Crowdfunding has revolutionized the way ideas come to life. From tech gadgets to documentaries and music, it has enabled content creators across the globe to bypass traditional routes and directly engage with their audiences for financial backing.
It was also a game-changer for video and board games, allowing for many exciting and ambitious projects that would never otherwise see the light of day. And while Kickstarter has enjoyed a long reign as the undisputed king of crowdfunding, other platforms slowly started popping up with a more focused approach and innovative ideas that work better in specific niches.
One such project was Gamefound, a relatively new crowdfunding platform focused specifically on the board gaming niche. The Gamefound vs. Kickstarter debate has somewhat split the board gaming community in recent years, with many creators and customers migrating to the new ecosystem, though Kickstarter remains a dominant force in the niche.
But, is any of these two platforms truly better, and which one should you use? In this article I will try to give an unbiased overview of both, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each, from both the creator and consumer perspectives. Let’s dig right in.
What is Gamefound?
Like other crowdfunding success stories, Gamefound emerged from the desire to meet a specific need. In this case, that need was having a platform specifically tailored to tabletop gaming enthusiasts, with some unique features that elevate the experience above Kickstarter for both backers and content creators.
Developed by Awaken Realms, a renowned board game publisher with successful titles like Nemesis, Tainted Grail, This War of Mine, and Lords of Hellas, Gamefound initially served as a simple pledge manager. Seeing an opportunity to offer more to the community, the team expanded it into a full-fledged crowdfunding platform in 2020.
Built on the inside knowledge of board game creation and crowdfunding, Gamefound aimed to provide a platform that would offer everything that was seen as lacking on existing crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter. Let’s see how it did, shall we?
Gamefound’s Key Features
As I already mentioned, what sets the Gamefound platform apart from most crowdfunding platforms is its suite of features designed with board game creators and backers in mind. In addition to supporting late pledge functionality, it offers a built-in pledge manager, enabling creators to handle both campaigns and post-campaign logistics on the same platform. This greatly streamlines the process and provides a smoother experience for creators and backers.
The platform also provides both manual and automatic stretch goals, along with in-depth analytics, helping creators understand their audience better and optimize their Gamefound campaigns effectively. You can easily see how your campaign has been doing over a particular period, compare it to other similar projects or your older campaigns, and more.
Funding Model and Fee Structure of Gamefound
The fee structure on the Gamefound website is very simple and, as you’d expect for a project like this, very content creator-friendly. The platform takes 5% out of successful crowdfunding campaign earnings. That said, any crowdfunding project that enters the post-campaign pledge manager phase will have the platform’s commissions waived, although payment processing fees will still apply.
The fees are also waived if a project fails to reach its funding goals, but that also means that the creator won’t receive any of the pledged funds, which are instead returned to the backers.
Transaction fees are a flat 3% + a fixed fee in the project’s currency ($0.20 if USD) and are charged for every transaction, including those used in the pledge manager post-campaign phase. Backers also have access to stretch goals, which creators can unlock manually or set up to activate automatically when reaching certain milestones.
Commercial Success & Notable Board Game Projects on Gamefound
Although a fairly new website, Gamefound has been the platform of choice for several successful board game projects. As you may expect, the site’s owners Awaken Realms paved the way for the platform’s success stories, but there are plenty of notable Gamefound campaign successes from other publishers, too.
Although the site failed to reach its lofty goal of earning $67.5 million in 2022, statistics show that it still managed a respectable $28.3 million, increasing revenue over 2021 by a cool 45%.
“ISS Vanguard” has raised over $12 million so far and Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin currently sits at over $5.8 million on Gamefound, demonstrating the site’s potential for high-profile campaigns.
Other notable examples of successful new projects included “The Elder Scrolls: Betrayal of the Second Era” and “Too Many Bones: Unbreakable” by Chip Theory Games which have, at the moment of writing this article, raised nearly $8 million combined.
