D&D General RPG Theory and D&D...and that WotC Survey

Oofta

Legend
It also seems to come from complaints that the results SKR described don't meet with our biases. So they must've done it poorly because I disagree with the outcome. It's quesitonable logic.

As far as omitting the over 35 crowd, I would think most people would be aware just how common youth marketing is. WotC wanted to be the overall market leader for the TTRPG segment, so they basically had to do this. They focused on 12-35 because that's where the money is, that's where customers with free time are, and those are the people whose choices are easiest to influence are. It's also whom you market to in order to get customers for the longest period of time, because older demographics tend to stick with the same brands.

WotC doesn't care as much about the over 35 crowd because they're a small fraction of the marketplace, as a whole they spend less, and it's difficult to expand the market for people this age. You might not like it, but that's just reality.

If you're over 35: When was the last time you bought a different toothpaste or laundry detergent just to try something different? How many cars or televisions or smartphones have you bought from the same manufacturer? How often do you buy something new to establish a new habit or new taste? If you have, how often have you done it after seeing it become popular among others rather than being more maverick? Would you say your tastes are pretty well established, or that you're always looking for something new or the next new thing? How about when you were 30? 25? 20? 15?

While I agree that for marketing types targeting younger buyers makes sense, I think there are times when it is too broadly applied. RPGs are not toothpaste and while the older crowd may not play as much, they have the funds to buy more books. WOTC doesn't care if you play 10 hours a week or 10 hours a month, unlike consumable products the only thing that matters are one time purchases.

But marketing execs have been indoctrinated into the never trust sell to anyone over 40 whether or not there's any evidence that it's the best strategy for all types of products.
 

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It also seems to come from complaints that the results SKR described don't meet with our biases. So they must've done it poorly because I disagree with the outcome. It's quesitonable logic.

As far as omitting the over 35 crowd, I would think most people would be aware just how common youth marketing is. WotC wanted to be the overall market leader for the TTRPG segment, so they basically had to do this. They focused on 12-35 because that's where the money is, that's where customers with free time are, and those are the people whose choices are easiest to influence are. It's also whom you market to in order to get customers for the longest period of time, because older demographics tend to stick with the same brands.

WotC doesn't care as much about the over 35 crowd because they're a small fraction of the marketplace, as a whole they spend less, and it's difficult to expand the market for people this age. You might not like it, but that's just reality.

If you're over 35: When was the last time you bought a different toothpaste or laundry detergent just to try something different? How many cars or televisions or smartphones have you bought from the same manufacturer? How often do you buy something new to establish a new habit or new taste? If you have, how often have you done it after seeing it become popular among others rather than being more maverick? Would you say your tastes are pretty well established, or that you're always looking for something new or the next new thing? How about when you were 30? 25? 20? 15?
Well, I have a LOT more money to spend than most 35 year olds, lol. Nor is being over the age of, say, 50 particularly about being totally set in your ways. It is most likely just that not that many people my age are still playing D&D.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
While I agree that for marketing types targeting younger buyers makes sense, I think there are times when it is too broadly applied. RPGs are not toothpaste and while the older crowd may not play as much, they have the funds to buy more books. WOTC doesn't care if you play 10 hours a week or 10 hours a month, unlike consumable products the only thing that matters are one time purchases.

But marketing execs have been indoctrinated into the never trust sell to anyone over 40 whether or not there's any evidence that it's the best strategy for all types of products.

Well, no.

If you're selling Rolexes, you're probably not marketing to tweens.

But ... I don't agree with you on TTRPGs. Look at you (or many of us)- which TTRPGs are most of us playing? Most of us are playing versions of the ones we started playing. Or complaining about how they aren't close enough to the ones of our youth (while still playing them).

Those habits get set when they are young. You get a kid playing D&D when they are 10, 14, 16, you have a good chance of having a D&D player for life.

....and sure, maybe that person will end up buying the premium books when they are older. Or teaching their own kids to play. Point is- the reason they are attractive as a market is because they are open, and if you hook 'em young, you might have a loyal customer for life.
 

But ... I don't agree with you on TTRPGs. Look at you (or many of us)- which TTRPGs are most of us playing? Most of us are playing versions of the ones we started playing. Or complaining about how they aren't close enough to the ones of our youth (while still playing them).

Is that an artifact the the D&D-centric nature of this board, though? Did someone who started with Traveler or Runequest back in the day do the same thing? I know that most of the games I've been involved with in the last few years have, at best, only passing familiarity with the ones I did when I was 25.

In other words, how much of the older players using D&D are doing so because they did it when they were young, and how much is it because there's often difficulty in finding other games or people willing to play them in places they're at?
 


