The EN World Best Sellers List
  • The EN World Best Sellers List 4Q2015



    Books have the New York Times (and many others) Bestsellers List. Movies and television shows have websites that track box office numbers and Nielsen ratings. Comics have sales lists all over the place. What we don’t have a lot of for role-playing games are lists of what is selling. There are some publishers who go public with their sales figures, but it is harder to build an overall idea of how things are working from something like that. Now we have an EN World Bestsellers List for RPGs.
    Will these lists tell us what the most popular game in gaming is right now? No, but it will allow us to have a starting point for conversations. Which is a good thing.

    Thanks go out especially to Michael Webb, VP of Marketing and Data Services for Alliance Game Distributors, helped me out by putting me in touch with those he considered to be “top retailers.” Hopefully we will see these articles on a quarterly basis. These lists all refer to the stores’ last quarter of 2015 sales.


    From Angie Blackmon of Dragons Lair Comics and Fantasy Austin, TX comes:

    The top five RPG items overall are…
    D&D 5th Edition PHB
    D&D 5th Edition Starter Set
    D&D 5th Edition DM Screen
    D&D 5th Edition DMG
    D&D Fantasy Miniatures Icons of the Realm (Assorted Sets)

    The top five RPG systems are…
    D&D 5th Edition
    Pathfinder Core Rules
    Fate Core Rules
    Star Wars RPG Edge of the Empire
    Shadowrun RPG 5th Edition

    This information is from our Merchandising Manager, Michael Wolff, on indie RPGs.
    "First, the new version of the Dragon Age RPG released this year and it’s a marked improvement over the previous version. Green Ronin streamlined their system a lot and pulled from all corners of the Dragon Age world to make new character options, backgrounds, and campaign ideas. Even if I wasn’t a Dragon Age superfan I’d still be interested, since it’s a simple 3d6 based system that is still tactically rich and intuitive. The best part about it to me is the inclusion of “stunt points”, which occur on a doubles roll from any 2 dice. This ability lets you add flair or other effects to whatever you’re rolling, and keeps games and stories interesting, sometimes when you least expect it. I’m still itching to run a game of this, especially since it’s all (so far) in one book at a good price. They should be releasing various sourcebooks and add-ons in the coming year."

    "The other main book I’ve been keeping an eye on is Star Wars: Force and Destiny. Fantasy Flight’s not exactly a small company, but the creation of a game that lets people play out their childhood fantasies of being a Jedi and using the Force is fan service incarnate. That’s not a bad thing, if you ask me. The best part, if you ask me, about the Star Wars RPGs is that they all have a unique dice system of variable success or failure which keeps games from falling into binary pass/fail mechanics, which I and others I know appreciate. Force and Destiny, like all other Star Wars RPGs, is definitely hanging around for a while, since FFG has a solid release schedule of expansions as the games age. I’m hoping that after the movie comes out, they create a campaign or book related to the Force Awakens events and characters."

    "The last one I’ve noticed lately is the Dread RPG. This is the horror themed game that’s played with a set of Jenga blocks. Every time a difficult decision is made or an action happens, a player has to pull from the tower and hope it doesn’t fall. If it does, bad stuff happens. It’s gained in popularity after being played on TableTop, and because of this unique inclusion for decision making. It’s definitely more suited to one-shot type games rather than long campaigns but it still seems very different compared to its peers. This one is an older one, so it’s not getting updates anytime soon, but it’s still grown vastly in popularity thanks to Wil Wheaton."


    Travis Severance of Millennium Games in Rochester, New York provided:

    Individual Products:
    1. 5th ed PHB
    2. 5th ed DM Screen
    3. 5th ed Monster Manual
    4. 5th ed DMG
    5. 5th ed Starter Set

    Lines:
    1. D&D
    2. Shadowrun
    3. Pathfinder
    4. Star Wars
    5. Fate


    Paul Butler of Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, Maryland provided this list of product by quantity sold.

