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Cover art for the Forsaken board game from Game Trays shows a red-headed mutant man an a female gunslinger.
Image: Game Trayz

The crowdfunding pioneer is busier than ever before

Late last year, Polygon showed that Kickstarter’s earnings from tabletop games were down for the second straight year, an abrupt change following more than a decade of uninterrupted growth. Our analysis also showed that the number of successful campaigns was up sharply compared to previous years. Now two high-profile campaigns, both removed from the website for different reasons, show how this increase in velocity may be straining the Brooklyn-based crowdfunding pioneer’s resources.

The first campaign that Kickstarter elected to bring down was for a game called Forsaken, a sandbox adventure board game from the team at Game Trayz. On May 7, Game Trayz explained that a legal dispute over 10 pieces of art had thrown a wrench in production. According to a statement provided by Kickstarter, the artist in question issued a copyright claim through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that obligated the platform to pull the campaign down. After Game Trayz swapped out the art, however, Kickstarter was able to return the campaign’s web page to the internet. All in all it’s nothing that unusual, and similar issues have gotten campaigns pulled down plenty of times in the past.

However, the issue with Wonders of the First, a new collectible card game that features art created using commercially available artificial intelligence tools, was considerably more complex.

When the CCG launched on April 30, the project met its funding goal in less than 30 seconds. It’s a testament to the fledgling team’s ability to get its backers in line on day one. The momentum continued to build, until by the end of the first week the campaign was closing in on $1.5 million — quite the haul for a first-time effort.

Given the attention being paid to AI on the global stage, that haul also brought intense scrutiny from all around. Many on social media and in the campaign’s comments were there to complain about the use of AI art. Like it or not, that’s something Kickstarter has allowed since 2023. But the campaign got pulled down anyway, not because of AI but because of expressly prohibited items: non-fungible tokens, also known as NFTs.

In a statement provided to Polygon, Kickstarter said that NFTs simply aren’t allowed on its platform citing a rule against offering “financial services, money processing, credit offerings, travel packages, phone services, and business marketing services” to backers. Reached for comment, the publishers of Wonders of the First reiterated that they believed the wording of that rule was unclear. But, after a bit of grandstanding, they eventually removed the NFTs and Kickstarter allowed them to relaunch the campaign.

But why was a campaign that offered prohibited items allowed to go live in the first place? According to a statement provided by Kickstarter, as the number of campaigns launched each year continues to increase its oversight team is having a difficult time keeping up.

“We conduct initial reviews of all projects before they go live on Kickstarter to ensure they comply with our community guidelines and terms of service,” said the Kickstarter spokesperson. “However, given the large volume of project submissions we receive daily and the fact that projects can evolve or new information may emerge, our job doesn’t end with these initial reviews. In the case of this project, our continued monitoring and review processes later identified a violation. We take these subsequent reviews seriously to ensure all projects comply with our guidelines. It’s a reflection of our commitment to maintaining the integrity of our platform.”

Given the trajectory of Kickstarter’s business, we expect the company to field more tabletop campaigns this year than ever before — at least 5,500 successful tabletop campaigns alone. That’s more than 15 successful campaigns every day. With that kind of volume, and with campaigns this complex, there is every potential that backers will see more disruption going forward.

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