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3E/3.5 5E's Initial Raw Sales Numbers Stronger Than 3E's!

It seems that the initial sales of D&D 5th Edition are very strong. Asked about how they compare to 3E and 4E, WotC's Mike Mearls says that "Raw numbers are stronger, but that's not the complete picture. end of year 1 is the key." The Player's Handbook has now topped the hardcover nonfiction sellers list at Publishers Weekly. As of right now, it's #1 in Fantasy Gaming at Amazon, and a week ago it was the #1 book on Amazon!

BwoJwYwCMAA4NuS.jpg

In other news, prompted by some discussion about the gaps between D&D edition releases, I whipped up this quick info-graphic showing the dates that each edition was released. [threadcm]http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?359004-So-I-have-been-out-of-town-for-a-few-weeks-did-I-miss-something[/threadcm]

releases.jpg
 
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mechascorpio

First Post
The information on sales ranks to units sold is out there if you google it. Generally speaking, the top 5 ranks means it is selling thousands of copies per day and several tens of thousands per week. The way it works is roughly an hourly decay rate based upon copies sold versus time released, such that previous best sellers "decay" in rank so that new best sellers can take their place. It is a "What's popular now" list.

So what this means is that WOTC's moving probably 20,000 to 30,000 units this week on Amazon alone and they're on track for potentially a couple hundred thousand copies in the first month.

I'm familiar with some of the sales rank numbers which you're referring to and based on what I've read, I think you are for the most part correct. But from what I've read, IIRC, those who have deciphered the numbers have said that it's thousands per day overall, not just Amazon. Thousands per day includes everyone who reports to Nielsen Bookscan (which is how they translated Amazon ranking into units). So, yes, 20k-30k per week, but not Amazon alone. But these figures also don't include the pre-order that have been going on since May, and the Starter Set and PHB have been in and out of the Top 100 a few times, even off peak. We'll never know for sure, but I do think 150k-250k is likely by the end of August. With a few more spikes when the MM and DMG are released, along with the holidays, I think 500,000 PHBs sold by the end of the year is entirely likely.

Maybe someday we'll get lucky and Mearls will tell us how many Basic D&D downloads (per revision) there were, because I could see that being two to three times more than that. Not everyone who downloads will play, not everyone will buy the books. But split it into thirds (1/3 download and leave, 1/3 download and buy, 1/3 download and play, but don't buy), and you could imagine 5E having at least a million new players in 2014 alone.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
We have some historical references:

- OD&D released Jan 1974, 1,000 copies. Sold 400 by summer, all 1,000 in 11 months. The second print run of 2,000 sold in 4 months. (Source of this and a couple of other figures is the highly recommended book Of Dice and Men. Interesting to note that these initial sales of OD&D way back then are favorable when compared to the sales seen by small publishers in the present day.)

- In 1978 the AD&D Players Handbook sold 10,000 copies in first 3 months. (This is far stronger than most mid-size RPGs see in the same period of time in the current day. The highly successful Kickstarter for Numenera had 6,000+ physical orders, though exact numbers of core books aren't known from all sources in 2013. FATE Core and Accelerated had sold about 9,800 copies by Q2 2013 but over a longer time period (see their awesome quarterly reports). Dungeon World sold 2,600 sales both print and PDF in the first 5 months - see their web site for the figures.)

- Ryan Dancey on 1998 2E sales: "The one thing I can tell you is that when TSR did the transition from 1e to 2e in 1998, they sold 289,000 [2E] Player's Handbooks in 1998."

- But, the Acaeum says, in an article on print runs: "In 1989, TSR sold something like 1,000,000 copies of the D&D boxed set in one year. It was amazing." The article also estimates that in the 3E era they were selling "150,000 to 200,000 Players Handbooks per year".

- Marketing statistics, found in the 1992 TSR Catalog: "First-year release sales of the hardcover accessories average 170,000 units" (speaking of 2E AD&D hardcovers).

- "[3rd edition] was the most successful RPG published since the early years of 1st edition AD&D," Ryan Dancey said. "It outsold the core books of 2nd edition AD&D by a wide margin." "We sold 300,000 3e Players Handbooks in about 30 days. And the trajectory of the rest of the product line mimicked the PHB." - Ryan Dancey

- Of course, Dancey also says, "I have a confidential source who was one of the people making the decisions about strategy for D&D who confirmed to me that 3.5 was put into production because sales of 3.0 were "unsatisfactory". He says that 3.5 was always planned, but printed 2 years early because of those declining sales.

