For the last three years, Kickstarter has helped raise more than $700 million dollars. The crowdfunding platform has gained in popularity since the start of the pandemic and our own first Kickstarter became a surprise success in the summer of 2020. Among our own audience, a recent poll showed that 86.1% of gamers turn to Kickstarter as a place to purchase TTRPG content.
With all of this data, you might be thinking that it's obvious you should launch your TTRPG project on Kickstarter, right? Well, let's take a look at what crowdfunding is, answer some common questions, explore the various ways you could publish your TTRPG project, and then weigh the pros and cons of Kickstarter.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for a project or venture by collecting small contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. It involves presenting a project or idea on a crowdfunding platform or website, where individuals interested in supporting the project can contribute funds. These contributions can range from small donations to larger investments, depending on the nature of the project and the incentives offered to backers.
Crowdfunding campaigns often offer various rewards or benefits to encourage individuals to contribute. These rewards can include early access to a product, exclusive merchandise, personalized experiences, or a stake in the venture's success. In some cases, crowdfunding can also involve equity crowdfunding, where individuals invest in a company or project in exchange for a share of its ownership or future profits.
The popularity of crowdfunding has grown significantly in recent years due to the accessibility and convenience of online platforms. It has become a viable alternative for individuals, entrepreneurs, and organizations to fund creative projects, startups, social causes, charitable initiatives, and more, bypassing traditional avenues like banks or venture capitalists.
It's important to note that crowdfunding does not guarantee the success of a project or venture. It requires effective marketing, a compelling idea, and a well-executed campaign to attract potential backers.
What Crowdfunding Platforms are Available for Tabletop Gaming Projects?
Kickstarter: Kickstarter is the most well-known crowdfunding platforms and has been instrumental in funding thousands of tabletop gaming projects. It allows creators to showcase their game, set funding goals, and offer various reward tiers to backers. Kickstarter operates on an "all-or-nothing" funding model, where projects must reach their funding goal within a set timeframe to receive any funds. All of our crowdfunding projects have been run through Kickstarter
Indiegogo: Indiegogo is another popular crowdfunding platform that supports tabletop gaming projects. It offers both fixed and flexible funding options, allowing creators to choose between the "all-or-nothing" model (fixed funding) or keeping funds raised even if they don't reach their goal (flexible funding). Indiegogo also provides various campaign management and marketing tools.
Gamefound: Gamefound is a specialized crowdfunding platform designed specifically for tabletop gaming projects. It offers features tailored to the needs of game creators, such as pre-order options, pledge management, and add-on management. Gamefound provides a comprehensive suite of tools to assist creators in managing their campaigns and engaging with backers.
BackerKit: BackerKit has long been the preferred pledge manager for creators who use Kickstarter. Recently, BackerKit has created their own crowdfunding platform. The platform is still in Beta and they are highly selective of the projects they approve in this early stage.
Patreon: Patreon is primarily known as a membership platform for ongoing content support, but it can also be used by tabletop game creators to engage with a community of fans and receive recurring financial support. Game designers can offer exclusive content, playtesting opportunities, or behind-the-scenes access to backers who pledge a certain amount per month.
Why is Kickstarter the Most Popular Crowdfunding Platform?
Firstly, Kickstarter was the pioneer of the crowdfunding industry. Kickstarter holds a significant advantage in terms of name recognition and trust among creators and backers alike. Its broad reach and visibility attract a diverse community of users, making it a go-to platform for individuals interested in supporting innovative ideas, including tabletop games. Kickstarter's stringent project approval processes and guidelines instill confidence in backers, ensuring that projects are legitimate and have a realistic chance of success. The platform's all-or-nothing funding model motivates creators to set achievable goals and deliver on their promises, increasing backers' trust. Furthermore, Kickstarter places a strong emphasis on community and engagement, fostering a sense of involvement and connection that enhances the crowdfunding experience for both creators and backers.
