The rise of crowdfunding in the mid-2010s swept a large wave of MMORPGs our way that might never have happened otherwise. For a while there, we were seeing new project after new project get funded, not by investor firms but by fans eager to bring different indie MMOs to life.
Even though the Kickstarter craze has calmed down in the past few years, I thought it would be interesting to tally up the most successful MMO campaigns that happened on that specific platform. I won’t be looking at other sources of crowdfunding (because I don’t have years to do this column) nor what a game raised afterward, but even so, it should be an interesting ride. Ready?
There are no rules saying that you can’t run multiple Kickstarters to fund a project, and that’s exactly what The Repopulation did. In 2012 and 2014, the studio raised a combine $229k in funding to help power this scifi sandbox. The Repopulation’s story has a bittersweet ending, depending on how you look at it, but at the time there was a bit of enthusiasm in the community for it.
The most recent entry for this list, Zenith ran a modestly successful campaign this year to raise over $280k for a cyberpunk MMO that would feature crossplay between PCs and virtual reality devices. People must have really wanted this to happen, considering that the project only has about three people working on it at the moment. Hopefully this cash will help expand the team.
AdventureQuest 3D had a solid campaign back in 2015 thanks to its established AdventureQuest Worlds fanbase and the possibility of crossplatform MMORPG gaming (including mobile). It’s put out a playable product since then that has been steadily growing (and even been doted on by MOP’s own MJ on more than one occasion).
Did a Pokemon clone have any chance to make a splash with fans? Apparently yes, if the creators were willing to make an online MMO that Pokemon had so far failed to produce. TemTem steamed ahead to over a half-million dollars due to strong word-of-mouth and a desire to catch them all.
Despite — or perhaps because of — the dearth of space MMORPGs, Dual Universe did very well for itself when it ran its 2016 campaign for a starship-constructing, economy-laying simulator. Players are still looking forward to the day when they’ll be able to make, shape, and explore the breadth of this galaxy.
Striking while the City of Heroes grief was still strong, City of Titans made serious bank by promising a spiritual successor to the beloved superhero MMO. Among all of the post-City of Heroes successor projects, Titans alone enjoyed a strong crowdfunding campaign to seed its venture.
With Chronicles of Elyria, Soulbound Studio promised all kinds of immersive innovation in a fantasy world that it saw disappearing from the industry. Characters would age and die, players would become kings and queens, and survival elements would be everywhere. It remains to be seen if the studio can actually pull this off, but a whole lot of people loved the vision enough to throw buckets of money at it.
Easily the most exciting Kickstarter of 2015, Crowfall seemed to come out of nowhere to take the world by storm. It’s different twist on a PvP format — temporary campaign worlds with permanent progression — intrigued backers, who came out in full force to make this a reality.
Apparently gamers were very generous with their money in 2013, looking at this list. The formula for a hit MMO campaign seemed to be the combination of a known name in the industry (in this case, Richard Garriott) and a sequel of sorts (building off the Ultima formula). Shroud of the Avatar promised a return to Lord British’s domain, but in the end it became a lesser echo of Ultima Online.
One of the most famous and popular space sims from the 1980s roared back into the public consciousness with the debut of Elite: Dangerous. Wanna be space pilots gladly helped this game raise nearly two million — and their gamble paid off, too, as Elite went on to actually launch and provide a robust space MMO that continues to make headlines today.
While two million dollars is a princely sum for any up-and-coming MMO, it’s laughable how small that total is compared to the hundreds of millions that Star Citizen would go on to raise as it continued to expand the scope of its several games. Now will it ever launch? That’s the two million dollar question that Chris Roberts would prefer you not ask.
Were MMO players willing to give Mark Jacobs another chance at building an RvR title? The answer in 2013 was a resounding “Yea!” as Camelot Unchained powered its way to an astounding $2.2 million over the course of a month. It wasn’t all the money that this game needed to get off the ground, but by gum, it was a good start.
I’m betting that HEX is going to be the one game on this list that most everyone will have forgotten about. The mash-up of MMORPG and digital card game had a lot of folks excited, but then Hearthstone came along and sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. Lawsuits, retinkering, and development quagmire gradually wore down the hype and support. Since then, HEX has toiled along in obscurity, although it does have its fans.
People predicting that the Kickstarter fad was over in 2017 found themselves eating crow when Ashes of Creation hit the scene. The fantasy MMO promised a dynamic world built by EverQuest II veterans and became the most funded MMORPG on Kickstarter to date. Of course, this is a promise that has yet to be fulfilled, unless you’re really into battle royale games.