- Preorders for the core books of 4th edition of D&D in June 2008 were extremely strong and - without any hard sales numbers released by WoTC - anecdotal evidence from local game stores supported the claim that it sold much better than 3rd at launch. (My notes aren't clear, I think this came from Dancey as well)

- Very pertinent to what Mearls responded to me in that tweet, Dancey writes: "Then Wizards did it again with 4e. I have much less visibility into the 4e strategies than the 3.5e strategies but what I do know correlates very strongly with the idea that 3.5's "success" was brief - maybe more brief than the 3.0 window. Since 3.5 was essentially just a tune-up to 3.0, and it had not produced a result that was satisfactory, 4e had to be much much more than just 3.75 - logically you can't justify 3.75 if your goal is a substantially larger business than 3.5, since 3.5 didn't generate a substantially larger business than 3.0." He doesn't talk about Essentials, but looking at the way 4E changed approaches (dropping the initial "Power" series of books, releasing Essentials, etc.), it seems likely that the same issues were taking place with 4E as with 3E. (We can argue various edition-related differences, but it is honestly the same pattern regardless of one's personal preference for an edition over another).


Here's my take-away. D&D has a great history of ever-increasing initial sales. 5E continues that tradition, showing both the quality behind releases and the enormous strength of the brand. There is no question that 5E is flying off the shelves (both stores and online). Mearls saying that 5E is beating even the incredible initial 4E sales is not that surprising given how well players new and old are reacting to the edition. He notes that the key is sustainability. To date, no major RPG has figured out how to get an edition to keep selling without releasing tons of supplements that show ever-diminishing sales (because each supplement is of interest to only a smaller portion of the initial audience and is therefore less profitable). Diminishing sales eventually trigger a new edition. Avoiding diminishing returns and the need for a new edition is pretty much the holy grail for major RPGs.

One of the goals of 5E seems to be avoiding the need for another edition for a long time (in turn requiring sustained high sales). 5E doesn't approach this in a vacuum. There are many changes in how this D&D release is being approached. Where Dancey once talked about WotC's huge expensive staff compared to Paizo's, the reverse is now true. Many of the desired but not profitable products (minis, DM screens, etc.) are being licensed to other companies. There is also an attempt to compete with the larger entertainment space and to not focus much (at all?) on other RPGs as competitors. The argument goes that there are tons of customers for everyone if RPGs can successfully market outside its own space. This leaner D&D is still managing rave reviews and unparalleled quality, so it will be very interesting to see if 5E can keep sustained high sales longer than other editions and similar RPGs.

(I mention Dancey a lot, since he has shared a lot of information in the past. Like anyone else, he is wrong from time to time and his proclivity for sharing guarantees neither historical truth nor accurate forecasting of the future. Same goes for my perspectives - I've been wrong plenty of times too.)

The 300 000 in a month thing for 3.0 has been thrown around a lot and seeing how 4E turned out and the same claim being made and now they are claiming 5E has been outselling 3E as well they are either telling porkies, spinning it or more likely since 1989 modern D&D gets huge sales spikes on release but once the existing fanbase has their fill the sales collapse dramatically.

If the 500 000k figures for 3.0 are accurate it means 60% of 3.0 sales came in the 1st month, that means a lean year in 20001/2002 and then they pulled 3.5 and 4E in rapid succession. WoTC probably got punch drunk and wants that high all the time hence rapid edition cycles and sub editions like 3.5 and essentials. Even the d20 Star Wars had 3 editions in 7 years under WoTC tenure. It ultimately blew up in their faces as the fanbase left enmasse for Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is more or less 14 years old now or at least 11 and that brings it back to the gap of 11 years from 2nd to 3rd ed. Seems the fanbase did not want a new edition in 2008 as 3.5 was kind of still new and had barely matured in around 2006 was the apex of 3.x design IMHO.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I think some of you are playing it up a bit more than it really is. What constitutes the "Hot new releases" section anyway? How long does a book stay in this category? The other books could have been out for a while so it's natural the sales will decline and when they are going up against a book that just came out, the newer book will come out ahead. Also, it says it's #1 sales in the Dungeons and Dragons section. The only other product it's beating is the starter set while everything else hasn't even come out yet.

Nobody (except you) has mentioned the #1 in the Dungeons and Dragons section. It's #1 in new releases, #1 in gaming, #3 in national bestsellers overall, top 10 on wish lists, etc...

