects have raised as opposed to the $10 000 I had set before (I still think there is a point in excluding the small projects for my purpose in the analysis I am doing, but here, this is very useful). Read the rest of this entry »
14th December 2012 by Thomas
In preparation for this week’s panel at Evolve, I refreshed the data collected on the successful Kickstarter Video Games projects. We decided at the last minute to focus more on projects stories rather than talking about data on the platform, but as the work was done, and it was 3 months since the last time I had a look, now is the perfect opportunity for a blog post on this. Read the rest of this entry »
27th November 2012 by Thomas
The year is not just over yet and I will be attending a couple of events before the holiday break. You are very welcome to join and say hi if you are at the events.
Game Connection Europe
The event starts tomorrow, in Paris, and I will be contributing to two panels there:
- I will be moderating a panel on marketing entitled New vs Old – What does Video Game Marketing Look Like Now? where we will discuss what has changed in today’s marketing, and what didn’t change. It’s on Thursday at 3pm. Link
- On Thursday as well, at 5pm, I am one the two panelists invited to talk about… big surprise… Kickstarter! The panel, creatively named Funding Your Game with Kickstarter, is moderated by Kickstarter’s Cindy Au and my co-panelist is Stainless’ Matt Edmund. I suppose he will be talking about Carmaggeddon and I will be sharing my experience from the Strike Suit Zero campaign. Link
On the 11th of December in London, I will be on the Kickstarter panel taking place at 5pm. This should be a very different discussion, more focused on the potential of that platform as well as its risks and shortcomings, as the title implies: Kickstarter : Industry Game Changer or Flash in the Pan? Surprisingly, I think I am the “pro-Kickstarter” component of that panel. Link
31st October 2012 by Thomas
After having observed for some time the Kickstarter ecosystem and crunch its numbers extensively, I have found myself involved in a Kickstarter campaign with one of my client.
The game in question, Strike Suit Zero, has been in development for a while, and I have been involved with it since the very beginning (and the game is NOT an online game, a very unusual occurrence for me). Its campaign is in its second week, and doing very well with 90% of its objective reached. I am obviously very excited by the current situation, but my point here is not to talk about this project specifically. This will likely come later, probably as a post mortem on what I assumed it was like to run a Kickstarter and it was really like to run one.
4th October 2012 by Thomas
I have run the same numbers (same methodology) as last time and made a short presentation under the same format to see where it was going. You can find it below: Read the rest of this entry »
30th July 2012 by Thomas
I have to warn you, this might end up being a rather long post. I am on my way home, coming back from Seattle where I was attending the IGDA Summit and Casual Connect Seattle and I have seen and heard a number of things I really feel like I should share around.
13th June 2012 by Thomas
New success stories emerge regularly, and there are now 10 games successfully funded that way beyond $500,000. Not a small feat!
We’ve been working on a Kickstarter project with a client, and as this progressed I grew very concerned that the popular perception of Kickstarter = success is not complete, and that anyone thinking of funding their project this way should look at it very closely before going there and asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There aren’t a lot of data points to check, so we decided to do some research to understand the platform and its current capacity better. Read the rest of this entry »
28th July 2011 by Thomas
Last week in Seattle, the IGDA put together its first Summits. The event was organised parallel to (and in partnership with) Casual Connect. I was drafted to help put together the content for the Monetisation summit, and sat in a few sessions that were particularly interesting to me (one perk of having a say on what the topics will be!).
If you missed some of my comments on twitter, or more likely if you just unfollowed me after the spam (you can follow me again, the event is over, I will behave in the coming weeks), I have put together here some of my notes on the Fighting Fraud panel and the Kickstarter panel.
These are my rough notes of what was discussed. If I got anything wrong, please let me know.
Fighting Fraud Panel
Moderator Sanjay SARATHI (Vindicia)
Panelists Robin WALKER (Valve), Arthur CHU (Nexon), Michael LIBERTY (Paypal)
The panel objective was to educate on what you can do to fight fraud, and it was aimed an audience with limited knowledge on the subject. Here are the key take aways for me:
Fraud is painful. Fraud is difficult to fight. Fraudsters will always be very creative in bypassing your system, and you will always have to play catch up. But you really can’t ignore it. Before anything else, the first thing to do is to make sure you can measure fraud and understand that it is happening. The moment you reach about 2% of chargebacks on your transactions (stolen credit cards were used and the money is taken back), Arthur CHU estimated you have about 2 months before it becomes a LOT more painful. However, before you reach that stage, investing heavily in fraud fighting might not be necessary.
