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!
In March I announced that I wanted to start an irregular column with news from all over the RPG scene. For some reason I totally forgot about this. So without further ado, here’s issue 2 of “News of the World”.
Designers & Dragons is on Kickstarter
A couple of days ago Evil Hat started its Designers & Dragons Kickstarter and unsurprisingly the goal was reached on the same day. Designers & Dragons will be a four-volume history of the roleplaying industry starting with the history of TSR and ending with more recent developments. Each book has been written by Shannon Applecline and if the first book (which every backer gets immediately as a PDF) is an indication, the whole four books will be about 1600 pages in total! I already backed this and I am currently reading Issue #1 The ‘70s on my Kindle. If you are just barely interested about what happened and still happens behind the scenes of the RPG industry, you should check this out!
Fantasy Flight Games will release a XCOM boardgame
Ok, this is a bit off-topic but it’s still something I am totally excited about. FFG obviously secured the boardgame rights for Firaxis XCOM computer game and is releasing a board game based on the franchise in the future. In the game the players take on various roles within the XCOM organisation and cooperatively fight the alien invasion.
The boardgame requires you to use a free companion app for your smartphone or tablet, which might either be pretty great or a hassle. Let’s just hope they release it for all major operationg systems at the boardgame’s launch.