D&D General Penguin Random House To Stop Distributing D&D [UPDATED!]

A memo which went out to retailers this week indicates that Penguin Random House will not be distributing Dungeons & Dragons products in mainstream bookstores from 2024.

Effective December 31, 2023, Penguin Random House LLC will cease distributing titles for Wizards of the Coast LLC. Depending on the product, please ensure that the vendor of record for Wizards of the Coast LLC titles is changed to one of their new distributors listed here: Distributors | WPN."

WotC uses a range of distributors, including Alliance, Diamond, GTS, and more in the US, and Asmodee and others in the UK and Europe. Most of these deal with hobby trade (game stores and the like) retailers, while Penguin Random House is a general book trade publisher. Of course, the game will still be available on Amazon, also.

This isn't brand new news--WotC announced this back at the beginning of September.

UPDATE--WotC spoke to ICv2:

Penguin Random House is a valued partner and publishing licensee of Wizards of the Coast. While we deeply appreciate the excellent service provided over the years by PRHPS, we are now shifting our distribution strategy to utilize the capabilities of Hasbro to sell and distribute D&D products to retailers, and we will continue to partner with PRH on licensed D&D titles like the recently released Lore & Legends and the upcoming Hero's Feast: Flavors of the Multiverse. This change to distribution of Wizards' D&D roleplaying game publications such as rulebooks and adventure content won't affect fans as they will continue to find Dungeons & Dragonsproducts at their preferred retailers.


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Literally they say go to these other distributors. I dint think many FLGS get thier books from random house either. Those other distributors ARE games store distributors.
That was true in the past. Over the last five years or so many of the more proactive game stores (especially those who stock comics) have been forced to get accounts with book trade distributors to improve their chances of actually getting what they order when they order it. The game trade distribution network has become extremely unreliable, especially about restocking items. Calling their purchase agents risk averse is a gross understatement these days, and it's simply impossible to get a lot of products through them that are easily ordered through B&N and the like. I know the competent FLGS near me has resorted to book distributors for WotC books in the past to supplement the nearly inevitable shortfalls from Alliance and (for the comic trade) Diamond.

The traditional game distribution system is really struggling in the face of direct and online sales, and was even before the pandemic gutted purchaser budgets. Losing Random House as a D&D source is a bit more meaningful than it may seem at first glance, although the industry sales leaders like D&D and Magic are doing better through game distribution than less dominant games.
 

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teitan

Legend
That was true in the past. Over the last five years or so many of the more proactive game stores (especially those who stock comics) have been forced to get accounts with book trade distributors to improve their chances of actually getting what they order when they order it. The game trade distribution network has become extremely unreliable, especially about restocking items. Calling their purchase agents risk averse is a gross understatement these days, and it's simply impossible to get a lot of products through them that are easily ordered through B&N and the like. I know the competent FLGS near me has resorted to book distributors for WotC books in the past to supplement the nearly inevitable shortfalls from Alliance and (for the comic trade) Diamond.

The traditional game distribution system is really struggling in the face of direct and online sales, and was even before the pandemic gutted purchaser budgets. Losing Random House as a D&D source is a bit more meaningful than it may seem at first glance, although the industry sales leaders like D&D and Magic are doing better through game distribution than less dominant games.
When I took over managing the game/comic store I worked at the RPG section was woeful. Lots of Vampire & Shadowrun book but no core rules for example. Lots of unsellable D20stl (3.5 was a few years out and they were all the QUintessential books from Mongoose) books as well. The owner asked me specifically to first take over the game department so I dug in and told him the problem and why popular stuff wasn't selling. This was not an uncommon issue in game stores back then (2005) and going back to other ones I frequented. They would get the core book when a new game came out and supplements and then they wouldn't get core rulebooks back in.

I thought it was an issue with the stores or big sellers but it turned out to be Alliance. The only thing we could stock easily was D&D and Exalted.

I made about a dozen calls and was able to fix everything. We pared down what we carried, clearanced what was taking up space (we reduced to Goodman Games, Malhavoc Press and Troll Lord on D&D 3PP) and focused. We were also able to fix the rest of the White Wolf woes and start getting the core rules for WoD. Then of course nWOD... the move to PoD by White Wolf was painful to be honest. We sold a LOT of Requiem and Mage.

When I left we were selling these games like cookies Cthulhu, Runequest from Mongoose, Mutants & Masterminds 2e, D&D (duh), Shadowrun 4e, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, what nWoD we could get, and Eden Studios one shot books like All Flesh MUst Be Eaten. Turned it around in about 4 months and it was out earning the comic part of the store.

Upshot, our sales on Warhammer also increased and we were one of the two stores in the area that could stock the entire range and we made a lot of cash on that including selling old stuff when new stuff replaced it. I see things now selling for like 2-300 bucks that we used to get in as trade ins and wonder if those people are now regretting the decision to sell us some of that stuff!
 

