D&D General All Basic, B/X and BECMI and Rules Cyclopedia set sales, from Ben Riggs.

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And Moldvay crushes it.
I mean, Satanic Panuc and the economy were big factors, but I really fo suspect thet it seems Mentzer was not well received, which surprises me as someone who wasn't there, because I have only ever heard praise for BECMI and the changes.

Since the dominant marketing de facto was learning from an older brother or cousin, I wonder if the nation's older brothers and cousins sinply refused the changeover and just Xeroxed B/X for the next gen or something...?

Also, I can't help but wonder if they stopped tracking which version sold because Moldvay kept outselling Mentzer and that was embarrassing
 

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darjr

I crit!
I mean, Satanic Panuc and the economy were big factors, but I really fo suspect thet it seems Mentzer was not well received, which surprises me as someone who wasn't there, because I have only ever heard praise for BECMI and the changes.

Since the dominant marketing de facto was learning from an older brother or cousin, I wonder if the nation's older brothers and cousins sinply refused the changeover and just Xeroxed B/X for the next gen or something...?

Also, I can't help but wonder if they stopped tracking which version sold because Moldvay kept outselling Mentzer and that was embarrassing
I dunno. But knowing WotC had these numbers is making my gears turn.

Like maybe the 5e nostalgia play wasn’t Old School but specifically Moldvay?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I dunno. But knowing WotC had these numbers is making my gears turn.

Like maybe the 5e nostalgia play wasn’t Old School but specifically Moldvay?
Well, the Starter Set has a Module, not a solo play example? I'm not sufficiently familiar with the differences, I was always under the impression that they were minor?
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
I mean more that 5e seems closer to Moldvay than AD&D 1e with some AD&D 2e sensibilities.
Oh, absolutely. They definitely drew ideas from all eras of the game, but I've heard Mearla talk about how their core goal was to go back to what made Basic work.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
The '84 drop-off is because big box stores stopped carrying D&D. They didn't reorder and sold out of their existing stock. The economy was rough, so there was less disposable income. I think the edition changes confused retailers more than players. Do they stock AD&D books? Or the much more boardgame-friendly box sets? The Satanic Panic was just social pressure to not learn about D&D. Worked on some, worked about as well as D.A.R.E. on others.
 

Reynard

Legend
The '84 drop-off is because big box stores stopped carrying D&D. They didn't reorder and sold out of their existing stock. The economy was rough, so there was less disposable income. I think the edition changes confused retailers more than players. Do they stock AD&D books? Or the much more boardgame-friendly box sets? The Satanic Panic was just social pressure to not learn about D&D. Worked on some, worked about as well as D.A.R.E. on others.
All the evidence points to market saturation. Growth was so strong that by 84 pretty much anyone that wanted D&D had D&D. It was a niche hobby with a limited appeal.

I am still flabbergasted that 5E hasn't hit that saturation point yet. What could have changed so fundamentally that D&D by way of 5E is no longer niche but broad appeal? It still takes coordinating schedules and an overworked DM and large chunks of time.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I am still flabbergasted that 5E hasn't hit that saturation point yet. What could have changed so fundamentally that D&D by way of 5E is no longer niche but broad appeal? It still takes coordinating schedules and an overworked DM and large chunks of time.
I don't really think it will, honestly. Back when 5E was being developed and released, there was talk about making it "the evergreen edition" of the game, and I'm starting to think they actually pulled it off.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I mean, Satanic Panuc and the economy were big factors, but I really fo suspect thet it seems Mentzer was not well received, which surprises me as someone who wasn't there, because I have only ever heard praise for BECMI and the changes.

Since the dominant marketing de facto was learning from an older brother or cousin, I wonder if the nation's older brothers and cousins sinply refused the changeover and just Xeroxed B/X for the next gen or something...?

Also, I can't help but wonder if they stopped tracking which version sold because Moldvay kept outselling Mentzer and that was embarrassing
My recollection is that Mentzer was very well received. It dropped off, certainly, but that dropoff was in '84, when the bottom apparently fell out of the market. It did gangbusters the first year, and was also the big face of D&D for most of the international market.

The red box Elmore cover art remains iconic 35+ years later, and was re-used for a 4E starter set because it's so well known. I think they stopped tracking them separately simply because the '83 Basic and Expert were replacements for the '81 Basic & Expert, and so they stopped producing the older ones.

Well, the Starter Set has a Module, not a solo play example? I'm not sufficiently familiar with the differences, I was always under the impression that they were minor?
The '81 Basic came with Keep on the Borderlands. '83 Basic has first a solo Choose Your Own Adventure style tutorial in the Players' Guide, followed by a small solo tutorial adventure with eight or ten chambers of dungeon, mapping and more full rules. It also has a bigger sample dungeon (Castle Mistamere) than the Haunted Keep in Moldvay, though not a full module. It's a pretty decent one-level dungeon for a new DM to run, with some outdoor elements, though, and also provides a map for and brief overview of a second level to the dungeon, with suggestions to the DM about how to fill it out and properly stock it.

Mechanics-wise the two versions are VERY similar, though there are small differences in the actual rules and substantial ones in presentation. Mentzer Basic splits the book into two volumes, one for players and one for DMs, adds the tutorial to the player book, and generally more spacious layout and more art, gorgeous Elmore pieces throughout, for a more consistent, professional-looking aesthetic. The DM book goes into more detail and gives more advice.

