Best Guess: How many quarters will D&D Next beat Pathfinder on the ICv2 list (if any)?


5th Edition (And Beyond)

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Quark Blast wrote:

After doing research by listening to various YouTube discussions and interviews involving gaming insiders, game store owners and other gamer-people who lived through the 80s & 90s, I'd say WoW was the final indicator of whether companies should look for bank in TTRPGs. Clearly the money is on getting a hit in the MMORG market. Console/PC gaming is a little steep to get into unless you've got backers with deep pockets (and Kickstarter/Patreon just won't get you there).

I think the impact of TTRPGs is best measured in number of active players/capita*. Sometime after 1994 that number seems to have started an unending downward trend with the exception of a possible small up-tick with the release of 5e.

If you try to use another measure, like total gross earnings, profit, number of industry employees, cross-cultural impact, or ???, a comparison gets much less relevant because TTPRGs don't count for much by those measures. And they never have.

The one thing that hasn't changed much is domination of the TTRPG market by one, or two, and (sometimes) three companies, with massive fluctuation from quarter to quarter in rankings below the top tier.

Places like the Paizo Messageboards, GitP, RPGnet, EN World, etc., are somewhat of an echo chamber. I've lost count of the times I've had to explain TTRPGs with the phrase, "Like World of Warcraft only the experience is moderated by a fellow human rather than a program running on a server somewhere". Most of the world does not get, and never will get, TTRPGs. There is no money in this market worth chasing unless you're already in the game. You might as well try to go from skateboarding to driving for NASCAR, as changing from TTRPG player/GM to game content publisher.

* Not TTRPG-exclusive players because people have multiple hobbies sometimes.

Well yeah. It's a niche market. It's always been a niche market. Even when it was a fad in the early days. Except then you couldn't explain it by comparison to computer RPGs.:)

I'm not sure why active players/capita is a better measure than anything else you suggest. Sure TTRPGs don't count for much by those, but they don't count for much by active players either.

I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers on size of the hobby over time, but the choice of mid-90s surprises me. No up-tick with 3.x?

Even the WoW comparison seems weird to me. It's a niche market. A hobby market. What does the size of WoW have to do with TTRPGs, except that both groups call themselves gamers? Sure, it's not a good market for big companies or rich investors to dump big buckets into in hope of huge returns. I'd say Hasbro proved that.
Doesn't mean there isn't room in the field. Just that even the successful won't get rich. There's a decent number of people and companies making a living at it. And most of them do come out of the player base.


thejeff wrote:
Well yeah. It's a niche market. It's always been a niche market. Even when it was a fad in the early days. Except then you couldn't explain it by comparison to computer RPGs.:)

No, you had to compare it to wargaming. And compared to active wargamers (say in 1984) the TTRPG market was HUGE.

thejeff wrote:
I'm not sure why active players/capita is a better measure than anything else you suggest. Sure TTRPGs don't count for much by those, but they don't count for much by active players either.

The other things (gross, net profit, employees,...) are notoriously hard to get good data on. Active players can be proxied by aggregate sales and convention attendance (for example).

thejeff wrote:
I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers on size of the hobby over time, but the choice of mid-90s surprises me. No up-tick with 3.x?

There might have been a slight up-tick with 3.x but it did not result in a change in trend for the TTRPG niche.

5e coincides (note: I do not say caused) the current "silver age" in TTRPGs. This gets a little equivocal since entire campaigns are held in the virtual world and much of the buzz for TTRPGs is from episodes of key shows (Big Bang Theory, Community) and YouTube channels (Geek & Sundry, Nerdist). Those are part of the TTRPG experience but not strictly speaking necessary, though without them (and the various forums like Paizo Messageboards) we would not be in the "silver age".

TTPRGs are no longer mediated through FLGSs.

thejeff wrote:
Even the WoW comparison seems weird to me. It's a niche market. A hobby market. What does the size of WoW have to do with TTRPGs, except that both groups call themselves gamers? Sure, it's not a good market for big companies or rich investors to dump big buckets into in hope of huge returns. I'd say Hasbro proved that.

WoW made bank like nothing before it. It was also international like nothing before it. WoW changed the landscape in a big way.

As for Hasbro, we all know they bought MTG not D&D.

thejeff wrote:
Doesn't mean there isn't room in the field. Just that even the successful won't get rich. There's a decent number of people and companies making a living at it. And most of them do come out of the player base.

True enough but if you look at the successes - Keith Baker being the prime example - you realize that your shot at making it is something like 1-in-11,000.


Here is an interesting interview that applies fairly well to the topic of this thread.

ICV2 INTERVIEW: ASMODEE EXECS ON THE STATE OF THE MARKET, PART 1

ICV2 INTERVIEW: ASMODEE EXECS ON THE STATE OF THE MARKET, PART 2

What d'ya think?


