D&D 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!


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]

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Ok, a little confused here... @Zardnaar and @Uchawi in what scenario is a merchant selling out of your product not considered a good sign?

Its a good sign but it is kind of relative. SOmeone earlier asked if 3rd ed sold out and I do not think they did. That was due to a huge print run though and they were selling the books for $20. 3.0 did not sell out AFAIK but they apparently sold 300k in a month. Selling out is not that great if they only made 10k copies using an extreme example.

I would not be surprised if they sold 100k+, slightly surprised at 200k and very surprised at 300k. The initial print run figures will likely come out eventually. I think 100k copies is the upper limit of some estimates of 4Es sales as well but I have not found what I consider reliable estimates of 4E sales, just D&D overall.

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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?
Way to slay that strawman.


No they do not. In 2000 they served 20 million customer with a $2.76 Billion in sales (according to their 2000 annual report). In 2012 they were selling an average of 3.5 million products per day. And of course quantity of customers is not quantity of products sold, as people buy more than one product (if they didn't, you'd be claiming the entire 7 billion world population was buying slightly more than one item from Amazon every year). Average product price is now $47 according to that link.

And of course they were almost exclusively books in 2000, but are very diverse in sales now. Book sales are not that different in 2014 than they were in 2000 for Amazon (they are different, but not nearly by the factors you're trying to imply). Amazon made $5.25B in book sales in the past year (according to Forbes). Compare that to their $2.76B in 2000 which was almost entirely from books, and you will see we are not talking about the kinds of exponential growth in book sales that you seem to think. And when you count only non-electronic books (PHB was not available in electronic version in 2000 or now) the differences become even smaller (20% of that current book sales number is kindle books). The year 2000 was a good year for Amazon book sales, and it was not nearly so different than now in terms of books.

I appreciate you want to know more about Amazon sales in 2000 versus now, as this is the third conversation we've had about this. But it's also the third time you've made clearly false statements about this topic, which could have easily been looked up. Amazon has grown a lot since 2000, but it's not nearly as much as you seem to think it is.

I did say that day was their best day they ever had which was Christmas last year where they were selling 400+ items a second.

aramis erak

There were things like bulletin boards but you did not have things like facebook, twitter, youtube and apps on cell phones linking them all together. Computer use has doubled or tripled since 2000 depending on what country you are in, you could not msg the D&D designers on twitter or watch them on youtube.

Its a slight difference of scale. I'm willing to bet you will find more positive reviews on the latest Game of Thrones book than Shakespeare or the bible as well.

No, no twitter. No facebook, no myspace. But AOL and Delphi were nationwide BBSs. So was Compuserve. And not just for people using them as their point of entry into the internet. (I dropped of Compuserve in 1994 - it was too expensive. The AOL and Delphi forums, however, were free to use even if you didn't use those services as ISPs.)

And you could, quite easily, find the dev team's email addresses in 1997-1998 - they were on the TSR website!

I know because I got some 2E rules questions answered simply by emailing them.

Hand of Evil

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.

I was thinking of comparing them to the growth of Gen Con over the same period, it would be a great health check of gaming in general, not just the growth of online sales.


The RPGA network seems to have collapsed.
The RPGA name was retired because it had negative connotations for many. While for some (myself included) it had sentimental value, it really turned off (wrongfully) many potential players and meant nothing to the greater populace. It's meaning (a network of gaming clubs) was no longer accurate and didn't communicate well.

When the name was retired, play continued in the same way as before: living campaigns and store-based Encounters. The total sum of those programs (plus other minor programs, such as convention specials and the 2-year Lair Assault) was completely respectable. Any RPG other than Pathfinder would kill to have such a program (and Paizo would like to have various of D&D's more successful organized play aspects). The Encounters program has become a fantastic dependable name, recognized across the gaming space and continues to resonate well with new stores and players.

With 5E, D&D launched Adventurers League, the name for the overall organized play program. Store-based Encounters, Expeditions living play for stores and public locations, home play using published adventures, and Epic special convention premiers all fall under Adventurers League. The program has been a runaway success.

Here's the thing, and it is something your posts repeatedly seem to miss. RPGs are not a zero-sum game. The potential market is far greater than the existing RPG player base. It is possible for RPGs to grow simultaneously as they draw in new players. This is nothing new. Since the beginning of RPG history D&D has been great at drawing in gamers who then try other games. Everyone can have growth. In the case of organized play, Gen Con was great proof. Both D&D and Paizo/Pathfinder had their biggest Gen Con events ever this year! Many gamers play both programs (and many play several other great organized play programs.) That's awesome! Awesome for the companies, awesome for fans, and awesome for all RPGs in the hobby. True RPG fans don't wish other companies a bad year. They wish other companies a great year so all that growth will bolster the hobby and their own favorite game(s).

