Sunday, July 1, 2012

RPGs and Kickstarter

This is the post I never wanted to write, but an email by Marc Miller I received from the Citizens of Imperium list today kind of provoked me into finally publishing  a post about Kickstarter and RPGs. Basically, Marc Miller's email was a "thank you" for the Traveller 5 Kickstarter  (a Kickstarter I did not participate in, by the way.) What caught my attention was that last paragraph:

"This chronicle of Kickstarter Print RPG records may be incomplete or mildly inaccurate:
Far West set the record at $49,324 August 28, 2011.
Deadlands Noir set the record at $117,648 June 14, 2012.
Rappan Athuk set an interim record of $117,649 June 15, 2012.
Traveller5 grabbed the record title around June 20, and has held it since. As of Midnight June 30, the number stands at $272,463, 1941 Backers."
Not only is the number for the Rappan Athuk kickstarter wildly inaccurate (it has currently gathered almost $250,000), but it shows that apparently the bottom line seems to be the most important thing.

I will not be going into the whole argument that I think that Kickstarter should be primarily used by independent publishers to get their RPGs out. I realize it's an exercise in futility. Also, when looking at White Wolf, their fans seem to have learned their lesson after plediging 50 bucks for an 80 page product in the V20 Companion kickstarter. "Children of the Revolution" got only about half as many backers and barely funded.

Since the bottom line seems to be the most important thing for Rappan Athuk and Traveller 5, I would like to take a look at some other figures. Namely, percentage funded and number of backers. In my opinion this  tells a bit more about a project than the amount of money you're generating.

Of course, percentage funded depends on your initial goal. But it seems to be, that Kickstarters asking for less than $10,000 in the first place consistently do better than Kickstarters that ask for amounts close to $10,000 or even in excess of $10,000. The other fact seems to be the price for a hardcover option. But that is consistently around $50. With the noteable exception of Traveller 5.

I've ranked a couple of project according to their percentage funded. The selection is completely subjective based on the projects mentioned in the email from Marc Miller and those projects I was interested in. Projects marked with an asterisk are ongoing as I write this post. Numbers may change.


Kickstarter
Funding level
Dungeon World
2,071%
Appendix N Adventure Toolkit*
1,683%
Deadlands Noir
1,470%
Traveller 5*
1,167%
Far West
986%
Technoir
970%
Rappan Athuk*
924%
Myth & Magic PHB
481%
V20 Companion
192%
Children of the Revolution
110%

Traveller 5 is ranked 4th in this. Deadlands Noir, Appendix N Adventure Toolbox and Dungeon World all did better. Compared to Traveller 5 they all had pretty modest goals around $5,000 (or in the case of Appendix N Adventure Toolbox even $1,000). Still, raising 1,167% of a $24,000 goal is no mean feat! Also the Big Black Book is pretty expensive. As you can see, V20 Companion and Children of the Revolution, both by White Wolf, didn't do nearly as well. Their goal was set to $50,000, though.

Now, the number of backers are even more interesting. Because I believe backers actually equal the reach of your game. If we assume that a rulebook or a supplement is primarily bought by the game master, and that an average gaming group has around 4 players, then each book equals 5 people reached. Also, backers active on the internet spread the word and show their active support.

Again, the same list of projects sorted according to backers and thus reach:



Kickstarter
Backers
Dungeon World
2,455
Traveller 5*
1,983
Deadlands Noir
1,140
V20 Companion
1,134
Rappan Athuk*
867
Far West
717
Technoir
622
Children of the Revolution
589
Appendix N Adventure Toolkit*
504
Myth & Magic PHB
402

Traveller 5 is ranked second in this list. For a game that is approximately 25 years old that is no mean feat. Appendix N Adventure Toolkit ranks next to last, putting its numbers a bit more into perspective. Deadlands Noir and V20 Companion are doing equally well, showing a strong support. Dungeon World again is on top of the list, exceeding Traveller 5 by almost 500 backers. That is a very impressive feat for an indie game that is essentially a rules hack of Apocalypse World and thus no two years old. White Wolf experienced a sharp drop in backers between their V20 Companion project and the Children of the Revolution project.

Backers will in the end determine the success or failure of a kickstarter project. They determine the amount of money you make of this project and any follow-ups. So the key here is, building a strong community even before you start the kickstarter. Something Traveller 5 and Dungeon World have clearly succeeded in. In conclusion it might be a good idea to consider stretch goals based on the number of backers, in addition to those based on the amount of money raised.

So all that remains is to congratulate all project initiators on their successfully funded projects!


P.S. Does anyone know of a Kickstarter for an RPG rulebook or supplement that has funded higher than 2,000%? Or has more than 2500 backers? Then leave a comment, please.

P.P.S. The next factor one could consider is the time difference between estimated delivery and actual delivery of the finished product. I am looking at you Far West (estimated delivery: Dec 2011, actual delivery: not yet as of July 1, 2012)!

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