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4.33 Years in: What Now for 5E? (and have we reached "Peak Edition?")

ExploderWizard

Villager
Mearls has used the word evergreen on multiple occasions, actually. Doesn't mean there will never be a new edition, but they don't use 5E in any marketing for a reason. If there is a 6E, they want it to be backwards compatible and painless for existing players, that is, backwards compatible. Newer editions are probably as bad a bellweather as the older ones.

For a new edition, I would forsee the main change being in the specific exceptions to the general rules, such as Classes and Spells, but no essential change to the superstructure of the game. So we might get a new Ranger built from the ground up, but not new rules on stealth or something. And a 5E Ranger would be able to come in and play next to a 6E Ranger. A tenth anniversary set with new art and refurbished options that is a sixth edition seems possible.

A 5.5 is probably not going to happen. Another book of options like XGtE, or two, might happen, but no overhaul. Mearls has said as recently as last Tuesday that the PHB has sold so well, and is continuing to sell so well, that they will not do anything to remotely appear to invalidate any of those purchases.
I don't put much stock in the "evergreen" label. D&D Essentials was advertised as evergreen too. When is the next print run of that. :lol:

Nothing is forever except editions that are no longer actively supported.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
I believe that 5e is nearing the point (perhaps a year and a half away) when it will reach peak popularity.

Furthermore, I think that we will see a fairly dramatic drop in sales after that point. Thereafter, the edition will (I believe) sell at a steadily (but slowly) declining rate until the release of a new edition.

Currently, 5e is doing very well. I suspect that any future losses of profit will be caused by dropping numbers of new players.

My guesses could be completely inaccurate, but I am glad to be able to share them.
 

Jester David

Villager
1E: c. 1981-82. Hard to pinpoint an exact date, as the 1e Monster Manual was published in 1977 and the PHB in '78. But 1981 saw the publication of FIend Folio; 1982 was a light year, but then 1983 saw 1E hit its peak - with MM2, the new covers, Dragonlance, and probably the start of decline shortly thereafter
1982 was the peak of 1e. It was doing very well, but not as well as they had forecasted. And 1983 was the beginning of the decline.

I don’t know about 5e. The current books seem to be doing well on Amazon and sales seem sustained. But growth cannot last forever, so it has to plateau eventually. But even then, when new player acquisition slows down, we’ll have a few years of declining but still good sales. 5e probably has quite a few good years left.

But, I think we’re closer to the middle. I do think we’ve almost hit saturation where we have “enough”
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
I don't put much stock in the "evergreen" label. D&D Essentials was advertised as evergreen too. When is the next print run of that. :lol:

Nothing is forever except editions that are no longer actively supported.
It is an indicator of intention. With any product, whether it will be evergreen is dictated by sales. A product can sell well without being intended to be evergreen, but being successful with the intention to be evergreen makes long-term viability more likely.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
A lot depends on the movie. If it's a huge success, then 5E sales will spike. If it bombs, then sales will probably decline.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
A lot depends on the movie. If it's a huge success, then 5E sales will spike. If it bombs, then sales will probably decline.
I agree. If the film is a commercial success, then the influx of new players will likely rise. If the film is awful, I doubt that it will affect the number of players.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I'd say any edition hits its peak when its filled out the obvious roster of mechanical supplements, and has moved onto to various more experimental or esoteric supplements.

I'm not qualified to speak on 1e, but from 2e onwards:

2e: 1994. The last of the PHB class books had come out, and the last of the DMG reference guides before they started getting weirdly specific. (Complete Book of Necromancers?) 1995 saw the revised core books come out, and the start of the Player's Option trio, which really made for a "2.5e". Plus, Planescape came out in 1994, and there's no setting that's more evocative of 2e than Planescape.

3e/3.5e: Mid 2005. The first grouping of "Complete X" books had been released, as well as the "Races of X" books for all the PHB races. Later in 2005 was when we started to see some of the more experimental titles for 3.5, like Heroes of Horror and Magic of Incarnum, and then the slew of game-changing material from 2006, like the two Tome books, the PHB2, and the second group of Completes.

4e: End of 2009. 2009 was the single best year of 4e releases, with the PHB2 as the best of the PHBX series, and Divine, Arcane, and Primal Power all being excellent supplements. 2010 saw the release of the PHB3 and MM3, which were both moving in more experimental directions, and then the release of Essentials, which was a line reboot as well as a deep revision.

