In keeping with my interests, I’m doing my master’s thesis about Kickstarter. The goal of my research is to find out whether various factors of Kickstarter campaigns, such as receiving exclusive rewards and supporting local project creators, influence backers to contribute.
The study has two parts–conducting an online survey and holding in-depth interviews. In both research methods, I am only seeking participation from people who have backed Kickstarter projects.
I’m posting about the study here because I am seeking participants for the survey.
The survey will take 10 to 15 minutes. It is completely voluntary and you are not required to answer every question. Your name will not be attached to your reponse. More information is explained at the beginning of the survey, including contact information for my thesis committee chair, WVU’s Office of Research Integrity and Compliance, and me.
Would you take the survey at the link below and share it with backers and other people you know who have supported Kickstarter? If you have not backed a Kickstarter campaign, I would still appreciate it if you shared the survey.
Thank you very much for helping me.
If you would like a copy of the final thesis document, which will contain the results of the study, send me an email or leave a comment on this post.
As my semester in WVU’s Blogging and Interactive Journalism class is coming to an end, I am taking a break from the blog to concentrate on completing my master’s thesis. This will be my last post until the end of the school year in May.
A question I’ve often had in reading about Kickstarter is whether the category of a project influences how successful the project will be.
Note that this list does not use Kickstarter’s official category names, so some projects may have been in different categories when they were posted on Kickstarter.
I’ve arranged the data in the chart below. For purposes of simplicity, I combined “games” and “tabletop games” into one category.
As expected, due to their high total funds, the games projects had the greatest representation on the list, with video games holding 19 of the top 50 spots and tabletop games holding 10. Product design made the next best showing with eight, followed by technology with five. The remaining categories all had one or two projects featured on the list.
The chart below illustrates the prominence of games, which outnumbered the other categories combined by a margin of 29 to 21.
One can see, then, that the categories related to games and technological products are probably more likely to bring in a large amount of money.
To a large extent, this tendency is inherent in the nature of the projects. Developing a complex video game or a smartwatch is an expensive endeavor, so successful campaigns require large amounts in pledges.
In addition, Kickstarter has taken off as a widely used platform in some communities more than others.
Dance, with 71 percent success, and theatre, with 64 percent, have the highest success rates by a considerable margin. Music is the only other category to have a success rate higher than 50 percent.
Again, cost is certainly a factor. The average successful dance project raises about $4,300, which is the smallest average of all the categories. Unsurprisingly, the category with the highest average is technology, which averages around $75,000.
Because dance requires less money, it has a greater chance of success. But cost is not the only factor.
The average prices for theatre, music, and art are not much higher than dance, yet dance has a considerably higher success rate than theatre, which has a considerably higher success rate than music and art.
The amount of competition is likely a factor. Though Kickstarter is not necessarily a market, anything people spend money on competes for that money.
Because dance and theatre are less popular categories, there are not as many projects posted to attract pledges, allowing the projects that are posted to receive more of the money backers have budgeted for supporting Kickstarter campaigns.
On a less “cold” economic note, dance and theatre projects are more likely to be tailored to one specific geographic location than most of the other categories, so the focus in local communities can bolster interest in a project.
Ultimately, it’s the interest in supporting a creative campaign that drives Kickstarter, but the volume of competition a project faces certainly plays a role.
In a departure from real time strategy games and MMORPGs, Blizzard Entertainment is expanding its Warcraft universe into an online collectible card game.
In Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, players will build decks of virtual cards to compete, in the vein of Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! or the Pokemon trading card game.
The game is currently in close beta for PC and Mac, with an open beta set to be released in December.
A version for iOS and Android is scheduled for the second half of 2014.
The game operates on a freemium model. Players can earn booster packs of new cards by playing the game, or they can buy new cards with real money.
Hearthstone Lead Designer Eric Dodds said the game is designed to remove of the barriers of entry CCGs have and appeal to a wider audience.
