D&D General Darksun Adventure sales from Ben Riggs author of Slaying the Dragon

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Like everything in life, it was almost certainly a massive conflux of factors. Little bit of this, little bit of that. Little bit of the other.

But for Dark Sun's Boxed Set/Adventure sales comparison... it really does seem like it was one DM buying everything.

Though, taking a look at overall figures for 2e D&D: 4.7 million core rulebooks sold over the course of 1979 to 1998... Vastly more books than all the campaign settings so far presented combined.

So maybe it did split the playerbase, some? But it looks like the -vast- majority of D&D players and DMs just didn't bother with any of the offerings TSR put out for settings.
Well, we know from more recently that WotC own numbers show that most people homebrew, over 50%. About a quarter do pure homebrew without wanting reference material, another quarter homebrew but like to do things like put Waterdeep or Sharn in their own world, another quarter use the Forgotten Realms, and the last less Tham a quarter use another older published Setting. The Forgotten Realms Adventures hit the middle half, the first quarter don't buy books, and the last quarter only started getting serviced after 2018...
 

log in or register to remove this ad

darjr

I crit!
Well, we know from more recently that WotC own numbers show that most people homebrew, over 50%. About a quarter do pure homebrew without wanting reference material, another quarter homebrew but like to do things like put Waterdeep or Sharn in their own world, another quarter use the Forgotten Realms, and the last less Tham a quarter use another older published Setting. The Forgotten Realms Adventures hit the middle half, the first quarter don't buy books, and the last quarter only started getting serviced after 2018...
Yea, I think this. People home brewed back then too so all these boxes and settings and adventures didn’t appeal as much.

I know I had some D&D fatigue and everything but the core seemed unneeded. In fact if I’m completely honest with myself I think that’s what my real problem was with 2e. I didn’t need it. It wasn’t different enough, and not enough of my local player base was switching.

Huh?
 

GreyLord

Legend
It shows that maybe there was a flaw in Ryan Dancey's analysis of AD&D sales, dismissing Adventures perhaps too much.

I've always contended there were DEEP flaws in what he said (I don't think he actually analyzed anything, just spouted stuff to justify their approach. The splitting the lines statement was shown to be false rather quickly as they officially released Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, and Eberron was in the making. IF they didn't want to split the campaign settings, they wouldn't have let every joe, dick, and harry design a campaign setting that could be officially under the 3e rules either (that would split a base FAR further than the number of campaign settings TSR had). They then had Kingdoms of Kalamar as an official setting but by other publishers. Then came Ghostwalk and Dragonlance as well as Oriental Adventures.

With all the campaign settings put out by 3rd parties that were published as officially supporting 3e (as per OGL or D20), there were MORE campaign worlds out for 3e and 3.5 that could split the line (and away from FR, or GH, or any other Campaign printed by WotC) than anything TSR EVER put out or EVER allowed.

I'm surprised people even still refer back to his statements as 3e showed that he was absolutely either not telling the truth, speaking out of the side of his mouth to decieve, exaggerating...OR...just didn't know what the heck he was talking about.

My thoughts...

THERE WAS something they learned though, and maybe that is what he meant to say. One of those things (I've mentioned other items elsewhere)...Look at these charts that have come out.

One of these was that the Core rulebook releases made money and normally were the top sellers. Even if it was a little, they still made money. Look at how they sold though. This is why 3.5 came out and why they were planning for a 4e EVEN BEFORE 3.5 was released. They saw the sales trend. If these charts showed anything, for sales they needed new releases. A campaign world a year was about right. You release a new set of rulebooks every 2-3 years if you could. That keeps the sales up.

This is what happened with 3e - 4e. You keep the rulebooks selling, with new releases. Everything else is to support that model. With the rules fresh, many settings will sell at a high number as well. When sales of the other books start to slump...make a new rulebook.

It's a cycle you can see with the books with the sales frontloaded. You want to keep the frontloaded sales up, and get a new frontload when they start to slump. Hence, already planning to have new editions when you are releasing the current one. You don't mention that to the fans exactly (I think Monte Cooke complained about this somewhere though), but that's what's going on in the background.

Of course, they didn't see that fans would get so upset either...

So here we are at 5e. It's kind of an anomaly if you look at it. Instead of the charts that we've seen here, there's that strong possibility that maybe that it didn't go into the slump quite so fast.

I think someone with a rather smart mind took a look at ideas of how 1e went and said, maybe if we tweak it just a little bit, we can keep the magic going. Afterall, even with all the troubles and such, OD&D, 1e, and 2e (and BX and BECMI) were essentially the same core system that kept going for over 20 years. It could be possible to recreate that magic, but keep the sales up for everything as well...

