Dungeons & Dragons has 15 Million Players in NA Alone; Storyline Is "The Da Vinci Code meets Gangs of New York"
  • Dungeons & Dragons has 15 Million Players in NA Alone; Storyline Is "The Da Vinci Code meets Gangs of New York"


    WotC spoke to the Seattle Times, and revealed some interesting tidbits! Not only are 40% of D&D players women, the game has over 15 million players (1 in 20 Americans!) in North America alone!





    • Nearly 40% of D&D players are women
    • D&D sales grew 44% in 2016
    • D&D also went from 12m to 15m players in North America alone
    • If my calculations are correct, that means nearly 1 in 20 Americans play D&D!
    • More than 50% of new payers since 2014 watch games online
    • The new storyline - to be revealed on June 1st - is described as "The Da Vinci Code meets Gangs of New York."

    Read the article here
    Comments 153 Comments
    1. Alzrius's Avatar
      Alzrius -
      I haven't looked at WotC's site lately, but have they posted this survey for public consumption? I'd love to take a look at it in more detail.
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      American only make shy of a third of the population of North America (Canada & Mexico being most of the rest), 12-15 mil is 2.1-2.7% of North Americans.

      Which is staggering compared to what it's been like for most of the last 30 years....



      I think what he meant was from 12, to 15 is 25% growth.

      But Parmandur misread the article: "He declined to disclose sales numbers but noted that in 2017, the D&D brand had a 44 percent sales growth over 2016, and the most number of players in its history — 12 million to 15 million in North America alone."
      44% is /sales/ growth (but they're not telling you sales).
      12 to 15 mill is the number of players in North America, in 2017, the range is indicating uncertainty about the number of players, not growth.

      If growth in players corresponded to neatly to growth in sales (might, might not), 12 to 15 million players, now, would mean 8-10 mill the year before. Of course, we don't know if that's active players or 'have ever played' or 'have played in the last year' (seems plausible) or what, nor how the number was arrived at. It could be off by a lot more than 3 mill - /in either direction/.


      "Lies, damn lies, and statistics" aside, it's still an encouraging collection of factoids and buzz in the article.








      ....but, it does sound like - units or $s - D&D has a huge freeloader problem. Just say'n.
      My original post was just the quote about the number of players and the link, but this is essentially how I read it myself. Indeed, the number that you reverse engineered here happens to match the number provided last time WotC made about the playing audience (about 10 million players, IIRC).

      I was intrigued that they straight up said more people are playing now than ever before, that means their market research indicates that D&D is bigger now than the late 70's-early 80's.

      WotC doesn't see players without books as freeloaders, they see them as a resource to attract merchandising deals (their real economic goal is t-shirts and toys, rather than game books, it's why they give away the rules for free).
    1. flametitan's Avatar
      flametitan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      American only make shy of a third of the population of North America (Canada & Mexico being most of the rest), 12-15 mil is 2.1-2.7% of North Americans.
      Er... The United States (325.7 Million people) makes up half to two thirds the population of North America (579 Million). If you're counting South America, then that's more accurate (As that adds a further bonus of 422.5 million.)

      There's more people in California than all of Canada.

      EDIT: your end math is about right (2.59%) but the way you phrase your correction's off.
    1. happyhermit's Avatar
      happyhermit -
      Quote Originally Posted by BookBarbarian View Post
      Businesses, News departments, election polls, etc make these kind of estimates all the time. ...
      And people studying wildlife, forests, astronomy, not to mention anything related to humans. The idea that if data isn't perfect it's useless, is just nonsense. The quality of the data varies of course.

      Quote Originally Posted by AmerginLiath View Post
      As usual, I would love it if the actual statistics involved here were linked in some fashion, since newspapers do a poor job of handling such matters (the only journalists who ever seem to see a stats class in college are those writing about electoral polling...at least some of them). There are different references to sales data and surveys, but we aren’t told whether the aggregate information on how well D&D is doing is a package of numbers that WotC presented or partly background that the Seattle Times aggregated. In any case, we don’t know the methods of the surveys used (it appears that 40% of surveyed players were female, which could arguably be telling of the often-younger digital audience, given the survey methods we’ve seen WotC use, unless the reference is to an external survey).

