Hobby Games: It Was a Very Good Year
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  1. #1

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    Hobby Games: It Was a Very Good Year

    The hobby market continues to spiral upward year-after-year. Can the industry keep this up?



    We have a few data points to indicate just how the hobby games market -- inclusive of tabletop role-playing games and miniatures -- is doing, and by all accounts it's doing very well indeed. But there were seismic shifts too, not the least of which being the turmoil surrounding the Toys 'R' Us toy stores. Toys 'R' Us' troubles set off a ripple effect in competitive markets that saw it as an opportunity, and one of those markets is the struggling book store chain Barnes & Noble.

    Barnes & Noble Isn't Great

    Barnes & Noble has been wracked by a variety of challenges, not the least of which is the decline of brick-and-mortar shopping for books. Various strategies have been enacted to combat this, and one of them is moving into hobby games. Non-books increased 1.9% for the retailer, including toys and games. When asked about their strategy, CFO Allen Lindstrom said:

    I can tell you that we think it's a significant opportunity for holiday, toys comped at double digits in the second quarter and it's strong heading into the holiday season.

    Barnes & Noble seems to be banking on the holiday season to get it through its slump.

    Hasbro is Okay

    The effects of Toys 'R' Us' demise did not go unnoticed by Hasbro, parent company of Wizards of the Coast, who in turn produces Dungeons & Dragons. The company relies on the toy stores for its distribution and took enough of a hit to reduce its workforce by 10% by year-end. Despite those losses, D&D prospects are looking up.

    Hasbro's CEO Brian Goldner hasn't been shy about touting the growth of D&D -- even if that enthusiasm led to some confusion as to whether or not D&D is destined for an esport. What's not confusing is that D&D is doing well. It got a rare shout-out on the latest earnings call:

    The team also delivered another quarter of revenue growth for DUNGEONS and DRAGONS and late in the third quarter drove a strong release for an all new TRANSFORMERS trading card game.

    That growth was explained in detail by Chris Cocks in an interview with Geekwire:

    D&D Fifth Edition came out about four years ago and were on trajectory for our fourth year of good size, double-digit growth. In excess of 30 percent growth per year for D&D.

    30% growth per year is nothing to sneeze at, but it's a broad stroke that's hard to quantify in the context of other mega-brands, like Magic: The Gathering. Booknet Canada zoomed in on data in Canada back in June 2018. The results are compelling:

    With D&D Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (9780786966240) making it into the top 10 print books in the country last week, we turned our attention to the Games & Activities / Role Playing & Fantasy BISAC category and found that there have been huge increases in sales for these books over the past four years. Within this category, many of the top titles have been Wizards of the Coast D&D manuals, and overall, the category has seen a 77% growth in print unit sales between 2016 and 2017, according to BNC SalesData. Sales for the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (9780786965595) have been slowly increasing over the past few years, but of particular interest is the growth in sales over the Christmas period. We compared the five-week period over the Christmas season for 2015 and 2016 and found that sales for this single title increased by 38%. But that's not all. Between 2016 and 2017, there's an even more incredible increase of 95%. Sales of the Players Handbook (9780786965601) have also experienced notable growth. Comparing the first 22 weeks of sales in 2018 against sales from the same period in 2016, we found an increase of 49%.

    There's every reason to believe that this trend will continue into 2019.

    Fans Are Awesome

    For other data points on just how well D&D is doing, we can look to the products themselves. Matthew Lillard, an actor known for his role as Shaggy in the live-action Scooby Doo movies, launched Beadle and Grimm's Pandemonium Warehouse in June 2018. Its flagship product: a $499 all-inclusive Platinum Edition for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Lillard explained the logic behind the pricing:

    There's an echelon of gamer that would love handwritten notes, that would love to produce metal coins, that would love trinkets or a handcrafted trap. But there're a lot of people out there that don't have the time to execute that...We're definitely experiencing some blowback on the price, but everything we have in the box - everything we're delivering and the way the game is played - we think we're going to exceed what people expect.