It’s also worth mentioning “Sleeping Gods: Distant Skies” by Red Raven Games with over $3.2 million in funding so far, and “Robinson Crusoe – Collector’s Edition” by Portal Games which has passed $2.2 million in funding.
What is Kickstarter?
Kickstarter burst onto the scene in 2009 and quickly became the go-to platform for crowdfunding creative projects. Unlike Gamefound, Kickstarter caters to a broad array of project categories, including music, films, technology, and of course, board games. Its longstanding presence and general-purpose nature have helped it cultivate a large, diverse user base and establish significant brand recognition which allows it to still dominate Gamefound and other similar crowdfunding projects commercially.
Kickstarter’s Key Features
Kickstarter offers a suite of features designed to aid creators in managing and promoting their campaigns. The platform provides comprehensive project management tools, analytics, and promotional resources.
That said, while it did pioneer numerous marketing services and offer creators helpful tools like stretch goals and late pledges, it does not have an integrated pledge manager. This means that creators often have to turn to third-party pledge managers for post-campaign logistics, adding an extra step and potential costs to the process, which is why some have started to prefer Gamefound for their new projects.
Funding Model and Fee Structure of Kickstarter
As with Gamefound, Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing funding model. If a campaign fails to reach its funding goal, all of the pledges are canceled and the project creator won’t receive any of the pledged funds – it will be returned to the backers instead. That said, they are not charged any fees by Kickstarter, either.
For successfully funded projects, Kickstarter and Gamefound both charge a platform fee of 5%, along with payment processing fees. For the latter, Kickstarter uses Stripe, which charges 3% + $0.20 per pledge or 5% + $0.05 per pledge for the so-called micropledges of under $10.
Backers on Kickstarter also have access to additional stretch goals, which can unlock additional content such as bonus miniatures, game expansions, and more.
Commercial Success & Notable Board Game Projects on Kickstarter
Kickstarter is the poster child of crowdfunding success and a platform that boasts unbeatable records in just about any sort of creative crowdfunding endeavor you can imagine. With over $7.2 billion pledged by nearly 22 million backers supporting over 238,000 successfully funded projects, Kickstarter is in a league of its own when it comes to crowdfunding companies.
Regarding our favorite hobby, tabletop gaming raked in $270 million in 2021, although Gamefound has somewhat messed with the platform’s profits in 2022, reducing funding in this category to about $236.4 million. The platform has too many successful titles to list here, but to give you some idea about the scale of things, titles like Frosthaven and Kingdom Death: Monster have earned nearly $13 million each on the platform.
Although weaker compared to 2021, 2022 also saw some incredibly lucrative board gaming projects, with Marvel Zombies – A Zombicide Game being a clear standout with over $9 million raised by nearly 29,000 backers.
Gamefound vs Kickstarter: Key Strengths and Weaknesses
Now that we’ve briefly outlined both Gamefound and Kickstarter, let’s summarize the main strengths and weaknesses of both platforms.
- Focus on the board game community: Gamefound’s specialization in board games offers a tailored experience, making it an appealing choice for creators and backers in the board game niche.
- Creator-friendly features and support: The integrated pledge manager and in-depth analytics, along with lower fees, provide added value to creators, easing the process of managing and promoting their campaigns.
- Flexibility in campaign structure: Gamefound offers creators more control over their campaigns, allowing for greater customization and adaptability.
- Limited exposure beyond the board game community: Gamefound’s focus on the board game community might limit a project’s exposure to a wider audience, potentially affecting the campaign’s success.
- Dependency on project success for platform growth: As a relatively new platform, Gamefound’s growth relies on the success of its projects. This can be a double-edged sword, as the platform may struggle to attract new users if its projects don’t perform well.
- Excellent visibility and exposure to a wider audience: Kickstarter’s large and diverse user base offers board game projects the potential to reach a broader audience, increasing their chances of success.