      Like other reports, bookseller lists, and popular culture references, the numbers here certainly reference that D&D is popular, wide-selling, and catering to a diverse audience. But the numbers as provided in this column (especially without notes on statistical methodology) don’t inform us exactly on how well. To what degree of confidence can they (and we) assume the percentage given of total players, for example? There’s no information here like a more “serious” story extrapolating numbers from surveys would contain (much less a breakdown of the actual definition/question of player by current, modern, or lifetime status).
      It's not a scientific paper, it's a newspaper article, about a hobby. It would be nice to know all the details (I would be interested), but it's not like those numbers are going to alter anyone's life, if it does something has gone horribly wrong.
    1. happyhermit's Avatar
      happyhermit -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pjack View Post
      "At a recent planning meeting, staffers were tasked with finding “an actual blacksmith,” fire dancers and keeping a close eye on fire codes." In case anyone was wondering where WotC's promotional budget for D&D was going these days. Not that I'm complaining! I just get wistful thinking about those nice certs and Faction Folios you used to get for free when playing in-store. The event sounds like it's going to be awesome, though.
      Considering they are selling tickets to each of the events for 200 bucks a pop, I wonder how much "budget" is going into this? It's hard to say. Pretty sweet when people will pay you to see your "marketing" (I don't know that I wouldn't consider it if I were close).
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by flametitan View Post
      EDIT: your end math is about right (2.59%) but the way you phrase your correction's off.
      Yep, it's right between half & two thirds, and I was waffling, changed it a couple of times, and left out the 'two.'

      ....just doesn't do to make a careless error like that when correcting someone else's careless error!

      Quote Originally Posted by Parmandur View Post
      My original post was just the quote about the number of players and the link, but this is essentially how I read it myself. Indeed, the number that you reverse engineered here happens to match the number provided last time WotC made about the playing audience (about 10 million players, IIRC).
      Sorry I didn't notice that was Morrus, I've edited my post, above...

      I was intrigued that they straight up said more people are playing now than ever before, that means their market research indicates that D&D is bigger now than the late 70's-early 80's.
      Yeah: "“It’s a special time, and I have a big belief that people are really craving face-to-face connections,” he said. “Gaming is the perfect construct.”
      As a result, 2017 was “the biggest” in D&D’s 44-year history, Stewart said."

      IDK about the Scare Quotes, there, but the difficulty-to-parse bits about growth & numbers came right after that. Maybe "the biggest" is in terms of number playing, or maybe it's sales (before or after inflation?), or maybe it was the fastest growth, even, "biggest" in business speak can mean a lot of different things.

      But I'd have to guess the raw numbers playing. 12-15 million just seems unprecedentedly huge to me. In the past, people trying to puff up the hobby have cagily said 'millions of players' a lot, which, y'know, typically means "we're pretty sure we can round it up to 2 million."

      But when you've got 10 million or 12 or 15 million, you say it!


      WotC doesn't see players without books as freeloaders, they see them as a resource to attract merchandising deals (their real economic goal is t-shirts and toys, rather than game books, it's why they give away the rules for free).
      It just feels off that people are playing, but, not, IDK playing 'deeply' enough to want a book... a group of 7 friends where one DMs and he's the only one who buys books, sure, it happens, but the disconnect between selling 750k books, and having 15 million players, that's more like 20:1.

      But, yes: 5e doesn't have to sell that many books to turn a profit, and even if it did sell that many, it wouldn't be a whole lot of money, not compared to getting people to go see a D&D movie the way they go to Marvel movies, or whatever they're hoping for.
      The 'freeloaders' still generate buzz for the /brand/, even if not revenues for the game, but, wow, there seem to be a lot of 'em.
    1. happyhermit's Avatar
      happyhermit -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      ...
      Its a weekly thing here and the usual suspects all pop out to pat themselves on the back lol.

      I mean are some peoples lives that great that a weekly thread on how great 5E is doing is the highlight of their week or something? I don't recall threads like this when 3.0 was on top and doing well. Does Morrus need to contact WotC to get some poms poms with Mearls face on it for the weekly cheer leading squad to lead chants about it.
      ...
      If somebody predicted this, I hope they pat themselves on the back, and I would be very interested to hear and see their predictions (past and present). I certainly did not expect this to happen and am frankly still fascinated that it has, so what can I pat myself on the back about exactly? It's not my doing.

