Many new game designers who want to maintain creative control of their board game decide to launch their game on Kickstarter. However, this may not be the best approach in all situations.
While launching your game on Kickstarter can often be a great way to determine whether there is any interest in your game that comes at a much lower cost and risk than some other approaches, not all games do equally well on the platform.
For example, Kickstarter backers often go crazy for games with miniatures.
Popular board game publishers such as CMON and Awaken Realms have also done quite well, particularly because people are already familiar with their games and know that they produce quality products.
Campaigns featuring people with a huge following can also do quite well. For example, Exploding Kittens, What Do You Meme, Half Truth, and Joking Hazard all featured an individual or individuals with some celebrity status.
So, let's look at the types of games that don't tend to do quite as well on Kickstarter and discuss some alternatives that you may want to consider if you're making one of these types of games.
I’m always surprised how many Monopoly clones I see launching on Kickstarter. If you peruse all the new games launching, you'll often find one or more games that have a board that looks very similar to Monopoly, just with a different theme.
But it's not just Monopoly. You'll also find campaigns for all sorts of chess variants.
The thing is, if you like chess, you'll play chess. You're probably not looking for a different version of chess. You already enjoy the game and are trying to become better at it. And if you're not into chess, you'll have zero interest in the campaign.
It goes without saying that you want your game to be unique and innovative in some way. Otherwise, why would someone want to put down their hard-earned money on a game that's no different than other games they already own or have played.
I haven't seen a whole lot of games focused strictly on kids do well on Kickstarter. Note that I didn't say family games, which are geared towards bringing both adults and kids together, that don't necessarily do great on Kickstarter either but may fare better than a game made strictly for kids.
Sure, there may be the odd adult who is looking through Kickstarter games and finds one that they think that their kids will love, but in many cases, parents will buy their children something that they've asked for. And kids are not shopping on Kickstarter.
Also, quite often the market you would be targeting here are not Kickstarter users. So, even if you can convince a parent that this game is going to be great for their kids, they may have no familiarity with Kickstarter and be reluctant to support a game that may never come to fruition and that they'll often have to wait a year or more to receive. By that time, their children's interests will likely have changed.
So, a kid's game can be a really tough sell on Kickstarter.
Another category that tends to underperform on Kickstarter is educational games.
Games are the number one category on Kickstarter, with tabletop games being the biggest subcategory across all of Kickstarter. Most pledges are made by returning backers, who have backed dozens if not hundreds of games. These are hobby gamers who are interested in immersive and engaging games.
Educational games get a bad rap. They are synonymous with “not a very fun game.”
That's not to say that games can't be fun while also teaching us something (Genius Games mix games that are true to science but still fun for example), but strictly educational games are often not as fun of an experience as other games. This makes them a harder sell, particularly on Kickstarter.
Educational games suffer from the same fate as kid’s games and some other categories where you'll have to do a lot of work to bring people from the outside into Kickstarter. This involves educating them on what the platform is, how it works, and convincing them that waiting up to a year or more for their game is a good idea.
You already have a lot of work ahead of you when you are planning for a Kickstarter and actually running the campaign, so this just adds a lot more work and stress.
Alternatives to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms
If you're working on a kid's game, educational game, or another type of game that doesn't normally do well on Kickstarter, you do have other options. I wouldn't suggest migrating to Gamefound, Indiegogo, or another crowdfunding platform, as these suffer from the same issues.
Here are some alternatives you may want to consider:
- Pitch your game to established game publishers
- Pitch your game to companies in that field (for example, educational companies for an educational game)
- Build up a following and sell your game directly on your site (this may be more of a one-off case, but Wildcraft has done quite well with this approach)
- Do a small print run of your game and sell them yourself (at local markets, on Amazon, Etsy or other platforms)
- Offer your game on a print on demand service like the Game Crafter or Drive Thru Cards
- Offer your game as a printed play version only on your site or PNP Arcade
As you can see, there are lots of other options available to you. Some may not get your game into as wide a distribution as others but depending on how niche your game is, they may be a better approach.
For more articles about Kickstarting your game successfully, check out my blog and other resources at boardgamedesigncourse.com.