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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?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
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.


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.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
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.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

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, Starfinder 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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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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, Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder 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, Starfinder 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?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
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.

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