Is Kickstarter actually good for games? We ran the stats on that

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Posted on September 16, 2015 by Editor - Technology News
You can’t pretend that Kickstarter hasn’t had an immensely disruptive effect on the world of video games. Since the crowdfunding site launched in 2009, thousands of games have been funded on it, with many making millions of dollars — but are those games actually good? We decided to run the stats on that.
We examined the top 50 funded projects in the Games category to see how they did — or if they were even released at all. This includes both video games as well as board and card games. We didn’t include hardware in this list. If we had, you’d see the Oculus Rift (very successful, despite no retail release yet) and the Ouya (not so successful after Kickstarter). Miniature figures that didn’t come with a set of game rules were also removed from contention. We’re also not categorizing games in early access as “released,” because that’s early access doesn’t mean released, nor is a guarantee of anything.
Review scores were aggregated from Metacritic for video games and BoardGameGeek for card and board games. 1. Exploding Kittens
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 6.1
The most successful games project in Kickstarter history, from the creators of The Oatmeal and several well-received alternate reality games. It’s a fairly simple card game where players try to avoid drawing the “kitten” and being eliminated. It’s kind of like Uno. The creators actually said that their immense overfunding made it unlikely that they would turn a profit on the game and had to print a million decks to start off with at about $5 a pop. Critical reception was generally positive, but not glowing. 2. Shenmue 3
Total pledges: $6,333,295
Delivered: No
The most successful video game project on the list, the long-awaited sequel to Yu Suzuki’s Dreamcast magnum opus, isn’t going to be completely funded by the six million bucks that Kickstarter backers dropped on it. The rest of the money is coming from Sony, which some took as an insult to the backer-funded model. The gameplay of the first two titles seems pretty dated today, and it’s anybody’s guess whether nostalgia for the Dreamcast days will be enough for Suzuki and his team to make a good game. We’ll find out in December of 2017, assuming it doesn’t get hit with delays. 3. Bloodstained
Total pledges: $5,545,991
Delivered: No
You’re going to see a very notable trend in the top half of this list: games from beloved creators of last-generation masterpieces turning to crowdfunding to bring their fans more of the same. Case in point, Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained , which promises all of the exploration and Gothic horror of his legendary Symphony of the Night . Bloodstained is set to release in March of 2017 at the earliest. 4. Torment: Tides of Numenera
Total pledges: $4,188,927
Delivered: No
If you ask hardcore gamers to drop a top 10 of all time on you, chances are good it will include Planescape: Torment . That 1999 game was the Platonic ideal of a Western-style role-playing game, with tons of player choice and a focus on resolving situations through dialogue instead of combat. Tides was pitched as a spiritual successor with many of the original team members involved. Torment is set to drop in December of 2015, and was funded back in March of 2013. 5. Zombicide: Black Plague
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 8.1
The dominant franchise in Kickstarter board games is the Zombicide series from developer Guillotine Games. These cooperative titles show up several times in the top 50 and garner excellent reviews. This 2015 expansion of the franchise transplanted the core gameplay into medieval times with solid results. 6. Pillars of Eternity
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 8.9
One of the most interesting side effects of the crowdfunding economy is the breadth of genres represented. Old-school single-player isometric role-playing games have all but died out in the industry, replaced by the Skyrim paradigm. Pillars of Eternity was billed as a throwback to the classic DD games of the 90s, and delivered an updated take on these solid mechanics. The game was released in March of 2015 to unanimously glowing reviews, with gamers praising the exceptionally rich combat and beautiful artwork. 7. Mighty No. 9
Total pledges: $3,845,170
Delivered: No
Helmed by Keiji Inafune, the man behind the classic Mega Man games, Mighty No. 9 returned him to the genre he made famous with a side-scrolling action adventure. The game was plagued with multiple delays, with developer Comcept returning to Kickstarter two more times to fund voice acting and DLC stages. Inafune’s next game project, Red Ash , shocked observers when it closed without meeting its fundraising goal of $800,000. It probably would have had more luck if Mighty No. 9 ever released. 8. Double Fine Adventure
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 7.6
