The board game Frosthaven has become Kickstarter’s “most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game’s development,” reports NPR. “Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site.”
NPR sees a larger trend:
Frosthaven’s success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether. For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential… These makers have become part of one of the country’s most popular quarantine hobbies, but they’ve done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter…
Creators use Kickstarter like a social media site, an advertisement and a fundraising tool all in one, and they use it more successfully than nearly any other game creators on the site. In 2019, fans pledged more than $176 million toward tabletop games — up 6.8% over the previous year, according to Kickstarter data gathered by the entertainment site Polygon. In all, more than 1 million people pledged to games on the site last year… “For the board game community, there’s a culture of looking on Kickstarter … and being more willing to fund things,” said Isaac Childres, the CEO of Cephalofair Games and creator of Forge War, Gloomhaven and Frosthaven. “It’s like a larger avenue for board game creators to use that automatically picks up a following.”
This is what makes Kickstarter so attractive to individual makers and less attractive to other gaming industries — like video game makers. It takes a lot of startup value to create your own video game, for instance, but for board games, you only need a good enough idea and a well-placed Kickstarter page to gauge public interest… [T]here are drawbacks to the funding technique, too. Creators are responsible for everything if their goals are reached. They have to print the games and send them to their customers on their own — a process that can be grueling, time-consuming and even detrimental. One board game creator miscalculated the amount of money it would cost to ship games and lost his house due to the unexpected financial burden.
But, for many creators, the positives outweigh the negatives. Childres said it’s hard to imagine where he might be without crowdfunding. Offering his game Forge War as an example, he said had he “somehow found the money to publish it on my own and get it into stores, I don’t think anyone would have paid attention to it.”
Now, he’s one of the most successful hobbyist tabletop board game creators in the country.