How does the TTRPG industry works?


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This is all speculation based on how I remember these things happening, but I feel that Paizo and WW kind of offer to very different potential paths to other companies or other games dethroning WOTC or D&D. In the case of WW I think it was more in line with what you mentioned in your first paragraph, they were bringing in a new and fresh approach (a new aesthetic, new system, something more culturally relevant to the 90s youth culture) and they both attracted a a lot of existing D&D fans but also seemed to bring in new gamers. With Paizo I think WOTC left open a vacuum when they shifted editions, where many existing fans didn't feel like changing to the new edition, and Paizo basically grabbed the market that vacuum opened up. Going forward I have no idea what is going to make D&D have the maximum size RPG fanbase but I do think any time there is a change in D&D other companies will see opportunity to step in if the change causes loss of fanbase.
Right, mid 90's TSR D&D was pretty stale, at least in many people's view. So WW came in with a rather new style of gaming and meanwhile TSR was buying a knitting company or something, and banning people from doing playtesting, lol. Even so, TSR did respond pretty effectively with things like Spelljammer and Planescape. Note that both TSR and WW ended up going down, lol. WotC revitalized D&D, and WW Storyteller has kind of drifted for the last 20 years, with the company pretty much out of business. So I'd say D&D kind of won that round...

And yeah, Paizo is a weird case. WotC pretty much CREATED them, handed their print magazines to them, AND let them interpose themselves into the customer relationship. This is a real business no-no. Its fine to outsource, but you NEVER let the service provider build a relationship with the customer, that's always BAD, like "why are you working for me anymore?" bad. So WotC got what they had coming to them on that one. The Paizo people just very wisely and systematically took what was given and built it into a nice business. Still, PF is a wart on the side of 5e. It got moderately popular in 4e days, still has a relatively big following, but their market share is pretty small. Seems to me their business model is "cater to a small cadre of very active fans who spend a good bit" and leave the mass market to WotC.
 

And yeah, Paizo is a weird case. WotC pretty much CREATED them, handed their print magazines to them, AND let them interpose themselves into the customer relationship. This is a real business no-no. Its fine to outsource, but you NEVER let the service provider build a relationship with the customer, that's always BAD, like "why are you working for me anymore?" bad. So WotC got what they had coming to them on that one. The Paizo people just very wisely and systematically took what was given and built it into a nice business. Still, PF is a wart on the side of 5e. It got moderately popular in 4e days, still has a relatively big following, but their market share is pretty small. Seems to me their business model is "cater to a small cadre of very active fans who spend a good bit" and leave the mass market to WotC.

Its purely anecdotal. But the only two games I used to see when I went to cons and shops for playtests around 2010 or so were pathfinder and 4E. I think they did have a pretty sizable portion of the base at that point, but with 5E, I think they got most of those people back to D&D (and now D&D seems bigger than it has been in a while, which I think is from a number of different things coming together)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I mean, @Morrus, you're no idiot, I am guessing there are plenty of ways to use your skillset that are at least as lucrative, maybe a lot more so, than EnWorld. That was the sort of decision I faced back in the early 80's, to start publishing games, or go into a more traditional and well-paying career. Not saying I made the right choice necessarily, will never know...
Well, the skillset is more "small business owner". The product happens to be TTRPGs.
 

Its purely anecdotal. But the only two games I used to see when I went to cons and shops for playtests around 2010 or so were pathfinder and 4E. I think they did have a pretty sizable portion of the base at that point, but with 5E, I think they got most of those people back to D&D (and now D&D seems bigger than it has been in a while, which I think is from a number of different things coming together)
Yeah, it was never really clear what factors contribute to the waxing and waning of D&D and TTRPG in general. 4e was at a bit of a low point, but the contributions of various factors is an open question. If you were to imagine WotC going ahead and sticking to 4e or making some revised '4.5' instead of 5e, would it be equally popular right now? Nobody can say, really.

Oddly I keep running into more and more people who want to play 4e again! That's just me though, lol. But there is always the possibility that RPGs, being at a high point now, may fall back in popularity. There need not be any great mystery about it, reversion to the mean is a thing.
 

Well, the skillset is more "small business owner". The product happens to be TTRPGs.
Yeah, my family ran several of them when I was young, and I started 3 different business myself. Regardless of the business it is, owning one is rarely the route to vast wealth, lol. It can be very satisfying though. I hope you are having fun, or feeling fulfilled at least. ;)
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
Anyway, the most consistent figures put the 'Hobby Game' industry at about $1.5 billion,
I don't see anyone estimating it to be that low, maybe old numbers? The "Hobby game market" which excludes most board games that people have heard of, in the US and Canada is higher than 1.5B.

... The TTRPG numbers vary between different reports between around $50 million at a low, and I didn't see any that topped $100 million. I would say, they all talk about 'strong growth' and most reports were written at least a year ago, so I wouldn't think $100 million as a sort of round figure would be crazy. ...
Here are some recent numbers;
Hobby Game Sales Over $2 Billion in 2020
 

I don't see anyone estimating it to be that low, maybe old numbers? The "Hobby game market" which excludes most board games that people have heard of, in the US and Canada is higher than 1.5B.


Here are some recent numbers;
Hobby Game Sales Over $2 Billion in 2020
Doesn't seem particularly inconsistent with anything I saw. I do wonder about the geography though, other figures I saw included at least some of the European market and were no higher than this. Anyway, clearly there is more than one methodology here. In any case, $100 million TTRPG market seems about right! It never ceases to amaze me that MINIATURES is 4x bigger than RPGs though, lol.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'd think you could best test the water by including a starter/introductory version of the TTRPG in with an associated video game, and see if people respond positively. If so you could then consider hardcopy distribution, but I'd think probably that's best done via drivethrurpg Print on Demand initially.