    1. Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
    2. Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
    3. Monster Manual (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
    4. Bestiary 5 (Pathfinder)
    5. Dungeon Master's Guide (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)


    Steve Ellis of Rainy Day Games in Aloha, Oregon sent in this list:

    Top 5 RPG Items:
    - D&D5 Sword Coast Adv Guide (Wizards of the Coast)
    - D&D5 Players Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)
    - D&D5 Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)
    - D&D5 Spellbook Cards Cleric (Gale Force Nine)
    - D&D5 Dungeon Masters Screen (Wizards of the Coast)

    Top 5 RPG Systems:
    - D&D5 (Wizards of the Coast)
    ... HUGE GAP
    - Star Wars RPGs (Fantasy Flight Games)
    ...another decent gap
    - Mouse Guard RPG (Archaia Studio Press)
    - Pathfinder (Paizo)
    - Savage Worlds (Studio 2 Publishing)

    Putting on my analyst cap, I think that the obvious is shown: D&D is a big seller across the country. I don’t think that surprises anyone. What I think surprises me is the fact that there really isn’t a clear “winner” for the second place spot. Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars lines look like they are battling it out with Paizo’s Pathfinder for second place, with a pretty much everything else fighting for the other places at the table. Certainly not as clear cut as you would think.

    Pinnacle’s Savage Worlds and Evil Hat’s Fate games have a good standing, and it is good to see Mouse Guard getting a mention.

    Hopefully we will be back next quarter, to see how these games fared into the new year. As with anything new, we are all learning what we want to do with these lists and I learned more about the questions that I want to ask retailers. With the next quarter, I hope to pick up a retailer or two who were unable to respond, and maybe even convince OneBookShelf to give us a peak into some of their best sellers.

    Updated 2/18/16
    Matt McElroy, the Director of Publishing and Marketing at OneBookShelf has contributed their top five best sellers for last quarter (and they will be contributing to this list going forward):

    Top Five selling titles:
    Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition - Onyx Path Publishing
    Shadowrun: Rigger 5.0 - Catalyst Game Labs
    Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition - White Wolf Publishing
    Chronicles of Darkness - Onyx Path Publishing
    Shadowrun: Hard Targets (Deep Shadows Sourcebook) - Catalyst Game Labs


    Top Five selling Systems:
    World of Darkness, classic (Storyteller System)
    Pathfinder
    World of Darkness, new (Storytelling System)
    Savage Worlds
    Fate
    Comments 66 Comments
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      THANK YOU!

      Also, in terms of 5E, no sight of the adventures in the top 5. Will be interesting to see if the Strahd one does better. SCAG does well in some stores and does overtake the core books. On Amazon, the adventure hardbacks never come close to the core books, SCAG did briefly, but only briefly.
    1. Kramodlog's Avatar
      Kramodlog -
      This is interesting.

      Anyone knows why ICv2 has stopped releasing its RPG sells chart?
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Doing this has been a goal of mine since I wrote for Bleeding Cool. I'm glad to see it getting actualized.

      The wisdom has always been "Adventures Don't Sell," which is why Wizards farmed out adventures to the 3rd party, back when 3e came out. It looks like this might bear out that wisdom.
    1. smiteworks's Avatar
      smiteworks -
      Adventures almost never outsell core books. If they do, it is just for a very brief period immediately after release. It is normally the case that player focused core items sell the most, followed by DM general campaign items and then adventures. In the past, some publishers mistakenly looked just at the individual product sales and concluded that it didn't make sense to make adventures, but then they overlooked how the adventures showed continued support for the system and spurred additional sales of the core books.

      I imagine that sales of D&D is also heavily influenced by Amazon, depending on the frequency of when books were released. It's just a guess, but I'm guessing that a new customer who is looking to buy 3 books at once may be more likely to buy those through Amazon at a discount rather than through a local retail shop; whereas, a single release such as the Sword Coast Adventurer Guide is more easily purchased from a local retailer since the price difference for a single book makes it more appealing to eat the cost difference to support your local shop.
    1. smiteworks's Avatar
      smiteworks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Helton View Post
      The wisdom has always been "Adventures Don't Sell," which is why Wizards farmed out adventures to the 3rd party, back when 3e came out. It looks like this might bear out that wisdom.
      Outsourcing the adventure creation satisfies the same need and allows the publisher to continue selling the more lucrative core products, while still demonstrating that the product is actively supported. That is actually a pretty shrewd choice.
    1. Polyhedral_Columbia's Avatar
      Polyhedral_Columbia -
      Thanks for the bold effort to simply ask retailers what is selling. Nice move CH!
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      You're welcome.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      Yes, this is a great article. Adding new information and giving us all a better handle in the business and hobby, thanks and more please!
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by smiteworks View Post
      Adventures almost never outsell core books. If they do, it is just for a very brief period immediately after release. It is normally the case that player focused core items sell the most, followed by DM general campaign items and then adventures. In the past, some publishers mistakenly looked just at the individual product sales and concluded that it didn't make sense to make adventures, but then they overlooked how the adventures showed continued support for the system and spurred additional sales of the core books.