The reason we use Kickstarter over other platforms is because of the massive, built-in audience it brings. Other crowdfunding platforms have lower fees and arguably better features, but there is a tremendous organic audience you can tap into when running crowdfunding projects through Kickstarter.
What are the Options for Publishing TTRPG Content?
Aside from Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms, the most obvious way to publish your TTRPG project is through DriveThruRPG.com. DriveThruRPG allows you to sell PDF books, maps, gaming aids, cards, and even POD books. DriveThruRPG also has a significant built in audience. After Kickstarter, DriveThruRPG is a close second for where gamers look for the goods according to our poll. The downside is that DriveThruRPG takes a big slice of your sales revenue - up to 30% plus PayPal fees.
Another popular option is to publish TTRPG products through the Virtual Tabletops (VTTs) that gamers use to play online. The most popular ones are Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and Shard Tabletop. Each of these requires their own conversion of your game which can be a significant time commitment to both learn the conversion process and then implement with your TTRPG products. Much like DriveThruRPG, these VTTs provide access to a significant audience but they take 20-30% of your revenue.
If you want to keep more of the money you make from sales then you'll want to make a website with an ecommerce suite. You'll have to figure out how to direct your audience there but you'll keep over 90% of the revenue you make from selling your TTRPG project there. The only fees you'll have to worry about are from payment processing platforms like Stripe and PayPal. However, you'll still need to account for fees associated with the website such as claiming a domain name and upgrading your website to accommodate business sales.
What are the Pros and Cons of Launching My TTRPG on Kickstarter?
For us, and the number 1 reason we launch our crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter, is because of their massive built-in audience. If you're just starting out publishing content and you want to fund it through a crowdfunding venue, Kickstarter is probably the way to go. They do take a larger percentage of your revenue compared to other platforms, they lack some of the features available through other platforms, but that big, organic audience is absolutely key, especially for new creators.
The other major consideration is art and up-front costs. If you don't have much money for artwork, editing, layout, and other areas of your product that you will likely need to pay contractors for, then publishing you product on DriveThruRPG is probably not the best way to go about it. Kickstarter can provide that money up front but as a Kickstarter creator, you must know what that entails. As soon as you receive payment, you are now accountable to your backers. They have given you their faither (and money) and they deserve to be kept in the loop about your project. Seeing the project develop behind the scenes is a big draw for many backers. If you go more than 4 weeks without an update, you will most likely be hearing from your backers. It's absolutely essential that you keep your backers happy - not just because it's the write thing to do - but if you hope to make it as a creator, you'll be needing their support for future projects. This can stress out creators and it also takes away time that you would otherwise spend making the project you launched in the first place. If you think this would be too stressful or you worry about your ability to provide timely updates and good customer service, you might consider doing the best you can with the resources you have and then publishing on DriveThruRPG or another online market.
Lastly, It's important to note that setting up a well-made Kickstarter is very time consuming. And even after you put in all of that time and effort, there's no guarantee that the project will even fund.
Access to a large built-in audience
Get money up-front to cover the costs of your project such as artwork, editing, and printing costs
Running a Kickstarter is the most effective marketing tool we've used
After you get backers their rewards, you can still sell your product on DriveThruRPG, VTTs, and/or your own website
No guarantee your project will fund
Lots of work to prepare for a Kickstarter
You're accountable to your backers
Kickstarter will take about 9% of your funds and, if you use BackerKit, it will take about another 3%
You'll be working on a deadline
You need to spend time communicating with Backers, taking away time from creating
You run the risk of under-budgeting
Taking a quick look at this list, there are more cons than pros. However, I believe in most cases that if you have a TTRPG idea and you want to publish it, 90% of the time it makes sense to fund it through Kickstarter. Almost every project will have up front costs that will be difficult - if not impossible - to cover without the assistance of crowdfunding. The trick is to put the legwork into Kickstarter so that you get the most out of your campaign. In future posts, we'll take a closer look at preparing to launch Kickstarter so that you have the greatest chance of success - both during and after launch.
Do you have any questions you want to know about running Tabletop Gaming Kickstarters? Let me know in the comments below!