The '84 drop-off is because big box stores stopped carrying D&D. They didn't reorder and sold out of their existing stock. The economy was rough, so there was less disposable income. I think the edition changes confused retailers more than players. Do they stock AD&D books? Or the much more boardgame-friendly box sets? The Satanic Panic was just social pressure to not learn about D&D. Worked on some, worked about as well as D.A.R.E. on others.
I think there was some confusion, but as far as I recall, only Sears and Penney's stopped carrying them in '84. They were still routinely available in big box Toys R Us stores, smaller Kay-Bee Toys in malls, and in B. Dalton's and Waldenbooks for several more years. Book stores, in particular had extra promotional materials for 2nd Ed AD&D five years later.

All the evidence points to market saturation. Growth was so strong that by 84 pretty much anyone that wanted D&D had D&D. It was a niche hobby with a limited appeal.
I agree that market saturation and the end of the fad are more likely the main factors. D&D did well in the 70s, but didn't explode onto the mass market until late '79 thanks to the Egbert case. It had three more years of serious boom times, but then it fell off.
 
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Yaarel

Mind Mage
The drop of D&D sales for both Basic and Advanced in 1984 requires explanation.

Basic
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Advanced
75caa010-ac84-4755-b273-75042b6d079f-jpeg.255394


There is a spike in Advanced sales in 1989 when 2e came out.

I wonder how much of this "drop" in sales is players using the books that they already own. The number of players could even be expanding with players sharing books and photocopying pertinent pages. This would explain the sudden spike when 2e comes out in 1989, with an active player base switching over (or blending 1e with) the new 2e books.

Such an explanation − they already have the books they need − implies a market saturation for these products at that time.

In that case, the larger number of players of 5e today implies a shift within the culture itself.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
LOL!

The drop in sales 1984 could represent a difference between the many people who initially bought the books versus the few people who were able to make sense of its poorly written rules.

From that point on, D&D transitions into an oral tradition, rather than a written tradition. Thus, learning to play from someone who already knows how to play makes sharing books and homebrew rules more commonplace.
 

Reynard

Legend
I don't really think it will, honestly. Back when 5E was being developed and released, there was talk about making it "the evergreen edition" of the game, and I'm starting to think they actually pulled it off.
But it hasn't solved the fundamental problems of ttrpgs as mass appeal activities I mentioned: time, players, and commitment. I would be very interested in data - if it exists - of how many D&D sessions are being played per week, for how long and by what method/venue.
 

Also interesting that the expert sales are so much lower than the basic sales. After level 3, did people move on to advanced? Or, perhaps more likely, games fizzled out and interest went elsewhere.

Oh, absolutely. They definitely drew ideas from all eras of the game, but I've heard Mearla talk about how their core goal was to go back to what made Basic work.

I feel like they are getting away from that goal with all the new options. Granted, new options are more for experienced players, but I hope they remember to keep the core game simple for the 2024 edition
 

darjr

I crit!
But it hasn't solved the fundamental problems of ttrpgs as mass appeal activities I mentioned: time, players, and commitment. I would be very interested in data - if it exists - of how many D&D sessions are being played per week, for how long and by what method/venue.
I would also like those numbers but it may be next to impossible.

About solving the problem? Having a magnitude more players goes a long way to fixing those. The more players the more DMs the more chance of finding a compatible group and the more play there is.

As an aside the more players the more stores and other places support public play which in this edition has just grown and grown around here. The pandemic being a huge hurdle that stopped it for a while, it took a pandemic to slow it down.

We probably could have had several more tables running games at Midlands Pride, for example.

Even now it’s only been a couple weeks since my local store has had public games of D&D and we are at the point we may have to turn down new DMs or expand to more nights.
 


darjr

I crit!
Also interesting that the expert sales are so much lower than the basic sales. After level 3, did people move on to advanced? Or, perhaps more likely, games fizzled out and interest went elsewhere.



I feel like they are getting away from that goal with all the new options. Granted, new options are more for experienced players, but I hope they remember to keep the core game simple for the 2024 edition
I did get the expert set. But we moved on to AD&D by then.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Also interesting that the expert sales are so much lower than the basic sales. After level 3, did people move on to advanced? Or, perhaps more likely, games fizzled out and interest went elsewhere.

I did get the expert set. But we moved on to AD&D by then.
Yeah, I think there was a substantial amount of AD&D being perceived as the "real" game, for "serious, grown-up" players, and that led to kids who got Basic and were really hooked almost inevitably transitioning to AD&D. I'm sure some players also lost interest.

But it hasn't solved the fundamental problems of ttrpgs as mass appeal activities I mentioned: time, players, and commitment. I would be very interested in data - if it exists - of how many D&D sessions are being played per week, for how long and by what method/venue.
About solving the problem? Having a magnitude more players goes a long way to fixing those. The more players the more DMs the more chance of finding a compatible group and the more play there is.
I'd also love to see such numbers.

I suspect that 5E growth is benefitting hugely from streaming and online play. Streaming largely solves the issue of "How do I actually do this?" that you used to need a mentor for. Online/Discord/VTT play largely solves the issue of player availability.

D&D's sheer popularity also increases the ease of finding a local physical group. A virtuous circle of network effects.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Also interesting that the expert sales are so much lower than the basic sales. After level 3, did people move on to advanced? Or, perhaps more likely, games fizzled out and interest went elsewhere.
I might have assumed so. But the Basic continues to sell more than Advanced, even from 1984 to 1988.

I suspect most Basic players were casual and content with low level play.
 

darjr

I crit!
I just saw a near mint Expert Set, the one that went with Moldvay Basic, on an auction site. Near mint, with original bagged dice.

The bids are at $300 and climbing.

53084672-CAFE-4E34-982A-EB383C22DEE3.jpeg
 

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