WotC Estimating D&D’s Revenue, Teos Abadia crunches the numbers.

Alphastream

Adventurer
I appreciate the effort that went into the article - it's an interesting read. As the author acknowledges, these numbers have to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, because we really have no idea how much WotC is making on digital book sales, except that it is a lot, and growing quickly (case in point, I own almost every WotC 5e book. I have physical copies for only five, seven including Critical Role).
I totally hear you. I also want to stress that at 5E's scale, even if all of your friends and their friends were exactly the same, this would still be anecdotal data. 5E is so huge that you really need thousands of data points to draw conclusions.
 

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Alphastream

Adventurer
I am less interested in the revenue and more interested in the total book sales projection. If the bookscan numbers are only 25%-34% of the total that is huge. Of course it was unclear to me if that figure included DnDBeyond sales or not. @Alphastream can you clarify that?
D&D Beyond sales are not included. As it says on the blog posts:
"BookScan data is normally available only to invited book publishers. BookScan tracks the sales of all books sold in the US to big box stores. It excludes direct sales, digital sales, gaming stores, and comic book stores. It includes Amazon, though Amazon in some years (especially during the pandemic) provided either no data or partial data out of worries that it disclosed too much about Amazon sales."

I don't know of any source for DDB figures, unfortunately. Clouding it further is that you have lots of folks who share content with others who have an account but don't pay. Others that have a subscription but don't buy content. When WotC says there are 12-13 million DDB accounts, it's really hard to know what this means from a revenue perspective, since we don't know anything about those accounts.

We also don't know how many folks purchase on DDB and physical formats. We would need really good data to be able to guess at that. What makes BookScan so incredible is this isn't some survey of, say, some stores (the way ICV2 gathers data). BookScan is an enormous number of sales. We don't have anything remotely like that for digital.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
From the article:
"So, from both the PH reported sales and the Starter Sets on Forbes, we might estimate BookScan is between 23-34% of actual sales. This is, of course, a fallible estimate in the absence of more data."

So the PHB has likely sold between 4.5-6 million copies. Well that is a lot!

Probably high end another estimate was bookscan was 50% for example which was around 3 million.

Personally i think it's somewhere between those two numbers 3-4.5 million.
Of you think peak D&D in 80s kept up over time so double it also comes out in that range.

Ballpark figures around double 1E and Red box added together might be off a bit due to lack of concrete numbers on 5E and TSR era.
 
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dave2008

Legend
D&D Beyond sales are not included. As it says on the blog posts:
"BookScan data is normally available only to invited book publishers. BookScan tracks the sales of all books sold in the US to big box stores. It excludes direct sales, digital sales, gaming stores, and comic book stores. It includes Amazon, though Amazon in some years (especially during the pandemic) provided either no data or partial data out of worries that it disclosed too much about Amazon sales."

I don't know of any source for DDB figures, unfortunately. Clouding it further is that you have lots of folks who share content with others who have an account but don't pay. Others that have a subscription but don't buy content. When WotC says there are 12-13 million DDB accounts, it's really hard to know what this means from a revenue perspective, since we don't know anything about those accounts.

We also don't know how many folks purchase on DDB and physical formats. We would need really good data to be able to guess at that. What makes BookScan so incredible is this isn't some survey of, say, some stores (the way ICV2 gathers data). BookScan is an enormous number of sales. We don't have anything remotely like that for digital.
I didn't mean in the bookscan numbers, I know they aren't included there. I was wondering if you were accounting for D&D Beyond sales in the difference between bookscan and actual sales or just physical book sales.
 

Alphastream

Adventurer
I didn't mean in the bookscan numbers, I know they aren't included there. I was wondering if you were accounting for D&D Beyond sales in the difference between bookscan and actual sales or just physical book sales.
In the article, I am primarily speaking of physical book sales.

The part where I don't is in this paragraph:
"Is this plausible? Forbes in 2022 estimated that D&D was responsible for between $100M and $150M in annual revenue, out of the $1.3B total WotC revenue. Is it plausible that books make up around $56-76M of that amount, with the rest made up from non-book products, D&D Beyond, and licenses (WizKids, video games, t-shirts, etc.)? It’s really hard to say. Forbes could be wrong. Or I could be off on my estimates. Or maybe D&D really is making a lot of money on non-print-book sources. As you can tell, there are many variables involved, so estimating the total revenue is not easy."

