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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Gareman

Explorer
It's also entirely possible that 3PP publishers, who I believe do most of their sales direct, sell a more balanced number of products between the two systems. That's my understanding, at least. Those buying 3PP direct from publishers are likely "alpha" gamers, while those buying in my store are more mixed, with a lot of new players thrown in there.

If you come in as a new(ish) player of Pathfinder, looking for advice, I have nearly 300 Paizo products to recommend, and I'm sure one of those will scratch your itch. A new D&D player who wants a simple adventure to start out with immediately learns about Goodman Games, with 4 different ones to choose from (nothing simple from WOTC), or perhaps a Quests of Doom volume from Frog God Games. The player with their three core books who wants to design her own adventures will be hearing my rave review of Fifth Edition Foes by Frog God Games. There isn't even a rumor of a Monster Manual 2 being published.
 

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Dimitrios

First Post
It wouldn't surprise me if Pathfinder is getting a boost from the popularity of 5e. WoTC offers very little that falls into the "impulse buy" category, their stuff is almost all major products like core books or mega adventures. But I can pick up an adventure or one of the local setting guides for Pathfinder and use them with 5e with relatively little effort.
 

Gundark

Explorer
Conversely, you could say that after a year the hype of a new edition will go and sells will follow.

In the next few weeks (if not next week), we'll probably get the new ICv2 RPG ranking for the last trimester*. It will be interesting to see how D&D did with no new RPG books released during those four months.


*ICv2 has been doing trimesters instead of quarter reports since 2013.

In fairness the word "hype" was used with Pathfinder when it first came out too. Paizo had a good game and products to support that game and the sales trend continued. In that same vein 5e is great game and WotC has been supporting it with great products. I suspect we won't see a big decrease in sales. I think hype has nothing to do with 5e's success.
 

Kramodlog

Naked and living in a barrel
In fairness the word "hype" was used with Pathfinder when it first came out too. Paizo had a good game and products to support that game and the sales trend continued. In that same vein 5e is great game and WotC has been supporting it with great products. I suspect we won't see a big decrease in sales. I think hype has nothing to do with 5e's success.

It wasn't supposed to be a statement of fact, just a counter example.

That being said, hype can just mean lots of promotion and eagerness to get the product. It doesn't necessarely mean an exageration of the quality of the product.
 

Really curious about the third-party publisher info; that Pathfinder 3PPs are barely selling, but basically the same products by the same publishers sell for 5E.

For instance, on the Kobold Press site, all their Pathfinder products have been released for 5E as well. Be very interesting to see how the sales compare between those two sets of products.

I find that interesting, as well, particularly since there are some very good third party Pathfinder products out there. Most Pathfinder GMs that I have encountered seem to be a bit hostile towards third party products. I think some of that has to do with intense focus on "balance" among Pathfinder players, and (perhaps) a bit less of that with those who play D&D but not Pathfinder.
 

smiteworks

Explorer
I find that interesting, as well, particularly since there are some very good third party Pathfinder products out there. Most Pathfinder GMs that I have encountered seem to be a bit hostile towards third party products. I think some of that has to do with intense focus on "balance" among Pathfinder players, and (perhaps) a bit less of that with those who play D&D but not Pathfinder.

I always think it is funny when "balance" is listed as a reason. The official products are anything but balanced as well. Power creep happens in Pathfinder just like it has in many other systems and the shear volume of options makes it possible to have two characters in the same game that have drastically different power levels for the same level. It ultimately comes down to whether or not you have Power Gamers in the group or if those players are trying to eek every bit of power out of the available options. Pathfinder further seems to encourage this by building very powerful NPC characters that highlight just how broken a well-built version of X class can be in their modules. That may sound like I don't like the system, and that is the farthest from the truth. It's still a great system, it just requires the cooperation of players and GMs to create an environment that is fun for everyone around the table.

If you are looking for the best balance in a game system, then D&D 4E is probably the one that I see as the most balanced.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Would have loved to see their numbers for RPG products vs non RPG products. But I'd imagine it matches, fairly closely, with the continent wide (US/Canada) trend that RPG products only make up between 6-10% of overall tabletop gaming sales.

Unless of course, they're a pure RPG store (not many of those around these days).


Black Diamond is not my local store (probably 5-6 game stores closer to me in the SF bay area), but I have been there several times. It is primarily a board game and card game store. They have a corner with RPG books, new and used, and the owner has been pretty open on his blog that RPG stuff is not a big mover in his sales.
 

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