5e: Who knows? I'd say Xanathar's Guide fills out the gaps in 5e quite nicely, with new spells, feats, and subclasses. But did it fill in all the obvious gaps? I'd say yes, and the next crunch supplement will be more experimental, but it's really an open question.
 

Asgorath

Explorer
I think the game is doing fine; there are some holes, but for the most part its doing well. The latest two adventures, Dragon Heist and Dungeon of the Mad Mage, probably won't do as well as previous offerings, I would guess. I hope that they realize its because of the content, rather than the length--that is, Mad Mage isn't that good of an "adventure," as most megadungeons aren't (this is coming from a guy who worked on several in the last year), because of what it is, not that we don't want adventures that go all the way to higher levels, like 17-20.
Yeah I'm still skimming through DotMM, but so far I've been pretty disappointed in the lack of story. I was excited for an official product that went all the way to level 20 because I was looking forward to an actual campaign arc, not just a bunch of dungeon levels with enough XP to get there.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
A lot depends on the movie. If it's a huge success, then 5E sales will spike. If it bombs, then sales will probably decline.
Even if it is only a moderate success of mediocre quality, the effect will likely be positive for the game: a giant neon reminder "hey, D&D, that's a thing still?" won't hurt unless it is teeeeeerrrible.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
To quote Yogi Berra: It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

In other words, who knows? I think we could use a good video game or two and hopefully the movie doesn't suck. That may keep things increasing for a while. Growth inevitably slows at some point, predicting future potential is kind of like looking at a 4 year old and predicting they'll be 20 ft tall by the time they're 20.

I'd expect a plateau and even see a modest decline in market in a couple of years, but in all likelihood it will still be quite large by RPG table top gaming standards. Less so than, say the standards of how much profit people make off of [spin the wheel of random industries not related to table top gaming] stock market flash trading.
 
I believe that 5e is nearing the point (perhaps a year and a half away) when it will reach peak popularity.

Furthermore, I think that we will see a fairly dramatic drop in sales after that point. Thereafter, the edition will (I believe) sell at a steadily (but slowly) declining rate until the release of a new edition.

Currently, 5e is doing very well. I suspect that any future losses of profit will be caused by dropping numbers of new players.

My guesses could be completely inaccurate, but I am glad to be able to share them.
Peak and decline is inevitable; the question is, can WotC stimulate later peaks? I would echo what @Prakriti said and say that the movie will impact this trajectory - and possibly stimulate a later peak. WotC has to be thinking about other ways to do the same, because at some point sales will start going down. On the other hand, maybe they find a way to turn D&D into the RPG version of Monopoly or, as someone said, Catan. No peak and valley, just an undulating plateau.

1982 was the peak of 1e. It was doing very well, but not as well as they had forecasted. And 1983 was the beginning of the decline.

I don’t know about 5e. The current books seem to be doing well on Amazon and sales seem sustained. But growth cannot last forever, so it has to plateau eventually. But even then, when new player acquisition slows down, we’ll have a few years of declining but still good sales. 5e probably has quite a few good years left.

But, I think we’re closer to the middle. I do think we’ve almost hit saturation where we have “enough”
I question this idea of saturation and "enough" and have a theory about that. Maybe I should post it in the other thread, but I'll reply here.

If you look at the 18 books that have been released, you have the three core rulebooks, one book that is specific to the Forgotten Realms, one rules supplement, two monster/lore books, one setting book, and eight story arcs in ten books (including Tales as a "story arc" and the two Waterdeep books as one). It is really not that much for five years of releases, especially when you consider that ten of the eighteen books are adventures - so really only five non-adventure books in four years, and none are truly "core."

In fact, WotC has done a good job getting away from that silly 4E era idea that "everything is core," which was an attempt to optimize sales that led to bloat and over-saturation. In 5E, only the PHB, DMG, and MM are core. Everything else is optional.

But from reading the other thread, I think the feeling of saturation that some are experiencing comes from "falling behind" on the story arcs. By having such a small number of releases, WotC has perpetuated the idea that even if everything isn't core, every release is special and exciting. "What is the new story that WotC is telling? I want to be part of that." 5E is about story, after all.