      If you want to assume my life is a miserable pit of despair because I enjoy reading or posting in threads about how well a hobby of mine is doing... Ok? Is it possible that some people find it interesting?
    1. Vicente's Avatar
      Vicente -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      1. Previous year is 2 years after release, one would assume sales were plateauing.
      2. We don't know what the previous year sales were.
      3. There have been deep Amazon discounts, PHB was lower and it shot up high again.
      The article says the DnD Brand, so in my opinion assumption 1 is wrong. There are more players than ever, more content available than ever, and more places to buy that content than ever. All of those seem to be indicators that sales are going up, not plateauing at all.

      How long they can keep going up no idea, but they seem to be doing a great job on marketing the game and producing DnD stuff people buy.
    1. silentdante's Avatar
      silentdante -
      i agree happyhermit, to suggest being a cheerleader for a hobby you are passionate about as a negative is kind of ass backwards to me. if you sink time into a hobby, man i hope you are enjoying it and want to see it enjoyed and broadened. yes you should criticize and strive to make it better, dont be a blind cheerleader, but no matter how much money i spend, my time in this life is the most important, and being happy and excited for how i choose to use it should be celebrated, to think otherwise, well thats not even the cup half full, thats the cup empty and spilled all over the floor...
    1. Alzrius's Avatar
      Alzrius -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      But, yes: 5e doesn't have to sell that many books to turn a profit, and even if it did sell that many, it wouldn't be a whole lot of money, not compared to getting people to go see a D&D movie the way they go to Marvel movies, or whatever they're hoping for.
      This is the key thing to note: it's not enough for D&D to make money. It has to make enough money.

      Last Gen Con, I was at the Candlekeep seminar when James Lowder stopped in, and the conversation he had with everyone there got into the inner workings of how the D&D brand is managed. He mentioned (as an example) that it wasn't enough that the D&D novel division was making back more money than it spent; it wasn't making sufficient money to justify itself to Hasbro, who eventually had it shuttered (though he mentioned at the time there was talk of it being outsourced, and that seems to be what's happening now based on recent reports). "Return on investment" isn't just about ending up with more than you spent to a huge company, it's about making so much money that it's worth their time to bother with it at all.

      According to Lowder, this is part of the reason why D&D made an aggressive push to get the movie rights back, for instance, and why we won't see campaign setting logos for things like the Forgotten Realms anymore. Branding and multimedia pushes are where D&D is going to make its money, rather than books, and brand dilution via multiple logos hurts that. It's why we're seeing so much emphasis on Critical Role and cameos in Stranger Things. D&D the brand is much more valuable, in terms of revenue generation, than D&D the game.
    1. Warpiglet's Avatar
      Warpiglet -
      Quote Originally Posted by happyhermit View Post
      Mind blowing, really, considering the level of investment compared to something like watching TV. To think that the number of D&D players could rival the number of people watching the most popular and influential shows! This hobby is dying in the most peculiar way.
      And many like me end up thinking and creating for much of their free time...for some it's like a lifestyle....those are huge numbers...
    1. silentdante's Avatar
      silentdante -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alzrius View Post
      This is the key thing to note: it's not enough for D&D to make money. It has to make enough money.

      Last Gen Con, I was at the Candlekeep seminar when James Lowder stopped in, and the conversation he had with everyone there got into the inner workings of how the D&D brand is managed. He mentioned (as an example) that it wasn't enough that the D&D novel division was making back more money than it spent; it wasn't making sufficient money to justify itself to Hasbro, who eventually had it shuttered (though he mentioned at the time there was talk of it being outsourced, and that seems to be what's happening now based on recent reports). "Return on investment" isn't just about ending up with more than you spent to a huge company, it's about making so much money that it's worth their time to bother with it at all.

      According to Lowder, this is part of the reason why D&D made an aggressive push to get the movie rights back, for instance, and why we won't see campaign setting logos for things like the Forgotten Realms anymore. Branding and multimedia pushes are where D&D is going to make its money, rather than books, and brand dilution via multiple logos hurts that. It's why we're seeing so much emphasis on Critical Role and cameos in Stranger Things. D&D the brand is much more valuable, in terms of revenue generation, than D&D the game.
      if i knew how to give XP this would get all of it, great post
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      Yep, it's right between half & two thirds, and I was waffling, changed it a couple of times, and left out the 'two.'

      ....just doesn't do to make a careless error like that when correcting someone else's careless error!

      Sorry I didn't notice that was Morrus, I've edited my post, above...