One fight at a time. Michael LIBERTY made a very good point on the fact that if you are not a big company and you are starting to charge online, it is best to go through a payment management system like Paypal (Michael’s company, to be fair). Until you reach a certain scale, micro-managing the payment processors and the related fraud is too time consuming.
Game features influence fraud. Robin WALKER pointed out that a game with a trading system was more likely to attract fraudsters. While he has a fair point, this won’t remove all fraud and it does take a serious chunk of the social features (Arthur CHU made this point in the panel very eloquently). What it emphasized was the fact that the game design can help control fraud to a certain level: limited trial accounts, high level items “soulbound”, Gold lock systems (as in Rift). Convincing the developers to develop them is the hardest part.
Measure, measure, measure. Beyond measuring the fraud itself, it is also important to measure the game features that fraudsters use and abuse. To be able to fight fraud requires understanding what they do and how they do it. Leading to:
A tool is only as useful as the person holding it. All panelists agreed that going out and buying fraud fighting tools is useless unless you already know how you want to use them. These tools can be very efficient (for Nexon, it led to a reduction of fraud by a factor of 10), but they need to be used properly in your context. There are two kind of tools specifically that were mentioned: geo-location and device reputation tools.
Understand friendly fraud from criminal fraud. All games have a number of “friendly fraud”, the typical case being kids using their parents’ credit cards without their approval. The panel recommended to, again, check the users’ activity, in order to identify friendly fraud and also to have a clear policy in place to manage it. Valve is calling really big spenders, for instance, to make sure they are aware and intended to make large purchases. Michael LIBERTY recommended kids’ games specifically to have a “generous” policy, as they were more likely to see kid-driven friendly fraud.
Current trends. Arthur CHU was very vocal about the increase of the number of account takeovers, and how fraudsters are getting more and more sophisticated in their attacks. Where they once launched blanket attacks to get as many accounts as possible, they now target accounts that they know are very valuable.
Moderator Cindy AU (Kickstarter)
Kickstarter is the most prominent crowd funding website at the moment, and has been used by a number of game studios. The panel highlighted three case studies from companies that have successfully raised money through the service. Cindy AU provided very interesting information as well. I have linked the project for each panelist above, with their company name. So, some takeaways:
Kickstarter data. The website has successfully raised $70m across 20,000 projects to date. IIRC, the biggest project they had was a movie that raised about $500K. After submission, Kickstarter takes about 24h to greenlight a project. Once greenlit, the company can publish the project on the site when they want.
Best practices. Cindy AU gave 3 core rules to maximize your chances with your project.
Rule #1 – Make a video. The web is very much about videos nowadays, and projects with good videos are the ones that are the most successful. It doesn’t need to be super professional, but it certainly needs to clearly describe the project.
Rule #2 – Rewards are very important. Each project offers unique rewards based on the size of your pledge, and it is up to the project owner to define them. Unique, tangible rewards with a strong cool factor help their projects significantly.
Rule #3 – Leverage your existing community. If your project already has an existing community you can leverage to contribute to it, and also to spread the word, this increases the likelihood that your project will succeed. Cindy mentioned that projects with more than three backers succeed 90% of the time.
The panel made very interesting comments on the importance of designing your rewards thoughtfully. Wiley WIGGINS regretted offering a poster reward, because they didn’t calculate properly the cost and the pain of delivering them to their backers. Kickstarter doesn’t get involved in the design of rewards, and it is really up to the company to do its homework as far as costs are concerned. Reward design is very important.
Another consensus was that the duration of the pledge, the length of time allowed to reach the project’s target, didn’t need to be long. The logic is that your early backers will reach it in the first few days anyway, and then progress will be slow and regular until the very end when lurkers may decide to chip in and help.
It was also interesting to note that the Kickstarter system attracted whales in the same way. Thunderbeam offered to make $1,000 contributors their ‘best friend’, which they essentially added just for fun. They now have many new best friends.
I learned quite a bit from these panels, and will definitely be keeping an eye on Kickstarter – I hope they find a way to accept non-US projects down the line.