The Forbes amount should be absolutely everything D&D, from licenses for the Neverwinter MMO and Baldur's Gate, to licenses for T-shirts, to book sales, to D&D Beyond. So, when I derive a possible number of $56-76M, that's the portion that would be books and the rest is everything else. I can't really tell how accurate that is, since we really know absolutely nothing about the rest of it, or even if the Forbes estimate is itself true.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
My only gripe with the article is one of numbers - we retailers get more like 40-45% off on D&D books from distributors. I've also heard from distributors that their margins aren't anywhere near what ours are, so @Alphastream, your later conclusion that WotC probably gets more than 25% jives with what I would expect. It's not Retail 60 Distributor 30 WotC 15. It's probably more like Retail 60 Distributor 35 WotC 25. With a big chunk of WotC's profit being lost to printing and shipping costs (shipping from the printers, the other shipping costs are passed on to us, much of the time).

But your conclusions look pretty close to right to me - nothing I could argue with. They're a guess, but they're as close to reality as I can imagine. I would guess (and this is based on nothing more than gut and the numbers that I've heard) but I expect that DDB sales are somewhere between a quarter and half of total print sales (and growing).
 

Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
We don't have anything remotely like that for digital.
What we do know about D&D Beyond is the total number of sales, since all purchases have a sequential order number.

My first order (on 2017-08-15) was number 00009 (what can I say, I'm an early adopter!) and my most recent one (on 2023-09-22) was 12567395. Looking back over my history for the last six years, I can provide order numbers from roughly the same time each year, as follows:

2017-08-15: 00009
2018-07-23: 265845
2019-08-22: 1240140
2020-08-17: 3107000
2021-07-16: 5565731
2022-08-17: 9157194
2023-08-03: 12131266

From this we can estimate the number of individual sales for each year of D&D Beyond's existence, as follows:

Year 1: 266k
Year 2: 974k
Year 3: 1.87m
Year 4: 2.46m
Year 5: 3.60m
Year 6: 2.97m

We can see from this that the first five years had significant growth each year, but the volume of sales dropped slightly in 2022/2023.

This doesn't give us any information about the value of those sales, but we can do some very rough estimates. Subscriptions are either $55 or $26 annually. Prices for individual items on DDB vary from about $5 for dice to $100 for The Deck of Many Things physical+digital bundle, with the initial Legendary Bundle price of $280 being an outlier. There are a lot of variables here. It's possible to buy multiple books at once. It's possible to buy individual components (monster, class options). DDB has frequent sales with significant discounts. But, for the purpose of this wild estimation, let's assume that a typical transaction is the purchase of one book at an average price of $30.

What do these VERY wild assumptions give us? Multiplying $30 by the number of sales per year gives the following dollar amounts:

Year 1: $8m
Year 2: $29m
Year 3: $56m
Year 4: $74m
Year 5: $108m
Year 6: $89m
 

Iosue

Legend
Echohawk, using sale order numbers is as cunning as a fox appointed Professor of Cunning at the University of Oxford.

Even at the low end of these estimates, I marvel that just 10 years ago, the idea of D&D reaching the $50 million/year in revenue needed to become a Core Brand was thought ridiculous, because the whole RPG industry wasn’t worth $50 million a year.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
What we do know about D&D Beyond is the total number of sales, since all purchases have a sequential order number.

My first order (on 2017-08-15) was number 00009 (what can I say, I'm an early adopter!) and my most recent one (on 2023-09-22) was 12567395. Looking back over my history for the last six years, I can provide order numbers from roughly the same time each year, as follows:

2017-08-15: 00009
2018-07-23: 265845
2019-08-22: 1240140
2020-08-17: 3107000
2021-07-16: 5565731
2022-08-17: 9157194
2023-08-03: 12131266

From this we can estimate the number of individual sales for each year of D&D Beyond's existence, as follows:

Year 1: 266k
Year 2: 974k
Year 3: 1.87m
Year 4: 2.46m
Year 5: 3.60m
Year 6: 2.97m

We can see from this that the first five years had significant growth each year, but the volume of sales dropped slightly in 2022/2023.

This doesn't give us any information about the value of those sales, but we can do some very rough estimates. Subscriptions are either $55 or $26 annually. Prices for individual items on DDB vary from about $5 for dice to $100 for The Deck of Many Things physical+digital bundle, with the initial Legendary Bundle price of $280 being an outlier. There are a lot of variables here. It's possible to buy multiple books at once. It's possible to buy individual components (monster, class options). DDB has frequent sales with significant discounts. But, for the purpose of this wild estimation, let's assume that a typical transaction is the purchase of one book at an average price of $30.

What do these VERY wild assumptions give us? Multiplying $30 by the number of sales per year gives the following dollar amounts:

Year 1: $8m
Year 2: $29m
Year 3: $56m
Year 4: $74m
Year 5: $108m
Year 6: $89m
So, basically numbers that make the D&D Beyond purchase price seem like a solid deal.
 


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