Crowdfunded board games surge despite video market

Electronics, gadgets and video games are at the top of many shoppers' lists this holiday season, but the tabletop pastimes of yesteryear have by no means faded away. More than a dozen board game crowdfunding campaigns have received overwhelming support from thousands of backers on Kickstarter. Some of which have amassed over millions of dollars in less than a month's time.

Scythe, a strategy game, began its Kickstarter campaign in mid-October with a pledge goal of $33,000 and ended with $1.8 million.

Source: Kickstarter

"This was my seventh board game-related project, and based on the chatter I had a feeling it was going to do well," said Jamey Stegmaier, the head of Stonemaier Games and the designer of Scythe. "Crowdfunding sites and social media have enabled me to build a community around my games. This way my backers feel like they're personally invested."

Stonemaier Games, like much of the hobby game industry, has seen growth in support because of how the Internet allows them to stay engaged with their communities. In just three years the Stonemaier Newsletter has gained 19,000 subscribers and expects to grow with its latest project.

Tabletop game fanatics have established a community online that has not faltered, even in the midst of the holiday video game releases.

Post-Nokia, Angry Birds, Finland’s tech scene is thriving, an online hub for board game hobbyists, was founded in January 2000 and has grown exponentially since then. The site began with just under 5,000 registered users; by November 2015 it had 1.15 million users with about 3 million unique visitors and roughly 55 million page views per month.

This community has fueled the hobby game industry, which made an estimated $880 million in sales in the U.S. and Canada during 2014.

"The most successful board gaming Kickstarters have reputable and dependable publishers," explained Chad Krizan, the advertising manager at Boardgamegeek. "Provocative themes, great miniature models and stunning art always help draw backers coming from immersive hobbies like video games."

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Gen Con, an annual tabletop game convention held in Indianapolis, has doubled in attendance since 2010, with 61,423 attendees in 2015. This increase in turnout has been primarily driven by a family ticket bundle.

Stegmaier is optimistic about the future and disagrees with skeptics who say current growth is a bubble.

"Kids are growing up with games like 'Ticket to Ride,' 'Settlers of Catan,' and 'Pandemic,' " said Stegmaier. "They're bringing families together and the younger generation will likely continue this success into the future."

Board game and card game projects are among the most funded Kickstarter campaigns of all time. This includes "Exploding Kittens," which raised $8.8 million in February 2015.