Tim Schafer was one of the earliest big-name developers to see potential in Kickstarter, and in 2012 he hit the service with a big ask: he wanted to make a graphical adventure like his classic Grim Fandango , and he wanted the fans to pay for it. If they did, he’d give them unprecedented access to the development process, as well as a documentary. The final result was Broken Age , a sci-fi parable starring a pair of teenagers from different worlds looking to change their lives. It was widely praised for sharp writing and gorgeous artwork, though Double Fine mismanaged their Kickstarter funds, and infamously broke the game up in two parts, as well as released the first part on Steam in order to generate more cash to help finish the second part. 9. Conan
Total pledges: $3,327,757
Delivered: No
The board game based on Robert E Howard’s iconic barbarian had a solid pedigree behind it. but Conan’s had some rough times in recent years, with a reboot movie underperforming at the box office and an MMO crashing and burning after a few years. But there was obviously still some demand for the franchise, as a board game from Monolith took home north of three million bucks in January of 2015. The game has been extensively play-tested and it’s coming from a company with lots of experience in the space, so we predict it will do pretty well when it gets released in October. 10. Yooka-Laylee
Total pledges: £2,090,104
Delivered: No
Developers Rare made their biggest mark with their collection-focused 3D platformers, a genre that was brutally run into the ground with dozens of imitators. Well, there’s apparently a demand for them now, as when a bunch of ex-employees crowdfunded for Yooka-Laylee — a return to form with a new cast of cute animal characters — it smashed a number of Kickstarter records. Yooka-Laylee is scheduled for release in October of 2016. 11. Wasteland 2
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 8.1
Before there was Fallout , there was Wasteland . The 1988 PC game was one of the first post-apocalyptic RPGs that really nailed the setting, with players able to use a wide variety of tactics to go through their adventure. Original game producer Brian Fargo bought the rights from Konami in 2003 and started the gears in motion, and the Kickstarter launched in 2012.
The game was developed without too many hitches (in many ways thanks to Fargo keeping the concept in his mind for over a decade), but it was delayed for around six months. The extra polish time was worth it, though, as fans and press alike raved over the game, saying it delivered exactly what they wanted from a next-gen Wasteland . 12. Zombicide: Season 3
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 8.0
The second appearance of the Zombicide franchise on this list shows that developers Guillotine Games have got crowdfunding down to a science. The direct communication they had with backers gave the company insight into exactly what they were willing to pay for in a sequel, and the third installment introduced team-based play and a new style of zombie to the mix. Oh, and they also brought in the option for PvP, which completely changed the way the game was played. Fans gobbled it up like so many brains. 13. Elite: Dangerous
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 8.0
There are some franchises that hook players and never let them go. Elite , the space trading game that made its debut in 1984, is one of those. Over the course of four games, creator David Braben has refined his core concept to a razor point. Players start out in a massive sandbox world with a ship, a little cash and nothing else, and then are freed to amass wealth and power in any way they can. Publishers all over the industry turned down Elite: Dangerous , so when it got funded on Kickstarter and then released to sell over half a million copies they felt pretty stupid. 14. Hiveswap
Total pledges: $2,485,506
Delivered: No
The cult of personality around Andrew Hussie’s webcomic Homestuck is a powerful one, so it’s not surprising that his venture into gaming would haul in the cash. Unfortunately for fans, Hussie’s decision to outsource development to studio The Odd Gentlemen backfired when they assigned development resources from the game to their King’s Quest update. Hussie has taken the project back in-house, and expects to deliver the first installment of the episodic title before the end of 2015. 15. HEX: Shards Of Fate
Total pledges: $2,278,255
Delivered: No
Online trading card games were thought to be a niche market until Blizzard made Hearthstone work, but some of the designers behind the original World of Warcraft TCG beat them to the punch in 2013 with Hex . Combining strategic card battles with a persistent world, the game has been slowly grinding towards completion — it’s in Steam Early Access right now and scheduled to drop in late 2015. Initial previews have been fairly positive, with beta players enjoying the wide range of strategies. Unfortunately, a lawsuit from Wizards of the Coast claiming the game is a Magic: The Gathering ripoff might ruin everything. 16. Zombicide: Season 2
Delivered: Yes
Review Scores: 7.8
It’s even more Zombicide . You’ll notice as this list goes on that each project in the series does better than the one before it. Developers CoolMiniOrNot have had a staggering 18 different campaigns funded on Kickstarter — a staggering success rate. The first one just barely missed the cutoff for this list at $781,000, but every subsequent Zombicide game has topped the ones before it. What can we learn from this? Kickstarter is a powerful platform for an established company that knows its audience and can deliver on their promises. CoolMiniOrNot doesn’t ship late or flake out — they give backers exactly what they pay for, and it pays off.