Data Analysis: How does category influence Kickstarter project success?

“Wasteland 2” from InXile Entertainment made $2.9 million in Kickstarter contributions, but are games generally more likely to be funded than other projects? Image from incgamers.

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.

The games category has made the most money. Technology and film & video projects tend to be featured most prominently in the news (as far as Kickstarter campaigns go, anyway). Music on crowdfunding is popular enough to have its own site.

Does the prominence of these categories lead them to have more visibility in the Kickstarter world? Are fanbases stronger for these categories?

In September, Crowdfund Insider compiled a list of the top 50 campaigns that made the most money in pledges and grouped them into categories.

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.

Kickstarter Chart 1

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.

Kickstarter Chart 2

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.

Crowdlifted looked at Kickstarter’s statistics to determine the top five categories with the highest total numbers of projects (successful and unsuccessful). From most projects to fewest, the categories were film & video, music, publishing, art, and games.

Despite the prominence of Kickstarter in those communities, the greatest chances for successfully funding a Kickstarter project lie elsewhere.

SFGate compiled a list of every Kickstarter category’s percentage of projects that are successfully funded, as well as other statistics. The chart below shows each category’s success rate.

Kickstarter Chart 3

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.


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