It feels saturated when you can't keep up with the latest story and are one or two or more behind. I think WotC's release schedule is based on the idea that if you play one story arc after the other, you'll finish one in six months of playing once per week, and be ready for the next. Not every group can keep up with that pace.

Now of course no one is saying that you have to play every story arc, and certainly not everyone wants to play every story arc. They are optional. If you're starting now, you have seven different story arcs to choose from, plus a compilation of adventures (Tales). I don't see that as much as saturation as it is a nice wealth of options. And how can providing more adventure options be "saturation?" How can we ever have enough stories?

In previous editions, saturation came from rules bloat - so many rules options and supplements to choose from and keep up with. It was generally understood that adventures and setting stuff were all optional. No one felt overwhelmed by all of the Dark Sun or Planescape stuff. If you were a fan of the setting, you loved all of the material you could buy. If you weren't, you just ignored it and looked at other stuff. But what was overwhelming were all the Complete books, all the endless little books that came out; or in the 3.5 and 4E eras, all of the hardcover rule books.

So again, I think the feeling of saturation and having "enough" is almost because there are so few actual non-adventure books being published, and that WotC has made story--and the story arcs--as central to the game line, so that when a new story comes out, the feeling is that "everyone is playing it." When that doesn't happen, we either feel that we're being left behind, or that the new story arc isn't popular because people aren't talking about it, so therefore it must not be good, and people have had enough. But again, there is no "enough" with story, and we haven't had so many non-story books that we could possibly have reached a saturation point.

Maybe this is a kind of saturation, or 5E's version of it. But I don't see it as a bad thing - just that we've reached the point that we now have a nice back-log of adventures to choose from. I mean, it is a good thing that if you don't like the next story arc, you can always go back and pick up one that you didn't get to previously.

If anything, I think we need more stories, but more short ones - modules, compilations, etc. Of course we get those from DM's Guild, but if we were to think in terms of WotC only, I'd like to see them branch out from the "novel as default" approach to story-telling. We need more short-stories, more novellas, more vignettes even.
 
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ad_hoc

Explorer
If anything, I think we need more stories, but more short ones - modules, compilations, etc. Of course we get those from DM's Guild, but if we were to think in terms of WotC only, I'd like to see them branch out from the "novel as default" approach to story-telling. We need more short-stories, more novellas, more vignettes even.
Yeah, the 2 things I want are:

1. A random encounters book.
2. A short adventures book. Have a bunch of adventures, maybe a couple as long as YP but a bunch that are shorter; designed to be played in 1 long rest. And focused on levels 5-10.

I would buy both of those in a heartbeat but have little interest in new adventure paths.
 

Jester David

Villager
If you look at the 18 books that have been released, you have the three core rulebooks, one book that is specific to the Forgotten Realms, one rules supplement, two monster/lore books, one setting book, and eight story arcs in ten books (including Tales as a "story arc" and the two Waterdeep books as one). It is really not that much for five years of releases, especially when you consider that ten of the eighteen books are adventures - so really only five non-adventure books in four years, and none are truly "core."

In fact, WotC has done a good job getting away from that silly 4E era idea that "everything is core," which was an attempt to optimize sales that led to bloat and over-saturation. In 5E, only the PHB, DMG, and MM are core. Everything else is optional.

But from reading the other thread, I think the feeling of saturation that some are experiencing comes from "falling behind" on the story arcs. By having such a small number of releases, WotC has perpetuated the idea that even if everything isn't core, every release is special and exciting. "What is the new story that WotC is telling? I want to be part of that." 5E is about story, after all.

It feels saturated when you can't keep up with the latest story and are one or two or more behind. I think WotC's release schedule is based on the idea that if you play one story arc after the other, you'll finish one in six months of playing once per week, and be ready for the next. Not every group can keep up with that pace.
Keeping up is part of it. A campaign book can last between six months and a year, easily. If you take your time and don’t rush, by the time you finish an adventure you might have two I played adventures to choose from. By the time you finish the next, there’s three. Then four.
And that’s assuming you don’t take a break for homebrew.
And if you didn’t get into game early, there’s even more. Someone starting now has seven full campaigns. So why buy another when you already have two or three years of content?

