Pathfinder, Cthulhu, Level Up: D&D Competitors Start To Sell Out

One side-effect of 'OGL-gate' is that games other than Dungeons & Dragons are starting to see increased sales--in some cases, drastically so--as gamers explore other possibilities. Games like Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, and our own Level Up, are all experiencing sales surges right now in scenes reminiscent of WotC's 'Game System License' backlash in 2008, which also led to a boom in Pathfinder's popularity.


We at EN Publishing have sold as many copies of Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition in the last month as we did in the 6-months prior. Paizo talks about Pathfinder's recent sale boom -- "Thank you for the kind words these last few days, and for the overwhelming support of our product and our OPENGAMING sale. It has been a critical hit!" -- and shared that the Pathfinder core rulebook has sold out (a new print run will arrive in April).

We were inundated with many weeks' worth of orders. We have brought in additional hands to help with shipping, and are working overtime to send you your new print products as quickly as possible. We apologize for longer than normal ship times as we work through the queue.

Additionally, we have run through what was an 8-month supply of our Pathfinder Core Rulebook in the last 2 weeks, and demand on our Beginner Boxes is surging too. We have already ordered another print run of the hardcover Core Rulebook, which will arrive in mid-April.

In the interim, we have some supply of the Pocket Edition still available. Happily, Pathfinder exists in many forms

Chaosium also reports a similar surge, reporting that they will be running out of Call of Cthulhu starter sets months ahead of schedule (they also have a new print run coming in).

Woah – there's been a truly monstrous surge of "Cthulhu curious" gamers coming to in the last two weeks! As a result, we're likely going to run out of Call of Cthulhu Starter Sets, months ahead of schedule.

But never fear, there's already a new shipment on the way – it's due in early February, and there's an even bigger Call of Cthulhu shipment coming by sea in March!

To Call of Cthulhu fans, thanks for your support and for sharing our eldritch game with curious newcomers. And if you're new to tabletop gaming in the Mythos, we look forward to journeying with you into the black seas of infinity...
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Hasbro would be thrilled if D&D was the Facebook of RPGs. For all the hype about Meta and Facebook fading each of its three platforms were in the top four most popular. The least of these, Instagram, is almost twice as used as the much more hyped TikTok.
That's the thing though - Facebook isn't actually happy being Facebook. Because even though it's bigger it's not growing as fast as it was and everyone has been parroting the "growth is the only thing that matters" line for so long that investors penalize companies that are big and stable just because they aren't growing enough.

That's where D&D is with Hasbro too. As long as it's growing they will be happy with it. If it stops growing - or even starts growing more slowly - it's not good enough no matter how big it is.


Limit Break Dancing
How soon do you think it will be before 5e D&D drops from the #1 position? And how far do you think it will fall thanks to RPGs like Pathfinder and Level Up? I think it will be soon because of the critical fumbles on WoTC's part. As for how far, I have no idea. But I would like it if Level Up supplanted it.
If history is any indicator? The D&D brand will fall from the #1 position immediately after they release a more restrictive gaming license, and will drop to about the #5 position. And there it will stay, until they announce another edition with a more open license.


there is such a large size difference here that this won't happen any time soon. PF as the second biggest is already sold out, they cannot even print fast enough to get there, even if this continued for quite some time ;) Not that it would continue to that level anyway
PDFs and the rules being available online for free, do make paizo less reliant on the physical copy than they may have been in the past.

While I don’t think all this will dethrone hasbro’s number 1 spot, I do think this is all significant. Even a mild decrease in revenue will hurt their stock prices. Hasbro is already losing money overall. Having one of their profit makers falter will make shareholders nervous.


While I don’t think all this will dethrone hasbro’s number 1 spot, I do think this is all significant. Even a mild decrease in revenue will hurt their stock prices. Hasbro is already losing money overall. Having one of their profit makers falter will make shareholders nervous.
Perception of growth is as important as revenue to Hasbro where the D&D brand is concerned. Maybe moreso.

