The first step in any journey to a successful crowdfunding campaign is always towards defining and developing your idea. What do you want to offer, how does it justify a request for crowdfunding dollars, and what makes it unique in a crowded marketplace?

That last qualification is an important one to consider before embarking on your crowdfunding journey. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and most of them look a lot like ideas someone else has already had. Have you done your research to make sure your campaign centers around an offer that isn’t already available from someone else?

Let’s say you want to create a board game starring Cthulhu, everyone’s favorite eldritch horror from beyond time and space. You wouldn’t be the first person to have this idea, and you probably won’t be the last. Let’s search Kickstarter’s archives to see what’s been done before.

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There are 378 Cthulhu-related projects on Kickstarter, and 290 of them were successfully funded. That’s a 77% success rate, which is better by far than any single category’s success rate on Kickstarter. Starting with Cthulhu is a good idea -- you’ve got a three in four chance of getting funded, based on Cthulhu-related projects’ track record.

But that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be successful. If you’re starting with a fairly common idea, you should try to refine it. This will help you figure out if anyone’s already done something in the same vein as your idea, and if so, whether or not their campaigns were successful. Duplicating a previous effort tends to result in failure. You should either try to improve on and/or refine an existing idea, or try to do something genuinely new.

Let’s try to make a comedy board game starring Cthulhu.

First keyword: Cthulhu

Second keyword: comedy

Searching for similar ideas should involve more than a single keyword, of course. Try variations on the modifying word, like funny and humor and parody. Thesaurus.com is an easy way to produce lists of similar words or direct synonyms that you can use in your search.

A quick search of Kickstarter for “Cthulhu” combined with the words “comedy” or “funny” or “humor” or “parody” or “satire” (thank Thesaurus.com for that last one) turns up seven different projects. Three of them are film- or stage-based entertainment productions that don’t have anything to do with your interest in games. One is a classy-looking journal with sketches of Cthulhu saying various Cthulhu-like things in the margins, which could be a fun gift for a quirky writer, but that doesn’t have anything to do with gaming, either.

There are three game-related campaigns that match “Cthulhu” and one of your various comedy-related keywords. Two are for video games. One of those video game campaigns was successful, but it was simply raising money to add features to an existing game, which doesn’t tell us anything about your prospects for creating a funny Cthulhu-related board game. The other video game campaign fell well short of its goals, but it also wasn’t about Cthulhu, as he was included only as one of the game’s proposed boss fights. Perhaps the lesson you can take from the differing results of these two video game campaigns is that putting Cthulhu front and center will increase your chances of success.

Let’s look at the one Cthulhu-related tabletop game in Kickstarter’s archives, Cultists & Cthulhu.

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This was a successful campaign, with $16,744 raised from 154 backers. Cultists & Cthulhu has some committed fans, as they pledged an average of $108.73 each. There could be several reasons why this game succeeded, and its success is probably due to some combination of all of these factors:

  • The creator, Prolific Games, has been around for some time, which gave it time to develop a fan base that could be tapped to generate pledges for this campaign.

  • The campaign page is well-developed and explains many of game’s rules and features upfront, giving backers plenty of information before they commit any money.

  • The game’s art style is distinctive and fits the game’s comedic tone.

  • There are a number of pledge tiers, including several that offer backers some unique trinkets that don’t include (and are at best, loosely related to) the game itself. This gives the campaign opportunities to raise additional money and attract money from backers who may not want the game.

The upside for you is that this is a card game. There’s no game board at all! You should be able to distinguish yourself from Cultists & Cthulhu in any number of ways, including having board-based play, using miniatures, adopting a different art style, and focusing on a different Cthulhu-based setting.

You’re still a long way from developing a successful crowdfunding campaign for your Cthulhu comedy board game, though. Many board games are launched without any campaign backing. Let’s check Google to see what sort of competition you’ve got.

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This could be a problem. There are so many existing Cthulhu board games that there are multiple top-ten lists highlighting the genre’s best. But, like the Kickstarter search we conducted earlier, this doesn’t show us the humorous Cthulhu-related board games. It shows us all the board games. This is nonetheless helpful in identifying games that might have similar rulesets to the one we were thinking of using, so that we can avoid accidentally copying something.

What you want to do is focus your Google search on the comedy-related keywords used earlier in our Kickstarter search. Try the same string, “Cthulhu board game,” but with the words “comedy,” “satire,” “funny,” or “parody” inserted between “Cthulhu” and “board.” Three of those words didn’t produce useful results, but Cthulhu satire gives us a couple of hits:

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The two satirical Cthulhu-based board games that turn up on page one of Google’s results are Necromonopoly and Munchkin Cthulhu. At this point, your search should continue in greater detail. What makes these two games unique? Do they do anything you were planning to do? How would your satirical Cthulhu-based board game stand out from these satirical Cthulhu-based board games?

The basic process for validating your crowdfunding idea would take the same path, regardless of what you’re trying to create. If you’re trying to create a new fidget spinner, you’d research other fidget spinners to make sure your idea is different and compelling enough to justify its own campaign. If you’re creating an alarm clock that wakes you up by slapping you in the face with a pancake, you’d better check around to make sure there aren’t any existing pancake-slapping alarm clocks on the market -- and if there were, was their failure something you can avoid?

No idea is completely unique, but compelling differences in concept and execution between your ideas and those already out there can make all the difference between a successful crowdfunding campaign and one that falls flat. Do your research before committing to any campaign concept.