Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where does it all come from? Part 3

Ok, when I said a few days ago that "tomorrow I'll put up the RPG chart" I forgot to take into account that

1) the weekend was coming up
2) I had a Warhammer Tournament to get ready
3) I had 2 sessions of Pathfinder to run for our Pathfinder Society group here on Sunday
4) IT'S CHRISTMAS season and I am in retail (which generally means that I do NOT get to control my own time, it controls me.)

But, I have a few minutes now, (aided by the fact that the order that I was expecting today didn't come in because of the storm in California a couple of days ago) so I promised myself I wouldn't get dinner until this post was up.

In my database, I have two ways of breaking RPG's down  First of all, I break them down by basic genre; Fantasy, SciFi, Western and so on and so forth.   I also break them down by product lines; D&D, Gurps, Traveller and such.

Let's take a quick gander at which genres are selling the most.

Now, this isn't much of a surprise.  Fantasy RPG's are the market staple. (thank you Mr Tolkien, Mr, Howard, and Mr Lieber).  In the store we have D&D and Pathfinder taking up much of the burden of fantasy RPG sales, but there are a few others contributing to that.  Earthdawn, Exalted, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay  and a couple of the Indie games also added into that.   SciFi games came in second with sales of Traveller, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and a few other minor ones.

Now for the chart that probably will be a big surprise.  I know that it was for me.

Yep... not only was D&D NOT number one, it wasn't number two or three either.  It came in at number 4 and from the looks of the chart, it sure wasn't too much higher than the number five, Savage Worlds.  Traveller is the number one, and that's for one reason.  We have a gaming group that's switching over to that game, and the person who's running it and one of the other players have been picking up the line.  Here's the sad fact.  This will be an abberation on these sales figures, and I highly suspect that next month, Traveller will fade farther back down on the list.  It's position this month, is really not something that can be counted on, but the fact that ONE group, was able to bump it to the top spot speaks volumes.  What it says to me, is that the RPG market, at least for me is in a horrid decline.  When one group can come in and overshadow D&D like that, there is a problem.

Now, WFRP had one special thing on it's side which gave it the number two slot.  It costs 100 bucks for the main boxed set.  Sell a few of those and it would be hard to keep it out of a top slot.

Pathfinder is number three, and more importantly it's eclipsing it's parent D&D.   There's a lot of grousing about 4th ed amongst veteran gamers, and many of them have sworn off of playing.  To me, this is a bit of tragedy, as basically it's saying "im so stodgy that I really don't want to hang out with my friends anymore and socialize with them because of some silly game rules".  To me, the game was always secondary to the real reason of getting together with my friends.  I'm sad that feeling isn't more widely held.  Pathfinder, however is picking up SOME of those disaffected players who aren't interested in converting to the 4th ED rules.  In fact, i'm running games for their organized play campaign, The Pathfinder Chronicles, here at the store on the first Sunday of the month.  I'm happy that it's doing well, but that it's doing better than D&D proper, is telling.

All of that aside, these charts tell me that D&D is no longer king of the heap, and I can no longer afford to just bring in several copies of each new release as they come out, and expect them to move.  D&D will now be subject to the same scrutiny that the other RPG's get.  If I don't reasonably know of someone who will buy a copy of a particular book, I'm not likely to order it.  D&D books were usually immune to any kind of process like that, but no longer.

By looking at sales, and seeing what the trends are, I don't carry a lot of hope for RPG's in general, at least here in the store.  I love RPG's and I will continue to carry them, but it would be irresponsible of me to keep carrying them in the ways that i've done in past years.  A good business is one that's flexible enough to adapt to changing markets and make decisions based off of that.  


  1. is the battletech line considered RPG or minis in your calculations? or have you seperated the individual books into their respective niches?

  2. I've played D&D all my life and spent TONS of money on it but I have ZERO interest in 4th ed. I haven't sworn off playing at all - me and my players still get together every saturday and roll dice. But instead of going forward we decided to go backward, so now we're using the Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert rules - and LOVING it. Simple, elegant, crazy, fun. We're using the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone rulebook and some Swords & Wizardry stuff thrown in. I know a lot of the OSR (Old School Renaissance) stuff isn't available for you to sell in your store (and I feel bad about that, because I want to support my FLGS)but if/when it is, if you stock it, I will buy it. Best.

  3. To First Anonymous - I do separate out the Battletech between their RPG and their Mini lines. Sadly, not too much is out right now for the Btech RPG.

    To Second Anonymous - Thank you for sticking wiht it and NOT letting the fact you're not interested in 4th ED deter you from playing. THAT'S what should be done. It's perfectly ok to not like a system. What I was upset about was how people stopped doing anything and just quit because of it.

  4. I don't think that sort of reaction should surprise anyone. The hardcore tabletop gaming fanbase is, by and large, a bunch of petty brats. I can think of precious few other hobbyists as capricious and prone to jerking of the knees. It's unfortunate, but at the same time it's not a huge deal for the industry at large. D&D will move on without these particular gamers, and the hobby will (in my opinion) be improved for it (though given that these particular gamers make up no small part of the average LGS customer base, it might hurt your business). I'd much rather sit down with the sort of gamer you talk about (where the particular system is nowhere near as important as the people playing it) than those who petulantly swear of a system because of something they heard about it on the internet.

  5. Do you think that the online tools for 4e, like Compendium and Character Builder are having an effect on 4e's book sales? I know from personal experience that I simply don't feel that I need to buy 4e books anymore. I have the PH1, DMG1 and the now-unnecessary MM1, but what do I need the rest of them for? I get everything I need to play from my DDi subscription?

    Plus, I use free online tools like Maptools for my mapping and Minis. I suspect this is a big part of the reason for dropping 4e sales, in addition to the wailing grognards factor.

  6. Wickedmurph,

    I know for a fact that some of those tools have affected sales, if not for the books themselves then for some of the accessories. Take the power cards for instance. When they first came out, I was able to move them, but when people discovered that when you make a character with Character Builder, the complete description of powers is printed out and my sales of the power cards ceased. I'm not even ordering the next set that comes out. It'd be like throwing the money down the drain.

    What I need to look at is trying to provide things that aren't provided for through those sources. Sadly.. there's not a lot that a VERY cheap alternative can't be found far. *sigh*

  7. Yeah, I'm a new dad, so the resources that I can devote to gaming are pretty sparse. I use my box of old minis, and a piece of gridded foamboard with a sheet of clear poly over top for mapping. Otherwise, I do everything online. I used to love the corner game shop, but I can't afford to go into it anymore.

    But for the customer that does have some money to spend, there must be other things you can do. One thing I'd think of off the bat is to make sets of minis and dungeon tiles available for gaming groups - even pack them into carrying cases, then rent them out.

    People are less likely to buy Dungeon Tiles and boxes of minis they may never re-use, but with a credit card for deposit, you could get some of that stuff working for you in a way that only involves buying them once. Heck, you can rent an Xbox and games, why not rent a set of gaming stuff?

  8. @ 2nd anonymous from above, Labyrinth Lord has been available through distribution since December, and I know it can be ordered through Alliance or ACD distribution.

  9. A very interesting read, thanks very much for sharing. I was very surprised to see that WHFRP didn't take top slot.

    Nice blog, I'll be back.
    my WHFB blog