Marcin Świerkot, founder of the upstart crowdfunding platform Gamefound, set an ambitious goal for his company in 2022. He and his team hoped to bring in $67.5 million — 25% of competitor Kickstarter’s revenue from tabletop projects in 2021. In the end, he fell well short of that goal. The Poland-based Gamefound increased its revenue more than 45% last year, earning just $28.3 million for new projects.
Set against Kickstarter’s own $33 million decline in the tabletop category over the same period, it’s clear that, despite not reaching its financial goal, his team is quickly gaining on the Brooklyn-based crowdfunding giant. But growing pains are suddenly the least of its problems.
Gamefound exited beta in early 2022, going from a peak of four campaigns each month to more than 30 almost overnight. That exponential growth in the live platform led to some disruption for new customers. Several companies, speaking with Polygon on background, complained throughout last year that the service and attention their campaigns received was not what they expected. In response, the company grew even faster — in part by taking on significant investment from 139-year-old board game publisher Ravensburger (Disney Lorcana). But the maneuver still wasn’t fast enough to satisfy all of the creators that flooded his platform — especially after Kickstarter’s very public meltdown over a proposed transition to blockchain technology.
“I don’t want to make any excuses,” Świerkot told Polygon in an interview. “What I want to make is just [a] better platform. [...] What I would say to those creators [is that] I want to hear [the] negative things. If you experienced that, let me know. Then we can fix it.”
Customer service issues aside, Gamefound was also blindsided mid-year by news that San Francisco-based Backerkit was also getting into the tabletop crowdfunding business. Several of the space’s biggest creators — including Gloomhaven and Frosthaven publisher Cephalofair Games — fled to that platform instead of his.
“If those campaigns would be at Gamefound we would definitely be closer to the number,” he said. “Which, you know, it’s fine... ish.”
Polygon reached out to Backerkit, asking if it would share its own data for 2022. The organization declined, citing the fact that it is still in its beta phase of development. Regardless of Backerkit’s success, Świerkot thinks he may have underestimated consumers’ loyalty to Kickstarter, which has raised some $2 billion for tabletop games to date.
“Kickstarter still has a super-strong brand,” Świerkot said. “There’s the old saying, you know: ‘The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.’”
The devil was in the details for creators in 2022, unfortunately, with many being forced to raise additional money well after their initial campaigns were funded to cover the increased cost of global logistics. Świerkot said that Gamefound is doing what it can to buoy backer trust on his platform, including with its new Stable Pledge program.
Going forward, Świerkot has adjusted his goals for 2023 — $50 million in backers’ crowdfunding dollars by the end of the year. But macroeconomic headwinds are increasing. That’s clear, he said, based on the subpar performance of some high-profile campaigns in 2022. In addition to Wyrmwood’s and Hasbro’s own enormous crowdfunding failures, even surefire licenses like Elden Ring, The Last of Us, and Slay the Spire underperformed, in his opinion. So too did the campaigns of his own publishing company, Awaken Realms.
Most-funded campaigns on Gamefound in 2022
|Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin||Awaken Realms||$4,421,347|
|Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition||Awaken Realms||€2,938,758|
|Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies||Red Raven Games||$2,081,703|
|Sunnygeeks 1.5 - Modular Gaming Table||Rathskellers||€1,639,341|
|Ravaged Star: Armies of the Veil-Touched||MiniWarGaming||$1,102,132|
|KeyForge: Winds of Exchange||Ghost Galaxy||$1,101,183|
|Dungeons & Lasers: Encounters||Archon Studio||€938,987|
|Tamashii: Chronicle of Ascend||Awaken Realms Lite||€764,338|
|The Great Wall Reprint||Awaken Realms||£532,858|
|Total War: Rome: The Board Game||PSC Games||$721,817|
|Uprising: Titans of the First Age||NemesisGames||$659,170|
|Master Dater||Cyanide & Happiness||$640,227|
|Destinies: Witchwood (Expansion & Reprint)||Lucky Duck Games||$609,555|
|Last Light||Grey Fox Games||$508,607|
|51st State: Ultimate Edition||Portal Games||$506,106|
“This year we had [the] Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin campaign. The first campaign did $6 million on Kickstarter back in 2019. And now we had the follow-up campaign, which usually do better. [...] But this one did $4.5 million.”
So what can Świerkot do to reach Gamefound’s aggressive goal of nearly 50% growth in 2023? In addition to a focus on day-to-day creator and backer service issues, he says his team will also be adding additional features throughout the coming year — features like the popular installment option that allows backers to contribute to projects over time. But the larger forces of the global economy remain outside of everyone’s control.
“The economy, realistically, we have nothing to do [about it],” Świerkot said. “We cannot guarantee whatever will happen [with] inflation. [We have absolutely] no influence [there].”
Update: We have adjusted our article with additional details on Gamefound’s plans in 2023.