Boardgames in the News: The Eight Million Dollar Card Game

Crowd-funding has proven to be a real money spinner – KickStarter projects with lots of miniatures raising loads of money are not uncommon, especially if they include Zombies.  This is a different phenomena though:  in February, a small card game raised $8,782,571 from 219,382 backers, becoming both the most-funded game and the project with the largest number of backers in KickStarter History.  The game? Well, it is called Exploding Kittens and the backers are just beginning to receive their “rewards”.

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com

Exploding Kittens is described as “a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette”.  The KickStarter project goes on to say, “Players take turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten and loses the game” – so, not that strategic then.  Clearly it is a light, luck-heavy card game that would probably benefit from the involvement of alcohol and could  be fun in the right circumstances, but why does it have so many backers?  Even more so, why has it been so successful when the cost is $35 per copy for the KickStarter Exclusive deck (excluding postage) and similar games can be had for less than a third of that?

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com

Obviously the target audience are not dedicated boardgamers – the project wasn’t even posted in the Tabletop Games Category.  The game was created by Elan Lee, Former Chief Design Officer for Xbox Entertainment Studios, and was the lead designer of “The Beast”, a promotional alternate reality game for Steven Spielberg’s movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”.  That isn’t the reason for  the game’s overwhelming success though.  The key is the tie in with The Oatmeal, an online comic created by Matthew Inman.  The comic began in 2009 and within a year had an average of 4.6 million unique visitors and more than 20 million page views a month.  With that sort of fan-base it is less surprising that the project was able to get nearly quarter of a million investors to become the third largest fund-raiser in the history of KickStarter.

Exploding Kittens
– Image from explodingkittens.com