Oofta

Legend
Well, no.

If you're selling Rolexes, you're probably not marketing to tweens.

But ... I don't agree with you on TTRPGs. Look at you (or many of us)- which TTRPGs are most of us playing? Most of us are playing versions of the ones we started playing. Or complaining about how they aren't close enough to the ones of our youth (while still playing them).

Those habits get set when they are young. You get a kid playing D&D when they are 10, 14, 16, you have a good chance of having a D&D player for life.

....and sure, maybe that person will end up buying the premium books when they are older. Or teaching their own kids to play. Point is- the reason they are attractive as a market is because they are open, and if you hook 'em young, you might have a loyal customer for life.
But there has to be enticement for me to upgrade to newer versions. Nobody came along and stole my 2E books, I chose to buy the new ones. Since I had more money, I bought more books for the new version.

To be clear - maybe people have done extensive studies that I've never heard about. Maybe I'm completely wrong. I just don't believe that all marketing research should automatically use the same criteria and assumptions for all products.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
But there has to be enticement for me to upgrade to newer versions. Nobody came along and stole my 2E books, I chose to buy the new ones. Since I had more money, I bought more books for the new version.

To be clear - maybe people have done extensive studies that I've never heard about. Maybe I'm completely wrong. I just don't believe that all marketing research should automatically use the same criteria and assumptions for all products.

Okay.

But ... at what point in time did the olds (let's say 35+) make up the majority of the TTRPG market?

At pretty much every point I can remember ... and I have a LONG memory for (as do you), the majority of the TTRPG market was under 35.

When you're in the sweet spot from middle school to college ... you have a lot of time for this hobby. Arguably into your 20s. After that, life tends to intrude a lot more. A lot of people don't play, or don't play as much.

This is a bizarre assertion or argument. Not new- I was just looking back at Jon Peterson's observations about ageism in the late 70s- how the older gamers just HATED the young kids flooding the market, even though many of the "old gamers" were in their 20s at that point and had started playing in their teens.

Plus ca change, I guess.
 

Oofta

Legend
Okay.

But ... at what point in time did the olds (let's say 35+) make up the majority of the TTRPG market?

At pretty much every point I can remember ... and I have a LONG memory for (as do you), the majority of the TTRPG market was under 35.

When you're in the sweet spot from middle school to college ... you have a lot of time for this hobby. Arguably into your 20s. After that, life tends to intrude a lot more. A lot of people don't play, or don't play as much.

This is a bizarre assertion or argument. Not new- I was just looking back at Jon Peterson's observations about ageism in the late 70s- how the older gamers just HATED the young kids flooding the market, even though many of the "old gamers" were in their 20s at that point and had started playing in their teens.

Plus ca change, I guess.
Truth be told, I'm not particularly invested in this argument. It's just a trend of marketing over simplification that I'm not sure is justified. Most of the groups I play with represent a pretty wide range of age groups, it has nothing to do with dismissing people based on age. Or maybe it is - I simply think breaking down gamers by age category is not necessarily the best option even if it is one of the easiest.

Or maybe it is. 🤷‍♂️
 

Oofta

Legend
I mean, folks, it's not like WotC has tried actively to alienate any market segment. They are publishing Spelljammer and Dragonlance this year, for goodness sake.

Or is it just like fashion trends, or Hollywood remaking old franchises? There are only so many broad concepts out there, so why not recycle an old idea? It's not just being done for nostalgia, I don't think it's even being done primarily for nostalgia. It's just that there are only so many types of campaign stories you can tell with D&D. If you want the kind of wacky hijinks you get with Spelljammer, the design space for that is fairly limited. Even if you're coming up with mostly new ideas you may as well bring in some old ideas that still work, slap a new set of paint on it and call it good. It will be new to the people that never played the original version.
 

While I agree that for marketing types targeting younger buyers makes sense, I think there are times when it is too broadly applied. RPGs are not toothpaste and while the older crowd may not play as much, they have the funds to buy more books. WOTC doesn't care if you play 10 hours a week or 10 hours a month, unlike consumable products the only thing that matters are one time purchases.

But marketing execs have been indoctrinated into the never trust sell to anyone over 40 whether or not there's any evidence that it's the best strategy for all types of products.

Well, remember WotC's position at the time.

They were still a private company, and one that had just spent many millions dollars on a IP that had spent the last 10 years doing nothing but losing money. The big moneymaker that is Magic was doing well, but there was no telling how long that would last. Their other TCGs like Netrunner had died, and RoboRally and Great Dalmuti were not paying off this kind of bill. WotC needs to get some money out of this investment, and get it fast. If that meant changing the game in order to attract the most money, that's what they had to do. They need a highly marketable product they can sell to a lot of people.

