RPG Sales From a Game Store's Perspective

We've had a lot of looks at how various games are ranking over the months and years. We looks at stats from the largest virtual tabletops, we look at levels of conversation, and we look at ICv2's quarterly surveys. They've all said pretty much the same thing. However, it's also possible to look at anecdotal information on an individual basis, and this short report from Black Diamond Games, a store in Concord, California, may help contextualize some of this aggregate data.

Back Diamond Games posted a blog post yesterday in which it reported on what was selling well in their store. You can read the post itself, but here's a quick summary; bear in mind this is one store, not a worldwide survey:

  • Pathfinder and D&D are neck-and-neck (with Pathfinder 2% higher than D&D).
  • Pathfinder and D&D combined are about 70% of total sales.
  • For third-party publishers, Pathfinder products sell far fewer copies than nearly identical 5E products. Pathfinder third-party stuff is largely ignored.
  • D&D licensed stuff (like Gale Force 9) does well.
  • Adventures never sell well.
  • Star Wars (at 6%) sells as much as the entire "other" category.

UPDATED: These figures refer to dollars, not units or customers. Thanks to @brotherbaldric who asked them!

rpg3.png


For those who prefer lists to pie charts, here's it broken down:

Pathfinder34%
Dungeons & Dragons32%
Other6%
Star Wars6%
Iron Kingdoms3%
Evil Hat3%
Shadowrun3%
Frog God Game (PF/D&D)2%
Gale Force 9 (D&D Cards)2%
Monte Cook Games1%
Palladium Rifts1%
Indy Press Revolution1%
13th Age1%
Open Design1%
Green Ronin1%
Eclipse Phase0%*
Pure Steam Campaign (PF)0%*
Goodman Games (D&D)0%*
Giant in the Playground0%*
*I assume this involves some rounding, and that the figures aren't actually zero.

 

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JoeyQueerAF

Dungeon Master
D&D has barely been out a year, I predict their slice will grow considerably in the next 12-18 months, particularly with non-official OGL stuff being released now.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Interesting, so long as you remember that this is taken from one store - so one geographical area, with it's own distribution of players in its market.

The general form is the most interesting bit - a couple of leaders, followed by a long tail of smaller sellers. It puts a store in a tough spot, when 30% or 40% of revenue come from 18 different lines. That's too much to do without, but it takes up lots of rather expensive shelf space.
 

Mad Zagyg

Explorer
This actually means that way more people are buying D&D than are buying Pathfinder because D&D has released only a tiny percentage of product compared to Paizo's release schedule.
 

Wicht

Hero
This actually means that way more people are buying D&D than are buying Pathfinder because D&D has released only a tiny percentage of product compared to Paizo's release schedule.

Conversely it could mean that people are buying twice as many Pathfinder products because they tend to have half the pricepoint.

Actually though, all it means is that at one major hobby store they are both selling about equally when it comes to that stores profit.
 

Wicht

Hero
I always appreciate Gary Ray's insights into his store's market.

One thing he pointed out a while back is that 5e is selling more efficiently than Pathfinder is. They are both selling in similar numbers, but 5e does it with only 9 products. (Which is what I think Mad Zagyg could have pointed out and been entirely correct). Gary also pointed out in that same post, however, that we are much further into Pathfinder's life-cycle than 5e and he implies, I think, that Pathfinder's longevity in sells at this point is rather remarkable considering the same number of years applied to a DnD edition run.

A point I would make, is that while some fault Paizo for putting out too much product, it seems certain that their gaming/business model has worked to sustain their product.

AQuestion to ponder in this race is: which company is the tortoise and which is the hare? Is slow and steady represented best by slow product release, or by sustained sales over a longer period of time?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
UPDATED: These figures refer to dollars, not units or customers. Thanks to brotherbaldric who asked them!
 

smiteworks

Explorer
Even though adventures sell much worse than core books, they have an affect on the sales volume for the core if they aren't there. Seeing a bunch of adventures available for a system makes consumers much more confident in the core system.
 

Wicht

Hero
Even though adventures sell much worse than core books, they have an affect on the sales volume for the core if they aren't there. Seeing a bunch of adventures available for a system makes consumers much more confident in the core system.

Yeah, I think thats true.

The adventures, also, even though smaller movers, do themselves move additional product beyond themselves as they tend to encourage, by their very nature, interest in other aspects of the game. Thus adventure a may only sell x number, but for each x, there is x+y more sold because of that one adventure being sold. At least, that's partly my theory. If x wasn't sold, then x+y would also not be sold, and you would be left with some smaller number of sales.
 

Since it's comparing dollar sales, I'm not surprised to see PF up slightly, they have more stuff to sell. For D&D to be right behind and only 6 or so books out there is a good thing as it shows what is out there is selling well.
 

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