As for new releases, I think it's a monthly list?
 


Gundark

Explorer
Also note 4E had a good launch on Amazon as well. It is to premature to call it IMHO. Come back this time next year or even 2016.

I remember Scott Rouse pointing out that 4e was doing well on Amazon. I don't remember the actual spot.

Here where I live the 5e phb and Hotdq has been selling, this surpised me as I thought Pathfinder had killed D&D and taken it's stuff (locally speaking I mean)
 

Zardnaar

Legend
It is sold out... man. Is that really unusual? Did the 3e do that within the first few months? Wonder how long it is going to take to get it back in stock.

Amazon sells more products in one day now than they had customers in 2000. To be fair that is a good day but still.

3E sold 300k in the 1st month in 2000. Selling out and how good it is depends on how big the print run was.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I wish you would stop repeating claims that have already been refuted...unless you have a response to the refutation.

Myspace.
Friendster.
AOL.
Usenet.

These were all big at the time. Bigger than mere "message board". They were, in fact, HUGE. MySpace surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States at one point.



This is another one of those Zard-specials, where you cite a generic set of data that has little to do with the topic but imply it has a lot to do with the topic. Nobody cares, say, computer use in Zibabwe for this topic. We're talking about internet usage, in the United States, which is where the overwhelming bulk of "D&D discussions on the internet" would be found. Right now internet usage is at 81% of Americans. By comparison, in 2000 it was about 51% of Americans. Now that is certainty growth, but it's not "doubled or tripled". We're also talking about gamer nerds - who were the first adopters of the Internet. I am sure the number of Americans online in the gamer nerd community has increased since 2000, but it's definitely not the wild numbers you're trying to imply here.



Wow talk about disingenuous. We're comparing a book from 2000 to a book from 2014, where Amazon physical-book sales have raised about 30% and internet usage has raised about 30% as well in that period of time. So you compare it to books thousands of years old, which definitely never had any internet access when they released?

Why the constant exaggerations here Zard? It's not persuasive once someone reveals what you're doing, in fact it's the opposite. By doing this so much in this thread, you're decreasing the credibility of your arguments in general. It's like crying wolf.


I never claimed things like that did not exist and I did not realise America was the centre of the world my apologies. Hell I had friends using modems in 1991 to talk to each other. I'm saying the culture these days in regard to things like social media is very different now than in 2000 and you would be very disingenuous to claim other wise. The social media for example is linked to your TV and cell phones and in 2000 if you wanted to play online on a TV you were more or less limited to the Sega Dreamcast. The joke was also the only online business making money back then was porn as well.

Amazon and Ebay were in their infancy by comparison, blogs barely existed, there was no iPhone, no iPods, no twitter, facebook, steam, youtube. These forums did not exist either although the pre ENworld forums were up IIRC. Put simply I would expect online reviews now days to be a lot more common. Hell you could post a review while sitting on your toilet. It would be out right moronic to claim 5E is doing better than 3.0 due to online reviews. If that was a good metric 5E is doing better than D&D during the golden age of D&D. It is a little bit fairer to compare 5E with 4E I suppose but I don't think that would be that fair either to be honest. If you don't think 5 or 6 years makes a difference in that regard how about 1995 compared with 2001, or 1989 compared with 1995. You are using a 14 year gap, hell it would be like comparing 2E launch to 3.5 in terms of online presence. The internet existed in 1989 (in USA anyway) that is a fair comparison right?
 

Mistwell

Legend
I'm familiar with some of the sales rank numbers which you're referring to and based on what I've read, I think you are for the most part correct. But from what I've read, IIRC, those who have deciphered the numbers have said that it's thousands per day overall, not just Amazon. Thousands per day includes everyone who reports to Nielsen Bookscan (which is how they translated Amazon ranking into units). So, yes, 20k-30k per week, but not Amazon alone. But these figures also don't include the pre-order that have been going on since May, and the Starter Set and PHB have been in and out of the Top 100 a few times, even off peak. We'll never know for sure, but I do think 150k-250k is likely by the end of August. With a few more spikes when the MM and DMG are released, along with the holidays, I think 500,000 PHBs sold by the end of the year is entirely likely.


No I do not think the Amazon number is pulling from Bookscan. The NYT list does, but not the Amazon one.
 


