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Neil Carr
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The toil is at an end! At least partially...

Around a month ago I began collecting the data on RPG related Kickstarter projects from around the net. In the end I dumped onto a spreadsheet a year's worth of data totaling 150 projects. Then I began crunching numbers to see what larger patterns are at work in the RPG crowdfunding world.

I've finished part one which looks at the larger patterns, such as the average backing for RPG related material is $45, rather than the $70 for Kickstarter as a whole.

You can see the report here, beware... it's long.

Part two of the report is still under construction. That will looking more closing at the various bands of backing and goal tiers from the survey.

Hopefully this will help people as they map out their own projects.
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Kevin O'Neill
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I'm curious as to how much of that applies to the rest of the world? As I understand it, Kickstarter is only available to North America so won't that skew the results somewhat if they're applied worldwide insted of just to North America?
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Wow, that was a surprisingly good read... I did not expect a study of kick starting to be very engaging but I read it through to completion. That was a really thoughtful analysis with some excellent points, I look forward to reading part two.
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Neil Carr
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It's true that Kickstarter does require US residency to run a project. The survey covered also Indiegogo and a few other crowdfunding projects that didn't have this restriction. Kickstarter definitely dominates though, taking up 75% of the projects in the survey.

The major part of the sampling came from a thread on RPG.net where the users were scouring various funding sites for RPG related material and openly inviting people to post their crowdfunding projects.

Honestly I can't say if there is broader representation globally than was in the survey, but my impression is that the US market is so large, and so many people seem unaware (from the kind of interactions I've seen on various RPG forums) that there are options outside of Kickstarter, that my guess is that the non-US projects are not well represented simply because they don't exist yet in great numbers.
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Kevin O'Neill
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echoota wrote:
It's true that Kickstarter does require US residency to run a project. The survey covered also Indiegogo and a few other crowdfunding projects that didn't have this restriction. Kickstarter definitely dominates though, taking up 75% of the projects in the survey.

The major part of the sampling came from a thread on RPG.net where the users were scouring various funding sites for RPG related material and openly inviting people to post their crowdfunding projects.

Honestly I can't say if there is broader representation globally than was in the survey, but my impression is that the US market is so large, and so many people seem unaware (from the kind of interactions I've seen on various RPG forums) that there are options outside of Kickstarter, that my guess is that the non-US projects are not well represented simply because they don't exist yet in great numbers.


Ah okay, thanks for the clarification
It's certainly correct that Kickstarter is the best represented, I haven't heard of any others except for 'kickstarter' types for movies.
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Fantastic work!

I'm particularly struck by two statistics:

The average investment per backer was statistically the same for both successful and unsuccessful projects. That seems both surprising and intuitive. Surprising because one might have thought that people would be willing to invest only small amounts of money in "bad" projects compared to "good" projects. And intuitive because from the backer's point of view, if they're willing to invest then they see it as a "good" project and so would put in the same amount of money for both ultimately successful and unsuccessful ventures. I suppose the lesson is that it's more important to attract a large volume of small backers than to solicit a small number of high investments.

The average initial target was significantly lower for successful versus unsuccessful projects. To determine whether that's somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e. smaller targets are easier to reach and so succeed more often, with the larger final average perhaps skewed by a small number of wildly successful projects), it would be good to see a graph of target versus final backing (with an x=y line demonstrating the demarcation between success and failure). My suspicion is that once a project has successfully reached its initial target that it then will attract more funding (people happy to sign up once they know it's a sure thing). The lesson is to aim low initially and provide ample additional stretch targets when required.
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Great job Neil!

Quote:
From this total amount $177,172 went to projects which this report discerned were done by an author that did not have previous RPG industry credentials. So while industry professionals are definitely dominating in the crowdfunding model, there was still plenty of money flowing towards amateurs.


I'm really glad to see this. My perception was skewed; the "little guy" must be getting funded on projects that aren't on my radar.

I'd be interested in a deeper analysis of this, but it would be a very manual and subjective process. I know some designers are using Kickstarter to get personal projects in print which is (IMO) different than established companies using Kickstarter because...um... they can.
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Martin Ralya
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This is very cool -- thank you for taking the time to create it, and for sharing it.
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Maurice Tousignant
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Very cool. Thanks for writing this. Sharing this on my various feeds.
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Marshall Miller
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Yay data! Thanks for putting that together Neil.
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As a side note, I'm blaming you for the money I have dropped on kickstarter projects since reading your analysis. shake
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agduncan wrote:
As a side note, I'm blaming you for the money I have dropped on kickstarter projects since reading your analysis. shake


I'm betting Neil will take the blame if you drop money on his project when he takes his turn.
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Neil Carr
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PghArch wrote:
I'm betting Neil will take the blame if you drop money on his project when he takes his turn.


That is a burden I'm willing to bear.
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Part two of the 150 Crowdfunding Projects survey is now up.

In this one I focus on the backing behavior across the wide spread of funding levels. Then I look at how the creators shaped their funding levels with some common rewards being offered.

Enjoy!
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Well done sir! Another really interesting read!
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Part Three of the Crowdfunding Report is now up!

This time around I look at general observations I noted as I went through the survey, focusing on broad issues that were not methodically tracked, but struck me as important in the larger picture. Enjoy!
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Something I'd be interested in seeing is how many successful projects actually get completed. There's a significant difference between KS projects asking for money to start working on some concept and those that already have the writing done and just want money as compensation and for some production work.

That's something I'm curious about the projects as well. Are the ones with lower goals lower because the work has already been done, and they just want some money, and therefore people are more willing to chip in because they know they're getting something out of it?