      I imagine that sales of D&D is also heavily influenced by Amazon, depending on the frequency of when books were released. It's just a guess, but I'm guessing that a new customer who is looking to buy 3 books at once may be more likely to buy those through Amazon at a discount rather than through a local retail shop; whereas, a single release such as the Sword Coast Adventurer Guide is more easily purchased from a local retailer since the price difference for a single book makes it more appealing to eat the cost difference to support your local shop.
      In terms of adventures, I guess thats it: adventures are worthwhile primarily to support the overall system. (see Paizo). But WotC has added a new twist: individual sales of player oriented material does not justify releasing a bunch of that, because of its impact on the system.

      As for SCAG, that makes sense, but its still impressive to see how well the core are doing. It looks like they have become a key part of the ongoing revenue for many hobby stores. As they probably where back in the good old days.
    1. Lehrbuch's Avatar
      Lehrbuch -
      Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
      Also, in terms of 5E, no sight of the adventures in the top 5.
      Although that's not unexpected --- it is only the top 5, so by the time you've considered PHB, DMG, MM, perhaps something like the DM Screen or Starter Set, and maybe a token non-D&D product, you've already taken 5 slots.

      If the list was the top 10, I would be pretty confident that you'll find the D&D Adventures there too.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      I do think there are many in the industry that would not welcome the adventure sales of WotC. The question is does it work for WotC? It seems so.

      Edit to add not.
    1. Halivar's Avatar
      Halivar -
      The problem for WotC (née TSR) adventures, historically, is that to find a gem you have to slog through a lot of crap. The current model lets others bear the burden of getting the quality right every time, while reaping the benefit of having the best adventures available. Very savvy model, IMHO.
    1. chibi graz'zt's Avatar
      chibi graz'zt -
      D&D 5e still ruling the charts!
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lehrbuch View Post
      Although that's not unexpected --- it is only the top 5, so by the time you've considered PHB, DMG, MM, perhaps something like the DM Screen or Starter Set, and maybe a token non-D&D product, you've already taken 5 slots.

      If the list was the top 10, I would be pretty confident that you'll find the D&D Adventures there too.
      Yes. I guess one thing is how something like the PHB is always on top, and not say displaced by whatever is new, like say a hard back adventure that WotC focuses a lot of their pr on.
    1. Lehrbuch's Avatar
      Lehrbuch -
      Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post
      Yes. I guess one thing is how something like the PHB is always on top, and not say displaced by whatever is new, like say a hard back adventure that WotC focuses a lot of their pr on.
      Yes.

      So this could be that there is a low, steady, background level of PHB sales and Adventures never exceed this. Or it could be that the PHB is always at a really high level of sales, as new players are always entering the game (perhaps stoked by the periodic release of new Adventures), and the Adventures themselves never exceed that level, particularly as, usually, only the DM buys the Adventure.

      The former would be a problem for WotC, the latter not so much.
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      Good info, thanks for digging into it and sharing.
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      I imagine that PHB sales would, at least in part, be driven by adventures, and in particular Adventurers League, where the adventures aren't even really sold (yes, I know about DMsGuild now). I can imagine that a number of players would buy a PHB just to participate in AL play.
    1. darjr's Avatar
      darjr -
      I think this editions PHB sales this far into the edition is very high. And from what we've heard from Mearls and co the continued level is surprising them.

      I certainly hope it's AL play that's driving some of this. It certainly seams so around here.
    1. Kor's Avatar
      Kor -
      I think its hard to get a real good idea of overall retail sales of roleplaying games, as a large bulk of the sales are through Amazon (especially D&D and Star Wars). Everyone I know who bought a D&D 5E Player's Handbook, got it through Amazon. Additionally, I suspect Paizo is lower on the list than it should be, because of their great subscription model which allows you to get their books at a greatly reduced price, plus you get a PDF version included.
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      There still doesn't appear to be a good way of integrating sales through non-retail means (eg Kickstarter, eBook or POD). These figures do not present a complete picture on what is selling in RPGs these days.
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