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Gamasutra's Kickstarter Survey: The Results

August 31, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

The motivation to pledge to Kickstarter projects seems not to hinge on flashy perks, previously published titles, or even social media buzz. It's all about the spoken word, the majority of respondents said in last month's Gamasutra-conducted survey.

While Kickstarter has shared internal data regarding project success rates, the information around who pledges and what motivates their pledges remains ambiguous. This survey sought to disambiguate that information. For two weeks, the survey was publicized chiefly on Twitter, Facebook, Gamasutra, and its sister site IndieGames.

The following is a look at the trends of the majority of respondents. This feature also examines two specific sub-groups: those who average out as Kickstarter "big spenders" and those with certain operating system preferences.

While some flaws were discovered in the course of this unscientific survey, these questions and their answers should help begin a dialogue on an unexplored but crucial element of Kickstarter projects: the crowd that funds them.

The Demographics

Out of 1,445 respondents who completed the survey, the vast majority play games weekly (95 percent) on a Windows machine (87 percent), have played for over 16 years (82 percent), do not work in the game industry (65 percent), are men (91 percent) between the ages of 21-40 (85 percent), do not know someone who created a Kickstarter project (80 percent), but do know someone who supported a project (55 percent).

The gaming platforms respondents own, their fields of employment, and their yearly income are below:

How Respondents Evaluate Projects

The survey first asked respondents to rate how important certain elements were when evaluating a Kickstarter project -- on a four-pronged scale from unnecessary to essential. The only item chosen by a majority as essential (at 62 percent) was having a perk that includes a copy of the game, followed by another 23 percent who felt it was very important.

Possibly debunking some Kickstarter myths, the majority stated a few elements were unnecessary: a game from an established series (at 77 percent), a project with a demo to try before pledging (at 52 percent), and a project from a well-known, published developer (at 42 percent).

The last four polled elements were variably important. An itemized breakdown of the budget was somewhat important to 47 percent and very important to another 25 percent. A project with in-game footage was somewhat important to 36 percent and very important to an additional 33 percent. A video with the developer(s) speaking on camera was somewhat important to 36 percent, with 26 percent saying it was very important. Finally, 40 percent said a project with physical/limited edition perks (shirts, CDs, boxed versions, plushies, etc.) was somewhat important, with another 38 percent actually saying such perks were unnecessary.

With regard to important elements for a project, the data suggests a copy of the game is largely imperative. Those polled seem to take developers at their word, preferring the details behind each project (footage, budgets, and developer commentary) over a history of published games as requisite for pledging.

However, development details alone don't compel people to pledge. The most common reasons why respondents didn't pledge were because the spoken and written text or footage fell flat. Specifically, 65 percent said the text and videos did not convince them that a project was interesting, followed by 48 percent saying the text and videos did not convince them a project would be completed successfully.

Interestingly, 39 percent said the project idea was interesting but they lacked confidence in an unproven developer -- almost as many as those who said it wasn't important that a developer previously shipped titles.

Pricing a game seems as important on Kickstarter as in retail and digital markets. One third said they declined to fund a project because a game was not available at a low enough reward tier. While no specific price was polled, 55 percent of respondents stated the game perk should be less than the final (retail) sale price followed by 36 percent who felt it should at least be the same.

Reinforcing how essential a copy of the game as a perk was, 26 percent declined funding a project because the game itself was not part of rewards. Finally, 29 percent felt rewards were not interesting, suggesting that contributors were looking for something to compel them to invest beyond the project itself.

The above chart illustrates roughly three clusters of perks respondents felt were important beyond a downloadable copy of the game. Rather than tangible or collectible perks, people chose the "behind the scenes/making-of information/documentary" perk as second only to the game itself. This further suggests that respondents value word-of-mouth -- in this case, the developer's experiences while making the game.

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Michael Pianta
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"Interestingly, 39 percent said the project idea was interesting but they lacked confidence in an unproven developer -- almost as many as those who said it wasn't important that a developer previously shipped titles."

I voted this way. That is, I said that it wasn't important for a developer to have previously shipped title and then I said that one reason I wouldn't fund a project was a lack of confidence in an unproven developer. I don't see these as necessarily contradictory - it's all about how you come across in the pitch video. If the pitch video shows really professional looking progress on the game, and the people in the video seem clearly competent, and they can explain why they can do this, and how the money would enable them to complete the game, then the lack of a track record can be over come, but at the same time if you fail to do those things, then even if the game sounds cool I probably won't back it, since I lack confidence that these developers can pull it off.