    Lillard's gamble is not one he's taking alone. Wizkids is releasing a fully-painted miniature-scale version of The Falling Star Sailing Ship for $250 in January 2019. That's nothing compared to the Black Dragon Trophy Plaque which will go on sale in 2019 for $450!

    In retrospect, what's astonishing about the success of the hobby isn't that the tabletop hobby market is doing well in spite of the downturn in a major distributor; it's that consumers are now supporting a business capable of producing high-end luxury items in the hundreds of dollars. If these luxury products are any indication, the game industry does well when gamers do well. And that's something we can all be thankful for.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
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  2. #2
    Hope the trend continues

  3. #3
    DQDesign
    I would like to see more books rather than those 'luxury items'.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by DQDesign View Post
    I would like to see more books rather than those 'luxury items'.
    I'll never be able to keep up with the books. Since I've gotten back into TTRPGs with 5e's release I've bought enough WoTC and 3rd party material to keep me gaming for years.

    I'm much more interested in thanks to help me get more out of my games. I've I'm going to be playing an adventure path for months or even a year or more, buying "luxury" items like Beadle & Grimm's boxed set or the Falling Star Sailing Ship is not a terrible investment in my enjoyment of the hobby.

  5. #5
    DQDesign
    Quote Originally Posted by MNblockhead View Post
    I'll never be able to keep up with the books. Since I've gotten back into TTRPGs with 5e's release I've bought enough WoTC and 3rd party material to keep me gaming for years.

    I'm much more interested in thanks to help me get more out of my games. I've I'm going to be playing an adventure path for months or even a year or more, buying "luxury" items like Beadle & Grimm's boxed set or the Falling Star Sailing Ship is not a terrible investment in my enjoyment of the hobby.
    I can understand your position, but it is based on the equation "books=games". For me it is more than that, books are also pleasurable readings and inspiration and sources for my hobby as DMsGuild author.

    Regarding the luxury stuff, I never said they are a terrible investment. Simply, if I think to the dozen friends involved in rpgs who I know, I can't find none interested in spending hundreds of euros on that. Vice versa most of them would buy another mtg/dnd crossover book, for example. But it is only my tiny slice of world, obviously.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by DQDesign View Post
    I would like to see more books rather than those 'luxury items'.
    I am well satisfied with the DMs Guild for extra written material. Let every gamer have their heart's desire in merchandise.

  7. #7
    The real shocker to me is the ever-increasing sales on the starter set and PHB; even though admittedly designed as evergreen, doubling or tripling sales year over year? Growth of 49% from one year to the next? Im extremely impressed.
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    This article feels like its ignoring several things: Evil Hat and John Cook Presents having massive layoffs, White Wolf controversy, and others just to go the usual D&D did good so that means nothing else really matters

    I get it, its the 10 ton gorilla but its not EVERYTHING in this industry
    Last edited by Kite474; Tuesday, 1st January, 2019 at 07:15 PM.
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  9. #9

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    I'm also surprised at the growth of the starter sets? I mean, there is a limit to how many of those are needed, right? But, good for them!

    And, yes, DND is not everything in the hobby. However, I thought I read on here that if it's doing well, generally, it's good for the hobby as a whole?

    The White Wolf thing seems to be them doing it to themselves, though, not an external force.

    I'm torn on the luxury items. Over the years, I have gotten minis and metal coins but not something so big all at once. My concern with most luxury things is how specific they are. I mean, yes, a 3D ship is cool but I can count on one hand the number of times I have used a ship. Sure, I might use it more if I had it but not sure it would be enough for me to justify it. Or the Waterdeep Dragon Heist set. A lot of it is reusable but not all of it. I don't know. That's probably just me.

    Thanks for the discussion! Very interesting!

  10. #10

    Gallant (Lvl 3)

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    Quote Originally Posted by evildmguy View Post
    A lot of it is reusable but not all of it. I don't know. That's probably just me.
    It's absolutely, positively NOT just you. One or two use items seem....wasteful. Cool, sure--I imagine they're nifty--but once you've dragged that ship out for the 36th time, I'd think the players would start to ask for a different staging area for their minis or whatever.
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