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Shadow Kosh wrote:
Maybe we should look into changing the title of the thread to "Best Guess: Will Pathfinder ever beat D&D on the ICv2 list again?"

Probably Not.

D&D / WOTC would have to screw up ROYALLY again for that to happen and I just dont see that happening.


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Updated answer to the OP:
Looks like 14 quarters and counting.

RECORD BROKEN AT WOTC by 'Xanathar's Guide to Everything'

ROLLING FOR INITIATIVE--WE'RE NUMBER ONE! WE'RE NUMBER ONE!

ROLLING FOR INITIATIVE--WOTC DEMONSTRATES THE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND (AGAIN)

These aren't industry numbers per se but the lead D&D has is so large that it doesn't matter... as ShinHakkaider so timidly observed.

Grand Lodge

ShinHakkaider wrote:
Shadow Kosh wrote:
Maybe we should look into changing the title of the thread to "Best Guess: Will Pathfinder ever beat D&D on the ICv2 list again?"

Probably Not.

D&D / WOTC would have to screw up ROYALLY again for that to happen and I just dont see that happening.

I wouldn't count on Hasbro not screwing up royally.


RyanH wrote:
ShinHakkaider wrote:
Shadow Kosh wrote:
Maybe we should look into changing the title of the thread to "Best Guess: Will Pathfinder ever beat D&D on the ICv2 list again?"

Probably Not.

D&D / WOTC would have to screw up ROYALLY again for that to happen and I just dont see that happening.

I wouldn't count on Hasbro not screwing up royally.

IF you read the two ASMODEE EXECS interviews I linked a few posts up you will see that the market is starting to screw itself up - what with Kickstarter and other changes in the gaming market, we may not need bad decisions in the board room to scuttle D&D. At some point (as the TTRPG pie gets cut into finer and finer slices) it becomes easier to make money on something else for a company as big as Hasbro. In fact I'm kinda surprised we haven't seen more movement to get the next D&D movie to market.


Both the interviews are really interesting. However don’t underestimate the value of a huge brand name when competing with an endless cycle of lesser known and growing brands. Retailers are naturally going to favor products with lasting potential, and recognized quality over a punt on brand new and stand alone product.

5e is really setting some standards in quality and production values while cashing in on a huge nostalgia bank spanning 30 years. The combination of recognizable products and a much slower and deliberate release schedule means FLGS’s can order stock knowing it will take less shelf space and be supported and marketed centrally for longer. That has to be a win. Furthermore the Online presence of the 5e campaigns with writer led live play throughs, computer game tie ins, miniatures etc, is really high quality.

By broadening the appeal of their more specialist products (Curse of Strahd for example) rather than concentrating on distinct setting product lines, they are becoming less niche. My concern with Paizo’s stratagy is that it seems to becoming more and more niche with every release - as more generally applicable supplements have already been made.

I worry for Paizo but have no fear for d&d’s resilience. I suspect it is in good hands with the current exec.


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The Sword wrote:
5e is really setting some standards in quality and production values...

Except for the page numbers in their books. Too damn dim. :)


@The Sword
What I found most telling was a good confirmation of my suspicion about how Kickstarter would affect the gaming market.

This last summer/fall there were something like 10 new board games or expansions being released every week!

How the ####! can your FLGS keep up with that in a meaningful way?

WotC is certainly pacing itself with 5e. I'm hoping the upcoming movie Ready Player One will have the same tie-in as the book and that will encourage Hasbro to actually make some pre-production effort for the next D&D movie which IMDB indicates has been pushed out to 2021. A date not so very different from never the way Hollywood operates.


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In all the concern for kickstarters...has anyone considered that the biggest danger for small gaming stores and eventually the industry is the current online sales (which includes kickstarters but also Amazon and others)? As people shop more and more online, they spend more and more time browsing and buying stuff in physical stores. Which creates a feedback where non-gaming stores just don't carry a very good range of products, while gaming stores struggle to stay in business. But when a gaming store closes, that means you automatically lose a hub for meeting and playing games, that online meet ups can't fully replace.

Online sales is basically murdering pretty much any brick and mortar independent store, whether it's selling optics for birders, fish for aquarists, or plain old hardware/electronics/clothes.


MMCJawa wrote:

In all the concern for kickstarters...has anyone considered that the biggonline salesest danger for small gaming stores and eventually the industry is the current online sales (which includes kickstarters but also Amazon and others)? As people shop more and more online, they spend more and more time browsing and buying stuff in physical stores. Which creates a feedback where non-gaming stores just don't carry a very good range of products, while gaming stores struggle to stay in business. But when a gaming store closes, that means you automatically lose a hub for meeting and playing games, that online meet ups can't fully replace.