And well...here we are. Though the AE IS coming I may add...but then it may be more like a 1e to 2e than a new edition.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Well, Dancey always argued that TSR split the Ayer base, so that a DM would buy the Dark Sun box set and all the Adventures, but nothing from Forgotten Realms or Spelljammer product lines. So they essentially created silos of players who were doing different things, not buying a dull range of TSR products.

Odds are that the FR Adventures and Setting modules dwarf the other Settings: hence the past 25 years of WotC product line decisions.

And then WotC went and split that player base 100 times MORE than what TSR ever did.

There were probably over 100 settings that were officially supported by OGL/D20 (hence the D&D rules). These were ALL competing with Forgotten Realms, Living Greyhawk, and official WotC campaign settings. You want to split the "Base" even more than TSR did...do what WotC did with 3e and 3.5 with the OGL.

That's not what the problem was...really. As I've said over the years (hardly anyone has listened though) was that it was bad business decisions (like investing money into a product that they wouldn't make back. If you sell a product that will only sell 5000 products, you can still make money off of it. You just don't spend MORE money than you will make back from it. Or, you don't sell the product at a loss. As someone pointed out above, if you sell 250K units at a 1 dollar loss, you just lost 250K dollars instead of making a profit. You sell almost the same product but cut some of the costs that are sunk into it (maybe it's a paperback book with less art for example) and you can at least make some money off of that).

It's not splitting the line with campaign settings that are the problem, but HOW you split the line. YOU can split the line and make a bunch of money if you want to. Any research AT ALL would have shown (and still does) that if a player is likely to buy one campaign setting, they probably (not all of them do, but many do) will be buying more than just that campaign setting. They will like to try out other worlds or other types of adventures and ideas. (and surprisingly, this ALSO applies to RPGs. TSR did this with Star Frontiers, Gamma World, and other lines out there, though this has not been as replicated as much by WotC).

4e I think went even deeper into the strategy then 3e and 3.5 did. Instead of just focusing on releasing the Rulebooks (which they did twice, once with the original release, once with essentials), they also went to seeing campaign settings would flare up and die in a year or two. So, they released a campaign setting a year (or I think that was the goal) so you have that big initial sales of the campaign setting, and then when that dwindles, you can release the next big campaign setting.

You can see the trends on the charts here, and it appears 4e learned from that setup and went with it in it's campaign setting releases as well. No need to support campaign settings once the big initial sales fall, instead, move on to the next big thing.

I think in a way Pathfinder has done this as well with it's focus on Adventure Paths. That makes for a 6 month excitement over that path, and then it's onto the next big thing...aka...next big AP.
 

darjr

I crit!
And then WotC went and split that player base 100 times MORE than what TSR ever did.

There were probably over 100 settings that were officially supported by OGL/D20 (hence the D&D rules). These were ALL competing with Forgotten Realms, Living Greyhawk, and official WotC campaign settings. You want to split the "Base" even more than TSR did...do what WotC did with 3e and 3.5 with the OGL.

That's not what the problem was...really. As I've said over the years (hardly anyone has listened though) was that it was bad business decisions (like investing money into a product that they wouldn't make back. If you sell a product that will only sell 5000 products, you can still make money off of it. You just don't spend MORE money than you will make back from it. Or, you don't sell the product at a loss. As someone pointed out above, if you sell 250K units at a 1 dollar loss, you just lost 250K dollars instead of making a profit. You sell almost the same product but cut some of the costs that are sunk into it (maybe it's a paperback book with less art for example) and you can at least make some money off of that).

It's not splitting the line with campaign settings that are the problem, but HOW you split the line. YOU can split the line and make a bunch of money if you want to. Any research AT ALL would have shown (and still does) that if a player is likely to buy one campaign setting, they probably (not all of them do, but many do) will be buying more than just that campaign setting. They will like to try out other worlds or other types of adventures and ideas. (and surprisingly, this ALSO applies to RPGs. TSR did this with Star Frontiers, Gamma World, and other lines out there, though this has not been as replicated as much by WotC).

4e I think went even deeper into the strategy then 3e and 3.5 did. Instead of just focusing on releasing the Rulebooks (which they did twice, once with the original release, once with essentials), they also went to seeing campaign settings would flare up and die in a year or two. So, they released a campaign setting a year (or I think that was the goal) so you have that big initial sales of the campaign setting, and then when that dwindles, you can release the next big campaign setting.

You can see the trends on the charts here, and it appears 4e learned from that setup and went with it in it's campaign setting releases as well. No need to support campaign settings once the big initial sales fall, instead, move on to the next big thing.

