Top 5 RPGs Compiled Charts 2004-Present
    • Top 5 RPGs Compiled Charts 2004-Present


      This is a compilation of the icv2.com retailer surveys of Top Five Roleplaying Games. They are generally compiled quarterly (with some exceptions). ICv2 notes that "the chart[s] [are] based on interviews with retailers, distributors, and manufacturers." Thanks to jodyjohnson for sterling compilation work and to ZsuEtAm over on WotC's D&D forums for finding the pre-2008 entries.

      • These are not based on actual sales figures. With very few exceptions, sales figures are not available for any of these products.
      • These do not take into account online sales, Kickstarter, direct sales, Amazon, or anything other than hobby retail sales.
      • These are based on interviews with hobby game retailers and distributors.
      • The RPG industry is tiny. ICv2 estimates its total size (US) as only $35M; see the table below.
      • Note that the 2015 figures have been revised with the addition of Kickstarter sales (which are included in the 2016 figures, also). The revised figures for 2015 are in parenthesis.


      US Hobby Game Market 2013-2015 ($ millions); based on figures from ICv2

      Category 2013 2015 2016
      Collectible games $450 $550 $625 (+14%)
      Miniatures $125 $125 $175 (+40%)
      Boardgames $75 $125 ($160) $250 (+56%)
      Card & dice games $35 $55 ($60) $105 (+75%)
      Roleplaying games $15 $25 $35 (+40%)
      Total $700 $880 ($920) $1,190 (+29%)
      For timescale context, I highly encourage you compare chart changes with events listed in my chart TSR, WotC, & Paizo: A Comparative History. For another take on what's popular, check out my Hot Games list based on a wide sample of what's being discussed on various major independent forums.

      In the below chart, I've listed games only for space reasons, unless more than one company produced games with the same or similar names (e.g. multiple Star Wars games), in which case I noted the company in parenthesis. Where ties exist, I put the incumbent first.

      For a color-coded (by company) version from Summer 2008 up until Spring 2014 (sorry, I made it before finding out about the 2004-2007 data!), click here.

      Period
      #5
      #4
      #3
      #2
      #1
      Events (click for more)
      Q3 2004 - - GURPS World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons WoW and Facebook both launched this year.
      Q4 2004 Mutants & Masterminds Mongoose* GURPS World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q1 2005 Green Ronin** Mongoose* Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q2 2005 Green Ronin** Mongoose* Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q4 2005 Mongoose* Green Ronin** Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q1 2006 Exalted Mutants & Masterminds World of Darkness Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) Dungeons & Dragons
      Q2 2006 Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) Mutants & Masterminds Exalted World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q3 2006 GURPS Exalted Mutants & Masterminds World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons White Wolf merges with Eve Online publisher CCP.
      Q4 2006 BESM Mutants & Masterminds Exalted World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q1 2007 Scion Exalted World of Darkness Mutants & Masterminds Dungeons & Dragons
      Q2 2007 Scion World of Darkness Warhammer Fantasy 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) Star Wars (WotC) Dungeons & Dragons
      Q3 2007 Exalted Battlestar Galactica Scion World of Darkness Dungeons & Dragons
      Q4 2007 Shadowrun Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin) World of Darkness Warhammer 40k Roleplay Dungeons & Dragons
      Q1 2008 Mutants & Masterminds World of Darkness Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy Exalted Dungeons & Dragons
      Summer 2008 Exalted Shadowrun World of Darkness Warhammer 40K: Dark Heresy Dungeons & Dragons
      Fall 2008 Pathfinder Shadowrun World of Darkness Warhammer 40K: Dark Heresy Dungeons and Dragons Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition released.
      Winter 2008-2009 Shadowrun Star Wars (WotC) World of Darkness Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy Dungeons and Dragons
      Q2 2009 Shadowrun Song of Ice and Fire World of Darkness Warhammer 40k: Dark Heresy Dungeons and Dragons Kickstarter launched.
      Q3 2009 Shadowrun Song of Ice and Fire World of Darkness Pathfinder Dungeons and Dragons Pathfinder RPG launched.
      Q4 2009 World of Darkness Rogue Trader/Dark Heresy Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3E (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons and Dragons
      Q1 2010 Dragon Age Rogue Trader/Dark Heresy Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3E (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Q2 2010 Rogue Trader/Dark Heresy ShadowRun Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3E (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Q3 2010 Dresden Files Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader Warhammer Fantasy 3E (FFG) (Tie) Pathfinder (Tie) Dungeons & Dragons Dungeons & Dragons Essentials launched.
      Q4 2010 Mutants and Masterminds, inc. DC Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Q1 2011 Mutants and Masterminds, inc. DC Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Q2 2011 Shadowrun Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder For the first time, D&D is not the top-selling RPG.
      Summer 2011 Shadowrun Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder
      Q4 2011 The One Ring Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder
      Spring 2012
      Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder D&D 5th Edition announced and public playtest begins.
      Summer 2012 Dungeon Crawl Classics Dragon Age Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder
      Fall 2012 Iron Kingdoms Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Dungeons & Dragons Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder
      Spring 2013 Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Iron Kingdoms Star Wars (FFG) Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder
      Summer 2013 Fate Core System Iron Kingdoms Dungeons & Dragons Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder
      Fall 2013 Iron Kingdoms Dungeons & Dragons Fate Core System Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder
      Spring 2014 Numenera Fate Core System Shadowrun Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder
      Summer 2014 Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch Shadowrun Star Wars (FFG) Dungeons & Dragons Pathfinder D&D 5E launched.
      Fall/Holiday 2014 Fate Numenera Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Spring 2015 Iron Kingdoms Shadowrun Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Fall 2015 Fantasy Age Dragon Age Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Spring 2016 Fantasy/Dragon Age Shadowrun Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Fall 2016 Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Shadowrun Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      Spring 2017 Shadowrun Adventures in Middle Earth Star Wars (FFG) Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons
      *Mongoose Publishing is a company name rather than a game, but this is what ICv2 reported.
      **Green Ronin is a company name rather than a game, but this is what ICv2 reported.

