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Geek & Sundry Taps Into Board Game Fandom to Break Record on Indiegogo

"Tabletop" co-host Wil Wheaton talks about moving beyond YouTube and earning credibility online.

Alison Korth; courtesy Geek & Sundry

I’ve written previously in this space about the popularity of people watching other people play videogames. But a YouTube series about watching a different type of gaming, board games, broke a crowdfunding record over the weekend.

Tabletop,” a free video show featuring geek celebs Wil Wheaton and a revolving door of guest stars, closed its Indiegogo campaign Saturday night with $1.4 million raised — a new high-water mark for a crowdfunded digital series — despite initially asking for only $500,000. The money will fund a third season of the show as well as a new program about role-playing games, both of which will be released by Day’s production company, Geek & Sundry.

As recently as last year, Geek & Sundry was one of the highlights of YouTube’s Original Channels program, which handed out hundreds of millions of dollars to content creators to make Web shows that YouTube said could be better than TV. A Geek & Sundry spokesperson said the network is no longer part of the program and has expanded to host its content outside of YouTube, on Hulu and its own website.

In an interview with Re/code, Wheaton said the “Tabletop” audience is broad, stretching from “families to college kids to people my age” (Wheaton is 41).

“The tail end of Gen X, we grew up playing slightly more advanced tabletop games than your typical Hasbro game, and we’ve passed along that joy to our children,” he said. “One of the main goals I had with ‘Tabletop’ was to show, by watching us, how fun they are, and that it’s possible to compete without being competitive.”

He compared the success of his first foray into crowdfunding to the Veronica Mars movie, which raised $5.7 million last year on Kickstarter, with fans voting with their dollars for more of a thing they like. And it probably helped that Wheaton and co-creator Felicia Day have more than 4.8 million Twitter followers combined.

“One of the advantages that I think we had is we already had the ability to talk to a large group of people fairly easily,” Wheaton said. “We also had the track record of two seasons of ‘Tabletop,’ and everything Felicia’s done with Geek & Sundry. We spent time earnings that credibility.”

He added that financing the project on Indiegogo “allow[ed] us to really stay true without making concessions to investors or advertisers.” The team’s online videos are supported in part by video ads, and Geek & Sundry sells “Tabletop”-branded shirts and mugs in its online store.

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