Top 5 Sales - Q3 2011 Analysis




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    Top 5 Sales - Q3 2011 Analysis

    Top 5 RPGs – Third Quarter 2011

    In an ongoing Duel of the Fates, the two major Fantasy RPG lines have vied for the top position on the sales charts for some time now. The latest quarter for which results are available, 3rd Quarter, 2011, marks the first time that the Pathfinder RPG has held claim to the #1 position for two successive quarters.

    For decades, the #1 selling RPG has always been Dungeons and Dragons, only briefly losing a claim to the top position to Vampire: The Masquerade during TSR’s so-called “Time of Troubles” just prior to the sale of that company to Wizards of the Coast. Last year, D&D’s reign as the #1 RPG was challenged again, as Paizo Publishing LLC’s Pathfinder RPG was declared by industry trade magazine ICV2 to have moved into a tie position with WotC’s Dungeons and Dragons in the third quarter of 2010.

    In the 4th quarter of 2010 and again in the 1st quarter of 2011, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons was adjudged by ICV2 to be the #1 selling RPG in the hobby games retail market, with Paizo’s Pathfinder in the #2 position.

    Earlier this summer, just prior to Gencon, trade magazine ICV2 reported Pathfinder as the #1 selling RPG by sales in the 2nd quarter of 2011.

    Today, ICV2 published its findings for the 3rd quarter of 2011, once again confirming Paizo as being in the #1 sales position among retailers in the hobby games’ market.

    The results are collected by ICV2 by way of telephone polls and inquiries of retailers, and distributors. ICV2 does release their proprietary polling data nor their methodology or weighting of store data.

    In some respects, given the relatively modest number of new titles released by Wizards of the Coast for the D&D game during 2011, it would be a shock if Pathfinder wasn't in the #1 position. Put another way, in order to win a Formula 1 title, a racing team normally has to field a number of cars in each race. The reduced publication schedule pursued by WotC in 2011 for the D&D brand has almost certainly had a negative impact on the overall sales figures for the game at retail.


    Moreover, as fans of either brand are quick to point out, the numbers do not reflect direct sales by either of Wizards of the Coast or Paizo Publishing LLC. WotC has a large number of subscribers to its DDI subscription service, ranging in price from $5.95 per month for annual subscribers with quarterly subscribers paying $7.95 per month. One-off monthly sales are charged a one-time fee of $9.95 for one month’s access to the DDI service.

    In contrast, Paizo offers a far larger number of its product lines to customers to subscribe to every month as well as a large volume of sales to non-subscribers . Moreover, even the cheapest subscription price for any one of Paizo’s many product lines exceeds the highest one-off monthly cost charged by WotC for access to DDI.

    Overall, given its extensive subscription business model and its many different product lines sold through its webstore, Paizo’s revenue per subscriber is probably significantly higher than that that earned by WotC from its own subscribers. In order for the volume of direct sales to be large enough to tip the scales back in its favour as the top selling RPG, it is likely that WotC’s DDI subscriber base would have to be many times larger than the monthly subscribers and other customers of Paizo’s online webstore to make up the difference in terms of revenue per customer. To date, there is no evidence of that, one way or the other. Neither WotC nor Paizo discloses its internal direct sales figures.

    In the end, the ongoing duel between the Dungeons and Dragons and the Pathfinder brands for a claim to the title of the #1 selling RPG will inevitably continue into the next quarter and beyond, with fans of either brand claiming that each quarter’s results are definitive, or not, as each camp of fans may prefer over time.

    If there is a loser during this ongoing epic struggle for market dominance, that “loser” would appear to be both the hobby games retailers and to a lesser extent, the distributors of RPGs. The hobby games specialty retailer already faces withering price competition from large online resellers of hobby games like Amazon. As the competition for the consumer’s dollar moves increasingly to a direct sales distribution model, both distributors and specialty retailers alike seem destined to see their overall customer base for RPGs decline -- instead of grow -- absent a large influx of new gamers to the hobby.

    I'm uncertain as to how that sales model benefits the RPG hobby as a whole in the longterm. New customers to the RPG hobby need to be exposed to the game in order to first become a customer. It seems to me that customer acquisition through direct sales is unlikely to be a model for longterm market success. My expectation is that the RPG hobby games business simply cannot function in the longterm without a significant retail presence to maintain customer awareness and to provide a gateway to the RPG hobby. This is especially important when trying to sell RPGs to younger gamers who do not own a credit card to even be able to purchase RPG products online.

    Whether that significant retail presence will continue -- and to what degree -- remains an open question.


    Top Five RPG Sales

    3rd Quarter 2010: ICv2 - Top 5 RPGs--Q3 2010
    4th Quarter 2010: ICv2 - Top 5 Roleplaying Games--Q4 2010
    1st Quarter 2011: ICv2 - Top 5 RPGs--Q1 2011
    2nd Quarter 2011: ICv2 - Top 5 RPGs--Q2 2011
    3rd Quarter 2011: ICv2 - Top 5 RPGs--Summer 2011



    Last edited by Steel_Wind; Thursday, 3rd November, 2011 at 01:10 AM.
    .Robert

    Co-Host of (the ENnie Award Winning!) Chronicles: Pathfinder Podcast


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