Online sales is basically murdering pretty much any brick and mortar independent store, whether it's selling optics for birders, fish for aquarists, or plain old hardware/electronics/clothes.

Not to mention Paizo's subscriptions. :)

But yeah, I can't see kickstarter particularly being nearly the threat that online sales are. I wonder how all RPG kickstarters together compare to D&D books sold on Amazon? A small fraction of the market, I'm sure.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Eh, I haven't ever seen a group that would like to play in gaming store. I mean, people here hate doing stuff in public :p

Silver Crusade

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The only real danger to gaming stores is Magic: the Gathering (or, CCGs in general), fading away. If that happens, they're screwed. Until that happens, they're fine.


CorvusMask wrote:
Eh, I haven't ever seen a group that would like to play in gaming store. I mean, people here hate doing stuff in public :p

I GMed my ongoing campaign in a gaming store from 2012 to 2015. I recruited the three players I currently have there, and still have occasional online contact with others that dropped for various reasons. I found that playing in public was the best way to recruit new players. Most of my players since I started GMing Pathfinder have been players new to the game. Without access to the store (that closed because the building was not up to safety code), I am not sure how I'm going to recruit new players to fill the seats vacated by a package-deal pair of players whose schedules changed.

Gorbacz wrote:
The only real danger to gaming stores is Magic: the Gathering (or, CCGs in general), fading away. If that happens, they're screwed. Until that happens, they're fine.

This is VERY true. If anything, I always felt a little bit like an interloper running my game at the store because I was occupying a table that might otherwise be used for Magic: The Gathering or Vanguard. I recruited my players primarily from card game players that were interested in "what's going on over at that table." It's a case of the game is the advertisement for the game.

The clerk in the shop told me once that the owner mostly used the store as a place to have people play the games and as a means for the shop to BUY Magic: The Gathering cards from players. He said that a desirable card might sit in their shop display case for months if they only dealt locally, but they resold most desirable cards within a week because they sold them on Ebay. The shop made some money on closed box drafts, entry fees for weekly tournaments, major new releases, and bottled refreshments, but their main money was in the second-hand market generated by the trading card aspect of the cards that they brought back in from players, often traded in by players for new random packs.

Of course this is all anecdotal, but I found it very fascinating. The trade-in market is much harder to track as well since it's more 1-on-1 transactions of what are technically second-hand goods (even if someone trades back a card they've just pulled out of a random booster).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's nothing anecdotal here. In 2016, US/CAN sales broke down as follows: 750m USD for collectible games (CCGs, collectible miniatures and dice games), 305m USD for board games, 205m USD for miniature games (Warhammer, Warmachine etc), 130m USD for non-collectible card and dice games and a whopping 45m USD for RPGs.

And of that 45m USD, D&D is likely something around 50-60%.

Sure, these numbers are US/CAN only, but unlike with CCGs and board games, US/CAN is something close to 80% of global pnp RPG market, so it's kind of the only metric that matters.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I don't think that would work here as well since people over here are much more timid about talking to strangers :P Like, only drunk people here talk in bus for example, people think you are crazy if you start talking to someone you don't know.

Anyway, I got my current player group through roll20 so I think for newer generation of people in this hobby online sites will be more relevant than gaming stores. I suppose conventions also work as good newbie hooks as well.


I can’t comment on the state of play in America but certainly in the U.K, sites like Facebook, Meet/up.com, Instagram etc have recruited far more players than game stores did, which are far and few between.

Regarding online sales, to put it simply, game stores have to deliver excellent customer experiences and people will patronize them. Maybe not those who live hand to mouth, but certainly gamers with disposable income can be influenced to spend that inhouse.

I wouldn’t dream of buying Games Workshop products online despite being cheaper because when I go into my local GW store I get good conversation, the manager takes care of me (puts a copy or two aside when something’s popular) and gives me the occasional cup of tea.

Make customers feel valued and impulse buying will take care of the rest. Or be smart, and retail online as well so your stock works twice as hard.


’thejeff” wrote:
But yeah, I can't see kickstarter particularly being nearly the threat that online sales are. I wonder how all RPG kickstarters together compare to D&D books sold on Amazon? A small fraction of the market, I'm sure.

Kickstarter is online sales. Just a different sort than Amazon.

My understanding is that Kickstarter is a major portion of new board game sales. Board games that have hit say the Top 10 are sold everywhere but mostly on Amazon.

As for TTRPGs:
After D&D and its clones you are left with crumbs.
After Amazon sales it is again crumbs.

For the e-copy of various gaming products I have no idea. No one volunteers their sales figures, there are no distributors, and nothing gets resold… so how would generate a metric without a very expensive professional poll?