The whole reason they got themselves into this pickle is because they decided that the D&D brand was "undermonetized" and sought to correct that "problem". The reason they thought it was undermonetized is that it's a brand that has seen phenomenal growth in the last 5 or so years and yet doesn't make them a whole lot of money per player in the game because most non-DM players buy a PHB (if that) and nothing else. And the ratio of DMs to Players means there are a whole lot of people playing the game that Wizards makes almost no money from. This whole saga is because they thought they had a clever plan to get players to buy more stuff but they also thought it depended on kneecapping the OGL and the SRD so other people couldn't horn in on their monetization plans.

if the growth in D&D stops because of this - or even just slows a bit - it may put a very large crimp into their very stupid plans.

(And their plans are stupid. Having a VTT offering that you charge for is fine - no problems there. But thinking you've finally cracked the nut that every ttrpg game company since TSR was founded has run afoul of and that you're going to solve it by using video game micropayments and digital loot boxes is hilariously bad. It really shows that the folks at the top of Wizards right now not only don't understand the market that they've lucked themselves into, they don't even understand the game they produce.)


Did WotC course correct after their recent stumbles with Magic? That would be a clue as to how they might respond with D&D.
Not really. They're still going to continue flooding the market, because it brings the bucks short term. They did put off previews of the new set by a week to "help" with new card fatigue lol.

My recollection is they just swept it under the rug. They could do that because Magic players are in much more of a hostage situation than D&D players.

Don't take the tone of investor meeting too seriously, they are designed to be as sunshine and roses as possible in a circumstance to avoid trigger investor flight.

In truth if you look at their first major product this year, Dominaria United it's a home run as far as most MtG fans are concerned and was far from over printed.

So think print runs will not be as extreme this year and their will be at least somewhat few major release this year compared to last year.

Last year we had Innistrad Double Feature, Kamigawa Neon Dynasty, Streets of New Capenna, Commander Legends: Battle For Baldur's Gate, Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate, Double Masters 2022, Warhammer 40,000k Commander Decks, JumpStart 2022, Unfinity, Dominaria United, Brothers' War. Total of 11.

This year is down to just Dominaria Remastered, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, March of the Machine, March of the Machine: Aftermath, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who Commander Decks, Wilds of Eldraine, and the Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Total of 8, and fewer of those are big sets, nothing likely to be as big as Battle For Baldur's Gate or Jumpstart 2022. Add in less print runs and maybe fewer secret lairs and things should settle down.


the old standard boots

Call of Cthulhu sold out and is now chilling shirtless in a pool in Hollywood surrounded by beautiful people.

Runequest shows up and says "I don't even know you anymore, man!"
The parody RPG Macho Women With Guns featured a take on the Cthulhu mythos with such figures as Isaac Azathoth, Zsazsathoth, and Gnarlyhotep (complete with surfboard). Oh and Bthulhu himself of course.


#1 Enworld Jerk™
The parody RPG Macho Women With Guns featured a take on the Cthulhu mythos with such figures as Isaac Azathoth, Zsazsathoth, and Gnarlyhotep (complete with surfboard). Oh and Bthulhu himself of course.
Don't forget Crows with Machine Guns and J. Edgar Hoover.

I can also tell by your avatar that you are a man of culture of who enjoys the finer things in life, such as Midnight Sunstone Bazookas.


B/X Known World
The fact that Call of Cthulhu appears to be getting a boost from this is interesting interesting to me. If it were Runequest I'd think we were just looking at folks looking for fantasy alternatives.

Man if Wizards threatening the OGL leads to people trying different genres as well as other fantasy games that would be a good outcome to a situation that shouldn't have happened.

