Can a first-time creator succeed on Kickstarter?
Last week I saw a thread on Facebook discussing a game from a first-time creator that was currently struggling to fund on Kickstarter. It kicked off a common discussion which I see in the board gaming community which asks:
Can a first-time creator succeed on Kickstarter?
The common thought process is crowdfunding is now filled up with big successful companies and while 10-years ago the small new comer (which was pretty much everyone) had a chance to succeed, these days they do not.
Personally, I disagree with this sentiment and I believe it is still just as possible for a new creator to succeed, it is just the path to success is different.
Board games on Kickstarter started off just like any other crowdfunding category, you could come along with an idea and as long as it looked OK, sounded interesting, and you could get enough people to the page, you would have a good chance of funding.
These days the barrier to entry is different and you don’t just need a game idea, you need to have a full understanding of the process.
I would suggest that while crowdfunding used to be about getting a game made, these days it is about launching a business. The average backer has unfortunately moved away from wanting to help the new person succeed, and instead is looking at crowdfunding as a way to purchase the latest games.
This means you need to understand freight shipping, fulfilment, manufacturing, have reasonable prices, a realistic timeline, and show no signs of inexperience.
In essence, it has never been more important to be prepared.
It is true that many first-time creators fail, and this is always disappointing, but I would argue the same can be said about many people looking to launch a business.
One of the great things about crowdfunding is you can use that failure as a way to learn, improve, and then succeed the second time.
I live in Bristol in the UK and every month I see new independent stores and shops opening and then closing shortly afterwards. However, a few of them, often the ones that found a way to stand out, succeed and last for years.
As much as I would love for everyone to succeed, it is no longer enough to be just another game, finding your unique feature is critical.
Building your audience
I believe that for most people, the hardest part of crowdfunding your first game is building an audience. Crowdfunding platforms will not give you backers unless you bring your own audience, meaning your success is entirely on you to bring enough people to your campaign page.
Assuming you do bring enough people, then Kickstarter will bring more backers to you, but if you really want to succeed I recommend aiming for 1,000 followers on your Kickstarter pre-launch page before pressing launch.
Many people fail as they do not get enough people interested in their project before they launch, and they assume when they press the go live button that people will turn up. This is not the case, I can’t emphasise enough how critical it is that you already have that audience ready to back your project.
The reason many people believe Kickstarter is only suited for big companies is because Kickstarter does a fantastic job of showing backers things that are going well and hiding those that aren’t. Many users of the website will only see the top 6 or 12 projects and typically this will be the bigger projects with a larger pre-built audience.
There are currently 471 live crowdfunding projects in the tabletop category on Kickstarter. These may not all be board games, but they are competing for the same views that a board game is and a good number of them will unfortunately fail.
To succeed a first-time creator needs to tick every box and to build a large enough audience pre-Kickstarter that the momentum will put them high enough on the lists to gain traction.
Arguably this has always been the case, it’s just that now the amount of competitors has greatly increased.
Here are some interesting stats from some first-time creators.
Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!
14th March 2023 at 6:20 pm
Great perspective on how customers expectations of crowdfunding have changed over the years. Also enjoy the readings your blog post. Thanks!
15th March 2023 at 10:07 am
It’s my pleasure Mathue, I’m really glad to hear it!
15th March 2023 at 4:56 pm
Hey Frank, do you have the link to that Facebook discussion? I’d love to check it out
15th March 2023 at 5:34 pm
I’m afraid not, I’ve had a quick search but unfortunately can’t find it now.
17th March 2023 at 4:41 pm
No worries Frank! Thanks anyway