Similarly, game play videos and demos are more important for unproven developers than for developers with a history. I backed DFA and all I had to go on was Tim Schafer's word, but I wouldn't do that for someone without that history - I would at least need to see game play video.

Matt Hackett
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Good stuff John, thanks for compiling this data. Honestly I think that the biggest barrier to entry in creating a crowd-funding campaign is all the research of best practices it requires. For a small studio like ours, we could be maybe halfway done with the game by the time we got the Kickstarter campaign to where it needed to be.

Curtiss Murphy
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Kickstarter fatigue - it's becoming a 'me-too' phenom. In a few years, maybe Kickstarter will need their own 'kickstarter' :).

Betable Blog
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Wow this data is incredibly insightful. Thanks!

Nick Liow
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Thanks for publishing these survey results!
Crowdfunding is still relatively new, and any info on best practices means a lot.

Wish I had seen these results earlier, I just launched a Games Kickstarter two days ago, and even though it got Staff Picked, it's not gaining as much traction as I'd wished. Knowing the info in this article might have boosted our number of backers. (Here it is if you're curious:

Of course, our Kickstarter project is for a game creator tool that's meant to be freely available online, not a packaged good like most games on Kickstarter. That could have negatively affected us if having "a downloadable copy of the game" is indeed a major factor.

Justin Lynch
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Thanks for doing the survey and publishing the results! There is a lot of awesome information here!

Phil Lemon
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This sort of information is extremely valuable and thanks for compiling it. Next on my whishlist is a survey that records people's changing attitudes to kickstart and how the level of funding is holding up. Is it a fad that is waning or still going strong and growing?

John Polson
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That could be interesting. I asked one question regarding their future interest. As written in the article, overall people felt positively:

"Regarding their interest in future Kickstarter projects, 61 percent feel about the same and 29 percent are more interested than before, suggesting interest overall has not waned for the crowdfunding site."

I didn't get to ask if they were tending to give more or less, though.

Ron Dippold
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Minor nitpick: Can you reverse the X axis on the 0-10 scale bar graphs so the most important things look the most important?

But great info.

Felipe Budinich
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I agree, I did my own research and I based my rewards on those points (tho it seems that we should have switched our documentary and soundtrack tiers: )

Steven Christian
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Not sure how relevant data from 1.5k game devs is?

John Polson
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Of the 1445 that responded, there are roughly 940 that don't work in the industry.... as stated in the majority demographic overview: "do not work in the game industry (65 percent)."

Raymond Grier
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The "Field of Employment" graph seems to contradict the claim that 65 percent don't work in the game industry. And what is the difference between "Other" and "All other responses" ? Can you please comment on this John? Thanks.

John Polson
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Hey Raymond,

There were fifteen categories of employment the survey listed. People who don't work in the game industry may hold the similar titles/positions.

Accounting / Finance
Art / Animation
Business Development / Analyst / Legal
Customer Service / Tech Support
Educator / Instructor
Executive / Management
Game / Level Designer / Creative Director
Human Resources
Producer / Director / Project Manager
Marketing / PR / Communications
Network / System Admin / IT
Programmer / Engineer
QA / Tester

All other responses lumped together the four or five responses that were rather small... Essentially having two "others" is a slight oversight, though.

Corey Cole
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I thought maybe the "Other" category mostly consists of people who are unemployed and maybe shy about admitting it. It corresponds well with the "income $0 - $10K" level, which would be unemployed, students, and part-time contractors... or not-yet-successful indie game developers.

John Polson
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Hey Corey:

RE the Other stat, about half were in the low salary band.

0-$10,000.00 51.9%
$10,001.00-$25,000.00 19.5%
$25,001.00-$50,000.00 18.0%

Steven Christian
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Oh snap. Didn't see that 65% didn't work in the industry. Interesting that they read Gamasutra. Are they all Indie devs, or just really interested in how games are made (maybe future devs in the making..).

Still would be nice to get information from people not so closely linked to the industry. Do these people also support kickstarters to the same level I wonder?

Will Buck
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Great data for new kickstarters to take heed of, awesome work John!

David OConnor
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great and useful analysis, thanks John! ;)