Kicked Off: The Majority Of Gaming Kickstarters Fail


So this is interesting. Kickstarter’s new stats page reveals that, despite Kickstarter being the focus of so much attention right now, only 33% of projects actually get funded. If you really want to get something funded, by contrast, you should be operating in the medium of dance, where 69% of projects have found funding. I’m not surprised about the figures for gaming, however, because many gaming kickstarters have been both highly speculative, and for relatively large amounts of cash.

Six hundred and ninety-nine game projects have so far been funded by Kickstarter (in contrast to 7,388 music projects). I realise I am responding without any real context for that number, but it seems like a huge figure, even against the rate of failure. That’s another seven hundred games due to come out in the next couple of years. And Kickstarter is just one small fragment of the overall picture of gaming.

Games are fourth in terms of overall amount of money raised, with $26.53m raised. That’s probably the most important figure, because it’s the one that reveals just how much money is – or isn’t – sloshing around in this brave new frontier of funding. Personally I am hoping that the crowd-funding revolution is just getting started, but the reality of the situation right now is that this isn’t going to fund anything beyond a large number of low-budget indie games. This amount of cash barely scratches a triple-A title budget, and will therefore give big publishers small cause for concern.

Nevertheless we have seen something critical come out of the gaming Kickstarters, which is that gamers have been seen as willing to fund the kinds of games that publishers no longer see as viable – like the turn-based RPG of Wasteland, or the Dungeon Keeper-alike of Nekro. We all know that there is some level of market for these games – because so many of us want to play them – and it’s my hope that Kickstarter will now prove to act as both a source of money, and a filter, for the games that we actually want to see get made.

You can keep up with Kickstarter’s gaming projects via our weekly column.

47 Comments

  1. KikiJiki says:

    I don’t think the intent of anyone looking to Kickstarter for funding was ever to find the money to make something on a AAA scale, so in that sense I don’t think that there’s any need to be downbeat in the second half of this post :).

    It’s a viable alternative for smaller studios to get funding and connect directly with their market, not a bad thing IMO and I hope it continues to make waves in the industry.

    • Shuck says:

      Sure, but the problem is that it’s not even funding “a large number of low-budget indie games.” The amounts raised for 99% of the campaigns isn’t enough to significantly fund the games’ development or even make much of a difference.

  2. MuscleHorse says:

    I think one thing to remember is that there’s an awful lot of trash out there. Many of these games don’t deserve to be funded, I’m afraid to say. It is however fantastic to see the enthusiasm out there for the games that deserve the backing. I don’t need to mention the obvious examples…

    • wccrawford says:

      Exactly. This means the system is *working*. The idea was never to get everything funded. The idea was to get things-that-people-want funded.

    • Teovald says:

      This. And even some of the games that were founded are not exactly in my watchlist.
      Republique by camouflaj looked like a pretty random game that threw buzzwords at the founders in order to get money and desperately changed its target platforms without changing its budget while stating first how a pc port would be a terrible idea.
      I still don’t get why this kickstarter got so much attention, in particular from pc gaming blogs like RPS.

      I have no doubt that there will be a few gems in these 700 games though . I already financed some of them :-)

      • Caleb367 says:

        This. If every piece of crap was to be funded, we would have had ten millions military FPS’s with cover-based shooting, regenerating health and crappy omg-the-terrorists-steal-our-freedom storylines.
        A relatively small audience can fund niche games, and Kickstarter is a perfect way to do this. Heck, Xenonauts hit triple its target (more than 150k, target was 50k) and the extremely interesting Dead State is nearing its own (150k, right now it’s around 148k, so get donatin’). Neither of which would have ever seen the light with any major publisher, ‘cept maybe Paradox.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I completely agree about Republique. The platform shift was a large deviation from their original purpose, which means that they probably won’t be able to deliver a quality port.

  3. Arkanos says:

    You forgot something important!

    Among the projects that have raised one million or more, there are 7. Total. 3 of those are games!
    2 design.
    1 comic.
    1 music.

    And you don’t even go into the fact that games are what have hit 2 million and even 3 million! Nothing else has been THAT successful.

    Games might not be the most successful in total, but above the million-dollar mark? They’re doing the best.

    Also, among live-projects, games have the 3rd most funding. Gaming is new to kickstarter, kickstarter isn’t new to itself.