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Quark Blast wrote:
’thejeff” wrote:
But yeah, I can't see kickstarter particularly being nearly the threat that online sales are. I wonder how all RPG kickstarters together compare to D&D books sold on Amazon? A small fraction of the market, I'm sure.

Kickstarter is online sales. Just a different sort than Amazon.

My understanding is that Kickstarter is a major portion of new board game sales. Board games that have hit say the Top 10 are sold everywhere but mostly on Amazon.

As for TTRPGs:
After D&D and its clones you are left with crumbs.
After Amazon sales it is again crumbs.

For the e-copy of various gaming products I have no idea. No one volunteers their sales figures, there are no distributors, and nothing gets resold… so how would generate a metric without a very expensive professional poll?

All of which again suggests that Kickstarters are having a negligible effect on gaming stores, because those "new board game sales" were a negligible part in the first place.

Amazon's a far bigger problem. Enough bigger that Kickstarter isn't worth worrying about.


According to a couple of blogs I follow put up by game store owners... board games make up as much as 1/3 of their net monthly income. Or did until Kickstarter changed the way things work.

By the time Amazon has those games, well the big sales (for a FLGS) have already passed by.

In addition they are lamenting that even the steady board games are not reliably steady sales anymore because of the flavor of the month nature of the market. A market driven by Kickstarter it seems.

Then there's the stat of 10 new board games hitting the market each week - how can you and your staff at the FLGS possibly keep up with that pace?

Bringing this back to the OP:
Even with Amazon low-balling the price, D&D 5e is by far the largest TTRPG seller in any mixed-stock FLGS I know of. For most of them 5e is equal to or greater than all the remaining TTRPGs.

Then there's MtG...


Quark Blast wrote:

According to a couple of blogs I follow put up by game store owners... board games make up as much as 1/3 of their net monthly income. Or did until Kickstarter changed the way things work.

By the time Amazon has those games, well the big sales (for a FLGS) have already passed by.

In addition they are lamenting that even the steady board games are not reliably steady sales anymore because of the flavor of the month nature of the market. A market driven by Kickstarter it seems.

Then there's the stat of 10 new board games hitting the market each week - how can you and your staff at the FLGS possibly keep up with that pace?

Bringing this back to the OP:
Even with Amazon low-balling the price, D&D 5e is by far the largest TTRPG seller in any mixed-stock FLGS I know of. For most of them 5e is equal to or greater than all the remaining TTRPGs.

Then there's MtG...

The FLGS can't keep up. So what?

The number of new games coming out is nearly irrelevant. Where's the money being spent. If 10 new games come out in a week and that's 90% of the money spent that week, that's one thing. If it's 1%, that's something else.
You're bringing up things that sound bad, but might be completely irrelevant.
What market share of games (not new games, but all of them) is through Kickstarter?
How much through Amazon? (Or other online sales)
How much is left for the FLGS?

I may be wrong here, but I strongly suspect Kickstarter is a small fraction of Amazon and thus a small fraction of the problem for FLGS.


thejeff wrote:
Quark Blast wrote:

According to a couple of blogs I follow put up by game store owners... board games make up as much as 1/3 of their net monthly income. Or did until Kickstarter changed the way things work.

By the time Amazon has those games, well the big sales (for a FLGS) have already passed by.

In addition they are lamenting that even the steady board games are not reliably steady sales anymore because of the flavor of the month nature of the market. A market driven by Kickstarter it seems.

Then there's the stat of 10 new board games hitting the market each week - how can you and your staff at the FLGS possibly keep up with that pace?

Bringing this back to the OP:
Even with Amazon low-balling the price, D&D 5e is by far the largest TTRPG seller in any mixed-stock FLGS I know of. For most of them 5e is equal to or greater than all the remaining TTRPGs.

Then there's MtG...

The FLGS can't keep up. So what?

The number of new games coming out is nearly irrelevant. Where's the money being spent. If 10 new games come out in a week and that's 90% of the money spent that week, that's one thing. If it's 1%, that's something else.
You're bringing up things that sound bad, but might be completely irrelevant.
What market share of games (not new games, but all of them) is through Kickstarter?
How much through Amazon? (Or other online sales)
How much is left for the FLGS?

I may be wrong here, but I strongly suspect Kickstarter is a small fraction of Amazon and thus a small fraction of the problem for FLGS.

Last I heard when someone in the business made an estimate, something like 50% of new board game sales were via Kickstarter.

Aside from a few Ol' Standbys, for your typical FLGS, new board games is where it's at. Sell them while they're hot!

Trouble is with 10 new games/expansions coming out each week, and FLGSs needing their staff to be at least passingly familiar with each game's mechanics, and Kickstarter by-passing the usual channels to market... well, there's just no way to know with sufficient certainty which games to invest time and money in.

Getting ahead of the curve for the next Catan does the FLGS precious little good if they have 200 copies of B-Sieged Sons of The Abyss Board Game moldering on the shelves.