I think in a way Pathfinder has done this as well with it's focus on Adventure Paths. That makes for a 6 month excitement over that path, and then it's onto the next big thing...aka...next big AP.
eh.

I admit I wasn't around much in the hobby during that period. But wasn't that "split" really among the stores and distributors? In fact wasn't the crash because a lot of that was STILL in the stores and distribution?
 

GreyLord

Legend
eh.

I admit I wasn't around much in the hobby during that period. But wasn't that "split" really among the stores and distributors? In fact wasn't the crash because a lot of that was STILL in the stores and distribution?

If you are worried about "splitting the lines" because players will only buy one campaign world for your game rules, having over 100 different campaigns made that are officially built on your rules and supported by them probably isn't the best way of showing it. That "split" the lines for D&D players FAR more than anything TSR's "splitting the lines" of a mere 15 or so campaigns did over a span of 20 years.

The truth is, it doesn't really "split" your players as much as some people made it out to be, because many of those players are multiple purchasers. Just like some campaign settings from TSR sold more than others, the same held true for the "split" during 3e and 3.5 did.

The TRUTH is that multiple campaigns are NOT necessarily a bad thing. What you NEED is to support the core rules, and whatever you put out furthers the sales of the core rules. Campaign settings do that. It doesn't matter where they come from, additional material supports the furthering of the rules sales.

If you look at what WotC DID rather than the words that came out of some individuals mouth, you'll see that it isn't about "splitting the lines" at all. With what they did, "split the line" in the same way TSR did but FAR worse and handed those keys to everyone else to help split it.

Instead, it was made to further support the sales of the core rules and to extend that hump of sales off of it (adventures and campaigns from WotC as well). The next version of rules was in the planning stages the moment the core rules of the current version were on the market. That was one of the REAL focuses in reality.

The reason can be seen from the charts posted here. Sales start high and quickly drop off, even for core rule sales...but core rules are what sell the most. You build everything else off of that.

PS: The Crash WAS with distributors and publishers...but WotC didn't crash per se. The crash came because they didn't know that WotC already planned for obsolescence with either a new edition (or updated edition as it was). They were caught unawares...WotC was not (as far as I know, hard to be caught flat footed when you are the rogue doing the suprise). There were so many products based off of 3e when 3.5 came out, and many of them had no where to go. You would have thought they would have learned, but they didn't...and then 4e was announced...
 
Last edited:

darjr

I crit!
If you are worried about "splitting the lines" because players will only buy one campaign world for your game rules, having over 100 different campaigns made that are officially built on your rules and supported by them probably isn't the best way of showing it. That "split" the lines for D&D players FAR more than anything TSR's "splitting the lines" of a mere 15 or so campaigns did over a span of 20 years.

The truth is, it doesn't really "split" your players as much as some people made it out to be, because many of those players are multiple purchasers. Just like some campaign settings from TSR sold more than others, the same held true for the "split" during 3e and 3.5 did.

The TRUTH is that multiple campaigns are NOT necessarily a bad thing. What you NEED is to support the core rules, and whatever you put out furthers the sales of the core rules. Campaign settings do that. It doesn't matter where they come from, additional material supports the furthering of the rules sales.

If you look at what WotC DID rather than the words that came out of some individuals mouth, you'll see that it isn't about "splitting the lines" at all. With what they did, "split the line" in the same way TSR did but FAR worse and handed those keys to everyone else to help split it.

Instead, it was made to further support the sales of the core rules and to extend that hump of sales off of it (adventures and campaigns from WotC as well). The next version of rules was in the planning stages the moment the core rules of the current version were on the market. That was one of the REAL focuses in reality.

The reason can be seen from the charts posted here. Sales start high and quickly drop off, even for core rule sales...but core rules are what sell the most. You build everything else off of that.
First, provide even a shred of evidence that the OGL stuff “split the hobby” to any large degree even anywhere approaching what TSR did.

Second show that it hurt WotC sales directly.

TSR was selling to a limits audience and was ONe company. So one year, as Ben says, they could sell two novels being a 45 million company, then a few years later they had to sell a dozen or more. Them splitting the hobby was done in part because they were chasing the SAME revenue. And what hurt them was the investment and cost of those large amount of products vs what that did earlier on, a burden carried by one company. The OGL glut spread that investment to OTHER companies entirely.
 

GreyLord

Legend
First, provide even a shred of evidence that the OGL stuff “split the hobby” to any large degree even anywhere approaching what TSR did.

Second show that it hurt WotC sales directly.