      Yeah: "“It’s a special time, and I have a big belief that people are really craving face-to-face connections,” he said. “Gaming is the perfect construct.”
      As a result, 2017 was “the biggest” in D&D’s 44-year history, Stewart said."

      IDK about the Scare Quotes, there, but the difficulty-to-parse bits about growth & numbers came right after that. Maybe "the biggest" is in terms of number playing, or maybe it's sales (before or after inflation?), or maybe it was the fastest growth, even, "biggest" in business speak can mean a lot of different things.

      But I'd have to guess the raw numbers playing. 12-15 million just seems unprecedentedly huge to me. In the past, people trying to puff up the hobby have cagily said 'millions of players' a lot, which, y'know, typically means "we're pretty sure we can round it up to 2 million."

      But when you've got 10 million or 12 or 15 million, you say it!


      It just feels off that people are playing, but, not, IDK playing 'deeply' enough to want a book... a group of 7 friends where one DMs and he's the only one who buys books, sure, it happens, but the disconnect between selling 750k books, and having 15 million players, that's more like 20:1.

      But, yes: 5e doesn't have to sell that many books to turn a profit, and even if it did sell that many, it wouldn't be a whole lot of money, not compared to getting people to go see a D&D movie the way they go to Marvel movies, or whatever they're hoping for.
      The 'freeloaders' still generate buzz for the /brand/, even if not revenues for the game, but, wow, there seem to be a lot of 'em.
      Well, we don't know the ratio because they have been mum on book sale numbers, but I am beginning to suspect that they have been modest and they have sold more than we might have suspected.
    1. ehenning -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      Seems to be going well but once again they decline to provide sales numbers. They can claim anything they want I suppose how they get 15 million players IDK.

      Personally I think D&D is doing great, I'm not claiming its failing or anything like that. They don't provide any evidence, sales figures or how they arrived at the 15 million conclusion, there is no data, primary sources or anything like that provided. Its basically PR.

      12 to 15 million is also 25% growth not 44% in the OPs post lol. Wife watches some zombie show (I Zombie?)and they were playing D&D in that which I thought was funny.
      Agree that they don’t give all the details you mention, but are you surprised? Like you said, this is pure PR. This is marketing, so they will focus on what makes them look the best.

      As for 44% growth, that is sales growth, not user base, which is a good sign as it shows that existing users are buy more products.

      I live overseas (Japan) and I see growth here as well. D&D seems to be healthy and growing all around the world.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      Once again they don't provide any context, 44% growth over the previous year looks great but.

      1. Previous year is 2 years after release, one would assume sales were plateauing.
      Jesus wept.

      How have you forgotten the dozen Amazon threads that have continually been on the forums the past few years? The ICv2 reports? The shareholder reports from the Hasbro CEO?
      You could assume that sales were plateuing... and you would be wrong.
      The PHB did very well in 2014, and 2015. It did *better* in 2016 and now has done 44% better than that.

      But, hey, don't believe me. Check out this growth on the Amazon chart:
      Name: Photo 2018-05-04, 7 24 04 PM.png ► Views: 549 ► Size: 28.9 KB

      You'll notice the steady growth in an upward spike that looks nothing like a plateau.

      Meanwhile, the other books have steady sales and Xanathar's Guide was the fastest selling D&D book ever.

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      2. We don't know what the previous year sales were.
      No. But from the article we know:
      "As a result, 2017 was “the biggest” in D&D’s 44-year history, Stewart said."

      We don't need to know what the previous year's sales were. We don't even need to know what they previous 44 years were.

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      3. There have been deep Amazon discounts, PHB was lower and it shot up high again.
      Amazon's sales cut into their profits, not WotC's. They make the same amount if the PHB sells at 100%, 75%, or 50%.

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      Its still basically PR spin, translation D&D is doing great is all you can really state assuming they are not outright lying, which they do not seem to be doing.
      Since when did "D&D is doing great" become the pessimistic response?

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      Its a weekly thing here and the usual suspects all pop out to pat themselves on the back lol.

      I mean are some peoples lives that great that a weekly thread on how great 5E is doing is the highlight of their week or something? I don't recall threads like this when 3.0 was on top and doing well. Does Morrus need to contact WotC to get some poms poms with Mearls face on it for the weekly cheer leading squad to lead chants about it.
      Something I love... something that has defined half my life... something that has introduced me to all my closest friends... something that gave me my first paid writing and editing credits—something that is my Asperger's obsession—is doing well and more people than ever are enjoying it as well. This makes me happy.
      Why is that a problem?

