Table Top

Kickstarter and the Tabletop Gaming Industry

Kickstarter and the Tabletop Gaming Industry

There is no doubt that the board gaming industry is booming. Board game sales are skyrocketing. The popular gaming convention, Gen Con, had its 50th show and sold out every ticket to the event. The market is becoming saturated with new games with every theme you can imagine – from popular IPs like Game of Thrones and Marvel, to games where you make and eat sushi, fight fires, or herd cattle across the Great Western Trail. One of the most important reasons for the recent trends in the board game industry is crowdfunding, in particular, the influence of Kickstarter. Kickstarter has changed the landscape of the industry, from how games are produced and marketed, to how they are purchased and consumed.

Board Game Sales Explosion

According to market research firm NPD Group, game sales in the United States grew 21 percent from 2015 to 2016, reaching a total of $1.77 billion. Globally, sales increased from $9.3 billion in 2013 to $9.6 billion in 2016, according to Euromonitor International.

In the market research report Global Board Games Market – Strategic Assessment and Forecast 2017-2022, Beige Market Intelligence analysts expect that the board games market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% during 2016–2022. The North American region is likely to lead the market during the forecast period, with a CAGR of more than 10% during 2016–2022.

This growth can be attributed to three emerging market trends driving the global board games market. according to the Technavio market research study, Global researchers Board Games Market 2017-2021. These trends are the growth of organized retail sector (more stores and retailers to buy games from), increasing projects being funded through crowdfunding platforms, and games evolving with time by keeping in mind the latest consumer trends.

Kickstarter and the Board Game Sector

In 2015, a card game called Exploding Kittens broke all records and became the “Most-Backed Kickstarter Project of All Time”, with 219,382 backers pledging $8,782,571, and still stands as the 7th most successfully funded Kickstarter campaign of all time. Exploding Kitten’s creator Elan Lee has continued his Kickstarter success by crowdfunding a second game, Bears vs Babies, which currently stands as the 6th Most-Backed Kickstarter Project of All Time, with 85,581 backers pledging $3,215,679.

Exploding Kittens
Exploding Kittens

Earlier this year, Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5 became the fourth most successfully funded Kickstarter campaign of all time, with 19,264 backers pledging $12,393,139 of a $100,000 goal. Other gaming projects, including The 7th Continent ($7 million), Dark Souls™ – The Board Game ($4.97 million), Rising Sun ($4.2 million), and Zombicide ($4 million) have seen overwhelming success from Kickstarter.

Recent data from ICO Partners Kickstarter and Games – 2017 mid-year status update shows that in the first half of 2017 the amount pledged for successful tabletop games projects was $69,765,251, up from $49,396,033 in the second half of 2016. This is triple the amount pledged in just three years’ time.

Despite these high dollars, only around half of all the games launched on Kickstarter managed to make their initial funding target. In 2015, the success rate was around 54%, in 2016 it rose to 58%, and in the first half of 2017, it is sitting around 62%. The success rate is slowly climbing, but out of the 1,538 games launched in the first half of 2017, that is still 581 games that were not successful. That is A LOT of games.

Why Does Kickstarter Work for Board Games?

Kickstarter is the top global crowdfunding platform, and it is giving game designers entrepreneurial opportunities that they otherwise would not have when launching a game. But the benefits of Kickstarter go beyond just gathering enough money to fund the project.

Stonemaier Games has had great success with the crowdfunding process, and believe that being generous with information about crowdfunding successes (and failures) is a method for creating a way for fellow creators to learn together. In a section dedicated to Kickstarter lessons on their website, they compiled a great list of The Top 10 Reasons to Launch a Product via Crowdfunding. Kickstarter:

  • allows creative people to build a community around their creations, leading to success by fan support.
  • gauges demand with very low risk.
  • raises funds without personal investment or giving up equity.
  • uses stretch goals to improve what may have been a basic product due to lack of up-front funding.
  • gives designers the opportunity to launch with “training wheels” through offering community support.
  • gives designers direct access to the customers buying their products, allowing to customize logistics such as shipping.
  • generates awareness and promotion through presence on the Kickstarter website.
  • provides a limited window for pledges which encourage customers to decide on purchases instead of waiting.
  • provides a level of trust and security for customers when making purchases and when orders are fulfilled.
  • gives designers a fun and exciting way to roll out their products.

When considering all of these benefits available with little investment or risk, it is easy to see why the Kickstarter platform is well utilized by board game designers.

Final Thoughts

For the first half of 2017, 24% of the money raised by successful projects on Kickstarter was from the Tabletop Games category. That is a staggering figure. There is no doubt that Kickstarter has been a serious driving force in the content being supplied in the board gaming industry. Kickstarter has not only given the little guy a chance, but also allowed the larger publishers to provide the content that consumers want without needless waste of time, money, or resources.

No one is sure how long this board game craze will last. Is it a current fad, or will we soon experience fatigue with too many options on the market? Or is gaming here to stay as a staple pastime to enjoy with friends and family of all ages and interests? No matter, enjoy it while it lasts. Board games are going through a golden age.

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Take this time to peruse the tabletop category, see what is out there. Explore the Tabletop Games category, and watch for the bi-monthly Kickstarter Hot Picks articles here on Word of the Nerd.


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About the author

Shanon Connelly

(a.k.a. “Super Muffin Girl”) is an avid board gamer, cosplayer, and all around nerd girl. She has been cosplaying for 10 years, attending several conventions every year. She recently started a YouTube gaming channel, "Time to Play!", which previews and reviews board games. Follow Shanon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@supermuffingirl).