How big's the RPG market?

How big is the RPG market? Pretty damn tiny, is the answer. As of 2016/2017 it's about $35m in size, according to ICv2. That's of a Hobby Games market currently worth just over a billion dollars. The RPG segment is a mere 2.9% of the overall Hobby Games market, which includes boardgames, miniatures, hobby card games, and collectible games. Of course, the competition for RPGs isn't just boardgames or card games, it's entertainment; and on that scale, the RPG market is a tiny niche of the Hobby Games market, which is a tiny niche of the global entertainment market. Note that these figures are US and Canada only, and include Kickstarter sales.

UPDATE: the below $1.19B figure has since been revised upwards by ICv2 to $1.4B in 2017, with an RPG segment of $45M.


The hobby games market as a whole is the size of one major movie blockbuster. The global film industry market was 38.3 billion in 2015. Putting that into perspective:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 14.50.56.png

The video game industry is even bigger, at $91B in 2016.


However, the entire hobby games market is growing year on year. Just look at the latest stats: the market has grown from $700M in 2013 to $1.19B in 2016/2017. Of that, RPGs have more than doubled in size, from $15M to $35M. Boardgames have over tripled in size. There is definitely a tabletop boom going on right now, powered by a number of factors ranging from Kickstarter, to the introduction of US West Coast media (shows like Tabletop and outlets like Geek & Sundry have helped to mainstream tabletop gaming), and more.

Data from ICv2 and other sources.

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5ever, or until 2024
Most TRPG sales through game stores are a relatively small number of books and box sets. 3 books especially.

A fraction of the volume on the board and collectible side (which seems to be getting frothy). And of course the costs are far lower then movies or video games.
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Interesting. Considering how sorry most Hollywood movies are, I bet that much of what folks are making up around tables with friends is of better quality. I'll take our little share along with a good story, thank you.


These charts are informative, but only tell part of the story. For consumers, they are as detailed as they need to be. If one is a prospective solo producer of a hobby game though, these pie charts are missing one important piece of information - how "open" are those market segments? For example, the "Collectible game" category is the biggest, so it's tempting to think it is a great category to design for. However, how much of that 52.5% is eaten up by MtG? Roleplaying games are doubly dismal as they are the smallest segment, and once you rule out the top 3-5 RPGs there isn't much left of that 2.9%. Despite being smaller markets than Collectible games, the card & dice games, and boardgames segments may be more enticing markets for aspiring game designers due to them having more room for new games to get noticed. The term "Hobby Games" is especially apt as it not only refers to the players of such games, but also the majority of the producers as well.



1. ICV2 data is considered highly suspect.

2. It's all the game trade has to go on, so it's generally accepted. Nobody else is collecting data (publicly). It "feels" right.

3. The consensus, because nobody knows anything in the game trade for sure, is well over half of RPG sales happen online, mostly Amazon. When Wizards of the Coast allows Amazon to sell the Player's Handbook below distribution costs, well duh. It hurts new player acquisition as the FLGS is the acknowledged marketing arm of the game trade.

4.My guess based on my store sales (and talking with others) is D&D is probably 70% of these sales. My guess is the top 5 RPGs account for 90% of sales. Have I mentioned this is a guess?


Golden Procrastinator
Is ICV2 able to estimate sales through non-hobby channels, like Amazon? I would imagine that a lot of D&D sales are of that type.

Cam Banks

One thing that HAS been proven out based on information collected from a lot of publishers is that there are diminishing returns on supplements and sourcebooks compared to core books or core sets. Much of that can be intuited from the target audience, too - books that are only useful to GMs (like adventures, etc) aren't going to be bought by all of the players. White Wolf struck a huge chord with gamers because their splat books were useable by everyone. That's why that model has stuck around for so long.



Their methodology is asking publishers what their sales are. The vast, vast majority are private, so they can give ICV2 a number, or not, or something aspirational. I mean, it's better than nothing, but there's not some huge index where data is reliably compiled.


Book prices have also kept jumping up as well, that's a factor too. Maybe units purchased vs dollar amount? Probably not as easy to measure?


It's tiny because RPGs are work and take lots of free time. Especially heavy systems like PF. 5E is still too heavy for most people who are not already D&D fans. FFG Star Wars is not as heavy as it looks, but the core products are intimidating. Luckily it has the marketing power of Star Wars.

The last thing most people (who are not really gamers) think of when they want to have a fun game to pick up and play whenever time allows, is shelling out $70 to $150 dollars on 300 plus page rulebooks. We don't bat an eyelash. But we are not those people anymore. If I had to pick up a 325 page players handbook to play in 1977, I would never have started. I'm sure there was less word count in ALL the LBBs and Holmes, and probably Moldvay too.

And having a $20 box game that is pretty easy to pick up is great, but then hitting them with the aforementioned encyclopedias of rules and/or adventure books just to continue on is an instant turn-off. Just pick up your phone or turn on your xbox and play whatever, or grab a board game with high replay value and get right to the fun. No volumes of rules, no needing to coordinate 5 people's schedules and find a place to play, no need to pick up an additional $50 adventure path because you don't have time to make things up/do math homework assignments.

During the NEXT playtest, Mearls said something to the effect of- D&D was no longer easy to just pick up on the spur of the moment and play a game whenever, and they want to change that. They have not done that. The game is still heavy, and their product model is focused on big adventure books that are not for new or casual DMs or people who just want to play a quick 2 hour game of D&D and feel like they accomplished something.

Until all that changes, and the rpg business models of the last 35 years changes, fans and the RPG industry will need to be happy with the small profits and teeny weeny niche of even the best selling games.
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