Publishing lessons

Board games & crowdfunding

Who is using Kickstarter and why?

1st November 2022 1

I often see people asking who is using Kickstarter these days and thought it would be a good time to discuss both who is using the platform and also why they are using the platform.

The first time / small publisher

While it is perhaps considered less common than it was 5 years ago, there are still plenty of first time and small publishers trying to make games and using Kickstarter in the most traditional way.

Examples of this would include:

There are plenty of them each year, they just often get overshadowed by the larger projects.

Small to mid-sized publishers

You then have the publishers who have 1 or 2 games, they’ve managed to get the ball rolling but are still just starting out (I would probably sit in this category). In these situations money is by far the hardest part, I’ll give you a breakdown from my experiences with The Isle of Cats.

The game went to Kickstarter and was a success, it started selling well in retail and I knew I wanted to make an expansion. Looking over my finances I had a couple of options:

  • Make a large (or 2 small) expansions and print 5,000 – 10,000 copies. This would take 8 months in the current climate to get to retail. Then as they sell, use that money to print another 10,000 which takes another 6 months, and then repeat while demand exists.
  • Run a Kickstarter to understand the demand and print far larger quantities (in the end my print run was 35,000 of each expansion). This would also allow me to create and release other offerings for the biggest fans, such as a storage solution, fancy meeples upgrades, promos, and pins.

So, I could either print 5,000-10,000 and then reprint 6 months later as needed, effectively releasing 35,000 expansions over about 2.5 years. Or I could go to Kickstarter and do it all in one go. I’d like to think anyone who is a fan of the game would much rather I went to kickstarter and released enough copies for everyone on day one, than to have to wait up to 2.5 years for enough stock to be available.

Plenty of people have different reasons at this point, but it’s about being able to print the right amount that everyone is happy, as much as anything else. Keeping people happy is top of my list and a lot of publishers, and we hate things being out of stock as much as you do!

Larger publishers

You then have the larger publishers who perhaps have the money to print the high quantities from day 1. However, there are still many things that Kickstarter can do for these publishers:

  • Create awareness: How many new games do you see people talking about each week which aren’t on Kickstarter? Where do you go to see new releases? Announcing new games and getting people to talk about them, spread the word, and to create excitement is super hard. Kickstarter is the best option for this by miles (I’d love for more to exist!) as it turns the release into an event you can interact with for several weeks and stops it being a single tweet or announcement post that gets lost after a day.
  • Deluxify: A lot of us (talking as a gamer) love deluxified games with all the thrills, these just wouldn’t exist for 90% of games if it wasn’t for Kickstarter. While many stretch goals may be considered fake, there is still a real factor of the demand for a game impacting how deluxified it can be.
  • Money: Even with the big companies who have larger budgets, the costs of printing games in bulk are high. The print I mentioned above for The Isle of Cats, when you take shipping and manufacturing is costing me over $1,500,000 to make. For Kickstarters which raise 2, 3, 4 times more than that they may be spending $5,000,000 or more to get the games made. Having this kind of cash available to spend, and to pay for things 6-12 months before you start selling the game is a luxury that I expect next to no one actually has. Also, if the game flopped it would bankrupt anyone who took the risk, where as Kickstarter creates that safety net.

There are a lot more things to consider and this is really just my first thoughts on this matter, but hopefully it helps you view this topic from a different perspective.

Frank West

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!

One comment

  • Wonmin

    2nd November 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out 🙂


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