D&D is selling better than ever. Pathfinder is incredibly strong. Small and medium RPGs are able to launch highly successful launches through Kickstarter. Tabletop games are seeing huge growth. Organized play is receiving widespread recognition in and outside of the hobby. This is a great time to be an RPG fan!


I don't see this as anti-FLGS or pro-Amazon. I think its simply impressive that Amazon sales are high. And, Amazon is established enough to be important/meaningful. It is perhaps even more impressive, because now the LGS that are WPN members (and who run a high volume of Magic and D&D organized play) are allowed to sell these products two weeks in advance of Amazon. I've heard several cases of people canceling their Amazon orders to purchase from their FLGS because they wanted to get their books as soon as possible. I know other people who used to order from Amazon who know turn to their FLGS for the same reason.

It is great to see 5E do well on Amazon and at the FLGS. I visited a board game store in Belgium recently, and they were carrying the Starter Set and had made several sales despite not normally catering to RPGs. The stores I visit in Portland and Houston are seeing well beyond expected sales. Great news for our hobby.

Point being - in many areas, there are significantly fewer FLGS stores because Amazon exists over the past 5 years. Borders went bankrupt. Barnes & Noble closed a lot of stores. Many smaller bookstores went under.

That D&D made its way to the top of the Amazon food chain might very well be remarkable. It might also reflect that options for purchasing PHB have significantly narrowed. And that had other editions had the same conditions, we might have seen similar results.

We don't know - only WotC knows, which means that speculation is kind of pointless, even with the Amazon data point. And had Mearls the option of conclusively saying that yes, 5e is off to the best start of any edition of D&D, he very well might have said so. So maybe he can't...


No, no twitter. No facebook, no myspace. But AOL and Delphi were nationwide BBSs. So was Compuserve. And not just for people using them as their point of entry into the internet. (I dropped of Compuserve in 1994 - it was too expensive. The AOL and Delphi forums, however, were free to use even if you didn't use those services as ISPs.)

And you could, quite easily, find the dev team's email addresses in 1997-1998 - they were on the TSR website!

I know because I got some 2E rules questions answered simply by emailing them.

Le sigh. It is still a matter of scale. How many devices do you have these days that can be used to post a review online would be the main point? With that capability I would expect the more modern D&D is the more I would expect people to post about it and do things like online reviews.

Being honest how many online devices did you have in the following years in your home. And by online devices I mean things connected to the internet and could be used to browse it?


1998 0
2000 1 (1 console)
2003 3 (2 console, 1 PC)
2008 7 (2 PCs, 3 consoles, 2 phones)
2014 14 (2 phones, 2 PCs, 2 TVs, 1 tablet 7 consoles)

The jump between 2008 and 2014 is things like smart phones, TVs, and every gaming console having the net built in. Is my household unusual in the amount of web capable devices being added? I suppose it is odd I kept my old consoles including the one I had in 2000.


Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Let's not forget that people will buy it to check it out. Waving the victory flag is a bit premature.

Waiving the victory flag over...what? What would they be beating by succeeding, in your mind?

I wouldn't rely on Amazon to be a full proof answer as to how well it's doing.

Why not? What better answer would we have, other than proof of selling well?


5ever, or until 2024
Its dipping a little bit


It is hard to compare to past releases, but through the way-back machine, I was able to find out that (for bestsellers) the:

4E PHB did get up to 33, fell to 54. then plumeted.

PFCRB got up to 369 (and maybe a bit higher, based on what I poasted above), but seemed to stay in the hundreds longer.

So the starter set, which I think got into the top and 10 and is now at 199, looks good by those numbers.

The PHB is something else. The difference in sales as you move into single digits is massive.


Glad that it is doing so well. I think 4e might have paved the way a bit in that it brought in new players that were added to the grognards, both groups of which see some appeal in 5e. I know our group is half new half old and generally are excited over 5e.

I was a little taken aback to see the PHB on the top of the non-fiction list, but then I saw how divorced from reality the other books on that list were and changed my mind.


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.

I definitely agree it's looking like they're going to sell hundreds of thousands, and I bow to your knowledge on sales ranks as that explains some oddities in the info I had read.

I think 500,000 is optimistic though. Reportedly 3.0 sold 500,000 total, 3.5 sold 250,000, I saw 250,000 bandied about for Pathfinder, and the best estimate I can come up with for 4th based on available info puts it between 50,000 and 100,000 (When using multiple data points). It's definitely in the realm of possibility, especially with the resurgence of board gaming and the major decline in video gaming, but honestly I'd predict closer to 300,000.


Wandering. Not lost. (He/they)
Sure, but he's comparing a 2014 product with a 2008 product and a 2009 product. Amazon was huge in 2008, so it's a much better comparison.

Oh no doubt. I just figured someone would raise the point sooner or later, so I got the ball rolling.

I still think there's probably some acceleration from 2008 to 2014, but my guess is it's less. Still, 5e is doing quite well out of the gates.



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.

When did we skip back from talking about 2000-2001, to 1982?

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