Crothian

First Post
It's not even the number one game book! I never knew Scrabble was still that popular. Unbroken is a great book I really enjoyed that one.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I remember Scott Rouse pointing out that 4e was doing well on Amazon. I don't remember the actual spot.

Here where I live the 5e phb and Hotdq has been selling, this surpised me as I thought Pathfinder had killed D&D and taken it's stuff (locally speaking I mean)

Maybe it was keeping the seat warm.
 

mechascorpio

First Post
No I do not think the Amazon number is pulling from Bookscan. The NYT list does, but not the Amazon one.

I think you misunderstood. I'm not saying that the Amazon Rank has anything to do with Bookscan (or vice versa). I'm saying that since no one except Amazon knows how their ranks translate into units, someone (Publishers Weekly in 2013, IIRC) used Bookscan numbers to figure out how many units per day/week an Amazon Top 10 book was selling. Their best estimation was that it was somewhere over 1000 units/day, or 7000-10,000 per week. Amazon was 30% of the total market (including those who do report to Bookscan), so @ 20k-30k total a week.

Assuming that Rygar and I are even referring to the same studies.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
It would be great to see that.

Yes and no. I, too, am curious, but we would tend to attach meaning to the numbers that isn't warranted.

In order to really understand what the numbers imply, we'd need context over the years - and even if they gave us numbers for 3e and 4e, we'd have to then make adjustments for time, and economic situations around each release. In short - actually understanding sales numbers isn't trivial, and we'd be unlikely to do it well.
 

Sailor Moon

First Post
I am 36 if you must know. I do know a lot of the things you posted did exist. Your perosnal experiences probably did not match that of most Americans. The main point being we are far more connected now than we were in 2000 by an order of magnitude. ANd by E-commerce I meant selling normal goods online not just selling online services and things related to websites, telecommunication, ISP's, etc. Ebay was just getting started for example IIRC, and Amazon was not making a profit in 2000. It was early days was the main point, Everquest was not the 1st MMO but it was big by 2000 standards back then.

From the sounds of it you were on the cutting edge. Do you not understand the basic concept that due to increased internet usage since 2000 especially in the explosion of new devices that one can use these days I would expect there to be way more reviews these days than even a few years ago?

I think a better indicator is the relative lack of negative reviews in regards to 5E than the numbers relative to the internet bronze age when 3.0 launched. 5E seems to have had a good launch and the 4vengers types seem to be in a small minority compared to the h4aters that bailed on 4E and left negative reviews. How we buy things and how we communicate has changed in a massive way since 2000. I used steam as an example because I would not be surprised if Amazon, Steam and I-tunes for example end up becoming bigger than brick and mortar stores for purchasing things you got from a store in 2000. That is if they are not there already. Smartphones would be another example of a way to post online and shop as well.
I would call it BS to be honest. There weren't that many people on the internet in 1982 and Danny Mills has a book which contains every user on the internet back then and I seriously doubt Mist is on it.
 

M.L. Martin

Adventurer
The 4E core set sold out its original print run before release, and that was a larger print run than the original 3.0 run. People were definitely interested.

It's a new D&D; it's going to dominate the market with anything short of an obvious disaster. That doesn't mean 5E is a failure or anything close to it; it just means that it's too early to tell what the long-term prospects are like.
 


Rygar

Explorer
I think some of you are playing it up a bit more than it really is. What constitutes the "Hot new releases" section anyway? How long does a book stay in this category? The other books could have been out for a while so it's natural the sales will decline and when they are going up against a book that just came out, the newer book will come out ahead. Also, it says it's #1 sales in the Dungeons and Dragons section. The only other product it's beating is the starter set while everything else hasn't even come out yet.

The information on sales ranks to units sold is out there if you google it. Generally speaking, the top 5 ranks means it is selling thousands of copies per day and several tens of thousands per week. The way it works is roughly an hourly decay rate based upon copies sold versus time released, such that previous best sellers "decay" in rank so that new best sellers can take their place. It is a "What's popular now" list.

So what this means is that WOTC's moving probably 20,000 to 30,000 units this week on Amazon alone and they're on track for potentially a couple hundred thousand copies in the first month.

Hence why Mearls is celebrating. He's looking at being able to tell senior management he hit 3.x numbers with the Core release.
 


Eejit

First Post
A new thing that needs confirmation.

The PHB has been sold out. Distributors don't have any more. Can anyone confirm this?


Well Amazon UK finally has some back in stock only in the past few days, so they must have received a shipment fairly recently.
 

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