Backerkit’s crowdfunding platform is exiting beta and opening up to creators of all stripes. The announcement, made Tuesday, arrives near the end of the Gloomhaven Grand Festival campaign — perhaps its most high-profile, successful project yet — which runs through Wednesday.
“We believe in the transformative power of crowdfunding, and its capacity to turn the creative process into a collective effort,” said Backerkit CEO Maxwell Salzberg in a news release. “We are excited that backers can play a crucial role in providing feedback, building communities, and ultimately helping people create strong, resilient businesses of all sizes.”
Backerkit has long served as the trusted back end for crowdfunding projects, handling late pledges, shipping, and organizational logistics for campaigns run on other platforms. In June 2022 it announced it would launch its own crowdfunding platform, becoming a true competitor to the industry-leading Kickstarter. That process rolled out in beta throughout last year and into 2023 with a handful of carefully curated partner projects. Highlights include a reprint of Return to Dark Tower ($2 million), Spirit Island: Nature Incarnate (nearly $1.2 million), and Adventures in the Cypher System (more than $711,000). Now that the platform has exited beta, anyone from the 32 countries where Backerkit does business can spin up a campaign of their own.
The biggest success so far on Backerkit is the Gloomhaven Grand Festival, a campaign that includes a novel new tabletop role-playing game, more than 600 miniatures, and a revised version of the original hit board game. At the time of publication, it has raised more than $4 million on Backerkit. However, for as much money as the Gloomhaven Grand Festival has pulled, it’s still nowhere near the haul that Frosthaven, the direct sequel to Gloomhaven, earned on Kickstarter in 2020. That project raked in nearly $13 million, making it the fourth-most-funded Kickstarter campaign of all time.
That delta could be because of Backerkit’s smaller, more nascent community due to its shorter history as a dedicated crowdfunding platform. It could also be representative of an overall softening in the crowdfunding market over the last three years. Kickstarter’s revenues from tabletop campaigns, traditionally about a third of its overall income from crowdfunding, surged in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic only to taper off in 2021. In 2022, the company finished down $33 million (12.4%) in the tabletop category. The shortfall represented its first decline in that category since 2014.
Of course, there is also the fact that Kickstarter unilaterally announced that it would shift to blockchain technology in December 2021. The decision angered many creators, leading to a change in the company’s executive leadership and a slow-moving, community-led pivot away from blockchain tech.
Meanwhile, Gamefound is likewise making gains against the New York-based crowdfunding giant. While both Kickstarter and Backerkit allow all sorts of campaigns, including those for movies, music, and comics, the European company exclusively hosts campaigns for tabletop games. Its revenues were up more than 45% last year to $28.3 million, although still well below its own expectations.
Regardless, 2023 marks the first year that tabletop creators have had this kind of choice available for crowdfunding solutions, a format that has proved incredibly beneficial to the tabletop industry as a whole. For its part, Backerkit clearly hopes to differentiate itself by catering to user demands — and the perceived weaknesses of its competitors.
“We’ve watched creators work around gaps in existing platforms,” CEO Salzberg said in the news release. “It’s been a guide for us on our build. We’ve also been careful to build a platform that encourages, and often even insists, that creators involve backers in the creative process.”