Can you believe it? 2015 is over, and with it, I have managed to gather data on Kickstarter video game campaigns for almost the entirety of the year. If you’ve been reading this analysis posts since the very start, then you’ll know that for whatever reason I began this process in February rather than January. It’s an unfortunate misstep on my part that this article idea didn’t come to mind until then, as it means this first year in review won’t be quite as accurate as it could be. The trouble with returning to the timeframe now is simply that canceled campaigns (which need to be a part of the data) are often incredibly challenging to dig up if you aren’t already aware of them.
Then there are DMCA’d projects which no longer allow you to take a backdoor peek at what they were actually offering. Another notable aspect is that I expanded the data collected in June, meaning that a lot of extra info (such as lowest/highest tier gathering) is not comprehensive. I’ll note this in the appropriate instances. In any case, with this issue in mind, I still hope that a look at the majority of Kickstarter campaigns in 2015 will prove as interesting for you as it is for me.
First, here’s the thing we probably all want to know right off the bat. Which video game projects proved the most successful of all? If you step back for a moment and just think about it, you’ll probably name the majority of them right off the bat. This was a landmark year for Kickstarter in that games continued to hit the service and break records for most funded one after the other! Those who had claimed crowdfunding was on its way out were proven to have been too early with their predictions. Here're the highlights of the five most funded titles in 2015.
Raised: $6,333,295 of $2,000,000 goal
Days to success: 1
Shenmue 3 is the first time a video game Kickstarter has been announced on stage at E3. It took place in the midst of an incredible Sony press conference dotted with hotly-anticipated games such as the Final Fantasy VII remake and The Last Guardian. Because Shenmue 3 has been desired by fans for so darn long it was obvious that this was going to make it huge. Currently, it is the most-funded crowdfunding game within Kickstarter’s walls (and ignoring the Ouya video game hardware). Perhaps the most amazing aspect is that the team actually hoped to really make $10,000,000 to create the ideal Shenmue 3 experience.
Raised: $5,545,991 of $500,000 goal
Days to success: 1
To suggest that gamers aren’t sentimental about the old days is simply wrong. We saw this played out in grand fashion from May to July on Kickstarter. Before Shenmue 3 launched, veteran developer Koji Igarashi announced the return of “Igavanias” with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It wasn’t a Castlevania game proper due to Konami’s ownership of the brand, but it sure as hell still looked like one. For a very brief window of time, this was the highest funded video game Kickstarter, usurping Torment: Tides of Numenera for the honor. It’s honestly a little surprising so much money went here given that gamers were already opening their wallets for another project just days earlier…
Raised: $3,319,294 of $270,041 goal
Days to success: 1
That project was none other than Yooka-Laylee by ex-Rare developers. Now, Rare was once a much-loved company creating all sorts of awesome games. Even though their history spanned decades across numerous platforms, what most modern Rare fans remember and love are their Nintendo 64 games. Yooka-Laylee appeared to be a modern take on the 3D platformers of yore and as such drew immense excitement. What’s most surprising about this project was how little the team actually asked for (sub $300,000) to make Yooka-Laylee a reality.
Raised: $2,785,537 of $250,000 goal
Days to success: 1
Harebrained Schemes have become one of the hottest developers on Kickstarter. Since producing Shadowrun Returns (which received ridiculous amounts of praise) they’ve since returned to Shadowrun: Hong Kong and BATTLETECH. Fans of MechWarrior and BattleTech came out in force to ensure that the next game in this esteemed series of titles made it. And it sure did, far surpassing that honestly miniscule goal of $250,000. Now it’s just a matter of waiting until BATTLETECH is finally released on the world.
Raised: $2,032,434 of $500,000 goal
Days to success: 1
Here’s another well-known developer who makes smart use of Kickstarter campaigns. Larian Studios funded Divinity: Original Sin in 2013 and drew heaps of attention thanks to the developer’s Divinity series. Luckily, the full release was a tremendous hit and both pleased existing fans as well as created tons more. That’s likely why Divinity: Original Sin 2 absolutely decimated its funding goal. Larian have proven themselves on Kickstarter and that they’re still able to make a killer RPG.
Curious about the top twenty most funded video game projects in 2015? Here’s a simple look at what they are and what they managed to raise by campaign conclusion. As should be apparent, there’s still a massive adoration of franchises we once loved coming back. Some surprises in this list are the fact that a visual novel (Muv-Luv) managed to generate so much appeal to actually situate itself in the top ten. Chances are, if you’re a big Kickstarter fan then you probably backed at least one of these twenty campaigns (if not multiple!). Even those who managed to avoid backing any are probably looking forward to a few of these releases. For me, I’m most hyped to see what becomes of Friday the 13th: The Game and Project Scissors: NightCry. I only personally backed Muv-Luv, however.
