Some personal Kickstarter stats

by Darius Kazemi on August 7, 2012

in kickstarter

I decided to look at my “backer history” on Kickstarter to get a sense of how much I spend on Kickstarter and how much I get out of it.

I have funded a total of 21 projects that have been successful in their fundraising. Of these, 4 were funded in the last 6 months and I’m not considering them for this blog post, since they haven’t had enough time to fulfill their backer promises.

I have spent $922 on the remaining 17 projects funded between October 2010 and January 2012. Of these 17 projects, only 7 of them (41%) have given me the reward I signed up for. Adding up what I spent on the 7 individual projects, it looks like $450 (49%) of my money actually got me the thing that I wanted.

Some fun notes:

  • One of the projects that was successfully funded offered to put my name on their website as a donor in exchange for my $10. I assumed that my name was up there until I looked today and… nope, nothing.
  • Two of the projects that did not send me a reward were projects that I spent $100 on.
  • While I backed a lot of games, I expect games to take a lot longer to ship than the sunny initial estimates of “it’ll be done by the end of the year!” My problem is when my reward is supposed to be something like a poster, and it’s been a year, and I still have no poster.
  • In one case I was promised some stickers for my $20 donation. That was 18 months ago.
  • (Edited to add): Of the game projects that I backed where the reward was a copy of the game (or access to beta builds), roughly 75% of them delivered. I attribute this to the fact that I only ask for a copy of the game when the devs are experienced and I’m reasonably sure they’ll deliver.

I’ve drastically slowed down my Kickstarter funding in 2012 as a result of feeling vaguely like a sucker for backing projects. I’m not suggesting that the people who run these projects are malicious, but rather that they bite off WAY more than they can chew by underestimating how much work it is to both do your project and appease your backers. Even in the case of the project that didn’t put my name (or any names) on their site, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are very busy running the (ongoing) project, and hey, I helped them make it happen, hooray.

Still, I think this is anecdotal proof that Ian Bogost might be right: Kickstarter is just reality TV for people who like to feel they contribute to culture.

Edited to add: 

What this means to me is that I’m only going to fund Kickstarter projects based on what I would give them were there no rewards to begin with. I will read the project page and decide on how much money I want to give before even looking at the reward list.

So I’m going to keep giving money, but probably less money than before, and probably to fewer projects.


Bryant August 7, 2012 at 10:58 am

I went through that exercise last fall and got about the same results; most of my kickstarters were pen and paper RPGs. Since then one of the failures sent me my money back, which was nice. The percentage was still pretty poor.

The ones I’ve funded since then have been more professional; there are more real companies using Kickstarter in that space now and I’m spending less money on the interesting amateurs. So that’s helped.

John Perich August 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

(arrived via kfan)

I’ve been pretty lucky with Kickstarters coming through, but I tend to only invest when the fundraiser has a lot of rep to begin with.

There’s probably some interesting study to be done on the slickness of the pitch video vs. the success rate. If there’s a correlation – or even if there’s NO correlation – that’d be noteworthy.

Wolfos August 7, 2012 at 11:31 am

I have funded 7 successful projects, 2 of which aren’t finished with their Kickstarters yet so let’s look at the remaining 5.
1 delivered.
1 is doing an engine rewrite (suckers) so I have little faith in them.
2 have delivered a beta and will definitely deliver soon.
The other one isn’t quite done yet.

So out of 4 Kickstarters, 75% is very likely to deliver soon or has already done so.

My point is that there are just certain things you’ll have to look for. A game has no gameplay trailer or is asking for far too little money with no explanation as to where they’re going to get the rest? Then it probably won’t be finished. Look at the developer’s track record, playable demos are a safe bet as well.

Finishing projects is a skill. If we’d view a Kickstarter page as a project, and it’s unfinished or looking seriously unprofessional, the project isn’t very likely to finish either.

Note that this doesn’t go for professional scammers.

