Kickstarter Killed the Board Game Star

There’s a book in everybody, or so the adage goes.

Is there a game in every gamer?

According to the guys on the podcast this week, yes.

I really enjoyed listening to this podcast as it covers interesting aspects of designing and what drives the people on the podcast to do so or not. I could spend another article summarizing what everyone talked about, but I’ve decided to take another tack. Buckle up.

Right now there are 154 “Tabletop Games” projects on Kickstarter. 154. That seems crazy to me. Several months ago I thought about writing an article about the Golden Age of Gaming everyone seems to think we’re in at the moment. Is it a golden in age in that there are more people around to play games because it’s not something to be ashamed of anymore? Possibly. Is it a golden age because there are a ton of games being produced at the moment? Erin from The Cardboard Republic offered that high production merely means it’s an industrial age. I tend to agree. I’d like to draw your attention back to Kickstarter now.

What does all this have to do with Kickstarter? Well, as part of the article that was never written, I did a little thing called research. Having 154 active games on Kickstarter blows my mind because that’s almost as many games as Fantasy Flight has put out since 1995, which as of over the summer some time when I did this research was 177. That number, of course, is not counting the bagillion single-card expansions they have released as individual things; that makes the number jump to 307. 154 is also roughly half the 327 games Rio Grande Games has published since its start in 1998. Mayfair has 191. Queen, 107. Z-Man, 201.

In case you were unaware, Kickstarter launched in 2009. In one funding month of this year, there are as many projects as some established publishers have put out in two decades. There have been 5428 total board game projects on Kickstarter of which 2677 have been successful. Here’s a chart I created as part of that research I talked about earlier. It shows the total games published by year. Robin likes it when I use graphics. You’re welcome.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 1.30.35 PM
For the sake of whatever copyright Robin is concerned about, I made this graph as part of some board game research I did in the summer of 2014 because I’m super awesome.

Kickstarter has successfully funded more board games in four years than were produced by the industry as a whole in 2013. There have been more attempted board game projects on Kickstarter in four years than were published in 2012 and 2013. Does this not blow anyone else’s mind? Because it sure as shit blows mine.

I’m going to do a little stream of consciousness exercise now and scroll down the live tabletop projects on Kickstarter right now. Feel free to skip this part if you’d like. Oh, minis. Of course that thing is overfunded. People love little plastic figures. Huh. A game from Romania. That game looks like anime porn. A notebook? Really? For fuck’s sake! Learn to spell the title of your game properly. I take it back. People don’t just like little plastic figures; they must only like little plastic people. “Do your stick-figures look like awkward sprays of body fluid?” That’s a tag line. I also just threw up in my mouth a little. I could go on, but I think we can agree that’s enough of that.

My point: this is what happens when just anyone designs a game; the market is inundated with marginally interesting and variably developed games at best. Let me stop for a minute and say kudos to the people that are brave (and/or crazy) enough to put themselves out there like that. I couldn’t do it. Back to my point: there are so many games to cycle through that I don’t care about that I don’t even really care what’s on the site. If someone happens to tweet about something that sounds cool on the twitter, I’ll check it out. If it’s a publisher I know I like, I’ll give it a little look-see. Otherwise, I don’t bother with Kickstarter. It’s basically a yearbook of board games. Here’s all the cool kids that are funding. Everyone else better hope for the best. Maybe you’ll be our bosses in ten years, but right now, I have the better smile.

I’m not saying Kickstarter guarantees your game is shit. There have been some amazing games to come out of Kickstarter. Some truly talented people have published games that may never have seen the light of day without crowdsourcing its production. Sure, you can argue that the roughly 51% of games that weren’t funded on Kickstarter were the shit games. I would wholeheartedly disagree with that though. Some great games have failed to be funded and/or were ultimately pulled because of lack of interest. Some great games have just barely made their funding goals. Worse, some pretty horrible games have surpassed their funding goals by hundreds of percents for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. Kickstarter has lead to the burying of talent and the elevation of pizazz. I don’t know about you all, but I’d much rather buy a game that was thoroughly developed from a shelf in a store than impulsively kickstart something and be reminded of my poor purchasing habits every time I look at the exclusive promotional poster I just had to have.

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