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GDC 2012: Kickstarting The Process of Funding New Games

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Posted on March 7, 2012 AT 12:23am

As we all know by now, the video game community went crazy recently when beloved developer Double Fine took to Kickstarter in an attempt to raise $400,000 to make an old-school point-and-click adventure game—a project which now sits at $2.4 million in terms of received funding.

However, as amazing and groundbreaking as this event was for the idea of getting support for gaming projects via the service, it was far from the first time new titles had been born that way. Since the site’s launch in 2009, Kickstarter has played host to many a dream for funding for a game project, and company spokeswoman Cindy Au gave a few pieces of interesting information in that regard.

Kickstarter currently allows for three types of game projects: Video games, board & card games, and “general” games. As of right now, video games make up just over 50% of that with about 653 active projects, board & card games around 30% with 400 active projects, and general games around 17% with 221 active projects.

Since 2009, support for projects has generally increased, with a spike in support seen in Spring of 2011. In that year, the number of people backing game projects increased an astonishing 730%—the biggest jump in any category ever for the site.

So how much money are backers pledging to game projects? In 2009, that amount was around $60,000. The following year, that number went up to $500,000. For 2011, that previous-mentioned jump took that donation amount to $3.8 million. However, 2012 may easily beat that, as already this year $3.6 million has been pledged to gaming projects via the site.

Of course, as Au pointed out with a laugh, one must consider that $2.4 million of that is coming from just one project (Double Fine’s adventure game).

What’s interesting, however, is the success rate for projects put up onto Kickstarter. 45% of the general games category projects reach their goal, with board & card games coming in just under that with a 44% success rate (the average success rate for all projects on Kickstarter). However, video game-related projects only have a 25% success rate. Au said she believed that this could be due to how hard it can be to take a software-based project and make it tangible for the potential audience. Due to this, figuring out how exactly to do so for potential backers is very important.

Au then took us through what an average game project on Kickstarter looks like. The average goal for funding is around $5,400, and the average amount raised is $11,200—the highest above-requested-funding level on the site. The average pledge amount is $42, and the average amount of backers to go along with that is 136 people—which, again, is higher than site average.

Finally, Au explained that the most popular reward tiers for video game-related Kickstarter projects is $10 and $25. Due to this, it’s important that access to the game itself is part of those low buy-in levels—but backers can (and should) then be enticed with going up to a higher support tier via added incentives and goodies.

Sure, this is a lot of information and data, and not much in the way of romanticizing the idea of Kickstarter being there to help support get new and interesting gaming projects off of the ground. But, in a way, these numbers do that too. As great as Double Fine’s success was—both for them and for the industry—it’s easy to think they’re the first game developer to see success with the site, and that that success may end up being a fluke.

However, Au’s presentation helped to show me that Kickstarter was already there working as a great resource for securing funding for game projects long before Double Fine tried what they did—and that it’ll just continue to grow into a bigger and better tool in that process long after Tim Schafer’s game moves on to its next steps.

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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