One look at the total funding value of successful Kickstarter projects for 2015 proves it was a bountiful year for the website. Given Kickstarter’s 5% fee on every successful campaign, that means they made nearly $2 million in the video game category alone. Given that this section of the site is far from the most profitable is a very good sign for their business model. If we were to remove the top five contenders from this value, we find that there was not quite as much money to go around. All together, our top five projects raised $20,016,551 which leaves $19,823,670. Therefore, 1.58% of all successful video game projects in 2015 received over half of the funding. That leaves just about $20 million to spread between 312 other projects.
So, if we take the totals of all these projects and derive an average we get a pretty solid-looking $125,679. Of course, this has been impacted heavily by the few heavy hitter projects on the list. Removing the baker’s dozen of top-funded project yields an average of $36,278. Still not at all bad, but even this is a bit off the mark due to some other fairly well-received projects that raised up to nearly $500,000. Given that we have way more information this time, around let’s take a deeper peek into funding by breaking it into a handful of tiers.
Of 317 projects, we can see that very, very few managed to crack $500,000 in funding. The vast majority sat somewhere between $1,000 and $19,999. This makes sense, given that one of the most fortuitous funding goals is right around $15,000 and $20,000. As we increase up the ranks of funding, it’s obvious that a drop off occurs. it’s just a bit surprising how sudden it becomes as we reach the upper echelons (from half a million upward). Basically, unless you are a to die for a project there is no chance of attaining these massive funding amounts. Of course, I’m sure we’ll still see people post a sentence and Google photo on a Kickstarter campaign asking for millions many more times in 2016. The very lowest successfully funded game of all for 2015 was PrisonBreak RPG! with $36 raised. Cross Realms had the fewest backers – just one which pledged the complete $100 goal.
This brings up one of the unfortunate points of successful projects. Some of them get their goal seemingly because of a few friends or family members supporting the project. In and of itself, that’s not an awful thing, except when these projects are incredibly low on information. My specifics for what is considered a low information project means that it does not have at least two pictures directly related to the game (aka not just randomly stolen images) and a minimum of two paragraphs of description. Luckily, there were not too many of these in the funded category. Only 21 were a part of this camp, at least from the data I have at hand. It is possible that some of those projects in the earlier months of 2015 were also low information. What of relaunched campaigns? There were 25 of those, which proves that a first-time failure doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to write Kickstarter off entirely.
So how about the time it takes for projects to be funded? The average of every single success of 2015 is 17.8 days. That doesn’t sound all that bad at all and looks to be a good mix of first-day successes alongside late bloomers. Over the course of the year, there was quite a few day one hits. Still, it was more common for projects to take a week, two, or extend to the furthest reaches of the project time frame. What exactly is going on with the “over 31-day” campaigns? Simple, as Kickstarter allows for projects to go for 40 days and even more, some people use those extended funding periods. I continue to caution against them because it seems that frequently a longer Kickstarter results in a project’s funding taking even longer. Basically, funding extends to meet the time given. So, even if a project looks pretty cool, it often still ends up taking the entire 40+ days of the project to actually finally be funded. Save yourself some grief and just go with a traditional month long campaign, please!
Now it’s time to turn our attention to backers. Backers are what make Kickstarter tick and are the reason why all these 317 projects in 2015 are coming to fruition. As you might expect, those top five funded projects of the year absolutely dominate when it comes to accruing huge numbers of backers. Still, it’s fun to take a look and see just how obscenely well those projects did with a comparison to some other top tier Kickstarters. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to see which is which if we put all 317 campaigns on the chart so it’s set at 35 only. In total, there were 701,003 backers at maximum. This is deemed the maximum amount because it’s generally the case that some backers will fund multiple projects, not just one ever in their time on Kickstarter.
The average is pretty fabulous too at 2,211 backers per project. However, this includes those outrageously popular campaigns as well. Removing Those top 10 alone already markedly changes the average value, dropping it down to an average of 973 backers per campaign. Yes, it’s seriously less than half of what the average started out as. This is a better view of successful Kickstarters, but still not ideal. I say that because while there were certainly campaigns netting a few thousand backers, so many of them failed to get anywhere close. If you were curious, 90 projects had sub 100 backers in 2015. Many of these ranged within the tens and teens alone. It’s pretty surprising to see, but again, a surprising amount of Kickstarter projects ask for less than $100 to begin with.
2015 was a record-breaking year for Kickstarted video games in a whole manner of ways. Unfortunately, without having gathered my own data for 2014, there is as of yet not really good way of comparing and contrasting previous years with 2015. The good thing is that this data collection process is now ongoing. With a lot more information on the table than ever before, I intend to continue keeping track of video games on Kickstarter each and every month. That way, by the time 2016 comes to an end we will have a truly comprehensive look at games in that year. It’s also going to be possible to go back and compare some of the key points of data between 2015 and 2016!