Exploding Kittens is the most-backed project on Kickstarter to date - here's how a $20 card game became an internet phenomenon

Exploding Kittens is the most-backed project on Kickstarter to date - here's how a $20 card game became an internet phenomenon

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exploding kittens card game

Exploding Kittens

  • The card game Exploding Kittens ($19.99) is always part of our game-night lineup because it's creative, easy to learn, and fun for the whole family.
  • It was created in 2015 by a cartoonist, game designer, and creative director trio who wanted to help people connect over physical games again.
  • Raising more than $8.7 million from more than 219,000 backers on Kickstarter, it's an online crowdfunding legend that has gone on to sell 8 million games worldwide.

The components of a great night in aren't tricky to assemble. Gather your favorite friends and family members, load the table with snacks and drinks, queue up your party playlist, and present a few fun card games. Voila, you can now stay entertained for hours.

If it's a good game, you'll scream and laugh until your stomach hurts, and you won't want to stop playing (unlike certain games, *cough* ... Monopoly ... that you lose interest and patience in halfway through).


Exploding Kittens, created in 2015 by cartoonist Matthew Inman and game designer Elan Lee, is one of those rare games you look forward to taking off the shelf every time you host game night.

exploding kittens Dollar 19.99


From cat cartoons to more than $8 million in the bank

Lee, the former Chief Design Officer at Xbox, was initially inspired to create an interactive game that encouraged real-time connection after seeing his young nieces and nephews glued to video game screens. He shared his original "Bomb Squad" game idea with Inman, creator of the popular comic site The Oatmeal, who suggested some tweaks.

Along with creative director Shane Small, the creators introduced their game, described as a "highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette," to the world on Kickstarter in 2015.


The family-friendly game, designed for up to five players, is simple to understand and play: Players draw from a stack of 56 cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten card, which renders them dead and out of the game. If they have a Defuse card - which are things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches - they can live another day. All the other cards in the deck similarly move, weaken, and avoid the dreaded Exploding Kitten card.

Initially seeking $10,000, the campaign raised an astonishing $1 million in only seven hours. As it continued to exceed expectations and reach stretch goals, the creators introduced new cards and expansion packs.

Exploding Kittens


All in all, Exploding Kittens raised more than $8.7 million from more than 219,000 backers. Today, it holds the record for the #1 most-backed project as well as the #7 most-funded project in Kickstarter history.


Outside of Kickstarter, the game has sold 8 million units worldwide to date and is consistently among the top-selling toys and games across major retailers like Amazon and Target.

The company has also created nearly-as-popular games like Bears vs. Babies and You've Got Crabs. It's currently hoping to continue its history of Kickstarter success with "the world's first dodgeball card game," Throw Throw Burrito.

How to make a card game people will love

Though it may seem like we're living in an increasingly digital world dominated by video games, many people are also running in the opposite direction towards physical, tabletop games. Better than online interactions, these analog games are enabling more natural and immediate connections. Playing games like Settlers of Catan, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, has even become a popular form of networking on Wall Street.

It's not easy, however, to create a game that inspires people to get together - and keeps them together.

"The creative process for making a tabletop game is mostly finding a core mechanic that makes the people you're playing with entertaining," Lee told Business Insider. Surprisingly, fun shouldn't be the main thing you look for in the next new card game you shop for.


exploding kittens card game 2

Exploding Kittens

"Games are not supposed to be fun," Lee says. "Games are supposed to enable the people playing to entertain each other."

"The process for creating a game is a nearly endless exploration of mechanics that are evaluated against the criteria, 'Did that just enable an interaction between us that we want to experience again?' The moment the answer is 'Yes,' you know you've got something."

Something Lee, who comes from a video game background, also discovered about the process of designing table games is that there's no room for mistakes.


While you you can fix an error in a video game by releasing a patch, "Designing for tabletop offers no such luxuries. Spelling mistakes, unclear rules, and art glitches are printed hundreds of thousands if not millions of times, acting as a permanent shrine to our follies. It's brutal."

In the very crowded space of card games, all hoping to become part of your game night lineup, Exploding Kittens stands out among the rest for its creative execution of a simple, easy-to-grasp premise. There are no over-complicated rules or flimsy cards, only many, many delightful illustrations of cats and entertainment for the whole family.

You can pick up the original card game for $20 at the below retailers, as well as expansion packs and party versions to enhance the Exploding Kittens game experience.

Shop the Exploding Kittens Original Card Game (2-5 players) for $19.99 here: Amazon, Target, Jet, Walmart

Shop the Exploding Kittens Party Pack Game (up to 10 players) for $29.99 here: Amazon, Target, Walmart

Shop the Exploding Kittens Everything We've Got Bundle for $161.34 here: Amazon

Shop all Exploding Kittens products at Amazon here

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