This idea for an Exploding Kittens card game is pure gold, combining explosions, kittens, and a card game published by online comedy site The Oatmeal. And that may explain why Exploding Kittens has raised $2.67 million from 68,253 backers in just two days of its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
It is the biggest tabletop game project already in the history of Kickstarter, according to the crowdfunding site. And it is already the fourth-largest game funding ever, including projects for both board games and video games.
Exploding Kittens is a paper-based card game that will be like playing Russian Roulette, where the loser is the person who draws the Exploding Kittens card. Of course, we don’t normally cover card games. But this is one of those exceptions because it’s so zany, The Oatmeal’s involvement, and its viral status on social media. It says something when an idea is so creative that everybody wants to throw money at it.
“We had no idea it was going to be this big,” said Elan Lee, the co-creator of Exploding Kittens. “We’ve been receiving tons of emails about different stores that want to pick it up. Google shut down my Gmail account because it was receiving too many emails. Our most common comment is The Oatmeal”
And it’s no surprise that it came from an interesting group of characters.
Lee most recently ended a stint as the chief design officer at Xbox, a technology design position that was closely linked to Microsoft’s shuttered Hollywood TV studio, the Xbox Entertainment Studios. Lee previously cofounded highly creative companies such as 42 Entertainment, the creator of the landmark ilovebees.com marketing campaign for Halo 2. He also started eDoc Laundry, which hid codes for a web mystery in T-shirts.
Lee has partnered with Matt Inman, the creator of The Oatmeal, the online comics and quizzes site that draws tens of millions of fans. The Oatmeal will publish the card game and promote it online to its huge following. The third collaborator is Shane Small, the former principal art director at Xbox Entertainment Studios. Small also led the creative efforts at startups like Smith & Tinker, Go Go Kiddo, and eDoc Laundry. They describe their games as a “strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette.”
They came up with something unique. You put the deck of cards face down. You take turns drawing cards, and if you draw the Exploding Kitten card, you are out — unless that player has a “defuse” card that can neutralize the kittens with laser pointers, kitten therapy, and catnip sandwiches. You can also deploy a Tacocat, Abracrab Lincoln, Magical Meat Bikini, and a Catterwocky. Action cards do things like remove or mitigate the kittens. You can deploy the thousand-year back hair, peek at cards by rubbing the belly of a pig-a-corn, skip a turn by wearing a portable cheetah butt, or seek out the wisdom of a goat wizard. You have to decide which cards to play, when to play them, and which of your opponents to target. Every card you draw increases your odds of drawing the Exploding Kitten, making things tenser as the game progresses.
All they asked for was $10,000, enough for a minimum run for card production. Now that they’ve got much more money, they’re going to make sure the quality is as high as possible and that it gets into as many stores as possible, Lee said. He also said that they are working to bring down the shipping costs (international shipping rates were previously going to be as much as $20).
Lee doesn’t want to reveal the secret yet, but he said that the cards will come in a very special box.
“The more money we get, the more special that box will be,” Lee said. “We’ll tell people about it soon. Of course, it has to stand on its own as a really fun and beautiful game.”
Inman has been cranking out new cat drawings to thank the fans. The team of three is likely to expand, and they’re responding to just about every query, as they can. They’ve already hired a social media expert.
“We now have some leverage, and we are figuring out creative ways to get it in bulk,” Lee said.
I asked for a picture of the three creators, and Lee said that the three of them have never actually been in the same room.
Lee said that cat lovers have responded positively to the game.
“We really love cats and we thought this would be funny,” he said. “We had ridiculous conversations about whether we would be perceived as hurting cat. I had to ask, ‘What are the kitties’ motivation?’ We went through this ridiculous conversation about exploding cats. ‘Are they suicidal?’ That didn’t work. So we decided that it’s the fault of negligent owners. Kittens are curious, and they do what kittens do. These negligent owners left hand grenades behind in a room, and kittens will just chew on them.”
Perhaps it’s time that we renamed GamesBeat as GamesBeat Kittens?