Darksun TSR sales! From Benjamin Riggs.

vecna00

Speculation Specialist Wizard
I missed the worst of it, stepping away from the hobby in the mid 90s. When I came back, Wizards was the new owner. But between looking at Usenet archives and listening to the Plot Points podcast, it's easy to piece together a grim picture. Yes, people on the internet will always complain, but TSR's name really seemed like it was absolute mud back then.

One wonders what would've happened if Wizards' hadn't been there to pick up the ball. While some people like to fantasize about D&D having reverted to Gary Gygax or some small (the unsaid part adds "less woke" in a lot of those fantasies) company purchasing the rights, it was only ever going to be a choice between another large company buying it or the game fading away, considering how much those rights were going to sell for. People would've likely just kept playing using those old books for a long while, but one wonders what the world would be like without both D&D and the OGL.

Wizards has kept the torch burning and now burning brighter than ever.
I always find it a little weird (I don't know if that's the right word) when learning about the things that were happening to TSR as a company. Especially during the days that I was most actively gaming in high school. My group and I were just blissfully unaware of everything that was happening and just eagerly awaiting the next cool book.

I do wonder how I would have felt knowing what was going on at the time.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Yeah, from the outside, regular gamer's view, it was a shock.

Even if many of us had moved on to other RPGs and CCGs, TSR was still the originator of the hobby, a titanic publisher of hundreds (or even thousands, counting modules and novels and so forth?) of books, which were still filling the shelves of our local game shops and the licensed fiction area of the local book store's sci-fi and fantasy section.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
One wonders what would've happened if Wizards' hadn't been there to pick up the ball. While some people like to fantasize about D&D having reverted to Gary Gygax or some small (the unsaid part adds "less woke" in a lot of those fantasies) company purchasing the rights, it was only ever going to be a choice between another large company buying it or the game fading away, considering how much those rights were going to sell for.
The other choice would have been to break up whatever IP assets that TSR had and sell them to different companies. IIRC before Adkinson showed up with a checkbook to suggest buying all of the assets outright Williams was starting to look into doing just that. I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but I suspect it's very possible that the Forgotten Realms novels and video games would have gone one direction, the D&D name and game another, and the rest of the properties into the hands of whoever thought they might be worth a video game license.

I also strongly suspect that might have been the end of TTRPG publishing as a viable business model. At least for a while.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The other choice would have been to break up whatever IP assets that TSR had and sell them to different companies. IIRC before Adkinson showed up with a checkbook to suggest buying all of the assets outright Williams was starting to look into doing just that. I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but I suspect it's very possible that the Forgotten Realms novels and video games would have gone one direction, the D&D name and game another, and the rest of the properties into the hands of whoever thought they might be worth a video game license.

I also strongly suspect that might have been the end of TTRPG publishing as a viable business model. At least for a while.
Yup. A big fear at the time was that TSR's IP assets would be split between various creditors and functionally locked away, having theoretical value but being owned by banks and such which wouldn't have sufficient incentive to actually publish anything with them or license them to an RPG publisher for a rate affordable to them (the only publisher rolling in cash at the time being WotC, thanks to Magic: tG).
 

darjr

I crit!
Birthright!


Behold, the sales for the last setting to be published by TSR before it was purchased by Wizards of the Coast, Birthright!

Next, I will publish a comprehensive graph of TSR setting sales covering totals sold from ‘79 to ‘99.


CDD84804-3869-4BAA-922D-3FA76430BEA1.jpeg
 


sterndisgust

Explorer
Yeah those numbers for Birthright are surprising in that they're a little bit higher than I expected. I guessed it would be barely 20k in the first year and a total flatline afterwards. I can't imagine the supplements sold well at all. Even in this age of older players bringing their favorite settings to younger tables, and evangelizing for them, there's really been very little of that about Birthright. Mostly Matt Colville (whose video about it is now gone, so not even him) and a really outdated (http!!!) forum.

In hindsight it's a neat setting marred by some really weird execution around the bloodlines, warfare system, and how ill-fitting a lot of the standard D&D ancestries feel next to the human societies. I've stolen tons of ideas from it for my own homebrew, so in that it's been fantastic.
 

vecna00

Speculation Specialist Wizard
Yeah those numbers for Birthright are surprising in that they're a little bit higher than I expected. I guessed it would be barely 20k in the first year and a total flatline afterwards. I can't imagine the supplements sold well at all. Even in this age of older players bringing their favorite settings to younger tables, and evangelizing for them, there's really been very little of that about Birthright. Mostly Matt Colville (whose video about it is now gone, so not even him) and a really outdated (http!!!) forum.

In hindsight it's a neat setting marred by some really weird execution around the bloodlines, warfare system, and how ill-fitting a lot of the standard D&D ancestries feel next to the human societies. I've stolen tons of ideas from it for my own homebrew, so in that it's been fantastic.
It...it is gone!
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Agreed; it's hard to find data that will compare apples to apples. @Mannahnin points out that the number of books that are being counted don't exactly match. You point out that the sales only include North America. And from what I can tell, that "one million copies sold" article only includes sales through the month of August, which is just the first 8 months of its release.

I couldn't find any data for the entire first year of 3E's run, but it's certainly going to be higher than a million. Including the sales of the 1E MM would certainly give higher sales numbers too. And including the sales outside of North America would also give higher numbers across the board. I would love to see all of the data from all of the angles, but I doubt that will happen.

All I'm saying is, I have found at least some evidence to suggest that 3E was actually the best-selling edition of the game as of August 2000.

Dancey has said 3.0 phb has sold 300k+ year 1 iirc.

Lifetime sales I've only seen one figure via Paizo. It didn't outsell 2E apparently and Paizos 1E and 2E numbers seemed on point.

That number was 500k+ and 250-350 for 3.5.

Basic and 1E are the biggest selling D&D's that we have numbers for. 5E? Might be biggest selling D&D but may not be peak D&D sales remember 1E and Basic were on sale same time both peaked same time.

5E basic set (LMoP one) didn't sell same numbers as basic in a similar time frame. Lifetime sales may be higher by now though as the numbers we have are from 2018.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Dancey has said 3.0 phb has sold 300k+ year 1 iirc.

Lifetime sales I've only seen one figure via Paizo. It didn't outsell 2E apparently and Paizos 1E and 2E numbers seemed on point.

That number was 500k+ and 250-350 for 3.5.

Basic and 1E are the biggest selling D&D's that we have numbers for. 5E? Might be biggest selling D&D but may not be peak D&D sales remember 1E and Basic were on sale same time both peaked same time.

5E basic set (LMoP one) didn't sell same numbers as basic in a similar time frame. Lifetime sales may be higher by now though as the numbers we have are from 2018.
It seems that 3E started strong, but went downhill really fast, hence the rushing of 3.5.
 

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