      Below may not be the clearest of graphs, but it maps the positions of games with 3 or more entries in the ICv2 charts over time.





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      Comments 26 Comments
      1. Deuce Traveler -
        This is pretty informative, so thank you. I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
      1. Bolongo -
        Quote Originally Posted by Deuce Traveler View Post
        I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
        Well, the edition didn't actually change then, but IIRC 2013 was when 4e almost completely dropped off the WotC production schedule.
      1. ephemeron's Avatar
        ephemeron -
        I hadn't realized that the various Warhammer/40K RPGs were that big -- well, before last fall or so, I guess. It's also fascinating to see how different licensed-property games have waxed and waned in popularity.

        How much do we know about how the size of the overall industry changed over this period?
      1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
        TrippyHippy -
        I recall that reports suggested that the Warhammer 40K RPGs were the top sellers in the UK, ahead of Pathfinder - although that is just a fraction of the market compared to the US. They may have drifted off now a bit due to the attention given to FFGs Star Wars series instead, the sense that they had completed their five core games, and the fact that most gaming IPs tend to have a limited lifespan of significant sales (about 3 years is normal).

        Its also worth noting that even though the World of Darkness games appear to have declined a lot, this is mainly due to them making a quite dramatic change in their business plans. They no longer distribute through traditional game shops, but through online downloads, POD and Kickstarter. I dont think these figures count those things, so it would be interesting to be able to get a round figure on how much their paying fanbase compares to other companies.

        D&D hardly released any new product last year, so their decline is accounted for. Expect them to be back at the top next year. Id also be interested to see how The One Ring would do, depending on the extent of the distribution into the US.
      1. Morrus's Avatar
        Morrus -
        This has just been updated with data from 2004-2007, thanks to ZsuEtAm over on WotC's D&D forums. That gives us a full ten years of charts!
      1. MartyW's Avatar
        MartyW -
        Quote Originally Posted by Deuce Traveler View Post
        This is pretty informative, so thank you. I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
        As another poster noted, 5e was not put out yet (although the play test was under way). No new 4e product was being put on store shelves.

        No new product = no sales, therefore it's not surprising the sales numbers dropped to the floor as everyone awaited the new release.

        I'd be horribly surprised if Q4 2014 didn't see D&D back in the top spot. The Player's Handbook and Monster Manuals have been top sellers on Amazon. Even though Amazon sales are not reflected in the distributor's reports, I'm certain the traditional retail channels will see the same spike and D&D will reclaim #1.
      1. lud's Avatar
        lud -
        ...
      1. lud's Avatar
        lud -
        I find it interesting to see from your compilation the pattern of the 3rd fantasy game in the lower part of the charts.

        Starting in 2009 we have:

        Song of Ice and Fire who loose its place to
        Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3E that is replaced by
        Dragon Age who is in turn replaced by
        Iron Kingdom RPG who is at the end of this cycle...
      1. Lord Rasputin's Avatar
        Lord Rasputin -
        Spikes by games coincide with new editions, since the core rule books always are the big sellers. To pick uncontroversial examples, GURPS got a new edition in 2004, but hasn't since, so it hasn't shown up again. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay got new editions in 2005 and 2009, explaining its spikes then.