    Games are also third when you compare livefunds with liveprojects. Only Technology and Design beat it, there. Games aren’t the lead in any aspect, but they’re 3rd. That’s important.

    • Baboonanza says:

      And you don’t even go into the fact that games are what have hit 2 million and even 3 million! Nothing else has been THAT successful.

      The Pebble project begs to disagree: $10,266,845 funded.

      • Rivensteel says:

        It’s very interesting that games appear to have the second highest dollars per successful project ratio after design, but that’s almost entirely because of the Pebble. Amazing how the one project garnered 30% of the entire category’s funding.

  4. Zeewolf says:

    Also, to game devs wishing to jump on the Kickstarter bandwagon: Obviously we’re not going to fund your free to play MMO. That’s the kind of shit we go to Kickstarter to AVOID.

  5. Alexander Norris says:

    only 33% of projects actually get funded. If you really want to get something funded, by contrast, you should be operating in the medium of dance, where 69% of projects have found funding.

    Here’s the thing: those two percentages don’t actually tell us anything meaningful at all. If you wanted to get a picture of which category is more “successful” at getting funding, you’d also need to consider: what goal amounts are set for that category; how many people pledge to projects in that category; how much people pledge to projects in that category; and probably a fair few I’ve forgotten about because I am tired.

    I’m willing to bet that these percentages are the way they are for a variety of reasons, chiefly that danced projects ask for a lot less money than games projects tend to, and possibly also that there’s infinitely less competition in the dance category compared to the games one (in which RPGs and boardgames also end up lumped).

    (Of course I realise the quoted line’s done for a laugh. Bad statistics work still bothers me, though; I’d like RPS to actually go over these numbers and analyse them properly.)

    e; in fact, scratch “willing to bet” – my guesses appear to be correct.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s an interesting model for low-level arts funding, though. If all you need is £100 to book practice space and some chump change for kit, that’s not a bad way to go, especially in the era where the UK is cutting back on any public spending that doesn’t pander directly to the right-wing. I’m not saying it will or should replace other revenue streams for arts funding, but it’s a cool way to allow mass philanthropy.

  6. Alien426 says:

    It should also be noted that not all of the games are for computers. There are quite a lot of card/board game projects.

  7. oceanclub says:

    “only 33% of projects actually get funded”

    To be honest, that’s probably a good thing. 90% of everything is crap, and I imagine that rule applies to Kickstarter ideas.

    P.

  8. MortalWombat says:

    “[…] and will therefore give big publishers small cause for concern.”

    Well, i think they should be concerned because throwing piles of money at a game will hopefully be even less of a factor for it’s quality and success as the liberation and decentralization of the industry continue.

  9. Crimsoneer says:

    People still aren’t too sure how much they can get off KS / what it takes to get funded. I suspect it will be awhile yet before we have any sort of decent idea.
    For instance, Clang is looking like it’s just going to make it’s target, despite being pretty heavily publicised.

  10. The Dark One says:

    I bet that somewhere in London, John’s buddy Nick is nodding his head with a satisfied expression on his face.

  11. Gap Gen says:

    How many games that have sought Kickstarter funding have actually been released? The problem is that the model hasn’t been tried and tested yet – we’re still at the point where it’s fairly nebulous as to how many projects will tank and take the investors’ money with it. If it becomes a solid way of getting games made, then maybe it’ll improve matters.

    Of course, a big problem is still that you’re only ordering a product that is at best in alpha, which can put people off. You’re not going to punt £40 on a game that is a long way from being finished. So I don’t know if it’ll beat traditional investment systems any time soon.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I agree. Not every successful Kickstarter will lead to a released game. I think, in most cases of unsuccessful projects, the developer will simply run out of money because they underestimated their costs. A few projects will probably also be lost to accidents of some kind, like computers breaking down at a critical moment, or the main developer getting hospitalized.

      Giving money to a Kickstarter means not only that you might fund a product with low-quality, but also that you might not get anything at all out of it.

      • Shuck says:

        I’m not sure how many developers are underestimating costs, though – it’s pretty clear that the majority of amounts being asked for aren’t going to cover more than 2-4 months of one-person development. Developers must know they won’t get it done in that time, so they’re not counting on Kickstarter being their sole support. Which actually makes it more likely that projects will fail, as developers are relying on multiple sources of funding coming through, multiplying the risk.

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          it’s pretty clear that the majority of amounts being asked for aren’t going to cover more than 2-4 months of one-person development.