Dodds has a good point. Magic is fairly complicated to learn and the volume of cards available for it can make deck building kind of daunting, especially for people who do not have a more experienced player to help them.
The idea of a simpler, more new-player-friendly CCG is positive for players wanting to check out the genre and for CCG industry. Playing Hearthstone might be some fans’ first step to getting into one of the game’s more complex offline counterparts.
The bigger question is whether the freemium plan will work for the game.
My inclination is to say it will. After all, it’s worked for games without the kind of pre-existing fanbase that Warcraft has, and that kind of real-world branding goes a long way in strengthening the life cycle of a game.
Perhaps more importantly, paid content has proved viable for video games for several years. Game developers have made enough downloadable content to expand on PC, Mac, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 games that DLC has become ubiquitous in the video game market.
And that content was for games people had to buy.
For a free-to-play game, paid content is even more inviting because the initial cost of the game is eliminated.
The financial restrictions within the game may be somewhat limiting too. There are no plans for Hearthstone to allow players to trade cards, and I would guess, then, that buying and selling cards between players is off the table as well.
For some players, these limits will make Hearthstone a less attractive CCG option than its tabletop counterparts, where players can trade, buy, and sell cards for $27,000 on eBay as they please.
Nevertheless, the game should be a good starting point for new CCG fans, and it can always be developing and expanding.
Alternative comics publisher Fantagraphics Books is on pace for a highly successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a run of its books, set for release from April to August 2014.
The campaign reached its $150,000 funding goal in one week and has currently raised more than $168,000 with 19 days remaining.
Fantagraphics experienced financial troubles after the death of Editor and Co-Publisher Kim Thompson. According to the company’s Kickstarter page, 13 books Thompson was editing at the time of his death had to be postponed or canceled, causing the company to lose income from the revenue these books would have brought.
Founded in 1976 by Gary Groth and Mike Catron, Fantagraphics has made a name for itself as a publisher of bold and innovative comics of the cartoonist tradition.
It has published the work of iconic cartoonists of the last 30 years, such as Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, as well as historically important works like The Complete Peanuts. Fantagraphics also publishes The Comics Journal, a periodical dedicated to in-depth criticism of comics as literature.
With the success of the campaign, it is clear that there is a substantial fanbase for the company’s niche. Though I primarily read comics from the major publishers and big independents, I’m very happy Fantagraphics is around, because I want that kind of variety in the comics industry.
I’m also happy to see Fantagraphics offer quality rewards for its backer levels. It is common for books coming from publishing projects to cost more at the Kickstarter level than they will when released, but “markup” (for lack of a better term) here is reasonable. An extra $10 or so for a signed copy of a forthcoming book is an attractive reward for potential backers.
Fantagraphics’s campaign is different from most projects, in that it is funding a full “season” of 39 books rather than one project.
This difference from Kickstarter norms has led some to question whether the campaign is in the spirit of the platform.
San Francisco comic book retailer and Comic Book Resources columnist Brian Hibbs expressed concern over Fantagraphics’s pragmatism in conducting business.
“This is at least the third, and maybe the fourth, time that FBI has come to the market, hat-in-hand, needing a cash infusion to continue publishing,” Hibbs said. “This is a bad habit, and one that I very much want FBI (and almost all of their contemporaries) to avoid going forward.”
Despite his reservations, Hibbs also said he pledged $25 to the project.
Matt D. Wilson of Comics Alliance posed the question of whether Fantagraphics is setting a precedent for other publishers in financial trouble.
Wilson points out the criticism leveled at past campaigns that were designed to fund “an ongoing, successful concern,” such as Penny Arcade’s campaign to make its site ad-free.
Though Wilson wonders whether the campaign would be seen as appropriate if the immediate financial trouble weren’t so apparent, he concludes that because Fantagraphics is “more interested in the intrinsic value of art than profit,” its Kickstarter use is in the right spirit.
The argument that the validity of Kickstarter projects is ultimately up to the audience probably seems like a cop-out, but in this case, it applies.
