D&D General As of 1998, 4,007,685 people played AD&D in the US, as estimated by Ben Riggs.

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Microsoft just didn’t give you any reason to buy one. It had almost no exclusives, so its only selling point next to the PS4 was more power, which… if you care about that, you’re probably going PC anyway.
That's true. I just see no reason tonsuspect that D&D isn't more popular than Xbox right now. Maybe not pre-Red Ring of Death Scandal Xbox 360 levels, but Xbox One? Easily.
 

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darjr

I crit!
That's true. I just see no reason tonsuspect that D&D isn't more popular than Xbox right now. Maybe not pre-Red Ring of Death Scandal Xbox 360 levels, but Xbox One? Easily.
Really? I just can’t accept that, dunno if I just have an unrealistic antimatter reaction to it.

But i can’t really grasp it at the moment. Weird. Like the idea of it doesn’t want to stick in my head.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Really? I just can’t accept that, dunno if I just have an unrealistic antimatter reaction to it.

But i can’t really grasp it at the moment. Weird. Like the idea of it doesn’t want to stick in my head.
Anecdotal of course, but there are definitely more people who play D&D than who play video games among my coworkers, and only a subset of the video game playing ones own (or have owned) an XboxOne.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Really? I just can’t accept that, dunno if I just have an unrealistic antimatter reaction to it.

But i can’t really grasp it at the moment. Weird. Like the idea of it doesn’t want to stick in my head.
Well, think about it like this: Xbox One is the third biggest home console, but both nymber 1 and 2, Playstation and Nintendo, have sold over twice as many units as Xbox in Generstion 9 units, and still the biggest video game platform is actually the iPhone (Apple makes more.money off of video games than anyone other company, just collecting their App store fee). So, yeah, D&D is as big as the third place "hardcore" gaming platform. Not the equivalent of being bigger than the NES in 1989, say.
 

Welcome to the most speculative and controversial post in my series thus far!

I hypothesize that as of 1998, 4,007,685 people played AD&D.

Here’s how I interpreted sales data to reach that figure.

I would posit it was impossible to run AD&D without the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Therefore sales of the DMG can show us the maximum number of POTENTIAL DUNGEON MASTERS.

The chart below shows us how many DMGs were sold for the three different versions of AD&D released between 1979 and 1998. In addition to showing the sales collapse between editions, it tells us that a total of 2,023,194 DMGs were sold.

Now, how many of those DMGs were people rebuying the book? 148,412 copies of the revised DMG were sold. Let’s assume all of those were rebuys. The second edition DMG sold 543,414. Let’s say half of those were rebuys.

2,023,194 Total DMGs - 271,707 2nd Ed Rebuys - 128,412 Revised Rebuys = 1,603,075 DMG owners

Now how many of those buyers actually ran the game? Feel free to make your own guess, but I’m going to be conservative and say only 50% of buyers actually ran the game. Rounding down, that leaves us with 801,537 theoretical DMs.

Let’s also conservatively assume that each of those DMs ran game for four players at least once. That would mean that between ‘79 and ‘98 4,007,685 played AD&D.

And since we’re having fun, let’s point out that last year Wizards of the Coast said that 50 million people had “experienced” Dungeons & Dragons. Just for fun, I charted my hypothetical number against WoTC’s experienced number to show growth in the industry. It’s kinda crazy.

Note, this does not include Basic D&D players. Tomorrow, I’m going to go deep on Basic D&D in an effort to make some guesses on their player base.

So that’s how I’d run the numbers, but of course feel free to point out any flaws in my logic and play with the data yourself to get a different figure.

If you find me interesting, my book on D&D history, Slaying the Dragon, is out now. Pick it up anywhere books are sold, or use the link below!


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Meh, this entire thing is nothing but a series of guesses piled on top of one another. We have no idea how many people actually owned a DMG, and even though we can speculate that some owned more than one (I certainly owned a DMG and a 2e DMG) its really impossible to know how many were passed on to others, shared, never sold at all, etc. etc. etc. Any attempt to come up with a number here is pure unadulterated arbitrary guesswork. Beyond that, I think the guess as to how many people 'experienced D&D' at the hands of any given DM is a whole other layer of guesswork. I personally know (and am myself one) who has GMed for hundreds, maybe as many as a thousand different players in my lifetime. Now, many of those also played with other people, so to even make a wild guess as to the ratio of players to GMs is completely impossible. I think the idea to guess '4' based on the idea that an 'average' game of D&D has 4 players and a GM (also not established, but whatever) is completely misguided, as this has nothing to do with the total people who ever played even once!

Thus the whole 4 million number is simply a random guess, the true number could be 1 million or could be 40 million. I mean, I would never propose to know where in that range the actual answer lies, but I'd be surprised if it isn't somewhere in those bounds. I don't think foreign language editions are being counted here, either, and the math for them could be quite different from the US, as people in at least some other countries are more likely to have shared books around, etc. given how hard they were to come by and expensive.
 

He does say guess, several times. It’s a swag to start a discussion. Kinda the reason this place exists?
Yeah, I am skeptical of the number, but the topic is fine. I mean, TBH the 4 million number is probably NOT wildly inaccurate. I think it MIGHT be a bit low when talking about people who ever played, but the real number cannot be radically far off that. I mean, in my home town, which in the '80s was a place with under 10k people in it, certainly had up to 100 or more players in it. I know of a number of groups that played there at that time which I DMed for at least a few times. I am entirely sure there were other groups amongst school-aged people, and I actually worked for the FLGS. Maybe the business wasn't super large there, but people came in and we sold a few RPGs every month. There was a much bigger store in the next bigger town too, which got a lot of that business. So, I'd be a bit surprised if people who had played was more than a few % of the population, as 1% of 10k is 100. I could imagine we had 100 players in town, maybe. At that level there'd have been 2-3 million in the whole country, but if you count people that played once, I could see the number being up in the mid to high single digit millions.

And heck, that's a pretty prevalent activity when you think about it. I mean, watching sports, drinking beer, watching TV, sex, fishing, whatever, OK those are a lot more popular, but once you get past the really big ones that most people do, if a million people do something in the US, its kind of a lot.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Meh, this entire thing is nothing but a series of guesses piled on top of one another. We have no idea how many people actually owned a DMG, and even though we can speculate that some owned more than one (I certainly owned a DMG and a 2e DMG) its really impossible to know how many were passed on to others, shared, never sold at all, etc. etc. etc. Any attempt to come up with a number here is pure unadulterated arbitrary guesswork. Beyond that, I think the guess as to how many people 'experienced D&D' at the hands of any given DM is a whole other layer of guesswork. I personally know (and am myself one) who has GMed for hundreds, maybe as many as a thousand different players in my lifetime. Now, many of those also played with other people, so to even make a wild guess as to the ratio of players to GMs is completely impossible. I think the idea to guess '4' based on the idea that an 'average' game of D&D has 4 players and a GM (also not established, but whatever) is completely misguided, as this has nothing to do with the total people who ever played even once!

Thus the whole 4 million number is simply a random guess, the true number could be 1 million or could be 40 million. I mean, I would never propose to know where in that range the actual answer lies, but I'd be surprised if it isn't somewhere in those bounds. I don't think foreign language editions are being counted here, either, and the math for them could be quite different from the US, as people in at least some other countries are more likely to have shared books around, etc. given how hard they were to come by and expensive.

I bought a phb in 95 for Second Ed. Cost $5 more than a weeks rent for a room here. Or half the rent on a 3 bedroom house
 

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