Step right up, step right up! The Crowdfunding Carnival is continuing for March, and we’ve got a doozy of a month to look at. In the wake of Zine Month, where are all those dollars going? And how was Zine Month, anyway? Seamus hit the games but I’ll be hitting the numbers, comparing Zine Month with ZineQuests of years past and seeing if we can’t draw a few conclusions.
Like last month, the quantitative part of the Crowdfunding Carnival comes from a start-of-month snapshot done the Monday before the article goes live. While this can’t capture every campaign that goes down over the timeframe, it at least gives us an idea of where the funding needles are pointing for Kickstarter, Gamefound, and Indiegogo. And for March, the needles are pointing up. There is about $400,000 more funding in play at the start of March than there was at the start of February, and over twice as many projects. And while this snapshot doesn’t give us a whole story, both Zine Month and some general pickup coming out of the post-holiday slump can share the credit for this uplift.
There is an OId-School Elephant in the room, however. Exalted Funeral’s Old-School Essentials reprint/glowup isn’t included in my totals, because it’s not a new game. But, at over $600,000 funded with 23 days still left to go, the OSE Box Set could likely beat all of Zine Month in total, much in the same way that the campaign for The One Ring did ZineQuest 3. In fact, the OSE box set is currently beating every original game listed on all three of the crowdfunding sites in the carnival put together. This is clearly a coup for Exalted Funeral and the OSR in general, but once again the campaign is so successful and running so far ahead of literally everything else on the crowdfunding market that it becomes difficult to claim that there is a rising tide lifting any other boats (although it’s equally difficult to claim that the whale campaigns hurt anyone either).
So what about Zine Month? Well, it’s not over quite yet, but here at the beginning of March we’re looking at roughly $750,000 in funding from the project. That is coming in at less than half of the total from last year’s ZineQuest, which broke $1.6 million, but there’s another more interesting comparison to make. The first Zine Month broke $750,000, while the first Zine Quest, back in 2019, had a sales volume of roughly $430,000, according to Kickstarter. As the first Zine Month has handily beaten the first Zine Quest, odds are good at the quantitative level for there being at least a second.
The issue with Zine Month, really, is that it isn’t positioned to deliver any promises on the implied goal of moving away from Kickstarter. Roughly 85% of Zine Month revenue was earned on Kickstarter, pushing the event far below competitive sustainability with ZineQuest 4 if Kickstarter were taken out of the picture. Worse, Zine Month analytics paint a picture that, at this time, Kickstarter is simply better for creators from a financial perspective. Kickstarter projects typically earned four times as much compared to their funding goals as the other platforms, meaning that even if ZiMo 2 got the same number of projects it would likely shrink to between a quarter and a third of its size. Ironically, Zine Month’s push to include other crowdfunding platforms provided the data that shows just how much better Kickstarter works than all of its competitors at the moment. The real interesting data point for the competing Zine expositions will be Zine Quest 4 in August…if Zine Quest still shows growth after the date change, ZiMo will be relegated to second fiddle if it continues at all. Given the vagaries of discourse, the likelihood that no one’s really talking about blockchain by August is high; it’s what’s happened with every other Kickstarter controversy so far.
For the sample of complete games at the start of March, Kickstarter’s revenue bump is less significant, but the Kickstarter projects in the roundup are still beating their peers on earnings by roughly two to one. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from this, though, because as ZiMo comes to a close, Kickstarter represents 97% of all live projects in the analysis, indicating a shift back to the sort of dominance we came to expect before Kickstarter shot itself in the foot with its blockchain announcement. Kickstarter’s marketing choices notwithstanding, there are a number of neat campaigns out there right now that deserve some attention.
You’ve heard of the concept of liminal spaces, right? Liminal spaces are transitional spaces, areas which mark a separation between two things. Recently, the concept of liminal spaces as a concrete thing has been a bit of a trend, empty malls and back hallways of grocery stores and the like. LIMINAL_ takes that idea further, using the notion of liminal spaces as the basis for a mapmaking RPG. Although there’s no combat, the game sets the characters against Entities which inhabit the liminal space that they’re stuck in, and only through close mapping can the characters hope to escape. This is a neat if zeitgeisty idea, and I’m always up for seeing more mapmaking games; my hope is that LIMINAL_ rises to the heights of peers like The Quiet Year and Beak, Feather, and Bone. C$10 (~$8) gets you a PDF.
Speaking of zeitgeist, how about that Mork Borg? The Swedish RPG of impending doom, violence, and low readability has been a breakout hit, and has inspired hacks and supplements from all over the place. Now, Honey Heist designer Grant Howitt has cast his hat into the ring, along with ROLLINKUNZ, a designer known for such things as ‘Goblinfinite’ and ‘The Dungenerator’. Orc Borg casts your players as orcs on a hulk of a spaceship heading towards its doom, although maybe not fast enough. The vibe of Orc Borg seems to be taking the original game and mashing it against underground comix while looking straight at the camera every time something ridiculous happens. Think of a game of Dark Heresy except every character is an Ork weirdboy, except for the one guy desperately babbling about canon as you steer the ship directly into a sun. My brain is having difficulty figuring out if this game has exactly the same vibe as Mork Borg or a completely different one, and I think that’s part of the genius. £8 (~$11) gets you a PDF, but act fast: this campaign ends March 3rd, the day after this article goes live.
There’s no doubt that ZiMo is driving the campaign count of this month, but the money is going to a different set of heavy hitters. Green Ronin is campaigning Cthulhu Awakens to some success, and a second edition of Silver Age Sentinels is being campaigned under the name ‘Absolute Power’, possibly to distract you from the ignominy associated with Silver Age Sentinels, Guardians of Order, and the person running the campaign. There is a second edition of Fragged Empire, a game too new to fall under my 15-year rule for edition updates, and Overisles, a game built around sign language which is heavily based on its predecessor Inspirisles, which I covered when it was campaigned a couple years back. If you want to follow the money it’s in remakes and add-ons, which I think is a perfectly apt (if depressing) takeaway from this, the month of OSE’s great reprint.
The Crowdfunding Carnival continues, even if I feel more like a Kickstarter Wonk than a carnival barker here at the beginning of March. Nonetheless, there are more games, analysis, and trends to follow as we see more crowdfunded games pop up through the rest of 2022. Have any thoughts about the new format? Anything you want to see? Let us know! For now, though, enjoy the carnival, and we’ll see you next month!
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