Tabletop Analytics reports that funding for tabletop game projects declined on Kickstarter in 2023. If those numbers are correct, it marks the second consecutive year of decline for the crowdfunding giant in the tabletop category. As a result, the data shows individual tabletop creators earned 30% less on average for their campaigns compared to 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began
Of note is the provenance of this year’s financial data: After sharing its data publicly and with Polygon for nearly a decade, Kickstarter declined to do so this year. “We’re not disclosing specifics around the total dollars raised at this time,” said Nikki Kria, head of communications at the public benefit corporation, in an email. Instead, Polygon sourced data from a third party, Tabletop Analytics, which says it draws from the crowdfunding company’s own publicly facing website. When asked to verify this data, Kickstarter also declined.
In our analysis of Tabletop Analytics’ historical data, we found that it closely matches what Kickstarter has shared publicly in the past. The company says whatever deviations are present are likely the result of currency conversions and/or the start and end dates of some campaigns, which are allowed to straddle the new year.
Tabletop Analytics’ data from 2023 shows that Kickstarter earned $10.2 million less from tabletop projects than it did the year previous, representing a 4.3% decline from the data Kickstarter shared with Polygon in 2022. That’s far less than it declined in 2022, when Kickstarter’s data showed a decrease of $33.6 million, or 12.4%, compared to 2021.
Absent the spike in 2020 and 2021, which Polygon attributes to pandemic lockdowns that kept homebound players focused on their tabletops, the 2023 data from Tabletop Analytics actually shows a significant increase in revenue going to tabletop campaigns on Kickstarter over 2019 — a roughly $50 million surge, representing a 28% increase from before the pandemic. But at the same time, the data shows the average tabletop creator saw their share of that revenue fall sharply when compared to the same period — a decrease of 31%, from $67,350 on average in 2019 to just $45,982 in 2023. That would mean the average creator is making nearly a third less on the average campaign.
Seen from another perspective, Tabletop Analytics’ data shows there were nearly 900 more successful campaigns than in the year previous — a nearly 22% increase over 2022. Tabletop Analytics’ data shows that Kickstarter is hosting many more tabletop campaigns on its platform when compared to 2022, earning markedly less for each one.
While Kickstarter elected not to comment on this data, many of the Kickstarter customers we reached out to did.
“If the data here is accurate, there are so many factors that could contribute to this,” said Adam Poots, creator of Kingdom Death: Monster, the second-most-funded board game in Kickstarter history. “Crowd funding fatigue, multiple crowd funding platforms, people aren’t spending like they were during the first bit of the pandemic, etc. It seems more natural than alarming to me.”
Poots did call out the company’s permissive stance on artificial intelligence as a worrying sign.
“I would love to see Kickstarter slow down and focus on developing more much needed community management tools and draw an extreme hard line against the use of AI generative art in Kickstarter projects,” Poots said. “To me, the trust of its users and potential users is more important than ensuring numbers only go up.”
When Polygon spoke with Kickstarter at this time last year, its messaging emphasized its focus on enabling ever more creatives to find a place on its platform. Those efforts are clearly paying off, with initiatives such as make/100 and its annual Zine Quest leading the way, often with fantastic results. But consumer appetite for crowdfunding in general may be waning.
“More creators are either crowdfunding for the first time or returning to crowdfunding, providing backers with a wealth of choices,” said Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games (Scythe, Wingspan, Apiary, Wyrmspan). “But the total funds backers are willing to pledge [aren’t] increasing. There’s a lot more competition for each backer’s attention. I think this is important data for creators to have as they plan for different funding scenarios, particularly for budgeting sunk-cost expenses like art, graphic design, and advertising and for estimating manufacturing minimum order quantities (if the output is some form of mass production).”
Suzanne Sheldon from Restoration Games (Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, Unmatched) notes that this tremendous growth in the tabletop space on Kickstarter has expanded the category in recent years to include things like tiny tabletop role-playing game adventures, 3D print files, furniture, and more. That diversity, she said, may require more granularity to attract and inform potential backers.
“I’d love to see Kickstarter, in particular, sub-divide the tabletop category on their platform to better showcase niches and be a more meaningful reflection of the industry and to help creators and backers with discoverability,” Sheldon said. “After all, the category is a leading segment for their service and I think that warrants detailed care.”
Communication with Kickstarter remains top of mind for many of the creators that Polygon spoke with for this article. Connor Alexander, creator of Indigenous TTRPG Coyote & Crow, was indicative of this call for increased transparency.
“I suspect it’s not a complete picture,” Alexander said of Tabletop Analytics’ data. “I’d love to know the number of failed Kickstarters or the number of folks that attempted to fund once and failed, but succeeded with their second attempt. I’m sure there are a ton of other interesting metrics, like growth or shrinkage within each Kickstarter category.
“Just based on conversations with folks in the game community, my suspicion is that this data points to what I see as a broadening of Kickstarter’s overall market,” Alexander added. “Speaking only about boardgames, there used to be a large number of first timers putting out really expensive 4X style titles with miniatures and deluxified experiences or established companies using Kickstarter more as a marketing tool and as a way to gauge wider retail interest. Those obviously still exist. But I think the last five or six years have proven that smaller games, smaller publishers, and a wider range of games and accessories can do just fine on Kickstarter as well. So much of this is speculation on my part. But overall, I see crowdfunding in general as a tool that’s only going to gain breadth and depth in the coming years. In terms of what I see as healthy for the hobby, I’d rather see dozens of publishers raise thirty or forty grand than one publisher raise a million dollars.”
While it did not contribute its top-line financial information for the tabletop category, Kickstarter did make available a list of its most-funded tabletop projects for 2023. Eight out of 10 projects included in the list were from companies that have launched multiple Kickstarter campaigns in the past. In the case of CMON, its two top 10 campaigns were its 54th and 55th, out of a total of 57 campaigns, run on Kickstarter since 2012.
Top 10 most-funded tabletop projects on Kickstarter in 2023
|Marvel United: Multiverse
|Marvel Dice Throne expansions
|The Crooked Moon: Folk Horror in 5E
|Legends of Avantris
|Zombicide: White Death
|Cities Untold: Lowtown - TTRPG Terrain
|Monster Hunter World Iceborne: The Board Game
|Ryoko’s Guide to the Yokai Realms - A 5e Tome
|Aeon Trespass: Odyssey Second Printing Plus All-New Content
|Obojima Tales From The Tall Grass: A 5E Campaign Setting