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Roll20 RPG Usage Stats: Growth Everywhere During Pandemic!

Roll20 has posted its latest Industry Report, revealing that the first quarter of 2020 shows growth for almost every game on its platform during the pandemic. D&D, of course, remains by far the most popular (up from 50% to 53% after a dip last year), with Call of Cthulhu and Pathfinder coming in behind. Call of Cthulhu has seen a bit of a drop from 12% to 8.5%, while Pathfinder is approximately steady.

(See the Quarter 1 2020 report here).

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Cyberpunk Red saw high growth of over 100%, as did Tormenta, City of Mist, and the Year Zero Engine.


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Here's the full list!

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Hussar

Legend
EH? Critical Role hasn't done any gaming Kickstarters. The only KS they've done was one for an animated show.

Who am I thinking of then? Matt Colville? Am I getting my Matt's mixed up?

Sorry about that.

But, I think my point still stands though. A game that isn't played will die.
VTT support just isn't important to the success or failure of an RPG. It just doesn't make much of a difference.

Well, that's kinda my point. It's not important because no one actually makes any effort to build communities through VTT's. So, yeah, that goes without saying. My point is that I don't understand why smaller publishers aren't doing the outreach through VTT play to build a solid community. Get that critical mass and people will continue to play your game, and, as people drop out, new gamers can still find a place to play.
 

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macd21

Adventurer
Who am I thinking of then? Matt Colville? Am I getting my Matt's mixed up?

Sorry about that.

But, I think my point still stands though. A game that isn't played will die.


Well, that's kinda my point. It's not important because no one actually makes any effort to build communities through VTT's. So, yeah, that goes without saying. My point is that I don't understand why smaller publishers aren't doing the outreach through VTT play to build a solid community. Get that critical mass and people will continue to play your game, and, as people drop out, new gamers can still find a place to play.

And the answer is ‘it isn’t worth it.’ Firstly, because the amount of effort the publisher would have to put in to VTT to build that community is high. Small publisher’s don’t have the resources to spare for such an effort. And secondly, even if you succeed in creating such a community, you probably haven’t significantly boosted your sales, and your game is still going to die anyway.

You mentioned getting a ‘critical mass’ of 1000 players. That’s not enough to sustain an RPG. Most players of a game don’t buy supplements. GMs do. Let’s say of those 1000 players, 250 are GMs. So that’s maybe 250 sales. But not every GM will buy every supplement (each book you release generally sells a little less than the previous one, with some variation due to things like page count or nature of the book). So let’s say 200. But how many of those sales are actually due to your VTT support? Because odds are a lot of those customers would have bought your book anyway, whether or not there was a VTT community.

So getting a VTT community big enough to support an RPG would be a huge endeavor, far beyond the ability of a small publisher. And the time and effort put into doing so is going to cost you in other areas. Resources spent on VTT support means less spent on the next supplement (and for a small publisher, the key resource may be time, given it might be 1 writer and 1 or 2 freelancers). Having VTT support is less important to maintaining that critical mass than getting out a new book.
 

Samurai

Explorer
Interesting that even a year after the release of PF2 there are still vastly more people playing PF1, by about 3:1. There are almost as many people playing the venerable D&D3.5 vs the new PF2. Also, PF2 didn't even place anywhere on the list for Biggest Growth in Q2.

I think those are very bad signs for how well PF2 is being received by fans...
 

macd21

Adventurer
Interesting that even a year after the release of PF2 there are still vastly more people playing PF1, by about 3:1. There are almost as many people playing the venerable D&D3.5 vs the new PF2. Also, PF2 didn't even place anywhere on the list for Biggest Growth in Q2.

I think those are very bad signs for how well PF2 is being received by fans...

Perhaps, but I think it’s probably just a sort of ‘incumbent’ advantage. Someone running an existing PF campaign on Roll20 is unlikely to switch over, so it’ll take a while for those numbers to drop. And someone who has previously run a PF1 campaign on Roll20 might decide to stick with the system simply because they already have (and are familiar with) PF1 resources. I think a 3:1 ratio isn’t too bad at this stage - that’s PF2 campaigns stated in the last year vs ongoing PF1 campaigns started in the last couple of years. If the ratio is still the same in another year, Paizo may have a problem.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
If the ratio is still the same in another year, Paizo may have a problem.
I think that's an impossibly rosy outlook.

Most if not all games sales trajectory is set by business done during the launch. Another way of saying this is "no second chances".

Looking at the catalog-like presentation, the clutter, the tied-down magic, it's easy to understand why PF2 has nothing on 5E.

I remain baffled how Paizo could end up with a game that doesn't take after 5E in any discernible way, even though Paizo is defined as a company offering an upgrade to the current (at the time) edition of D&D. In their desperation to escape WotC's dominance, they failed to realize they only thrived because of WotC. I am more convinced than ever that creating a game that drew inspiration from 5Es friendliness and deepened that play experience, maybe undoing a couple of the simplifications the designers of 5E made, would have been the better call, the right call. PF2 is not a bad game, but it comes across as a relic from a bygone era, hopelessly quaint to all but the most hardcore of gamers.
 

macd21

Adventurer
I think that's an impossibly rosy outlook.

Most if not all games sales trajectory is set by business done during the launch. Another way of saying this is "no second chances".

Looking at the catalog-like presentation, the clutter, the tied-down magic, it's easy to understand why PF2 has nothing on 5E.