Darius Kazemi August 7, 2012 at 11:45 am

Right but in no cases did I back a project by preordering a game. I’m a game developer, and a cynical one. I am good at sniffing out vaporware. In the cases where something might be vaporware, I don’t ask for a copy of the game, but rather some stickers or a poster or something that can be completed on a reasonable timeline.

Of the games that I backed where the reward was a copy of the game (or access to beta builds), roughly 75% of them delivered. I attribute this to the fact that I only ask for a copy of the game when the devs are experienced and I’m reasonably sure they’ll deliver.

Dan Schmidt August 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

My stats through the
end of 2011:
Donated to 11 projects, all got funded. got rewards from 8 of the 11 (that’s $710 out of $1040).
The 3 that haven’t produced rewards are two video games and a graphic novel. They are all continuing to give occasional updates, and one of them is a personal friend whose integrity I trust, so I’m confident that the fraction will go up eventually.
Looking at the stats, my most successful genre is music (6 rewards out of 6), least successful is video games (0 out of 2).

Matthew Fabb August 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I’ve sponsored 17 projects and have gotten the rewards on 9 of them and the other remaining projects seem to be on their way to producing the end product on schedule based on project updates they have been giving. Any one of the projects I supported could still fall off track, but I would be surprised if I don’t get 100% of the rewards for the projects I backed.

A large number of the projects were art books or graphic novels, 2 CD’s, 1 video game & a couple of things hard to categorize (like Locus digitizing a massive collection of classic sci-fi & fantasy author’s photos, letters, manuscripts, etc.). Most cases they were from people who I already followed their work and had produced things in the past. A minority were from people I hadn’t heard of before, but I could still look them up and see what they had produced in the past. Giving your money to Kickstarter is a bit of a risk, so you should take a small amount of time to find out about those who behind these projects.

Darius Kazemi August 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

One of the $100 projects that did not give me a reward is a very, very highly regarded project that has been extremely successful. They just… didn’t send me the stuff the promised. It’s not like I’m backing shady projects here. Another project was a highly successful movie where I was promised a DVD and instead got a digital download. It might seem like nitpicking but — I wanted a DVD, you know?

Jon W August 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm

When I’ve been thinking about it, I think there only needs to be three levels:

$10 — hey, get people to donate! Yay!

$100 — you get a T=shirt! (outsource this to cafepress for very little effort)

$1000 — you get a finished widget, and a 3d-printed glass casting of some concept art, and undying gratitude. If you send me a thousands bucks, I can probably actually muster the effort to actually deliver something; there’s not the risk I’ll have to stuff my garage full of shipping containers just to be able to send out all the thank-you gifts.

Also, the gift needs to be substantially cheaper to fulfill (cafepress, etc) than what you get, or you’re really just a value-added T-shirt re-seller. If that’s what you want to do, there are better forums than Kickstarter ;-)

Eve Littlepage October 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I have backed two successful projects (under my real name, but they don’t show under Eve Littlepage, my pen name). Both projects fulfilled rewards in a very reasonable amount of time. One was to publish a book – Universal Heartbeat, and I received my signed copy. The other, for seed money to put together funding proposals for major motion picture (The Fifth Sacred Thing, based on the novel by Starhawk). Received my sticker & poster. So I’m at 100% rewards fulfillment so far :-)
Thanks everyone for your posts! I currently have a Kickstarter of my own, and the last thing I’d want to do is fudge on my rewards if I’m fortunate enough to get funded! – Eve

Jetdillo December 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

So, since in another post you were giving out tips for playing FTL, I’m wondering what convinced you to back them ? What do you think about “Elite:Dangerous” ?

Here are my Kickstarter stats so far:
Media/Game/Art: 2 – All Delivered
Hardware: 3 – 1 delivered, 1 in-progress, 1 failure(No device after 23 months)
Food: 1 – delivered w/ 2 month delay
Event: 2 – Delivered/accomplished

Darius Kazemi December 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I actually did not back their Kickstarter! I just bought the game when it came out.

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