TSR was selling to a limits audience and was ONe company. So one year, as Ben says, they could sell two novels being a 45 million company, then a few years later they had to sell a dozen or more. Them splitting the hobby was done in part because they were chasing the SAME revenue. And what hurt them was the investment and cost of those large amount of products vs what that did earlier on, a burden carried by one company. The OGL glut spread that investment to OTHER companies entirely.

I have as much evidence as Dancey did. There isn't any, because it doesn't exist. That's what I'm saying.

Multiple lines don't actually SPLIT the hobby.

The idea he proposed was that a player only has so much income and so they are only going to spend so much money. That means if a book for the Forgotten Realms comes out and a book for Dragonlance comes out, the player is only going to buy one of them.

That is an ASSUMPTION...and I think he knew it. The truth is that the player in many instances (and I'm betting there are many in this thread that have FAR more than just one campaign book) will buy them both.

In fact, WotC furthered this by having not just multiple lines of their own out at the same time, but allowing OTHERS to have multiple lines.

If he was serious, than if there was a Wheel of Time D20 book, a Conan D20 Book, a D20 Modern book, A Forgotten Reams D20 book, a Warcraft D20 book, A Eberron D20 Book, An Oriental Adventures D20 Book, A Sword and Sorcery D20 Book, A Kingdom of Kalamar D20 Book, A living Greyhawk Book...D&D should have crashed and burned in 2001 harder than it took TSR to go bankrupt. And that isn't even a quarter of the campaign settings that came out. If a player could only spend money on one of those and that applied to most players, and they split their money on only one of those books...well...

It wasn't about splitting the lines, it was about selling the rulebooks. That's what it was always about.

WotC actually had over 3.X - Forgotten Realms, Diablo, Greyhawk, Eberron, Ghostwalk, Modern, Oriental Adventures, Dragonlance (core rulebook only).

Official but printed otherwise - Kingdoms of Kalamar

Official as recognized but printed otherwise - Warcraft

Licensed - Ravenloft, Dragonlance (beyond the core rules)

That's 11 campaign worlds through WotC only. Then you add up all the others that came about through 3rd party and that one person with their wallet that Dancey talks about having to spend their hard earned cash...well...that's completely split now far worse than TSR at it's height of publishing different campaign settings all at the same time.
 

darjr

I crit!
Ben has evidence. It might not match Darcy’s conclusion but it is evidence and shows directly how it hurt them.

Mainly they were chasing the same dollars with more and more complicated products. A significant portion of which were expensive to design and produce and either made them zero dollars (planescape) or cost them money to sell (dsrksun advenures)
 

GreyLord

Legend
Ben has evidence. It might not match Darcy’s conclusion but it is evidence and shows directly how it hurt them.

Mainly they were chasing the same dollars with more and more complicated products. A significant portion of which were expensive to design and produce and either made them zero dollars (planescape) or cost them money to sell (dsrksun advenures)

Does it? I see that it shows that the Core rules sold best. That the sales started with a large number and then had a large drop off. That campaign settings sold closer to the Core rules sold better than those sold later. That rule releases sold better overall, and gave a bump to other products.

That data doesn't say that sales from Dark sun was what made Dragonlance sales decrease, or that releasing Forgotten Realms made Dragonlance decrease.

Instead it shows a distinct pattern of strong sales at the start which then have a drop off.

Nothing indicates that they were cannibalizing their own sales with other lines.

WHAT DID happen (not sure if the book covers it, probably does if Riggs is as thorough as people say it is) is really dumb financial decisions.

When you make a compilation of magic stuff in a book which no one really wants, and start off with a sale price of maybe $15 you might sale a few and perhaps turn a profit. Make it $20 and you will sell less. Then when the boss comes and says...put leather covers on it so that it will cost $50 to make...you just have to scratch your head because that book is NOW going to LOOSE money no matter how you try to sell it. You can't sell enough to make back the money if you sell it at a high enough price point, but if you don't sell it that high, you lose money with each book. It's a lose/lose situation (edit: Example of a situation that may or may not be based on an actual situation that occurred).

It's not that the book CAN'T make money, but the decisions behind how it is going to be published makes it a lose/lose situation. The books COULD make money (and WotC showed that very well with how they "split" the lines at some points, though probably not all the time, at one point in particular it probably had some harsh realities that came to fruition, but not the time to cover that), but decisions were made that were terrible choices.

Investing money into sidelines that had nothing to do with the products being made, relying overly on future sales as hard numbers rather than estimates, counting on borrowed money as income, and many other BAD financial decisions are what sunk TSR most, not the multiple campaign settings themselves. Those are things that I don't recall being mentioned when WotC was trying to advertise 3e, but the reality (boring as it probably would be to most who would read such stuff) is probably the harsher truth. It was really bad financial decisions in regards to money that sunk TSR.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top