Amazon doesn't have those risks.


Except Game stores can sell through amazon as well. So they don’t need to take the risk either in the same way. A game store becomes a display portal for stock and a method of recruiting new players.


The Sword wrote:
Except Game stores can sell through amazon as well. So they don’t need to take the risk either in the same way. A game store becomes a display portal for stock and a method of recruiting new players.

Game stores that sell anything through Amazon except unintended clearance items are the bane of the FLGS community.

If they are themselves also a FLGS, no matter as they are metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot whether they realize it or not. No independent store owner is big enough to make a business out of underselling via Amazon Marketplace.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Gorbacz wrote:

There's nothing anecdotal here. In 2016, US/CAN sales broke down as follows: 750m USD for collectible games (CCGs, collectible miniatures and dice games), 305m USD for board games, 205m USD for miniature games (Warhammer, Warmachine etc), 130m USD for non-collectible card and dice games and a whopping 45m USD for RPGs.

And of that 45m USD, D&D is likely something around 50-60%.

Sure, these numbers are US/CAN only, but unlike with CCGs and board games, US/CAN is something close to 80% of global pnp RPG market, so it's kind of the only metric that matters.

I'm pretty sure your numbers are A) estimated and B) specific to a single segment of the market (i.e., hobby retailers). Does whatever source you're using explain how they estimate and what segment they're covering?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

There's nothing anecdotal here. In 2016, US/CAN sales broke down as follows: 750m USD for collectible games (CCGs, collectible miniatures and dice games), 305m USD for board games, 205m USD for miniature games (Warhammer, Warmachine etc), 130m USD for non-collectible card and dice games and a whopping 45m USD for RPGs.

And of that 45m USD, D&D is likely something around 50-60%.

Sure, these numbers are US/CAN only, but unlike with CCGs and board games, US/CAN is something close to 80% of global pnp RPG market, so it's kind of the only metric that matters.

I'm pretty sure your numbers are A) estimated and B) specific to a single segment of the market (i.e., hobby retailers). Does whatever source you're using explain how they estimate and what segment they're covering?

They're from ICV2, which is the only measurement that's publicly available. I believe they base the numbers upon interviews with retailers and don't factor in online sales, but I wouldn't be surprised that those more or less follow the brick and mortar trends, mainly that of CCGs being ahead of board games and with RPGs waaay at the end of spectrum.

What I see being sold over here, both online and with brick and mortars, basing on interviews with retailers/distributors back when I was a dealer's hall manager at the largest con in Poland pretty much confirms that, although I'd hazard the guess that board games are much stronger in Europe compared to CCGs.


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ICv2 is explicitly an estimate of the entire market (including online sales).

It's not a terribly good estimate, no doubt - but it remains the best estimate there is.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

While I don't have accurate information on how accurate their estimates are, my estimate of the accuracy of their estimates is that they're probably fairly inaccurate.

Most game sales in our industry are via four distinct markets:

• Hobby (your basic game stores)
• Book (Amazon, chains such as Barnes & Noble, and the few independent book retailers that remain)
• Mass Market (places like Target, Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart)
• Direct (sales by the publisher themselves, commonly online or at conventions)

I believe that ICv2 probably has decent insight into hobby sales, and maybe into some book sales. I'd be surprised if they have much insight into mass sales, and I'm confident that they have almost no insight into direct sales. (We don't share our direct sales figures with anyone, and neither do a lot of companies.)

Online sales are also spread across all of those channels:
• When you buy Munchkin from paizo.com, that counts as a hobby sale, since we buy it from a hobby distributor.
• When you buy Munchkin from amazon.com, that counts as a book channel sale, since they buy it from a book distributor*.
• When you buy Munchkin from target.com, that counts as a mass sale, since they buy it from a mass market distributor.
• When you buy Munchkin from warehouse23.com (the publisher's web store), that's a direct sale.

So while ICv2 may have decent insight into *some* online sales, they have literally zero insight into other online sales.

While I agree they're the source of the best estimates available to the general public, it's important to realize that their margin of error is probably quite large.

Personally, I suspect their accuracy is low enough that I can safely assume that any actual number they report is almost certainly not the right number... but I also wouldn't be super surprised if most of the *ratios* between their numbers are within 10-15% of true.

*:
Munchkin is big enough that there's actually some chance that Amazon is buying it through a different channel, but I believe most of Amazon's hobby game sales are via book distribution. Not counting third-party sellers, of course, who are often actually hobby channel or book channel sellers... and not counting publishers who do their own sales through Amazon, and... see how complicated this all is?


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Vic Wertz wrote:

While I don't have accurate information on how accurate their estimates are, my estimate of the accuracy of their estimates is that they're probably fairly inaccurate.

