Kickstarter increasingly seems like magic. Its latest achievement: funding a new project from the creators of Magic: The Gathering, the collectible card game that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. And it did so in less than a week.
Kickstarter is easily one of the highest profile startups of the last few years, but not because of outsize personalities, absurd growth rates, high stock prices, or anything like that. It’s well known because of results: the for-profit service, founded in 2009, allows creators to seek funding for their projects directly from fans in exchange for special rewards, like limited edition copies of a book, original props from a set, or unique experiences. Kickstarter allows filmmakers, writers, artists, inventors, game designers, etc. to bypass traditional fundraising (usually from a big corporation, venture capitalists, or risky sales on spec) and simply create. As a result, the service has taken off.
The Magic: the Gathering Kickstarter is an increasingly common example of a project, associated with a huge brand, that has less obvious appeal than the core product. In this case, the Kickstarter sought to – and succeeded – in funding a new art book collecting original work from the original Magic: the Gathering artists in honor of the fantasy card game’s 20th anniversary. The book is independent of Wizards of the Coast, but the artists are all veterans, the creator of the card game is writing the introduction to the book, and the whole project has the company’s permission.
A book of artwork from artists who drew 2”x1” pictures of magic spells twenty years ago doesn’t seem like an obvious knockout. But, according to Wired, the project raised its minimum amount of $32,000 within a week, and as of this writing has pulled in three times that much with a week to go. It’s a project that would seem like a huge risk for a publisher. Now, that publisher knows the project will succeed – and can expand on the book accordingly.
As Kickstarter increasingly becomes big business, a way to fund TV shows, movies and flagship video games, it’s refreshing to see a smaller passion project like the Magic: the Gathering art book succeed so dramatically. With such a loyal following jumping on board to fund the project it seems logical that movie producers may start to look at a possible MGT movie in the future. Similar to Marvel comics which have crossed into major films, clothing, video games, and even other online games like bingo and chess, MGT may soon have the same fate.
Kickstarter succeeds through incentives: if the book crosses the $100,000 mark, the publishers promise to expand it by another 16 pages, including even more original work. It makes funding a project – even after it reaches its goal – an appealing and rewarding proposition, helping projects succeed.
Other recent Kickstarters have brought in even bigger business for "nerdy" projects. For instance, Obsidian Entertainment recently raised $4 million (on a request for $1 million) for Project Eternity, a spiritual sequel to the hit 1999 fantasy/planeswalking computer game, Planescape: Torment. And the TV show Veronica Mars, cancelled six years ago, raised almost $4 million for a new movie.
As Kickstarter increasingly becomes big business, a way to fund TV shows, movies and flagship video games, it’s refreshing to see a smaller passion project like the Magic: the Gathering art book succeed so dramatically.