Does anyone have any insight on how this may or may not affect D&D at stores like Books a Million? It's the only store in my are (within 2 hrs) that carries RPG material.
 


They would get the core book when a new game came out and supplements and then they wouldn't get core rulebooks back in.

I thought it was an issue with the stores or big sellers but it turned out to be Alliance. The only thing we could stock easily was D&D and Exalted.
Sounds like you came in a few years after I got out in 2002-ish. At that point I could still get Alliance to try stocking stuff just by telling them we needed it for customers, but that was over with within 2-3 years according to my successor.

The "no core book restocks" thing has probably killed a lot of stores over the years. Sometimes it's the clueless owner, sometimes it's a publisher fail (remember when TSR went two years in the 90s without filling D&D core book orders reliably? I do), but these days it's more likely to be the distribution net dropping the ball.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
The "no core book restocks" thing has probably killed a lot of stores over the years. Sometimes it's the clueless owner, sometimes it's a publisher fail (remember when TSR went two years in the 90s without filling D&D core book orders reliably? I do), but these days it's more likely to be the distribution net dropping the ball.
But didn't in the 90s supply the booktrade and they got everything back without cover?
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
But didn't in the 90s supply the booktrade and they got everything back without cover?
There's a distinction between games and books. Books you can return, and many times you see the cover ripped off as a part of that. In the 90s, TSR was doing things like Buck Rodgers books which didn't sell and they could be returned, so that was terrible for them. Once you get a PHB from distribution, it's just yours. The "don't restock core books" was a real issue. I had a cousin who worked at a distributor where I live (Madison, Wi, so you can tell who it was) and he wasn't a gamer but was also smart enough to know that you needed to keep the core books available if you want to sell the supplements. It was really interesting how much push back he got from that, and that was from people who were actually gamers!
 

But didn't in the 90s supply the booktrade and they got everything back without cover?
SteveC answered that better than I could. My brief book trade period was roughly 2005-2007, so well past TSR's demise. You rarely saw anything but mass market paperbacks and magazines actually being cover-stripped for returns, although some trades are also returnable and suffer the same fate. If a hardcover is returnable at all, it goes back intact, and the publisher usually has to not only refund part of the wholesale cost they eat the return shipping as well. It's possible that 90s TSR had a deal that allowed hardcover returns, which would just have made things even worse for them.
It was really interesting how much push back he got from that, and that was from people who were actually gamers!
Yep, many store owners just don't understand their own business. Core RPG books are a tricky balancing act from even savvy game store owners. You want enough to satisfy demand between ordering cycles (which are usually periods of between 3 days to a week in the old days) but no more than that, and it's initially hard to predict that with a newer game whose community is growing faster than it will down the road.
With supplements you can look at your total core book sales to have an idea how many local groups you may have and guesstimate your initial order from that info, but when it comes to reorders the correct number is usually one copy at a time at most - most supplements do not sell well past their initial release. Ideally, you also adjust your initial order based on whether the supplement is mostly player facing (there are inevitably more players than GMs even if each individual player is less likely to buy a given book) or not, and making an effort to know what games are actually active locally is important too. A game that sells a bunch of core books but doesn't establish a local player base isn't going to do great with its supplements in most cases.

Unfortunately, a lot of store owners just don't think this way and wind up with silly amounts of backstock - or out of business altogether, in worst case scenarios. Makes for good going out of business sales, though.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Unfortunately, a lot of store owners just don't think this way and wind up with silly amounts of backstock - or out of business altogether, in worst case scenarios. Makes for good going out of business sales, though.
Oh man have I seen this over the years. The local shops where I live are pretty solid on this, but I used to run demos for games I liked at shops. And I'd run something other than D&D just to show it off to people. After I did this a few times, I started telling the store in advance "make sure you have copies of the game you can sell" since people who have fun demoing a game often want to buy it. And sometimes they want to go all-in! I mean as much fun as I was having running the games, the point of it was to help the store move product and introduce people to new and different systems. If they don't have the game to sell, what's the ultimate point?
 

If they don't have the game to sell, what's the ultimate point?
Well, it does potentially grow your local community for a game you like yourself, but you're right, if the store doesn't (and can't, or won't) stock the game the store demo isn't helping them. People will just order online most of the time rather than wait for a special order to come in. I've even had shops tell me flat-out they didn't want a store demo for a system they didn't want to stock. Never quite got told outright I couldn't run something, but if the store won't support a demo even to the minimal level of sticking a notice up where people can see it you might as well skip it.

I get that stores can't begin to carry everything and it's probably not worth getting in stock in the hopes a demo will move it, but it's still disheartening how narrow the selection in many shops has become these days - and that's in part due to simple lack of availability through trad distribution.
 

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