      Why should I feel bad that I'm excited the game is doing well and is healthy? Why should I feel ashamed that it is no longer in danger of being cancelled or withering away? That D&D is not some greying hobby like model trains that will eventually fade away. That it might finally break out of the shadow of shame and propaganda cast in the 1980s.

      No.
      The question isn't any of the above.
      The question is: why are you NOT more excited? Why doesn't this thrill you?
      We live in exciting times.
    1. Ancalagon's Avatar
      Ancalagon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alzrius View Post
      This is the key thing to note: it's not enough for D&D to make money. It has to make enough money.

      Last Gen Con, I was at the Candlekeep seminar when James Lowder stopped in, and the conversation he had with everyone there got into the inner workings of how the D&D brand is managed. He mentioned (as an example) that it wasn't enough that the D&D novel division was making back more money than it spent; it wasn't making sufficient money to justify itself to Hasbro, who eventually had it shuttered (though he mentioned at the time there was talk of it being outsourced, and that seems to be what's happening now based on recent reports). "Return on investment" isn't just about ending up with more than you spent to a huge company, it's about making so much money that it's worth their time to bother with it at all.

      According to Lowder, this is part of the reason why D&D made an aggressive push to get the movie rights back, for instance, and why we won't see campaign setting logos for things like the Forgotten Realms anymore. Branding and multimedia pushes are where D&D is going to make its money, rather than books, and brand dilution via multiple logos hurts that. It's why we're seeing so much emphasis on Critical Role and cameos in Stranger Things. D&D the brand is much more valuable, in terms of revenue generation, than D&D the game.
      This bothers me a bit. For me the only reason I care if D&D is popular is

      1: ease of finding players
      2: more material being published (ie the game not "dying")

      Too much emphasis on branding vs *content* would be troubling.
    1. Dahak's Avatar
      Dahak -
      Are they still counting computer game D&D players to inflate their numbers? Does the Treasure of Tarmin game for Mattel Aquarius count? If not, I haven't played D&D in a couple of years.
    1. steeldragons's Avatar
      steeldragons -
      Ohhhhh. "North America"...Thank gods. That was driving me crazy.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      12 to 15 million is also 25% growth not 44% in the OPs post lol. Wife watches some zombie show (I Zombie?)and they were playing D&D in that which I thought was funny.
      12-15 million players is 25% growth in the number of players, but the sales grew by 44%. Probably related, but not the same thing.
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      Jesus wept.

      How have you forgotten the dozen Amazon threads that have continually been on the forums the past few years? The ICv2 reports? The shareholder reports from the Hasbro CEO?
      You could assume that sales were plateuing... and you would be wrong.
      The PHB did very well in 2014, and 2015. It did *better* in 2016 and now has done 44% better than that.

      But, hey, don't believe me. Check out this growth on the Amazon chart:
      Name: Photo 2018-05-04, 7 24 04 PM.png ► Views: 549 ► Size: 28.9 KB

      You'll notice the steady growth in an upward spike that looks nothing like a plateau.

      Meanwhile, the other books have steady sales and Xanathar's Guide was the fastest selling D&D book ever.


      No. But from the article we know:
      "As a result, 2017 was “the biggest” in D&D’s 44-year history, Stewart said."

      We don't need to know what the previous year's sales were. We don't even need to know what they previous 44 years were.


      Amazon's sales cut into their profits, not WotC's. They make the same amount if the PHB sells at 100%, 75%, or 50%.


      Since when did "D&D is doing great" become the pessimistic response?


      Something I love... something that has defined half my life... something that has introduced me to all my closest friends... something that gave me my first paid writing and editing credits—something that is my Asperger's obsession—is doing well and more people than ever are enjoying it as well. This makes me happy.
      Why is that a problem?

      Why should I feel bad that I'm excited the game is doing well and is healthy? Why should I feel ashamed that it is no longer in danger of being cancelled or withering away? That D&D is not some greying hobby like model trains that will eventually fade away. That it might finally break out of the shadow of shame and propaganda cast in the 1980s.

      No.
      The question isn't any of the above.
      The question is: why are you NOT more excited? Why doesn't this thrill you?
      We live in exciting times.
      I agree heartily with most of this, except I've seen plenty of young people into model trains (not my scene, but a vital hobby).
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