I think Greg Stolze was one of the first guys to do something like this, but in his case he'd already written the supplements, everything was laid out in the PDF and ready to go, and once he hit $1000, the PDF would get uploaded for everyone. For Reign Enchiridion, the writing had already been done, it was just a layout issue, so there wasn't any doubt it would be completed. That's certainty you're getting out of the funding.

Compare that to Gary Sarli's e20 project.... I think it's over 2 years old by now, got over the $10,000 target it had set for funding and isn't anywhere close to actually being finished. Even though I didn't sink any money into it, I sure as hell wouldn't want to put any money into a future project if it hadn't already been written.
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Neil Carr
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The final piece in the RPG Crowdfunding Report is now in place with the release of the raw data used to generate the report.  It took awhile to collect it together from different files, clean it up and then wrestle with the Creative Commons license, but it's done.  People have been asking for this information, and I found it a bit serendipitous when I watched just the other day Tim Berners-Lee on TED exclaim, "Demand raw data now."  Well, here it is, fly and be free!

Enjoy!
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Neil Carr
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stainlesssteelrat wrote:
Something I'd be interested in seeing is how many successful projects actually get completed. There's a significant difference between KS projects asking for money to start working on some concept and those that already have the writing done and just want money as compensation and for some production work.


That's probably a lot harder to come by unfortunately. There isn't any systematic way of discerning that as it just comes down to each projects presentation.

stainlesssteelrat wrote:
That's something I'm curious about the projects as well. Are the ones with lower goals lower because the work has already been done, and they just want some money, and therefore people are more willing to chip in because they know they're getting something out of it?


Kind of as above, it's hard to get clear values on these factors. It did seem that there were a handful of projects that asked for a huge sum of money, say $10K or more, which gave the impression that little had been done, and they did poorly. A few times creators did chime in on various forums to talk about their funding goals, and for a few the large amount of money was seen as just sound business sense. They were the creator but they still needed editors, layout professionals, artists, graphic designers, etc. Ultimately they made the mistake of trying to get funding so that they could have an entire professional publishing team on the project. From how backers are responding, this doesn't seem justified.

stainlesssteelrat wrote:
I think Greg Stolze was one of the first guys to do something like this, but in his case he'd already written the supplements, everything was laid out in the PDF and ready to go, and once he hit $1000, the PDF would get uploaded for everyone. For Reign Enchiridion, the writing had already been done, it was just a layout issue, so there wasn't any doubt it would be completed. That's certainty you're getting out of the funding.


Yeah, this is the "ransom model" which is kind of similar to Kickstarter. One or two projects in the survey really took this approach. They were getting funding to wrap up their project and then it was going to be released for free, I think they were successful, in part because they were really low funding goals (like $300).

stainlesssteelrat wrote:
Compare that to Gary Sarli's e20 project.... I think it's over 2 years old by now, got over the $10,000 target it had set for funding and isn't anywhere close to actually being finished. Even though I didn't sink any money into it, I sure as hell wouldn't want to put any money into a future project if it hadn't already been written.


Yeah, that's an unfortunate situation with e20. I wouldn't hold it up as common example though. In following the discussions on projects over the last year I haven't actually heard of any failed or stalled projects. People might nitpick over some minor issues, but nothing has the circumstances of e20.

My impression is that a creator needs to be able to present strong enough credentials, or investment to show they can deliver, but the market so far isn't demanding that huge amounts of time and capital be invested first to bring out the project. If you do demonstrate that the book is essentially ready then the likelihood of success rises a lot, but it isn't so far essential to the market.

The Mythic Hero project is a pretty good example of how a pitch can sway an audience, if the idea is good and the author has a demonstrated publishing history. The author laid out clearly that he needed $30k+ to do the book because he needed all the publishing support and an income while he wrote. While the project failed to reach it's funding goal, it still surpassed 99% of other RPG projects in terms of dollars raised.

So there is a lot of leeway. The real strength of this whole approach is that the market is the gatekeeper, and so there is a wide range of responses and scales of success that can be met. For the Mythic Hero author $25k wasn't sufficient, but for someone else $1000 is all they need to get their ideas out into the world.

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I haven't looked at many other projects, but it doesn't surprise me that e20 is a rather unique case, and I hope it doesn't overall negatively affect kickstarter funding. I like the market being the gatekeeper, I also like consumers paying creators directly. If this takes off, individuals become investors, and creators don't have to seek funding from traditional VCs.
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I sometimes feel like Kickstarter is an eternal "chicken & egg" conundrum. Do you use the service to get funding before you have content? Or do you use the service after you have content to get funding?
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It all depends on what you're doing. If it's some sort of technology that's being developed, you have a prototype ready that shows you at least know what it takes to make it work, and you ask for funding to be able to refine it for a limited production run. With an RPG, the main resource people need is time, so presumably it would be the latter.
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Neil Carr
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Stix_Remix wrote:
I sometimes feel like Kickstarter is an eternal "chicken & egg" conundrum. Do you use the service to get funding before you have content? Or do you use the service after you have content to get funding?


I think it allows for the whole spectrum. If you're well known with a strong track record you'd likely be able to just announce you want to do something before putting much into the project and be able to drum up thousands of dollars without trouble. If the same person put a decent amount of time and money into the project prior to the kickstarter and had a good presentation then tens of thousands of dollars might be raised.

For the unknown they need a more modest goal and less ambitious project. The more invested in the project ahead of time the more likely confidence will be gained by the market.

It's that flexibility which is great. It can accommodate a wide range of backgrounds, skill and talent and still reward.
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