        What the Essentials line did for D&D 4th was work like a new edition. Right before it came out, Pathfinder tied it, but D&D pulled into the lead again once the Essentials line got folks to update their core rule books. Once that boost was done, Pathfinder climbed into the lead.
      1. Morrus's Avatar
        Morrus -
        I dunno. Pathfinder had a spike right as Essentials was released, tying for the top spot briefly, and then D&D started dropping very soon after the Essentials launch.
      1. WackyAnne's Avatar
        WackyAnne -
        As much as I am enjoying 5th Edition, I think D&D will have a hard time regaining first place for the foreseeable future. None of this speaks to quality of either game, or its players. Unless/until WotC ramps up to full production, especially on the adventure side, they don't have the lineup. Pathfinder also sells quarterly or more modules, the monthly APs, at least a new core book a year, and tons of splatbooks; even assuming that the maps & cards Paizo also publishes aren't counted, they still vastly outproduce WotC's D&D output.

        D&D5E only has 5 products out now (Starter Set, PHB, HotDQ, MM for Q3) and two more due before the end of the year (RoT & DMG for Q4).
        Pathfinder will have 22 books out in the same time frame: 2 hardcovers, 2 double-length modules, and 6 volumes each of the Adventure Path (Iron Gods), campaign setting, and player companions.
      1. WackyAnne's Avatar
        WackyAnne -
        (deleted duplicate post)
      1. dream66_'s Avatar
        dream66_ -
        Wow, I new Essentials was bad but I didn't realize how much it hurt the game's sales.
      1. Morrus's Avatar
        Morrus -
        Updated with Summer 2014!
      1. MartyW's Avatar
        MartyW -
        Quote Originally Posted by WackyAnne View Post
        Unless/until WotC ramps up to full production, especially on the adventure side, they don't have the lineup. Pathfinder also sells quarterly or more modules, the monthly APs, at least a new core book a year, and tons of splatbooks;
        I agree only partially with your conclusions. Because the AP subscriptions and other direct sales from Paizo will not be counted in the ICv2 numbers, Pathfinder will need to sell a lot of splat books through the retail channels to keep up.

        Splat books don't sell as well as core books. This is true industry-wide (there have been many posts from people in the know on this one). WotC has 3 core books out between August and November and this will give their product line a huge spike. Given that, it would be near impossible for Pathfinder to stay on top for Q4 2014.

        Now, I do agree that WotC needs to put more product in their pipeline for the New Year or they may not be able to hold that spot for more than a quarter or two... but in the near term, I think WotC will be back on top for at least this particular industry report.
      1. Neonchameleon's Avatar
        Neonchameleon -
        Missing game on the chart: Fate Core. (Summer 2013-Spring 2014)

        Interesting reading.
      1. Neonchameleon's Avatar
        Neonchameleon -
        Double
      1. Neonchameleon's Avatar
        Neonchameleon -
        While I'm at it, Evil Hat make their sales figures public knowledge. So we can do some baselining of absolute numbers.

        Fate core position: Summer 2013 - 5, Autumn 2013 - 3, Spring 2014 - 4, Summer 2014 - 6 or lower.

        Fate Core Direct sales (not counting the 10,000 Kickstarter sales or One Bookshelf):
        Q2 2013 - 0 (they sold PDFs but hadn't yet hit the retailers)
        Q3 2013 - 1675
        Q4 2013 - 1330
        Q1 2014 - 1392
        Q2 2014 - 2062
        Q3 2014 - 2301

        (And yes, I've drilled down - direct Fate sales are actually increasing but they aren't selling new PDFs.) Numbers only apply to the corebook.

        Which is very interesting. It means Numenera has been a bit of a damp squib but everyone's sales have increased recently. I'm not surprised ICV2 are happy with the recent trend.
      1. MartyW's Avatar
        MartyW -
        Quote Originally Posted by Neonchameleon View Post
        Missing game on the chart: Fate Core. (Summer 2013-Spring 2014)

        Interesting reading.
        FATE isn't likely to show up because it has less retail channel sales. Most of the FATE sales came through its Kickstarter, or direct sales from Evil Hat or POD. None of that will show up in ICv2 reports. The ICv2 reports have limited utility on reporting larger trends in RPGs because it covers only a very specific distribution channel.
      1. Neonchameleon's Avatar
        Neonchameleon -
        Quote Originally Posted by MartyW View Post
        FATE isn't likely to show up because it has less retail channel sales.
        My point was that Fate did show up in the top 5 for 3 successive quarters in the IC reports. It's missing off the graph because it has three datapoints.
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