Concerns over whether it is proper for a for-profit company to ask for money to continue operation are legitimate (the comments on this article from Robot 6 made some interesting points), but if people want to back companies that use Kickstarter this way, should they be prohibited from doing so?
The very concept of Kickstarter is based on audience participation, so shouldn’t the audience be the people who decide whether a campaign is worthwhile?
Driven by a dedicated fanbase, superhero-based MMORPG City of Titans finished its Kickstarter campaign this week with about $678,000—more than twice its funding goal.
Developer Missing Worlds Media is a group of fans of City of Heroes, the first MMORPG to feature a superhero setting and characters, who wanted to fill the void in the genre after City of Heroes shut down in late 2012 with the closing of its developer, Paragon Studios.
For the eight-and-a-half years of its existence, City of Heroes had an enthusiastic fan following (as evidenced by this account of its final night) and persisted in a genre where many games struggle to maintain an audience.
City of Titans was conceived as a spiritual successor to City of Heroes, but the developers stress that it is a not a clone of the old favorite.
“We have an opportunity here to build a modern game, respectful of the play style, lessons, and fun of the old game, while taking advantage of the more than ten years of industry development since our spiritual predecessor started development,” said the project creators on their Kickstarter page.
Missing Worlds Media is staffed entirely by volunteers, with more than 100 people working on the game.
City of Titans is slated for release in November 2015. The plan is for the game to be sold through its website and other digital distribution platforms such as Steam. It will be free to play but will include “VIP” subscriptions with premium features.
The concept of a community-driven game is the kind of utopian idea Kickstarter champions. Though it does tend to have a store-like quality about its projects, Kickstarter wants to promote feelings of community between creators and backers.
I generally do not feel like Kickstarter facilitates all that much of a participatory culture between parties (did people feel like they were creating Cards Against Humanity, or did they just want a good deal on a cool-sounding game?), but fan influence on City of Titans seems exceptional.
An online multiplayer game made by a fan community of people each contributing their skills to an interactive whole? Henry Jenkins would lose sleep from all the excitement.
The game has its detractors, too, and they raise some compelling points (as seen in the comments sections of Polygon and Joystiq).
Some wonder if the creators, having limited experience with the developer side of video games, will be able to create new in-game content at the same rate people play through it. Another concern is that operating costs will prohibit the game from being around very long.
How the game’s development plays out remains to be seen, but Missing Worlds Media appears to have thought things out well—its Kickstarter page features an extensive review of its budget and staff.
Also at issue is where the money will go if the game makes profits. Will the money be distributed to all the volunteers who work on the game? Will the game be able to sustain a volunteer-only means of operation?
If I were playing City of Titans, I would not be too concerned about the volunteer system. I doubt the game will make profits; it seems more likely that any money made beyond covering expenses would be used for more in-game content. And if some volunteers did not want to work on the game anymore, there is a fanbase in which to find new ones.
What do you think? Will a for-fans-by-fans game work?
For the third time in 14 months, tabletop game company Cheapass Games has turned its “try it for free” business model into a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Cheapass Games (not to be confused with Cheap Ass Gamer, an online bulletin board for video game deals) is currently running a campaign for GetLucky, a card game version of its 1996 board game, Kill Dr. Lucky.
As with its first two campaigns, Unexploded Cow and Deadwood Studios USA, the company is proving proficient at crowdfunding; the Get Lucky campaign has more than doubled its funding goal with 18 days still remaining.
The company originally formed in 1996 and released around 100 games through 2006. To produce and sell games at low prices, it printed only the essential, unique elements of its games, knowing that many players already had things like dice, pawns and play money or could buy them for little money.
After a hiatus, the company reopened in 2011 with a new way of doing business—posting free, downloadable PDFs of its games on its website that players can print and assemble on their own.