Most game sales in our industry are via four distinct markets:

• Hobby (your basic game stores)
• Book (Amazon, chains such as Barnes & Noble, and the few independent book retailers that remain)
• Mass Market (places like Target, Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart)
• Direct (sales by the publisher themselves, commonly online or at conventions)

I believe that ICv2 probably has decent insight into hobby sales, and maybe into some book sales. I'd be surprised if they have much insight into mass sales, and I'm confident that they have almost no insight into direct sales. (We don't share our direct sales figures with anyone, and neither do a lot of companies.)

Online sales are also spread across all of those channels:
• When you buy Munchkin from paizo.com, that counts as a hobby sale, since we buy it from a hobby distributor.
• When you buy Munchkin from amazon.com, that counts as a book channel sale, since they buy it from a book distributor*.
• When you buy Munchkin from target.com, that counts as a mass sale, since they buy it from a mass market distributor.
• When you buy Munchkin from warehouse23.com (the publisher's web store), that's a direct sale.

So while ICv2 may have decent insight into *some* online sales, they have literally zero insight into other online sales.

While I agree they're the source of the best estimates available to the general public, it's important to realize that their margin of error is probably quite large.

Personally, I suspect their accuracy is low enough that I can safely assume that any actual number they report is almost certainly not the right number... but I also wouldn't be super surprised if most of the *ratios* between their numbers are within 10-15% of true.

** spoiler omitted **...

My general rule when using financial estimates like this (which I do rather a lot of) is to just compare like with like. If ICv2 say things have improved, they probably have. They can pick up things like the dormancy of D&D sales during 5E's playtesting and so forth. Most errors come when people forget where they've sourced a figure (so start dividing a Hasbro-derived revenue figure by an ICv2 estimated global sales figure to determine market share).

Luckily, the actual number doesn't really matter. Our lives and arguments won't be substantially different if global RPG sales are $45m or $450m.

EDIT: Well Vic's life might be substantially different if revenue increases tenfold across the board, but the rest of us wouldnt be affected.

Silver Crusade

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Vic Wertz wrote:

While I don't have accurate information on how accurate their estimates are, my estimate of the accuracy of their estimates is that they're probably fairly inaccurate.

You're likely 100% right, but the point of the thread that RPGs are, for American brick and mortar gaming stores, icing on the top of the cake at best, irrelevant at worst. These shops live and die on CCGs, wargames and board games.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

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Gorbacz wrote:
Vic Wertz wrote:

While I don't have accurate information on how accurate their estimates are, my estimate of the accuracy of their estimates is that they're probably fairly inaccurate.

You're likely 100% right, but the point of the thread that RPGs are, for American brick and mortar gaming stores, icing on the top of the cake at best, irrelevant at worst. These shops live and die on CCGs, wargames and board games.

CCGs and board games for sure. But I think that the data is misleading you a bit on the relative importance of wargames to the average hobby game store. Specifically, the numbers quoted might suggest that hobby game stores make 4.5 times more revenue from wargames than they do from roleplaying. But Games Workshop is a huge chunk of the wargames business, and a significant portion of GW sales go through their own Games Workshop stores, which don't sell other hobby games. I would estimate that the ratio of wargames sales to RPG sales in an average US hobby store is a lot more like to 2.5:1 or even 2:1.

(Games Workshop is one of the few companies whose data you can actually dig into, as they're publicly traded in the UK and so publish annual reports. You'll find the latest here.)


@Vic

And Kickstarter? How do they factor in? They fall under "direct sale" but do you think the massive increase in Kickstarter board game sales have grown the "hobby" market or detracted from it?

Or maybe you can't answer that for business ethics reasons. No hurt feelings if you can't.

My gut feeling and the opinions on the FLGS owner blogs I follow seem to indicate rather strongly that Kickstarter has at the very least made selling board games harder and have likely shifted the market away from the "hobby" sector, even as the overall board game slice of the pie has grown.

Silver Crusade

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I've asked all board game store owners I know (which is a double digit across the country). They said that crowdfunded foreign-made games are negligible due to

a) people in Poland buying mostly Polish language versions,
b) shipping being a beach,

while Polish-produced (either translated or original) crwodfunded sales don't impact them really, because the board game hobby grows fast enough and most of "newbies" stick with brick and mortar or "normal" online sales. Crowfunding is for invested nerds, in other words.

Oh, and one quite succcesful store owner asked me back "There are crowfunded board games? I didn't know, I'm too busy making my living by selling Ticket to Ride."

Scarab Sages

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Another thing that cannot be taken into account with the intend of this thread is that WOTC does not direct sale, and Paizo is all about direct sales. I imagine most of Paizo's sale are direct and subscriptions.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Quark Blast wrote:

@Vic

And Kickstarter? How do they factor in? They fall under "direct sale" but do you think the massive increase in Kickstarter board game sales have grown the "hobby" market or detracted from it?