I do wonder if any of the rpg streamers are talking about Call of Cthulhu. I know that some are talking Pathfinder because my kid's interest in Pathfinder hit an uptick because I guess one of the YouTubers they watch did an explainer on it.
It’s likely that a lot of people were generally aware of the broader RPG market but were comfortable with 5E. WotC‘s attack on the OGL probably pushed them to finally try other games. Whatever other genres and systems they were aware of.


I wonder what the effect will be if Critical Role shifts to a different system?

They certainly sound like after their current run (and likely contract) they'll be opening things up at least a bit. Personally, I don't know why they haven't branched out a bit more than they already have with the streamed games. I'm sure time is a concern, but I imagine they can fit in some shorter and smaller games here and there.

Seems like a bit of missed opportunity.


There have been a lot of calls for this on ENWorld in the last decade and change.

It’s frustrating that it took a giant WotC “Own Goal” and the reprisal of a collective, activist, anti-WotC social movement, rather than genuine curiosity about alternative play paradigms and games, to trigger this (and its not nearly enough yet imo…CoC and PF aren’t close to enough diversity)…but I’ll take minor victories even if I don’t love the causation.

TTRPGs are just like everything else art and engineering. They thrive in an innovative, vigorous, diverse idea-space and they shrivel and contract in the inverse (like corporations earworm-hacking the contemporary American music scene with trap and autotune so its nothing but). That idea-space requires the cultural collective to “play more games and more kinds of games.”
Absolutely this. I've been bemoaning the stranglehold of D&D/5e in the industry for years now. It's truly boggled my mind how many gaming groups either simply don't know there are other TTRPG's out there, or are reticent to try anything new.

One could argue that having just one game system fosters a standardization so that 3PP and players only need to focus on one game system. My counter to that is if the software engineering world was like the TTRPG industry, we'd all still be using C/C++ and maybe perl for glue scripts with the lispers grumbling that they were there first but don't get any love.

Each programming language has its strengths and weaknesses just like a game engine does. I would even argue there's a kind of Sapir-Whorf analogy with game systems: you can only imagine game concepts based on what your game system exposes. As a simple example, you may think the only way to handle wounds is with Hit Points.

I also read a quote by Ryan Dancey that made me realize that the ulterior motive for the OGL was based on a "Theory of Network Externalities"
Here's the logic in a nutshell. We've got a theory that says that D&D is the most popular roleplaying game because it is the game more people know how to play than any other game. (For those of you interested researching the theory, this concept is called "The Theory of Network Externalities.")

[ Note: This is a very painful concept for a lot of people to embrace, including a lot of our own staff, and including myself for many years. The idea that D&D is somehow "better" than the competition is a powerful and entrenched concept. The idea that D&D can be "beaten" by a game that is "better" than D&D is at the heart of every business plan from every company that goes into marketplace battle with D&D game. If you accept the Theory of Network Externalities, you have to admit that the battle is lost before it begins, because the value doesn't reside in the game itself, but in the network of people who know how to play it.]

If you accept (as I have finally come to do) that the theory is valid, then the logical conclusion is that the larger the number of people who play D&D, the harder it is for competitive games to succeed, and the longer people will stay active gamers, and the more value the network of D&D players will have to Wizards of the Coast.
While there's definitely some validity to the theory, even if it's human nature, that doesn't mean it's right or even good for us. In the software engineering realm, managers are worried if they can hire an engineer in a not popular language, even if that language is much better suited to solve their problems. In other words, the Network Externalities has taken hold.

From a TTRPG perspective, having only one dominant platform shapes not just what we play, but how we play, even how we can conceive of playing itself. Again with a software analogy, there's a style of programming called Object Oriented Programming that many engineers are familiar with. But sometimes, that paradigm is inefficient and using a different paradigm called Functional Programming or Data Driven Programming would be better suited. But if all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Another trivial example is that multiplication is unnecessary. You only need to learn addition. But isn't it easier to express and solve problems with multiplication? Game systems do the same thing by creating the rules (and therefore the gaming "reality") you want to evoke.

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