How well is it doing in the board game segment? Crowdfunding platforms serve, at least in part, as a good analysis tool to determine trends or the overall success of parlor games. The figures from the two large black financing portals, Kickstarter and Gamefound, are particularly interesting given the current discussions in the scene. They revolve around a central question: Are there too many board games? 

Even the most ambitious board gamers face a space problem at some point, at least if they haven't cleared the shelves in their home playroom of contaminated sites in time. It is clear that the board game market is turning faster and faster. Interested parties could try out, look at or buy around 1.800 new products at the leading trade fair SPIEL'22 in Essen last year. The milkmaid bill says: Around five board games appear per day over the course of a season. Even if you wanted to, you couldn't play all the novelties of a year - those who know the scene are therefore very selective. 

Crowdfunding: The end of the boom

After the boom years of 2020 to 2021, one might assume that things will calm down now that the corona pandemic has ended, but that is not the case. However, a return to normality can also be seen among the publishers. Ravensburger reported a consolidation in sales figures, and hopes for good sales this year of Disney Lorcana, a trading card game based on the license from the "house of the mouse".

And things are also more relaxed in the crowdfunding sector: Kickstarter reported the first drop in sales of board game financing since 2014. Nevertheless, the figures are still above the level before the corona pandemic. 33 million US dollars less income is therefore for the tabletop segment on the credit side. Jon Ritter-Roderick, head of the games department at Kickstarter, identified one reason: it was the global economic slump. This cannot really be proven, but the reason is at least obvious, because in the games sector even large companies are currently not stingy with their red pencils. 

Overall, gamers invested around $236 million in board games on Kickstarter in 2022, up 12,4 percent the year before: $270 million - the all-time high. The board game business on the crowdfunding platform has grown steadily since 2014, and in 2020 and 2021 by leaps and bounds. Anyone who thinks that gamers per se would hardly spend any money to support board games on Kickstarter is wrong - sometimes even huge. A look at the top projects of the past year: 

  1. Marvel Zombies - A Zombie Game: $9,032,583
  2. Stormlight Premium Miniatures: $4,103,311
  3. Project Ironside: $4,084,284
  4. Casting Shadows: $4,064,068
  5. Elden Ring: The Board Game: 3,291,610 pounds

Sorcery: Contested Realm TCG; The Academic 133+ XL; Heroes of Might & Magic III The Board Game; Slay the Spire: The Board Game and Cthulhu: Death May Die - Fear of the Unknown. The list shows that crowdfunding works above average, especially in the area of ​​already strong franchises. Nevertheless, players in the United States in particular are much more reluctant to invest.

This is understandable in view of the uncertain reports of a possible recession for a long time. Especially since you have to dig deeper into your pocket for board games - not only on the crowdfunding platforms. The consequences of the crisis add up: in addition to the still noticeable after-effects of the corona pandemic, there are price drivers brought on by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Material, manufacturing and transport costs have risen drastically in some cases. The comparison portal “guenstiger.de” recently analyzed this for the toy sector. Around 10.000 toys were examined there. The result: The asking prices have risen by an average of 2019 percent since 25. The price increases for Playmobil and Lego are particularly noticeable, where fans pay an average of 44 or 38 percent more than before the pandemic.

Failure hurts publishers

At least since the bloodletting at Wyrmwood after a failed campaign, crowdfunding actors have been wondering whether platforms such as Kickstarter, Backerkit or Gamefound are still good ways to finance projects – some of which have taken years of creative work . The figures for 2022 also show that this is still possible: On Kickstarter, 4.042 campaigns were successfully completed in the board game area. Around 600 more than in the previous year. In contrast to the purely financial framework data, the number of successes has been increasing continuously and even significantly every year since 2015. This means that the success rate is once again higher: last year it was 76,3 percent. In 2021 it was still 72 percent. 

A central question arises every year: should publishers like CMON or Steamforged Games use crowdfunding at all?

A critical attitude is also prevalent among our editors: "Nowadays it's really only about a game looking good and getting good advertising," says Sven Nam. "Many good campaigns no longer get any attention because there are simply too many and only those with the best advertising survive". Kickstarter used to be there for a small company to be able to bring a project to the public. "Meanwhile, many large companies use it for their games," says Sven Nam. Jonas also sees it similarly and puts it more concretely: games that are in the top 10 on the Boardgamegeek platform, for example, do not need crowdfunding. 

The smaller the publishers or idea providers, the greater the risk for fans at the same time: you may want to support a game in prototype status from the bottom of your heart, but the chances of failure are significantly higher than with established publishers who use crowdfunding to minimize risk, among other things . 

Incidentally, where more actors are successful, they share the honeypot that is less full. A campaign success in 58.000 cost around 2022 US dollars. In the previous year it was almost 20.000 US dollars more. This may seem like peanuts in view of the great attention paid to projects worth millions in particular, but it is those small campaigns that are at the heart of crowdfunding and transport its original idea. 

Competitors are entering the market

kickstarter gamefound

Real success campaigns are now running on Gamefound. Photo: Volkman

Speaking of more active people - there have long been more senior among the platform operators. Kickstarter may be the top dog, but it is no longer the only serious crowdfunding solution. Backerkit (there are no official numbers) now also wants a piece of the cake, and this also applies to Gamefound in particular. They had planned there for 2022 with around 68 million US dollars and thus almost a quarter of the Kickstarter sales. In the end it wasn't enough: Gamefound earned 28 million US dollars, but increased its sales by 45 percent. Still, the piece of the pie is big given the significant slump in the leading competitor platform. 

Gamefound launched more than 30 campaigns shortly after exiting the beta phase in August. The Poland-based company is growing exponentially. Customer service couldn't keep up. The deal with Ravensburger, on the other hand, is a great success. The long-established company made millions available and joined Gamefound. 

The numbers at Awaken Real's platform are impressive. The successful campaigns are still behind the top projects on Kickstarter, but sometimes reach millions:

  1. Tainted Grail - Kings of Ruin: $4,421,347
  2. Castles of Burgundy – Special Edition: 2,938,758 euros
  3. Sleeping Gods - Distant Skies: $2,081,703
  4. Sunnygeeks 1.5 – Modular Gaming Table: 1,639,341 euros
  5. Ravaged Star - Armies of the Veil-Touched: $1,102,132

KeyForge: Winds of Exchange follows, then it goes below the million mark. There you will find successful games like the reprint of The Great Wall, the board game for Total War: Rome or Tamashii: Chronicle of Ascend.

However, Awaken Realms had promised more from Tainted Grail in particular. Before the corona pandemic, the debut could generate around six million US dollars, the follow-up campaign was much slower, although the makers assumed the exact opposite. Here, too, the great caution regarding larger investments among fans is presumably noticeable. Toy giant Hasbro, for example, can also hum a little song about this: On the in-house Pulse platform, the reboot of Heroscape failed. 

Well-done crowdfunding campaigns defy the crises, but the time of ease seems to be over for the time being. 

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