Story saturation is easier to overcome than rules saturation. As there’s less overlap. It doesn’t matter if people are tired of official adventures, if the next one is amazeballs then people will still buy it. And it’s less intimidating to newcomers.
But when people look at three or four existing books they haven’t used, they’re just less likely to buy more.

I am pretty satisfied in terms of monsters and races. I could use three or four more races and I think I’d be good. While there are some specific subclasses I lack, those are easy enough to make myself.
 
Keeping up is part of it. A campaign book can last between six months and a year, easily. If you take your time and don’t rush, by the time you finish an adventure you might have two I played adventures to choose from. By the time you finish the next, there’s three. Then four.
And that’s assuming you don’t take a break for homebrew.
And if you didn’t get into game early, there’s even more. Someone starting now has seven full campaigns. So why buy another when you already have two or three years of content?

Story saturation is easier to overcome than rules saturation. As there’s less overlap. It doesn’t matter if people are tired of official adventures, if the next one is amazeballs then people will still buy it. And it’s less intimidating to newcomers.
But when people look at three or four existing books they haven’t used, they’re just less likely to buy more.

I am pretty satisfied in terms of monsters and races. I could use three or four more races and I think I’d be good. While there are some specific subclasses I lack, those are easy enough to make myself.
Part of the issue may be that the story books are hardcover, and hardcover has a connotation of "must buy" that goes back to 1E, when you'd only get one hardcover a year (two later on) and it felt like a Big Event (Or so I remember my 10-12-ish year old self feeling). I think WotC deliberately (and successfully) tried to recapture this feeling, if simply by virtue of relative rarity of hardcover releases.

I bought every 5E that came out, but then started tapering off, delaying purchases as I realized that I really didn't need adventure hardcovers that I wasn't going to run or mine for ideas, except as items on my shelf. Of course that is true for many of us: we (sometimes, often) buy books to have books, not to use or read them. The books I haven't bought are Xanathar's (too little info that I actually use), ToA (am playing it, so don't want to "cheat"), and Dragon Heist (meh). Strahd was the first that I didn't purchase on publication and wasn't planning on getting it, until everyone started raving about it and eventually I caved.

If they were coming out now, I probably wouldn't buy several previous releases that I did buy (e.g. PotA, maybe one or two others) simply because they were the New & Shiny at the time.

So maybe part of what you're talking about, which might account for possible sales dip in newer releases (which we don't know) and less excitement (seemingly), isn't as much saturation as people have adjusted to being more selective in their purchases, rather than gobbling up whatever comes out.

Anyhow, I think a future release schedule of 4 books a year that I suggested--two story books, one rules supplement, one setting--is the Goldilocks zone, that will keep us with enough, but not too much.
 
I refuse to recognize 5e's peak until we've got a psionics book! After that, it can go wherever they want it to, because I'll have enough to keep playing for at least one more decade if 6e/5.5e is not my cup of tea. :)
 

ccs

39th lv DM
I find the release of the new Gift Set to be highly symbolic. Each previous edition has had some sort of new set of core rulebooks - be it just new cover art (1st ed), an entirely new layout (2nd), or a rules revision (3.5e, Essentials). And in every case it has seemed that the edition has then been marching towards its end - there have still been some significant books to come, but the new edition has been just over the horizon.

In which case, the new edition might be 2022, or thereabouts.
That's when behind the scenes tinkering will begin in earnest.
2023 6e will be announced. Probably with some kind of play test as that's good PR.
2024 6e will launch with great hoopla to celebrate D&Ds 50th anniversary.

Changes will be akin to 1e --> 2e. Not enough to invalidate peoples 5e stuff, but enough to encourage picking up the new edition.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Even if it is only a moderate success of mediocre quality, the effect will likely be positive for the game: a giant neon reminder "hey, D&D, that's a thing still?" won't hurt unless it is teeeeeerrrible.
It’s going to be terrible! it’s really hard to make a decent movie in this genre.
 

Jester David

Villager
Anyhow, I think a future release schedule of 4 books a year that I suggested--two story books, one rules supplement, one setting--is the Goldilocks zone, that will keep us with enough, but not too much.
I sincerely doubt a setting book each year will do well. Settings appeal to such a smaller fraction of the audience, and are useful for multiple campaigns. Each one is good for two or three years.
As a cheap PDF with low production costs and recycled art, maybe. But likely not as hardcover books.
 

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