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 02:10 AM.
    .Robert

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    Re: Top 5 Sales - Q3 2011 Analysis

    As I see it, it becomes the responsibility of various gaming clubs to expose the hobby to more & more new people. The sales, as such, haven't really been the driving force of the growth of the industry. With little real advertising outside of the hobby, new players were always drawn in by friends providing the exposure. Everybody I know was introduced by a person. I have only recently met anybody who sought out anybody to learn the hobby from. That was ONLY because I started an OGREs chapter on my college campus. Over half of my members are console gamers that are wanting to try out tabletop games. That shocked me, as most people complain about video games stealing players. as soon as my chapter becomes official, I want to try & organize some kind of event/con within the next year. That is the way to expose people to the hobby.
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    This would've never happened if WotC followed the "3.75" model Pathfinder did instead of hitting the "RESET" button on everything.

    Shame.

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    It is interesting to read their overall summary: "Paizo’s Pathfinder, #1 in the roleplaying game category, continued to gain momentum, with sharp differences in the number of releases between It and WotC’s category-defining Dungeons and Dragons. Some retailers told ICv2 of differences between the customers of the two games, with D&D 4.0 appealing to new players and people that don’t want to get super-involved in an RPG, and Pathfinder the choice of players that want to spend more time on playing."

    That seems consistent with what Encounters might provide WotC in terms of sales, bringing casual players into stores. Also, 4E is generally seen as a more friendly and easier to master rules set than Paizo's version of 3E. The intro boxed set might change that, of course, and both companies have reason to worry that the wall of books they have for their games can be intimidating even with intro sets.

    For stores, it seems organized play may increase as a way to promote the game. Play-anywhere Pathfinder Society is clearly a big point of emphasis for Paizo. And store-only Encounters is no slouch at all (and Lair Assault extends this). Other RPGs would love to have either program.

    One of the big questions remains whether we could ever get some sort of comparison between DDI subscribers and Paizo subscribers. It is really hard to get any decent data, though there have been some that think the DDI base is pretty enormous and the number of new sign-ups per month (due to Encounters?) substantial. The reality is that we just don't know for sure.

    A much more important question is whether this competition is good for the two companies and for the RPG industry as a whole. It seems it has been good for Paizo and WotC, helping them make better products. It also seems to produce some different approaches. For example, D&D closes its collectible mini line, Paizo opens one up, D&D opens up a non-collectible line. That may be healthy for both companies and the industry as a whole (compare/contrast to 3rd Edition's start and how it seemed to turn all other RPGs into d20 versions... many saw this as a low period for the industry). ICV2 says the summer was good for stores all around, so it suggests that all is well in this competitive landscape.

    For me, on a personal level, the "edition wars" have been good for innovation but very bad for gamers. The wars create rifts in the gaming population, preventing many players from seeing the other innovations. D&D players really should be seeing what Pathfinder has to offer and vice-versa, instead of being blind to the benefits of the "other" game. But, perhaps that opens them up to trying out other RPGs and presumably those can learn from both Paizo and WotC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alphastream View Post
    For me, on a personal level, the "edition wars" have been good for innovation but very bad for gamers. The wars create rifts in the gaming population, preventing many players from seeing the other innovations. D&D players really should be seeing what Pathfinder has to offer and vice-versa, instead of being blind to the benefits of the "other" game. But, perhaps that opens them up to trying out other RPGs and presumably those can learn from both Paizo and WotC.
    Bad for gamers is the truth and it is a real shame because either system offers its own unique experience. This rift that you mentioned can happen in gaming groups that have gamed together for a considerable amount of time. I like both systems as well as several others for fantasy and each offers me something different as a player and a DM. We can all learn from each other and enjoy the game with enthusiasm as long as we can agree to have fun with each other and know that there is no definitive answer but if you state your opinion clearly and friendly perhaps another gamer might take a listen to something from your viewpoint. If you want to close the ears of other gamers approach this subject in a condescending manner and your OPINIONS will most assuredly fall upon deaf ears.

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    DarkHeresy/Deathwatch/RogueTrader on the 3rd spot. Huzzaah. If you haven't checked it out you really should
    *Doghead* "You're an idiot, Dr Z."

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    I'm glad to see Shadowrun in the top 5. I love that game.

    Now if I could just find people to play it with.
    ~No one wins in the Edition Wars. The whole hobby loses.~ KT

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    Shannon Applecline wrote a piece a few days ago discussing the top selling RPGs over the years. Shannon has written a number of really good columns examining the history of gaming companies and recently published a book on the history of all the major RPG companies.

    In this latest article he shares data he gathered on the most popular RPGs over the years. It can be interesting to see how various lines (such as Shadowrun mentioned above) improve or worsen in popularity over time. It is also interesting to note how in the 90s you could still see an 11 year-old Fiend Folio, whereas in 2010 no release is older than 3 years.

    He also provides data from three large stores for their 2010 top selling RPGs. It is interesting to note the variance across each store (Gamma World boosters were #2 at EndGame???!!! That store has a pretty big variety!). The numbers show a strong 2010 D&D dominance, though this clearly sets Shannon up to write an interesting piece (if he can get some better data) for 2011 and how Pathfinder has done. I hope the same three stores can share their data (as well as others) for a great 2011-2010 comparison.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alphastream View Post
    Shannon Applecline wrote a piece a few days ago discussing the top selling RPGs over the years. Shannon has written a number of really good columns examining the history of gaming companies and recently published a book on the history of all the major RPG companies.


    The foreword of that book can be found here among other places, I am sure, but it raises the question, if this is the "post d20 market" as the author contends, why do the sales figures seem to indicate that d20 games are still the overwhelming dominators of the market?
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZombie View Post
    DarkHeresy/Deathwatch/RogueTrader on the 3rd spot. Huzzaah. If you haven't checked it out you really should

    That doesn't surprise me at all. I've posted several times in older threads that I had noticed Rogue Trader suddenly having a huge spike in interest here in the local area. I know that different areas can be (and often are) vastly different in what sells and what doesn't, but the sudden surge of popularity for the game here seemed like more than just a local fluke. I don't play the game, but I know plenty of people who do.

    In general -both here at home and elsewhere I've traveled over the past year- I've noticed quite a few non-D&D rpgs gaining steam. Right now, none of them are anywhere near a position to challenge for the number 1 spot. However, my point in bringing it up is to say that gamers (both old and new) seem more willing to think outside the red box when it comes to their rpg experiences. I feel that's a good thing.

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