Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014 Round 9: Self-Publishing

Self-Publishing: The Kickstarter Effect

This article looks briefly at self-publishing and the effect that Kickstarter has had on it. This is not a focus on Kickstarter itself, but there is more about it in Round 9: Dynasties.

At a Glance

Kickstarter has provided a platform for lone game designers to publish their work. Let’s take a look at the history of self-publishing and Print & Play games and see if we can detect any impact from Kickstarter.

Unfortunately, BGG uses the Family classification to identify Kickstarter games and as mentioned earlier, the Family classification is not available for searching in the advanced search. It is available in the regular search, but that does not allow me the flexibility to limit the search by my other criteria. Another complication results from the fact that many Kickstarter published games are new editions of existing games, so the BGG record of the game shows a publication year for the original.

The Data

Let’s take a look at the total releases of Self-Published, Print and Play (Self-Pub PnP)games and then as a percent of total games released.

This is a very striking graph and possibly illustrates several trends; and possibly at least one that has little to do with Self-Pub PnP games. Three important dates come to mind when looking at these trends: (One at the beginning of the timeline and two near the end).

  1. January 2000: BoardGameGeek launches
  2. April 28, 2009: Launch of Kickstarter
  3. June 26, 2010: Alien Frontiers Funded

Let’s first look at the early years on the curve. It appears that there were almost no Self-Pup PnP games released until about 2005 when they started taking off, but let’s look at some facts that may impact that interpretation. The ability to self-publish and the viability of PnP has existed since the mid-80s, so certainly games were being printed at home. An example of what has been possible, although not included in this chart, Cheapass Games started a very successful business based on small-business printing capabilities in 1996. So this apparently slow start is almost certainly related to reporting. Since BGG did not exist until 2000, these games were not getting reported until BGG gained in popularity and essentially no one is going back in history to report them now.

The significant rise from 2006 to 2010 is probably a combination of increased reporting (mostly at the front end) and increased production (mostly at the back end.

Now, what about the peak at 2010 and the decline since? I would acknowledge this trend as real (BGG reporting has been solid since 2010) and attribute it to the arrival of Kickstarter on the scene. Many games that would have been Self-Pub PnP have hit Kickstarter instead.

Conclusions

It is obvious that Kickstarter has had a tremendous impact on the Self-Pub PnP market; essentially transferring most of those efforts into Kickstarter published games.

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