Crowdfunding the next great business, product or project is often a thankless endeavor. There have been over 200,000 Kickstarter campaigns to date; over 100,000 failed to reach their funding goal. Another 20,000 were canceled or suspended, regardless of whether they were able to raise money. Many projects barely reach their funding goals, only to fail later anyway, when the creators realized the money simply wouldn't go far enough.
On the flip side, a select few projects have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars, blowing away early funding goals and turning modest ideas into worldwide phenomenons—in some cases, literally overnight.
So with Exploding Kittens (a card game) recently blowing by OUYA (a micro video game console) in the overall Kickstarter rankings, it's time to take stock of the all-time record holders. Using our database of Kickstarter campaign data, we ranked the 15 most insanely successful projects to date. In each case, we’ll break down the total backers, the percent funded and a brief history of how things played out. Without further ado...
Double Fine Adventure
Campaign ended: March 13th, 2012
What it is: A point-and-click adventure video game, paired with a documentary that catalogues the development process.
How it turned out: The game was released in January 2014 under the title Broken Age, receiving generally positive critical reviews. The documentary series continues to this day, as the developers work on the game’s second installment.
The Dash - Wireless Smart in Ear Headphones
Campaign ended: March 31st, 2014
What it is: Smart, wireless earphones that track fitness and play music, all without wires.
How it turned out: Though the product has faced a series of delays, it’s scheduled for release later this summer.
The Micro: The First Truly Consumer 3D Printer
Campaign ended: May 7th, 2014
What it is: A 3D printer at a price point friendly to consumers (~$500)
How it turned out: Some models have shipped to early backers, while later backers and the general public are still waiting.
Reaper Miniatures Bones: An Evolution of Gaming Miniatures
Campaign ended: August 25th, 2012
What it is: A line of affordable, intricately designed gaming miniatures, ready to paint out of the box.
How it turned out: The first Bones campaign was so successful that Reaper ran a second campaign just one year later, which again raised over $3 million.
Mighty No. 9
Campaign ended: October 1st, 2013
What it is: A 2D, side-scrolling video game, considered the spiritual successor to the classic Mega Man series.
How it turned out: The project reached its funding goal in just two days. The final version of the game is expected within the next month or two.
Campaign ended: October 16th, 2012
What it is: A party-based role-playing game with an isometric (pseudo-3D) perspective.
How it turned out: The game was released under the name Pillars of Eternity on March 26, 2015, and received nearly universal acclaim.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Campaign ended: April 5th, 2013
What it is: A fantasy role-playing game and spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, a popular role-playing game from 1999.
How it turned out: Originally scheduled for a December 2014 release, Tides of Numenera is now set for late 2015.
Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere!
Campaign ended: July 2nd, 2014
What it is: A campaign to bring classic Reading Rainbow materials to more classrooms and modern platforms, like web and mobile.
How it turned out: The campaign was a success overnight, raising $1 million in just 24 hours. Celebrity Seth MacFarlane also chipped in a full million on his own.
The Veronica Mars Movie Project
Campaign ended: April 12th, 2013
What it is: A Veronica Mars movie developed after the TV series was canceled.
How it turned out: Starring Kristen Bell, the film debuted to mixed reviews and became a box office flop.
Pono Music - Where Your Soul Rediscovers Music
Campaign ended: April 15, 2014
What it is: A music playing device that delivers uncompressed audio, such that it will sound much more like real life and less like a recording.
How it turned out: The PonoPlayer launched in early 2015 to mixed reviews, where technology writers questioned just how much better the PonoPlayer actually sounded, compared to standard MP3s.
OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console
Campaign ended: August 8th, 2012
What it is: A little cube that lets you control Android-based games with a gamepad and play them on your TV.
How it turned out: The OUYA launched in mid 2013 to mediocre reviews and low sales. Today, most gamers consider the product a flop.
Campaign ended: February 19th, 2015
What it is: An irreverent, social card game designed by Matthew Inman (creator of the popular cartoon and comic site, The Oatmeal).
How it turned out: The cards will ship to backers over the course of the summer, but there are no plans yet for a wide, retail release to the general public.
Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android
Campaign ended: May 18th, 2012
What it is: One of the first smartwatches to ever hit the market, designed by a small, independent developer.
How it turned out: Pebble went on to sell over a million smartwatches by 2015, an impressive figure given how young the market is.
COOLEST COOLER: 21st Century Cooler that’s Actually Cooler
Campaign ended: August 29th, 2014
What it is: A multi-purpose cooler that can charge your phone, blend cocktails, play music, and much more.
How it turned out: Creator Ryan Grepper originally promised to ship the cooler by February 2015, but due to manufacturing constraints, the release date has been pushed back to sometime in the summer.
Pebble Time - Awesome Smartwatch, No Compromises
Campaign ended: March 27th, 2015
What it is: Pebble’s third edition of its popular smartwatch, complete with a new color e-paper design and timeline interface.
How it turned out: The watch will be shipped to Kickstarter backers in May, but the company will face its biggest test yet as it goes up against the Apple Watch.