Or maybe you can't answer that for business ethics reasons. No hurt feelings if you can't.

I have no data here. I can tell you that very few of the hobby distributors we sell to are anti-Kickstarter. The hobby retailers we have talked to are a bit more likely to be anti-Kickstarter, but (not surprisingly) Kickstarters that include a retailers tier are appreciated more than the ones that don't.

My personal opinion is that some of the higher-profile Kickstarters have probably brought some new customers into the hobby market. It may not be super easy to capture their interest with other games, or to get them into hobby game stores, but if the industry can find a way, it'll be a net positive.


Thanks for the feeback @Vic Werts.

Well Polygon is reporting a +29% year-over-year funding increase on Kickstarter for the tabletop category. And also this,

”Polygon” wrote:
The tabletop space has seen remarkable growth on Kickstarter. In 2015 it earned twice as much money as the video game category, and in 2016 it earned nearly six times as much.

I'm not exactly sure on how to read the released numbers but I'd wager that unless your FLGS can report similar numbers for board games sales (i.e. +29%) you can figure any amount less than that went to Kickstarter instead of the FLGS. And I expect, from what I’ve read, the average amount to the FLGS to have been 0% +- 5% in 2017.


Quark Blast wrote:

Thanks for the feeback @Vic Werts.

Well Polygon is reporting a +29% year-over-year funding increase on Kickstarter for the tabletop category. And also this,

”Polygon” wrote:
The tabletop space has seen remarkable growth on Kickstarter. In 2015 it earned twice as much money as the video game category, and in 2016 it earned nearly six times as much.

I'm not exactly sure on how to read the released numbers but I'd wager that unless your FLGS can report similar numbers for board games sales (i.e. +29%) you can figure any amount less than that went to Kickstarter instead of the FLGS. And I expect, from what I’ve read, the average amount to the FLGS to have been 0% +- 5% in 2017.

No. No you can't. Those are meaningless numbers to compare.

Without knowing the actual dollar amounts involved you can't even begin to compare percentages. Kickstarter money could have grown, but still only be a tiny fraction of FLGS money.

And what do non-Kickstarter online sales (mostly Amazon) look like. If they dwarf both Kickstarter and FLGS sales, then they're the problem for gaming stores, not Kickstarter.

I know you've got a hate on for Kickstarter, but the bits of data you're thrown out don't actually make your case.


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Last month was the first time I can remember the PF Core rulebook not making the top ten selling items list. That seems significant (if it’s accurate). Whether because it shows a decline in sales (bad news) or that Starfinder is maintaining its momentum and crowding out the top ten (good news).

Paizo Employee CEO

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Last month was the first time I can remember the PF Core rulebook not making the top ten selling items list. That seems significant (if it’s accurate). Whether because it shows a decline in sales (bad news) or that Starfinder is maintaining its momentum and crowding out the top ten (good news).

Our Core Rulebook sales have been super steady over the past few years, so I am guessing that it is more about Starfinder doing so well.


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Awesome. Thanks, Lisa. Well deserved! :)


”thejeff” wrote:

No. No you can't. Those are meaningless numbers to compare.

Without knowing the actual dollar amounts involved you can't even begin to compare percentages. Kickstarter money could have grown, but still only be a tiny fraction of FLGS money.

And what do non-Kickstarter online sales (mostly Amazon) look like. If they dwarf both Kickstarter and FLGS sales, then they're the problem for gaming stores, not Kickstarter.

I know you've got a hate on for Kickstarter, but the bits of data you're thrown out don't actually make your case.

The numbers are not meaningless to compare. Obviously the board game market is exploding. At least half of that explosion, perhaps as much as 80%, is attributable to Kickstarter. All admit the increase in interest/hype for things board-gamey. But...

As I said up thread, the FLGS blogs I follow, and the retailers I talk to, are telling me that Kickstarter has not obviously helped the profit margin for board games at the brick-and-mortar establishments. Those Kickstarter projects having a retailer buy-in option, particularly a delayed payment option (but also exclusive or early content delivery helps), seem to be either a “push” or a slight money maker for the store. The other options not so much.

Distributors are reporting a similar feel to the board game retail market.

There were nearly 600 new board games or expansions that hit the market in 2017!! FLGS retail structure is not setup to sip from that firehose. And, apparently, the “type” of customer that collects* board games is not an especially loyal one. They’ll jump ship for 3% savings.

* ‘cause really how can you play that many board games and have a life? Exhibit A


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The numbers you gave were percentages. You can't compare them the way you were doing, without knowing the real numbers - or at least relative numbers.
If KS board game sales are up 29%, but KS's sales are only 1% of the FLGS market, then even if every one of those sales came directly from money that would have been spent at the FLGS it would only be a fraction of a percent of their business. Under the same assumptions otherwise, if KS is already twice the size of the FLGS market, then it would be 58% of their business.
Math.

