Kickstarter

How 'Exploding Kittens' Became the Most-Backed Kickstarter Project

How 'Exploding Kittens' Became the Most-Backed Kickstarter Project
Image credit: Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens had a meteoric rise to fame the moment it hit Kickstarter. Now, the fun, irreverent card game has officially become the most-backed project in Kickstarter history.

While other campaigns have raised more money on the crowdfunding site, Exploding Kittens received funding from more than 112,000 people and counting. The previous record was 105,857 backers, set by the Reading Rainbow campaign in July of last year.

Exploding Kittens has another 22 days to add to its numbers. Currently, backers have pledged more than $4.4 million -- far more than the original goal of $10,000 -- which has allowed the NSFW version of the game to become its own product instead of a bonus add-on.

As the number of orders increases, this is good news for Shari Spiro, founder and CEO of Ad Magic, the company that manufactures and ships playing cards for games including Exploding Kittens and the wildly popular Cards Against Humanity. The online success of the game was, to her, incredible in the most literal way.

“When [founder Elan Lee] called to say the campaign had reached $1 million five hours into the campaign I started laughing,” she said. “He told me later that it sounded a little maniacal.”

How 'Exploding Kittens' Became the Most-Backed Project in Kickstarter History

Elan Lee, one of the games creators.
Image credit: Jerry and Lois Photography

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While the gaming creators Spiro works with have a strong sense of humor, they’ve also demonstrated a strong sense of collaboration. In fact, one of Spiro’s clients, the creators behind Cards Against Humanity, has agreed to help the nascent Exploding Kittens fill individual orders through its fulfillment centers.

Spiro is unsure if this symbiotic relationship stems from altruism or from potential profit (Cards Against Humanity is launching a new platform for fulfilling and shipping orders, so having Explosive Kittens as a client would be a benefit), but either way, everyone’s excited to be involved. Spiro routinely ships tens of thousands of products at a time, and the people at Cards Against Humanity are well versed in providing customers worldwide with what they expect.

How 'Exploding Kittens' Became the Most-Backed Project in Kickstarter History

Shari Shapiro is the founder / CEO of Ad Magic
Image credit: Jeanne DeMark

Collaboration is also what allowed Exploding Kittens to achieve widespread popularity so quickly. All three people behind Exploding Kittens are well known in the entertainment industry. Matthew Inman is the creative force behind The Oatmeal, a humor website that gets at least seven million unique visitors each month. Elan Lee and Shane Small both have a background working with XBox. Each has an impressive following individually, and teaming up created a force of nature of sorts. As Spiro put it, “When they reach out, people are listening already.”

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Moreover, the game seems to come at a time when seemingly old-fashioned, low-tech games are experiencing a resurgence. Combine that with what Spiro calls “world-class humor” and some colorful illustrations and its the perfect environment for unprecedented crowdfunding success.  

The game -- described on its Kickstarter page as a “highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian roulette” -- allows players to pick cards, and those who draw an “exploding kitten” card lose. Other cards in the deck allow for players to perform a variety of moves, including stealing a peek before drawing a card, or forcing another player to draw multiple cards.

Spiro owns two kittens herself, Leo and Lacy, and says she’s all too familiar with some of the actions depicted on Exploding Kitten cards. “They walk across the keyboards all the time!” she says, laughing. Of course, her pets have never accidentally triggered nuclear launch codes while doing so.

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So, what will Exploding Kittens do with the money it’s raised? It’s tempting to think that every additional backer is simply adding to a trove of “extra money,” but that’s not entirely true. The initial goal was based on the quantity the makers of Exploding Kittens intended to produce. As the number of funds raised and backers invested has climbed, the number of orders has increased in response.  Spiro is unsure of how much it would cost to print and ship the decks of cards, box and additional materials; the only retail pricing information offered is what’s listed on the Kickstarter page. Backers can pay any amount between $20 and $500, depending on the add-ons and packages they’d like to purchase. The game will ship this summer.  

The numbers everyone is focusing on now are not profit margins, but orders. According to Spiro, the Exploding Kittens team will be so busy staying on top of the Kickstarter campaign, they won’t be thinking of other methods of publicity or even what comes next. Also unknown is just how many more people will want to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign before it ends on February 19, or what the final funding tally will be.

“When it started taking off I was thinking $7 million, but now I’m thinking it could hit $10 million,” Spiro said. “Who knows?”

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