You have a big advantage as a videogame company - you presumably have an established customer base, with an established distribution network (eg Steam, GOG etc). There's enough overlap between video game & TTRPG customers to give you a good leg up here. But you don't want to be sinking a lot of money into box sets sitting in warehouses until you've tested the water. And you want the TTRPG to be supporting a videogame, and vice versa.
 


Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
You don't need to collect and build armies of Player's Handbooks!
Indeed.

RPGs is probably one of the most inexpensive forms of group entertainment. Some old gamers didn't buy anything after the Basic and Expert set boxes.

Not good for the industry tho. That is why we are seing a 'boardification' of some RPGs with icon dice, cards and other stuff.
 


happyhermit

Adventurer
...
RPGs is probably one of the most inexpensive forms of group entertainment. Some old gamers didn't buy anything after the Basic and Expert set boxes.

Not good for the industry tho. That is why we are seing a 'boardification' of some RPGs with icon dice, cards and other stuff.
Yeah, I spend a fair bit on ttrpgs, most of it not at all necessary to actual play but I have GM'ed for MANY people who never bought anything. A lot of people assume that everyone will think "It's the right thing to do" but IME very few people see it that way.

I know I would never feel guilty about not buying a copy of a boardgame for myself after I sat down and played it at a friend's house.

Somewhat more to the topic, I have personally found that with new players, especially those with very little "nerdy" experience (for example I have ran games for 5 different generations of my family) simplicity of the rules is not as important for ease of play as the GM-player relationship. Some games that are relatively straightforward mechanically have actually proved less successful with new players than D&D 5e IME due to several factors but one of the biggest has been how the game runs when a players simply wants to describe their actions and the GM interprets it mechanically.
 

TTRPG industry is a "little fish" but I guess the complete entertaiment industry, comics, Hollywood and videogames are going to change radically in a comingsoon future. Japanese manga is sold better than Marvel and DC. Videogame studios start to show signals to be "burnt". The gamers don't want to spend a lot of money in a new AAA title every year. Cinemas theatres are being replaced with the streaming services, even before the pandemic, and the saturation will cause satiety.

The IPs of the TTRPG have got a great potential in the digital market. Maybe some videogame studios or movie producers will buy TTRPG publishers to be "laboratories of ideas". Some parents will buy TTRPGs for their children to stop always playing videogames and promoting creativity.
 

aramis erak

Legend
TTRPG industry is a "little fish" but I guess the complete entertaiment industry, comics, Hollywood and videogames are going to change radically in a comingsoon future. Japanese manga is sold better than Marvel and DC.
Manga covers a dozen different genres... Marvel and DC barely step outside the Supers Genre. (not that they don't have any. Marvel has Star Wars again.
Meanwhile, Manga (and it's video partner, Anime) is a medium label, not a genre. It's the same type of term as "Four-Color Comics" or "Black and White Comics".
I've seen manga that are romances (including straight, homosexual, and even pushing into porn), that are non-supers action-adventure, non-supers modern comedies, limited supers in a normals setting (Oh My Goddess, Urusei Yatsura), Several flavors of Sci-Fi (including some of the best Star Trek comics).

The Comics Code being truly dead now, more and more manga are becoming available.

The IPs of the TTRPG have got a great potential in the digital market. Maybe some videogame studios or movie producers will buy TTRPG publishers to be "laboratories of ideas". Some parents will buy TTRPGs for their children to stop always playing videogames and promoting creativity.
Which is, at least in the US, not nearly as common as gamers would like to think. There is a significant minority of the religious/political right wing in the US that's still anti-game. Some of the kids locally in college mention that their parents not only don't know, but would shun them if they found out about their playing D&D. And their parents are members of large sects in the US. Several sects still preach against games of all kinds, save those specific few that help with learning scripture or specific life skills.

Some of the folk who moved to Oregon for or just after college have done so to escape religious social oppression in small towns in the "Deep South" (Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama), including anti-gaming sentiments and anti-gamer violence. I've met kids who were exposed to anti-gamer violence in Alaska as recently as 2014. Mostly at home.
 

Not all the American comic is superheroes, a good example is Sin City by Mark Miller but Marvel and DC are the biggest fishes. And manga is becoming very popular. How many numbers of Demon Slayer/Kimetsu no Yaiba are sold if we compare the chipres?

I am Spanish, and here the image from USA through the main media is practically only New York and California.

The RPGs don't promote the ocultism, but it caues the opposite effect. When the players want to be magic supeheroes throwing fireballs and lighting bolts the real esoterism becomes boring like the classic mythology. I can understand the campain against the ultraviolence in the videogames, but here the key should be to promote the respect for the human dignity. Then the publishers will notice the audence would rather "family-friendly" titles where parents can play with their children.

My opinion is the TTRPGs will become a great influence in the videogame industry because lots of players don't want more "martian-killers" or "space invaders" but games about creating, building, or with your own tools to create a new story. The subgenre of virtual tabletop will increase the presence. And the studios will be for the "metaverse", linked titles. If a title fails the bought cosmetic will can be used in other titles of the same metaverse.

We will see more streaming game-live shows as Critical Role. They are relatively easy and cheap to be produced. Even some of these will be a mixture of virtual avatars with some machinima scenes (for example when the final boss appears). Other mode will be like a virtual tabletop with a special editor quests in the way "choose your own adventure". Here youtube could launch interactive videos.
 

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