          Really? $1000/month is more than enough for comfy living in lots of places. Notice how most Kickstarter games aren’t based in New York or San Francisco or London.

          • Shuck says:

            It does depend where you are, obviously. Here in any urban or suburban area of California (that has traditionally been a center for game development) $1000 a month doesn’t even cover rent on a one-room apartment. (And $1000 a month isn’t going to be a “comfortable living” in any urban area in the US. If you have a family, you’re looking at over $400 a month just for health insurance, on average, though I pay that much just to cover myself.) If we’re talking about game developers who are living in areas with game industries, $1K a month isn’t remotely going to do it. If we’re looking to fund experienced game developers, most of the Kickstarter funds being raised are closer to the equivalent of one month of wages and benefits at best, for US developers at least.
            Even if we assume a comfortable living on $1000, the majority of the Kickstarter campaigns are less than $10,000. So at best we’re still talking about two-person teams working for five months, assuming absolutely no software, hardware or free-lance work costs (for art, music, or anything else they can’t manage themselves).

  12. JackDandy says:

    I think that’s a good thing.

    Kickstarter is a nice alternative for getting a game funded, but I think it should be kept for REALLY good projects, and not every other shmuck with RPGmaker and too much time on his hands.

  13. paddymaxson says:

    Good, the majority of them should fail to be fair. So many of these are really bad games waiting to happen and bedroom developers looking for some free money for something they’re doing in their spare time anyway, they just want the money up front from the eventual sales.

    I saw someone comment on another kickstarter advertising his kickstarter for his tower defence game based on internet memes, nobody wants to play another shit tower defence just because you added a lolcat, you prick.

    I’m also always a bit confused by games that appear to be 99% done but are still looking for funding…makes it feel like the kickstarter campaign for them is just a pre-order system trying to capitalise on the popularity of kickstarter. That’s NOT what kickstarter is for.

    • malkav11 says:

      Why not? It works for that.

      • Koshinator says:

        Indeed – using Kickstarter as a pre-order + marketing push (and perhaps some extra polishing time) makes perfect sense from a business viewpoint.

        • paddymaxson says:

          Hmm, Maybe I wasn’t very clear what I meant.

          See, here’s how I consider most Kickstarter funding is used for game funding (stop me if I’m wrong):

          Paying staff who are making the game, possibly licensing some tech with which to make the game.

          So if you’re making a game using kickstarter as a fund, you basically need to make enough money that your expenses are covered for the development, which probably means that developing the game is your full time job.

          Once you have the tools in place to make the game, and the game is already near finished, the only cost to you as the developer is your time.

          So when I see somebody asking for sub $20,000 with an almost finished project I start to think that it’s unlikely they’re quitting their day job for this, they just want sales up front for a project that they can literally take all the time in the world to finish.

          That’s fine pre-ordering games isn’t a new thing, but I think using kickstarter to do this is kind of subversive, I don’t feel it’s funding the game so much as it is pre-ordering through the latest way to get noticed.

          I suppose that’s not that bad in the end, but I don’t think it’s in the spirit of what Kickstarter is for.

          I stand by my point that MOST kickstarter projects are shit, especially the previously mentioned meme tower defence. It’s starting to feel like there’ll be less games on Newgrounds soon as people start to put kickstarter projects up for crap flash games.

    • Shuck says:

      “That’s NOT what kickstarter is for.”
      But that appears to be what Kickstarter is best at. It certainly isn’t very good at raising full development costs, unless you’re a well known, beloved developer who can get by on nostalgia rather than a half-finished game to use as a demo. Otherwise, even with a largely completed game you’ll still be lucky to raise enough funds to pay one developer for three or four months.

  14. brkl says:

    I wouldn’t fund an AAA Kickstarter title. No matter who was leading it. AAA can be all right, but if you want the maximum amount of interesting gaming, AAA is not an effective way to do it.

  15. D3xter says:

    I’m not sure how people see this as a bad thing, first not every game is going to turn out good or be worth funding and as Brian Fargo put it, from the games that actually get a pitch to some publisher, about 1-2% make it: link to twitter.com
    30-40% sounds kind of amazing in comparison…

    A 100% success rate would be horrible, since it’d mean people throw their money at literally anything without thinking, if anything even the rate as it is right now seems somewhat high.

  16. brulleks says:

    “… it’d mean people throw their money at literally anything without thinking.”