You're right that FLGS retail structure isn't setup to drink from that firehose. You know who is? Amazon. There's the elephant in the room.


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Lisa Stevens wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Last month was the first time I can remember the PF Core rulebook not making the top ten selling items list. That seems significant (if it’s accurate). Whether because it shows a decline in sales (bad news) or that Starfinder is maintaining its momentum and crowding out the top ten (good news).

Our Core Rulebook sales have been super steady over the past few years, so I am guessing that it is more about Starfinder doing so well.

Thank you for Starfinder!


thejeff wrote:

The numbers you gave were percentages. You can't compare them the way you were doing, without knowing the real numbers - or at least relative numbers.

If KS board game sales are up 29%, but KS's sales are only 1% of the FLGS market, then even if every one of those sales came directly from money that would have been spent at the FLGS it would only be a fraction of a percent of their business. Under the same assumptions otherwise, if KS is already twice the size of the FLGS market, then it would be 58% of their business.
Math.

You're right that FLGS retail structure isn't setup to drink from that firehose. You know who is? Amazon. There's the elephant in the room.

I do have relative numbers. All of the (seemingly representative) FLGS owners I've talked to and/or whose blogs I follow, report board game sales in the 20%-35% range of their gross take. And the 20% store is well lower than the others due to that store being essentially focused on CCGs.

As far as Amazon. Well, I was overlooking that because the issue is so simple with them. Amazon wants everything to be a commodity so they can capture market share with margins so low that your local brick-and-mortar couldn't compete if the staff worked for free.


Quark Blast wrote:
thejeff wrote:

The numbers you gave were percentages. You can't compare them the way you were doing, without knowing the real numbers - or at least relative numbers.

If KS board game sales are up 29%, but KS's sales are only 1% of the FLGS market, then even if every one of those sales came directly from money that would have been spent at the FLGS it would only be a fraction of a percent of their business. Under the same assumptions otherwise, if KS is already twice the size of the FLGS market, then it would be 58% of their business.
Math.

You're right that FLGS retail structure isn't setup to drink from that firehose. You know who is? Amazon. There's the elephant in the room.

I do have relative numbers. All of the (seemingly representative) FLGS owners I've talked to and/or whose blogs I follow, report board game sales in the 20%-35% range of their gross take. And the 20% store is well lower than the others due to that store being essentially focused on CCGs.

As far as Amazon. Well, I was overlooking that because the issue is so simple with them. Amazon wants everything to be a commodity so they can capture market share with margins so low that your local brick-and-mortar couldn't compete if the staff worked for free.

I give up. You obviously have no idea what I'm trying to say. Those relative numbers have nothing to do with my argument.

And to dismiss Amazon's effect because it's simple, despite it very likely being far larger than anything else, just makes no sense at all.


”thejeff” wrote:

I give up. You obviously have no idea what I'm trying to say. Those relative numbers have nothing to do with my argument.

And to dismiss Amazon's effect because it's simple, despite it very likely being far larger than anything else, just makes no sense at all.

Giving up is ok but I think I know what you’re saying. I just think it is not the angle I’m interested in.

As to your Amazon conundrum – well, they were there before Kickstarter.

The tale being told was that Kickstarter is growing the gaming pie. My suspicion was (given Kickstarter is growing the gaming pie) that Kickstarter was doing nothing for most FLGSs and in fact was, on average, shrinking the FLGS slice of the board game part of the pie.

That Amazon (and it’s eastern clone Baidu) is disrupting global retail is a little beyond the scope of this thread… no?

Now back (waaaaay back) to the OP:
Interestingly I think the fact of the PF 2.0 playtest announcement rather answers the initial question (Unchained and Starfinder notwithstanding). Do I read this wrong or has Paizo determined that, by the numbers, 5e>PF -> ∞?


TOP 5 ROLEPLAYING GAMES--FALL 2017

1 Dungeons & Dragons Wizards of the Coast
2 Starfinder Paizo Publishing
3 Pathfinder Paizo Publishing
4 Star Wars ANA/Fantasy Flight Games
5 Star Trek Adventures Modiphius Entertainment

The first time Pathfinder has dropped out of the Top-2, though no doubt Starfinder will drop down once the initial releases are over.


OP: How many quarters?

QB: As recently cited, 13 and counting. Though unofficially from blogs and (four) in-person interviews - 15 and counting.

Scarab Sages

The 5e PHB is still selling over a thousand copies a day on Amazon, 3.5 years after initial release....now that's amazing! I'm doubtful that even when PF2 comes out that it can overtake such a huge lead.

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