- Potential for cross-promotion with other project categories: The variety of project categories on Kickstarter opens up possibilities for cross-promotion, helping creators reach new audiences that may not have been accessible on a niche platform.
- Proven track record in crowdfunding success: Kickstarter’s established reputation and proven track record give both backers and creators confidence in the platform’s ability to facilitate successful crowdfunding campaigns.
- Competition with a multitude of other projects: Kickstarter’s diverse project offerings also mean that board game campaigns face stiff competition for attention and funding, making it more challenging to stand out.
- Less personalized support for board game creators: As a general-purpose platform, Kickstarter may not offer the same level of specialized support and resources tailored specifically to board game creators as Gamefound does.
Gamefound vs Kickstarter: A Direct Comparison
Having talked about each platform’s pros and cons individually, let’s pit them against each other more directly. Looking at purely the financial side of the Kickstarter vs Gamefound debate, it’s currently a very one-sided race, though Gamefound has definitely cut into Kickstarter’s profits significantly in recent years.
But there’s more to consider than overall platform profit, so let’s take a closer look at a couple of key categories of interest to both backers and creators and see how these platforms compare directly.
Ease of Use
Both Kickstarter and Gamefound are user-friendly and have simple and intuitive layouts, making them easy to navigate. Gamefound, however, has a more streamlined UI that is tailored specifically for board games and has recently also added comment reply notifications, putting it on par with Kickstarter’s comment notification system.
It also has a dedicated section for pledge management and integrates smoothly with online stores, making it a better option for board game creators.
Gamefound offers more features specifically designed for board game creators, such as pledge management, add-ons, and late pledges. It also has a more flexible funding model that allows creators to continue funding their projects even after the campaign ends.
Kickstarter, on the other hand, has more extensive promotional tools, such as email marketing, which can help projects gain more visibility.
Both platforms have pretty much identical costs for creators, including a 5% platform commission charged only to successfully funded projects and transaction fees that apply to each pledge. While Kickstarter offers a lower fee for micropledges of up to $10, Gamefound has no commissions in the post-campaign pledge manager phase.
Kickstarter has a much larger audience than Gamefound, which can give projects more visibility. Additionally, Kickstarter has more robust promotional tools, such as email marketing and project curation, which can help projects gain more exposure.
That said, tabletop games are just one of many project types on Kickstarter, and share a much larger category called Games with gaming hardware, video games, and more. This means that creators using Gamefound will face far less competition compared to their peers on Kickstarter, and will be competing exclusively for their “own crowd”, so to speak.
Kickstarter is a great platform to host projects on whether the creators are budding art directors, tech junkies, passionate gamers, or any number of other creatives that want to share their ideas with the world. It is also a mature platform that has overcome numerous growing pains and developed its own audience in numerous sectors.
Even so, many creators these days choose Gamefound for its promise of a specialized experience for board game creators and backers, with unique features like an integrated pledge manager and automatic stretch goals. With that in mind, Kickstarter provides projects with a broader reach and greater visibility, at the expense of offering a less specialized platform and having to deal with much larger competition as a creator.
Ultimately, the Gamefound vs Kickstarter debate has no clear winner in my book, and it’s up to both creators and backers to decide which platform aligns best with their goals. By carefully considering these factors, both sides can pick a platform that will best serve their needs and help ensure the successful funding of new board gaming projects.
Yes and no. While both are excellent platforms for funding tabletop gaming, understanding some key Gamefound and Kickstarter differences is crucial for choosing which platform to back or promote your project on.
The main difference to know is that Gamefound is exclusively focused on the board gaming niche, while Kickstarter has a much larger scope as a crowdfunding platform. It also offers a dedicated post-campaign pledge manager, which is something you’ll have to turn to external sources for with Kickstarter.
The platform is owned by Awaken Realms, the celebrated creators of many popular board games such as Nemesis and This War of Mine.
The only real alternative when it comes to tabletop gaming projects is Kickstarter.