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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Statistical review of seasonal effects on Kickstarter funding

Lately, as I've been compiling notes each week for the Kickstarter report on the Dice Tower News podcast, I've come to notice an evident seasonal pattern:  fewer boardgame projects tend to fund on Kickstarter this time of year.  In recent weeks, the number of projects likely to fund has been particularly low.  Do longer-term statistics bear out my recent observations?

As it happens, Kickstarter posted some statistics for 2014, and this graph caught my eye:

The winter dip is unmistakeable.  I first noticed the trend in December, but it is graphically clear that January and February were even worse in 2014.  Now, this graph goes across all successfully funded projects, not just games.  So I thought I'd compile a similar graph from Kickstarter specifically for projects in the "Tabletop Games" category, through both 2013 and 2014 to look for seasonal trends.

My first observation is that 2014 month for month had more successfully funded tabletop game projects than did 2013.  That's not altogether surprising; the overall Kickstarter trend has been positive for boardgames.  What's more interesting is that the seasonal peaks and dips were largely consistent from one year to the next.  December, January, and February were noticeable lows.  May and November were the best two months in both years.

Comparing tabletop games to Kickstarter projects as a whole, the winter dip is entirely consistent with the first graph showing all Kickstarters in 2014.  The surprising difference between the two populations appears in August, when Kickstarters as a whole peaked in 2014, but tabletop games fell off in both 2013 and 2014.

Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone.  I decided to look at total funding month to month for 2013 and 2014, and the results were a bit more erratic.

Some of the seasonal patterns are still present, like the dips in the winter as well as in August and September.  But there are some crazy variations in the data as well.  Although 2014 had the highest peaks (including a ridiculously high funding total in April* - though not in May), there were quite a few months where the 2013 funding level was higher than 2014, even though the number of projects was consistently fewer.

So Kickstarter project planners might want to take these seasonal trends into account.


* I had a look at April 2014 to find out what drove the funding level to be so high relative to any other month for the last two years.  Here are the top ten projects that funded that month:

Dwarven Forge's Caverns Dwarven Forge $2,140,851
Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King Soda Pop Miniatures $1,151,889
MERCS: Recon MERCS Miniatures $816,274
Deluxe Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition Richard Thomas $672,899
Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture Jamey Stegmaier $450,333
Sentinel Tactics: The Flame of Freedom GreaterThanGames $327,403
Coup Reformation - Kickstarter Edition Travis $254,133
Marauder Task Force Gaming Figures Marauder GR $244,155
Catacombs Elzra Games $233,771
Darklands: First Edition II Mierce Miniatures £130,735

These ten projects alone accounted for over $6.5M of the nearly $9.0M in Kickstarter funding for 116 tabletop games in April 2014.


  1. Good trend analysis, bearing in mind you have only two data points per month. Care to make a hypothesis as to the cause of the low levels in Jan & Feb?

    1. Paul, good question. My hypothesis (unsubstantiated by data) is that people have less disposable income for backing Kickstarter projects generally after holiday gift-giving. In the specific case of games, I would also speculate that game-players give and receive a lot of games around the holidays, so the impulse to back a game project is less strong. The months for these statistics reflect the campaign end dates, and the actual funding campaign is active for up to 60 days prior to that end date. That, plus the "January credit card bill," are the reasons that I think February-funding projects are still affected by holiday spending.

    2. There are also fewer total projects to back during those first two months of each year. We've noticed that creators tend to avoid starting any campaigns during January. It would appear that this is largely due to January's reputation as a poor month for retail sales (due not only to Christmas effects but also to northern-hemisphere wintry weather and such that encourages people to stay home), although the same trends that affect American brick-and-mortar retail sales don't necessarily affect worldwide Internet crowdfunding pledges as much. In any case, the number of live campaigns usually falls throughout January and then slowly rebounds during February. Fewer live campaigns naturally result in fewer finishes, both successful and unsuccessful. And some data suggests that success rates (not tallies) during January are about the same as rates for February through June. So, you might want to try analyzing the rates along with the tallies.