Thomas Bidaux
Jul 7, 2020 · 10 min read

This midyear update is going to be quite different from its predecessors as 2020 is proving to be quite a unique year. While sharing new data from the first six months of 2020, I will mostly talk about my understanding of the effects of the corona virus pandemic on Kickstarter projects.

Most of the data shared here cover the past 18 months, with data over the past eight years at the end.

tl; dr: The number of projects launched on the platform has massively dropped.

However, a few hits surprisingly mean that the total amount of money raised recently is on par with the amount raised during the same period last year.

Drop in projects being launched

Kickstarter is subject to seasonality. If you look at how many projects are launched every month, December is always a low month, with holidays getting in the way, many creators don’t want to have to manage a stressful crowdfunding campaign at the same time as the seasonal holidays. There is also the consideration (not necessarily true for crowdfunding campaigns) that asking for money during this period is harder as people are already heavily solicited.

This said, we can now look at the numbers of projects launched over the past 18 months. While January and February are on par with the numbers from the previous year even showing some growth, there is a steep decline in numbers starting in March (-24% y-o-y), an usually strong month, and the year-on-year decline gets steeper in April (-34%) and May (-37%), and clear bounce in June (-10%).

February 2020 was a very good month for Kickstarter projects, with 21% more projects meeting their funding goal than in February 2019. But year-on-year growth stops there, with a slight decline in March 2020 (-9%) and a much steeper drop in April 2020 (-28%), and May 2020 ending with almost a third of the number of funded projects of May 2019. Again, we see some recovery in June 2020 that is only 14% behind June 2019.

Spring being an usually strong period for crowdfunding, it shows how much of an impact the pandemic crisis has had in regards to Kickstarter.

Looking into different categories though, they are not all affected the same way. I will share here the numbers for the seven largest categories on Kickstarter.

First off, almost all the categories are affected with fewer campaigns launched year-on-year in March, April, and May. In June, the Games and Technology categories saw more projects launched year-on-year, with Design and Publishing at about the same level as June 2019.

The technology category is standing out with more projects in April 2020 than in April 2019. It still sees fewer projects launched over the last four months period, but the difference is quite small (-3.5% year-on-year) when considering the effect observed on the other categories.

Onto that, some categories seem much more affected than others, with a bigger drop in the numbers of projects launched, especially in April & May 2020:

  • Film & Video (-47% year-on-year in Mar/Apr/May/Jun) — Most projects are live action films, or in-person documentaries, with the lock-downs and social distancing policies, these are very difficult to execute.
  • Music (-47% year-on-year in Mar/Apr/May/Jun) — Similarly, music projects often require artists to be physically in the same space — whether to rehearse or record. Not to mention that concerts are, in the best cases, postponed to later dates.
  • Fashion (-36% year-on-year in Mar/Apr/May/Jun) — This category is above the platform average and quite affected where the number of project launched are concerned. It is probably very reliant on in-person collaborative work, as well as dependent on supply chains that are affected (even though, tabletop games are too and don’t see such a drop).

Publishing, Design and Games saw a less significant drop that is below the platform average of -25% year-on-year for the four months period from March to June. They are all likely less dependent on in-person work.

Not shown here, a few of the smaller categories, especially Dance and Theater, were greatly affected, with -84% and -86% respective year-on-year on the number of projects launched in May 2020. Note that even during normal times these projects only account for a small number of the ones you can find on the platform (less than 1%). Their reliance on in-person entertainment (and in-person rewards) easily explains these drastic numbers, and illustrates the dire effect of the crisis for their sector beyond crowdfunding.

Money raised keeping up thanks to large projects

As you look at these numbers, you need to bear in mind that most crowdfunding projects run for a period of 30 days. The drop in the number of projects launched in March is seen in the amount of money raised by April’s successful projects.

As it stands, February and March 2020 were good months as far as money raised on Kickstarter is concerned, but this is where it gets even stranger… For the first six months of 2020, Kickstarter campaigns raised more money than the ones in the first six months of 2019…

For the first six months of 2020, Kickstarter campaigns raised more money than the ones in the first six months of 2019…

So, even though we see a drop in the number of launched projects over that period of time, why is the total amount of money raised relatively stable?

It stands to show how much the hits weigh on the platform’s performance when it comes to the total amount of money raised. These are also the campaigns with the best support behind them, and the least likely to be derailed by the corona-virus pandemic, where multi-person teams can cope more easily with the sudden change of paradigm, and where they are more likely to have access to extra resources to throw at problems to compensate for the change in their environments.

It is also likely that the impact cannot be totally absorbed by these hits over time.