    I’m still convinced they do, just not at kickstarters apparently.

    How else would you explain the state of the UK music industry?

  17. MistyMike says:

    I am highly skeptical of this Kickstarted craze that’s going on. The public is easily swayed with the illusion of power to influence what’s being made. A lot of it is very nostalgia driven, with all the poin’n’click, turn-based, hardcore and similar keywords flying around. The basic notion is that great games could get made, but evil suits from publishing companies refuse to fund them, cause they only care about shallow triple A razzle-dazzle. That’s a flawed, populist idea. A lot of these Kickstarter pitches surely look great merely on paper. I will remain cold until the quality crowd-funded titles actually start pouring in.

  18. Jimbo says:

    So nothing like the announcement of a new game then? ;)

  19. wodin says:

    That torchships game never made it, very sad as it was doing something totally different. A realistic kind of tactical space sim. My worry was the complexity with newtonian physics and all but hey, it looked great.

  20. MondSemmel says:

    One thing to keep in mind, though: Like games funded by the Indie Fund, the result of successful Kickstarter projects will be that their developers have a much, much larger profit share after their games come out.
    Right now, some big dev studios get closed down by their publishers despite moderate commercial success – and that’s only possible because these studios hardly share any of the fruits of their labor.

    On the other hand, at least some of these successfully funded Kickstarter games should become successful after release, too. And then, their devs could put part of their profit into new games, sometimes even becoming completely financially independent.

    That’s something that really excites me. Look at some of these other successful indie devs that were already successful without crowdfunding: I’m very much looking forward to what the devs of Super Meat Boy, SpaceChem, Braid, Bastion, etc. make next.

    • Shuck says:

      Most of the Kickstarter devs seem to be counting on revenue beyond Kickstarter, given the low percentage of the development costs being covered by Kickstarter in 99% of the cases. What this means is that the financial risk of making games is squarely on the backs of developers, and if these “successful” Kickstarter games don’t sell well, the developers will have lost substantial amounts of money.

  21. DickSocrates says:

    I want Kickstarter to fund my life. I’ll ask for a very reasonable £35,000 every year and if you contributed, I’ll send you whatever I happened to make during that year. It might be a drawing of a cock, or an actual cheese and tomato wrap.

  22. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    The Economist recently had a nice online article on crowdfunding:
    link to economist.com

  23. Sardonic says:

    Faster Than Light got funded at 2000%, so it can certainly work for some games.

    • Koshinator says:

      It’s basically just down to how damn good that game is… and many people simply recognized its brilliance. I just can’t stop playing the Beta, and can’t wait to see how good the final release becomes now.

  24. sophof says:

    Like a few others I see this as a good thing. I’ve also seen some things funded that frankly seem like a really bad idea, so I even feel the current number is a bit on the high side. Both the Larry remake and the guys from space invaders have me wondering how those ever got funded. Note, I am strictly talking about games I like here, since of course there are many types of games that simply don’t interest me.

  25. InternetBatman says:

    The thing I really like about Kickstarter is that it’s a great publicity tool for smaller projects even if I can’t pay for them right now. I’m definitely watching FTL and Ahkronax now, and I probably wouldn’t have been aware of them before.

    Occasionally some projects that probably won’t be great get through, like tactical shooter or Republiq, but I’m excited about a lot of the games.

  26. Shooop says:

    The thing about games on Kickstarter is they’re usually not far enough along in the process to show anyone what they’ll get in finished product. No one really knows what exactly to expect from it. Sometimes not even the developers themselves.

    Wasteland and Carmageddon were games people remember and have an idea what they’ll get with a new one. A brand new IP on the other hand is a complete mystery and it’s much harder to woo potential investors.

  27. kibble-n-bullets says:

    What I read was that at the height of the crowd source funding craze backers were still discerning about where they threw their money. That funded projects will be more likely to be completed and actually good.

    Eloquence kind of escapes me here but a developer doesn’t need AAA costs and production values to realize a dream of theirs. The shareholder driven industry needs AAA costs and production values to put something up on the retail shelves. If you the game developer can only dream in huge fully detailed worlds and Hollywood action sequences with mass appeal than your imagination in actually pretty lacking.

  28. Rikard Peterson says:

    No Kickstarter project that I’ve been aware of and interested in has yet failed, so the projects not in the 33% have either failed to come to my attention, or been uninteresting.