The games vary in how difficult they are to assemble. Its most basic games require only PDFs (the instructions say players can go without printing them by putting the PDFs on their mobile devices), while more complex games require players to make cards and/or boards with the tools provided.
Players can donate to the site via PayPal. It even suggests the amount a player should give based on his or her enjoyment of a game and their job (as an estimate of their income).
President and game designer James Ernest has also created YouTube videos instructing players on how to play the company’s games and other tips for assembling the games at home.
In August 2012, Cheapass Games started using Kickstarter to produce “deluxe” (printed in full color and packaged with all necessary pieces) versions of its games.
A significant portion of Cheapass Games’s success is likely due to the generous nature of its business model. Essentially, the company offers its potential customers a trial version of its games, so they may become interested in supporting it with a donation or buying a deluxe version.
The difference between Cheapass Games and most companies is that its trial versions can be enjoyed just the same as their paid counterparts, in contrast to more common models like having a limited free version of a mobile game with a handful of levels.
By giving away the “cheap” editions of its games, the company becomes a brand that gamers genuinely like; not just one that makes products they like.
This sense of personal support and community is a large part of what drives Kickstarter; so naturally, the company has found repeated success through crowdfunding.
Influential punk band Stiff Little Fingers has turned to an emerging music-funding platform to release their first album in a decade.
The Irish band is using PledgeMusic as a platform to offer fans pre-orders of the album, which is slated for an early 2014 release, along with items and experiences exclusive to PledgeMusic, ranging from a signed copy of the album to the opportunity to perform the band’s debut 1979 single “Suspect Device” with them at a concert.
These Kickstarter-esque rewards are featured on all PledgeMusic projects. PledgeMusic is also like Kickstarter in that it gives supporters of the projects (appropriately called “pledgers”) the chance to follow an album’s production more closely through updates from the artists.
However, the site has several differences from Kickstarter that could have greater benefits for artists and fans.
It only hosts music projects, so artists do not have to worry about their campaigns being lost in the shuffle of Kickstarter’s many projects.
Because PledgeMusic makes projects more visible, viewers can more easily come across projects they might want to support by browsing.
For a relatively obscure band like Stiff Little Fingers, the ease of browsing could be a notable benefit.
Though an important part of the early UK punk scene, the band was not as popular or iconic as contemporaries like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. So while people like me, who read punk newswebsites regularly, are familiar with their music and influence on later bands, more casual punk fans may be discovering the group for the first time on PledgeMusic.
PledgeMusic also allows many more genre tags than Kickstarter, so users can search specifically for “punk rock,” which is not among the genres listed on Kickstarter.
The sites allows artists to set their campaigns up as “direct-to-fan,” which is like a standard crowdfunding campaign, and “preorder,” which is more like a traditional commercial transaction.
Preorder campaigns are for artists who have already been completed an album but want to use the site as a way to market it and offer exclusives to fans. Preorder campaigns can accept pledges up until the release date of the album, while direct-to-fan campaigns have a 90-day limit.
Fans might appreciate the clearly stated difference between project types. It’s always possible that people could dubiously use crowdfunding platforms to sell products that might already be complete, so simply classifying the campaigns differently gives pledgers a degree of transparency.
I don’t think many creators are going to default on their Kickstarter projects, but the fact that PledgeMusic takes more responsibility if one does is a little more reassuring than Kickstarter’s policy.
For all PledgeMusic’s benefits, Kickstarter has two important advantages over it.
First, Kickstarter takes only 5 percent of its projects funds, while PledgeMusic takes 15 percent. For bands with less money or smaller funding goals, Kickstarter may be a better option because it allows them to keep more of the funds necessary for completing their recordings.
Second, Kickstarter is a bigger brand name in crowdfunding, so its greater site traffic could bring more people to its projects than PledgeMusic.
As the site grows, its benefits could attract more artists away from Kickstarter, increasing its prominence and strengthening its brand to a point where the title of “best funding site for musicians” is up for grabs.
Examining Strategic Communications and Online Business Models