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Game Kickstarters in 2014 saw more successes, but far less money

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

With the numbers unveiled yesterday by Kickstarter, it's clear that the crowdfunding company, as a whole, had its best year ever. Projects raised over half a billion dollars, at a rate of $1,000 per minute. Games as a category occupied a top slot, ranking fourth for total projects funded and third for total dollars raised.

But it's not all sunshine and puppy dogs for the gaming space on Kickstarter. Many developers, and would-be developers, struggled to gain traction there in 2014. Is Kickstarter still a good investment, dollar-for-dollar, of an indie developer's time? Or were 2014's tales of failure merely anecdotal rumor-mongering?

Polygon reached out to Kickstarter for more detail on its year-end figures. Here's the breakdown.

As it turns out, there were more successfully funded games on Kickstarter than ever before. In fact, more than two out of every five games ever Kickstarted secured their funding last year.

More than 40 percent of games ever funded on Kickstarter were funded last year

"Since Kickstarter launched in April 28, 2009, there have been 4,737 successfully funded games projects," Justin Kazmark, public relations representative for Kickstarter, told Polygon. "42 percent of those were in 2014 alone."

But with so many projects last year, the backer money was spread quite a bit further than it has been in years past.

In 2014 there were 1,979 successfully funded projects in the games category. That's an increase of more than 33 percent over 2013, when 1,481 games were funded, and nearly 117 percent over 2012, when 913 games were funded.

As it turns out, more games funded meant less money went to each project.

In 2013 the games category raked in $105.6 million in backer money, averaging a little over $71,000 per campaign. But in 2014 that average dropped to just over $38,000, based on $76 million in total backer funds. That continues a downward trend — the average games project in 2012 earned more than $81,000.

"One way to read that is fewer big blockbuster projects in 2014 contributed to a smaller overall sum of dollars pledged," Kazmark said. "At the same time, there was a surge in smaller, more diverse productions."

Like butter scraped over too much bread

True, there were fewer comparative blockbusters in the gaming space this year. There was no Double Fine Adventure (funded in 2012), no Wasteland 2 (2012), no Torment: Tides of Numenera (2013) or Mighty No. 9 (2013). The peaks last year were fewer, and overall, each was lower.

Without very fine statistical data it's not really possible to say if the gaming space is doing better or worse in Kickstarter, or even to define what better or worse means. But it is clear that there are more games than ever using it as a way to gain funding, and that they are competing for a pool of money that is, by and large, roughly the same size as it was two years ago.