Sure, it’s quite possible PF2 is failing badly, I just don’t think you can rely on these Roll20 figures to deduce that. They tell us nothing about how well (or badly) the launch went, just that there are fewer PF2 games than PF1 on Roll20. And we were comparing PF2 to PF1, not 5ed. I don’t think it’ll ever come close to challenging 5ed’s numbers.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You mentioned getting a ‘critical mass’ of 1000 players. That’s not enough to sustain an RPG. Most players of a game don’t buy supplements. GMs do.
The 1000 true fans theory is based on 1000 paying customers, not players. And it's based around supporting an individual's creative output, not a full company.
 

macd21

Adventurer
The 1000 true fans theory is based on 1000 paying customers, not players. And it's based around supporting an individual's creative output, not a full company.

That’s precisely my point. I was responding to Hussar’s comment about 1000 players. 1000 people playing on VTT doesn’t equal 1000 paying customers. And even if you manage to get enough players that it’d include 1000 paying customers, they probably wouldn’t qualify for the ‘true fan’ theory (IIRC would require each willing to spend $100 per year). Plus how many of them would you have gotten anyway, without resources spent on VTT?

VTT support is great, but I think there’s more fruitful things a small publisher can spend its limited resources on. You get the fans first, then the VTT (hell, the fans will probably create it on their own), not the other war around.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
VTT support is great, but I think there’s more fruitful things a small publisher can spend its limited resources on. You get the fans first, then the VTT (hell, the fans will probably create it on their own), not the other war around.
One benefit of VTT support is that streamers are more likely to play your game. Streamers playing games is a big, big part of player acquisition these days.
 

Von Ether

Adventurer
Any idea what's in the "uncategorized" section? Are those games the GMs didn't bother to give a tag to since it's a private game? If so I'd hazard to guess that 14% is just more of the same with D&D taking a bigger slice.
 

Von Ether

Adventurer
Since I don’t GM at all, this is actually a problem for me quite a few times.

You would join a very big club if you decided to start GMing the games you wish you could play because no one else was running them. I'd even hazard to say you'd be in good company.
 

Retreater

Legend
PF2 definitely feels like a "Sega Dreamcast" product to me, to use a video game analogy. I think it's well done and a great system. It may even be the last of its kind we see. I don't expect Paizo to be able to continue producing the quality and quantity of products we've seen so far if it's not more widely adopted. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it while it's here, or that we can't continue to play it if Paizo loses more marketshare to 5e.
 

macd21

Adventurer
Any idea what's in the "uncategorized" section? Are those games the GMs didn't bother to give a tag to since it's a private game? If so I'd hazard to guess that 14% is just more of the same with D&D taking a bigger slice.

I think they also look at character sheets, though I’m not 100% on that. If so, then that 14% probably doesn’t include many DnD games, or of the other popular systems, as those would usually be run with one of the available sheets.
 

ibenny

Explorer
Any idea what's in the "uncategorized" section? Are those games the GMs didn't bother to give a tag to since it's a private game? If so I'd hazard to guess that 14% is just more of the same with D&D taking a bigger slice.
It sounds nice, thanks, but it doesn’t really work for me. I’ve been GMing before, and stopped about 15 years ago (I’m a long time player of more than 20 years), and never looked back. I want to play, to immerse in the adventures, not create them. For me it’s not fun at all to GM, I avoid it at all costs. So if no one GMs the systems I’d like to try/play, I won’t try those systems, that’s the sad reality.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
PF2 definitely feels like a "Sega Dreamcast" product to me, to use a video game analogy. I think it's well done and a great system. It may even be the last of its kind we see. I don't expect Paizo to be able to continue producing the quality and quantity of products we've seen so far if it's not more widely adopted. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it while it's here, or that we can't continue to play it if Paizo loses more marketshare to 5e.
True Dat.

Except not sure about the "lose more market share" bit. Hasn't Paizo lost almost all it's market share already?
 

macd21

Adventurer
True Dat.

Except not sure about the "lose more market share" bit. Hasn't Paizo lost almost all it's market share already?

It certainly doesn’t have anywhere near as much as it did at its height, but still has one of the biggest market shares in the industry. It has a lot to lose.
 

Hussar

Legend
True Dat.

Except not sure about the "lose more market share" bit. Hasn't Paizo lost almost all it's market share already?
Well, that's one of those funny questions where yes and no are kinda answering different points.

Sure, as a percentage, oh yeah, Pathfinder has lost market share. That's undeniable.

But, for the first time since the hobby began, we also seeing massive growth in the market. As in levels of growth unheard of previously. Last number I saw tossed about was that the RPG market was somewhere in the 60 million dollar neighbourhood (and I'll admit, I'm a bit out of touch).

So, while Paizo could have lost tons of market share, they might actually be making as much or more money now than previously. When your pie is five or six times bigger than previously, having a smaller slice does not quite mean what the same as if the pie stays the same size.

It's entirely possible that Paizo hasn't actually lost any money. They very well might be making the same now as they were ten years ago. The fact of the matter is that because the market has changed so much in the past five or six years, the voodoo economics that usually passes for prediction around here is even less accurate than before.

IOW, losing market share means a whole lot less when your market is massively growing. You can be sitting nice and steady real money wise, all the while losing market share in a rapidly growth market.
 


Reynard

Legend
It always seems a little odd when people categorize D&D as "not an RPG" when it is literally the Ur RPG. It defined the medium, which suggests all those other games actually something besides an RPG ("story games" for most of the Fate and PbtA variants, IMO). I mean, it doesn't really matter and there have been A LOT of words wasted on the subject in the past. I just find it strange.

On the subject of how Roll20s usage lines up with the broader RPG consumption: it's probably close enough, but i know as a primarily Fantasy Grounds user that if I don't need the widgets for a game, I don't bother with a VTT at all. Just Discord or Hangouts works fine.
 

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