When I had a look at the first public playtest documents Wizards of the Coast released of then-called “D&D Next” I was cautiously optimistic. But over time I lost interest in the game. I still thought that Wizards was on the right track, but I was just not convinced that they would be able to excite me. Then came the ridiculously cheap Starter Set. It was just a great deal, I couldn’t ignore it. But still my excitement was pretty low.
Things changed when a friend offered to run the adventure included in the Starter Set for us. I looked over the pregenerated characters and immediately picked the Dwarf Cleric. I loved the idea that he was more of a soldier or mercenary than a priest and that he was wondering if the gods actually cared for the world. This totally blew my mind. A pregenerated character for the new D&D with some interesting ideas and a background ripe with roleplaying opportunities – that was something I hadn’t expected.
A while ago, ICv2 has released the results of their 2013 hobby survey results. According to them the gamer market has reached around $700 million at retail in the US and Canada. Surprisingly the RPG market makes up only about $15 million. I am not surprised that CCGs, boardgames and cardgames make much more than RPGs but $15 million sounds a bit low to me. But there might be several reasons why their study came up with this number.
From what I understand “retail” means brick-and-mortar stores and doesn’t cover online sales made by publishers directly, venues like DriveThruRPG, Amazon, et cetera (Please correct me, if I am wrong). If that’s the case, $15 million might only be the tip of the iceberg. In my vicinity brick-and-mortar stores selling RPGs have all but vanished over the last years and what I hear from my online friends in the US things are not looking much better over there. So a lot of gamers have to rely on other ways to get their hands on their roleplaying stuff than going to their local gaming store.
In addition to that I know a lot of gamers who don’t buy printed books anymore but solely rely on PDFs which they can display on their tablet PCs or notebooks. And there are huge amounts of RPG products – especially by small-press publishers – which aren’t even available in print, and are probably not counted in ICv2’s survey. Hopefully someone from the industry can tell us more about the sales made in the RPG scene and if $15 millions sounds plausible or not.
The other surprising fact revealed by ICv2 was that D&D didn’t make it on the Top 5 RPGs list this spring. Again you have to take this with a grain of salt, since I believe that they just have a rather limited perspective on the whole market. The most sold game in Spring 2014 was (no surprise there) Pathfinder, followed by Star Wars by FFG, Shadowrun, Evil Hat’s Fate Core and Monte Cook’s Numenera. So D&D sold less than Numenera in Spring 2014.
But is it really so surprising? After some thought I realized that this makes a lot of sense. By then everone knew that D&D 4th Edition was dead. If I am not mistaken no new products have been released in 2014 and D&D 5th Edition was already pretty close, even though the Starter Set hasn’t been out at this point. So there’s not much sense to run into the stores and buy stuff for a game that will not be supported anymore. On the other hand people are still actively playing all the games on the list and – more importantly – talking about them. I’m actually pretty sure that D&D will make a reappearance in the Summer or Fall Top 5 RPGs lists.
So what are your thoughts on ICv2’s surveys? Am I right with my definition of “retail”? Please share your comments below!
Since I have been pretty quiet over the last few days I wanted to give you guys a short update on what’s new with your favorite blogger. My fight with depression is going pretty well at the moment. The new medication my physician prescribed me a while ago is helping a lot and I am already feeling much better. I have not returned to work yet, but I plan to slowly return to a normal life soon. I also took some steps to get rid of the tachycardia I have had for years now. My blood pressure is not perfect but still acceptable, but my heart rate is way too high. Hopefully the beta blockers will help fix that. My physician also highly recommended me to do some sports, so I guess I’ll have to get my ass into gear.
Gaming-wise everything is quite brilliant at the moment. I currently play in several games including D&D 5E, Traveller (using Savage Worlds) and Shadowrun 3E. I guess you already read about the Numenera game I’m running at the moment. I have to admit I am very excited about our next session and this time I’m not even remotely nervous. Tonight I’ll join a friend’s Barbarians of Lemuria online game, and we’ve also scheduled the next two D&D sessions. So it looks as if I’ll have about two gaming sessions per week in the foreseeable future, which is awesome.
Let me muse about D&D 5E a bit. We are playing the adventure included in the Starter Set using the pregenerated characters. The DM decided to run us through some kind of prologue first, since we are only two players at the moment. This not only gave us a lot of cool roleplaying opportunities early on, but we also had time to ease into the rules – which are pretty cool by the way. I’m surprised that they managed to keep things simple with this new edition of D&D. It reminds me of a very streamlined version of D&D 3.0 with some elements from both older and newer editions. Combat is pretty fast and the advantage/disadvantage mechanic works pretty well. I also love that they are releasing the basic rules as a free PDF which could really be a viable alternative especially if you’re not sure if the new edition is the right game for you. It’s possible to start playing with the free rules only and later add stuff from the PHB.
Even though I am currently more focussed on Numenera and The Strange, I’ll definitely give D&D 5E a chance. The new PHB is already ordered and I am looking forward the rest of the core books. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical about 5E but the Starter Set just looked like too sweet a deal to pass up. And now that I have played a couple of sessions I have to say that I enjoy it a lot. We haven’t explored everything the rules offer yet, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty sweet. I might still prefer Lamentations of the Flame Princess for D&D-ish games with a more modern and horror-ish vibe, but for traditional fantasy I might use D&D 5E in the future.
I’ve also thought about game design a lot in the last weeks, but for some reason everything I come up with looks like a bad copy of Monte Cook’s Cypher System with the serial numbers filed off. It seems these mechanics had a much greater impact on me than I first anticipated. I guess that’s also the reason why I picked up The Strange. The things I love about the Cypher System are the pools, the Edge/effort mechanics, and the fact that each creature can usually be described by its level alone (plus some tweaks). This in combination with the fact that the GM never rolls makes the system easy to run and play. Perhaps I’ll someday manage to incorporate a few of these concepts into my games without totally ripping of Monte. On the other hand, isn’t copying someone the highest form of flattery?