On the positive side, at the moment, if a downward trend can be correlated to the fewer projects being launched, there is no indication that the backers are less likely to support the projects they love. The number of individual pledges made on the platform is in line with the amount of money raised.

Americas more affected than other regions

When considering where the drop in projects is more pronounced, the United States are coming up ahead. This might be related again to the smaller projects that are likely suffering the most, and these are more likely American as Kickstarter’s main audience is from North America. For example, small French projects are more likely to look at launching on a local platform such as Ulule, and only the more ambitious French projects seeking to reach an international audience are likely to consider Kickstarter.

Effects on the Tabletop Games subcategory

The decline in projects seen in the overall Games category can be observed for tabletop games as well. The ratio of projects meeting their goal and getting funded is aligned with the average for that segment.

There is a sharp decline in the amount of money raised in April 2020, steeper than the decline in the number of projects that month. However, a single project ending in May, Frosthaven, has alone raised more money than all the tabletop games of the month of April put together.

A few other projects running during the same period also doing very well, and tabletop games have raised more than $33m in May 2020. Technically, this is the best month ever for tabletop games in terms of amount of money raised.

As it stands, while definitely affected by the corona-virus crisis, it seems like that category as a whole is holding itself together pretty well.

Effects on Video Games

The video games subcategory is following a similar pattern, with the first three months in line with the corresponding 2019 period.

The year-on-year comparison for April 2020 and May 2020 shows a decline in the number of projects, but the ratio of projects meeting their goal (respectively 26% and 27% of projects meeting their goals) stays within the norm for that subcategory.

The bounce back in the number of projects for June can also be seen for video games, and with 41 projects meeting their goals, it is the second best month in that regards from the past year and a half.

There is a lot of variance in that subcategory due to the smaller amount of projects launched compared to tabletop games, but the average amount of money raised per project in April 2020 is actually higher than usually seen for video games.

Note that March 2020 was an exceptionally good month as far as money raised is concerned with two projects raising $2m+ each (The Wonderful 101; Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous).

Like tabletop games, video games on Kickstarter are affected negatively by the covid-19 crisis, but not as much as other categories on the platform.

Semester data

I usually share data under a much different format for the midyear updates, not looking at month-by-month numbers. This year is different as looking at the effect of the pandemic required a much closer look. But for the sake of consistency with previous articles, here are charts showing the evolution of Kickstarter by semester.

You can see that the covid pandemic impact is hidden when looking at the numbers that way. But you can still see that the number of overall projects on the platform is at its lowest since 2012.

Very successful projects managed to maintain the level of overall money raised on Kickstarter, making the first semester of 2020 as the second best in the platform history.

Finally, I also wanted to share these two videos that we find are a nice different way to present data:

Conclusion

Crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter have been affected by the corona-virus crisis, there is no doubt about it. Fewer projects have been launched across almost all categories, but some are way more affected than others.

On the flip side, the campaigns that do launch can still perform very well, and it seems that there is no strong effect on campaigns that gets funded, or for projects’ ability to become hits.

The nature of crowdfunding, and the time it takes for a campaign to be put together, means that we might not see the full consequences of the crisis on the ecosystem yet, and as we go deeper into the summer, these trends might change, especially if the effects on the global economy get deeper.

Other articles to read

Backerkit on the effect of the covid crisis: https://www.backerkit.com/blog/coronavirus-crowdfunding

Biggercake in depth risk analysis: https://www.biggercake.com/blog/coronavirus-and-kickstarter-in-depth-risk-analysis/

Kickstarter on the topic:

https://www.kickstarter.com/articles/covid-19-coronavirus-kickstarter-impact-pledges-projects-launch

Methodology and key information

We are checking projects on Kickstarter daily, looking for new projects and updating the data collected on live campaigns. We have been collecting data since 2013, as well as checking past projects.

The methodology used doesn’t look exhaustively at projects, but the margin of error and missed projects numbers are small.

Note that on the 20th of March, Kickstarter ran a program offering live campaigns to be extended by a week, to help creators deal with the covid crisis, and relieve them from the pressure of their campaigns. We estimate about 4,500 campaigns were live at the time. This likely has an impact on the data shared here, as more projects could move their end date from one month (March) to another (April or even May).

Last but not least, when looking at crowdfunding campaigns data in the past, I have always looked at the date when the campaigns end to determine the campaign “date” rather than its launch date. In the analysis above, looking at a glance, you might wonder why there is a discrepancy in the numbers, and this is likely the cause of it.

ICO —  Video games agency specializing in self-publishing

Shining an expert light on the videogames industry: Trends, news and case studies

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