Famously, rumor had it that TSR had publishing deals so bad that they were selling some books below cost, but there was something else that was clear: if there were any older players still playing D&D -- the research would tell them there were a ton, but TTRPG industry wisdom at the time said everyone was playing Vampire, Werewolf, Shadowrun, etc. or had moved to Magic or miniatures wargaming -- but even if there were people playing D&D, it was crystal clear that the one thing that none of those people were doing was buying more D&D books. It looked to WotC like everyone who had been a D&D player in the 70s or 80s had either (a) moved on, or (b) stopped buying. Either way, there's a good chance they're not going to be your customers again. Maybe what happened to them is the natural course for TTRPG markets? Nobody knews at that point; the industry was barely 25 years old and D&D was the only product old enough to really have old customers.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
It also seems to come from complaints that the results SKR described don't meet with our biases. So they must've done it poorly because I disagree with the outcome. It's quesitonable logic.

Perhaps. I'm not going to assert that is going on for any particular person, but it is common.

As far as omitting the over 35 crowd, I would think most people would be aware just how common youth marketing is. WotC wanted to be the overall market leader for the TTRPG segment, so they basically had to do this.

Also, we can remember they already had major games that were likely most popular with folks under 35. Getting information so you can determine how the different properties might align would seem important.

WotC doesn't care as much about the over 35 crowd because they're a small fraction of the marketplace, as a whole they spend less, and it's difficult to expand the market for people this age. You might not like it, but that's just reality.

We should note that this stuff was done 20 years ago, and does not speak to WotC's current cares. As of the demographics they released a year ago, the D&D community was...

Age 15-24 ~ 36%
Age 25-34 ~ 36%
Age 35+ ~ 27%

We can say that 35+ is not the majority, but 27% of the market is a large fraction, not a small one. The repeated nods to older settings seems in line with this - they aren't entirely focused on older gamers, but they are doing some things relevant to them.
 

Well, I have a LOT more money to spend than most 35 year olds, lol. Nor is being over the age of, say, 50 particularly about being totally set in your ways. It is most likely just that not that many people my age are still playing D&D.

While twentysomethings have less money overall, they have a lot more free time and they have enough spending money. Magic and has always been more expensive hobby than D&D, and Magic's largest demographic has been the 18-24 year olds for the past 30 years.

I mean, from a TTRPG perspective it's much better to sell 3 books to 30 people than it is to sell 30 books to 3 people. 30 books is 10 times the cost!
 

We should note that this stuff was done 20 years ago, and does not speak to WotC's current cares. As of the demographics they released a year ago, the D&D community was...

Age 15-24 ~ 36%
Age 25-34 ~ 36%
Age 35+ ~ 27%

We can say that 35+ is not the majority, but 27% of the market is a large fraction, not a small one. The repeated nods to older settings seems in line with this - they aren't entirely focused on older gamers, but they are doing some things relevant to them.

Yes, that's all true. I've been searching for that demographics study from last year but wasn't able to track it down. I remember D&D Beyond publishing several of them, too, but the sheer amount of surveys and feedback that WotC and D&D Beyond have done made it very difficult to find!

Still, if they have to choose between 15-34 or 35+, the decision is not remotely a close one, and I'd be surprised if the trend towards less players reversed itself above a certain age.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Still, if they have to choose between 15-34 or 35+

False hypothetical. We've no real evidence that they have to with any frequency.

That's why you get things like Spelljammer making a reappearance. For young gamers, it is new and attractive. For old gamers, it has some nostalgia value. Same game. No choice between the groups needed.

We've yet to see a solid argument that "older gamers" are fundamentally different from younger ones. What we see are older gamers who are not satisfied choosing to attribute that to age-based choices.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Okay.

But ... at what point in time did the olds (let's say 35+) make up the majority of the TTRPG market?

At pretty much every point I can remember ... and I have a LONG memory for (as do you), the majority of the TTRPG market was under 35.

When you're in the sweet spot from middle school to college ... you have a lot of time for this hobby. Arguably into your 20s. After that, life tends to intrude a lot more. A lot of people don't play, or don't play as much.

This is a bizarre assertion or argument. Not new- I was just looking back at Jon Peterson's observations about ageism in the late 70s- how the older gamers just HATED the young kids flooding the market, even though many of the "old gamers" were in their 20s at that point and had started playing in their teens.
What will be very interesting to see is whether there's a resurgence in RPGing in the currently 55-65 age group (i.e. 15-25 in 1982) once they retire and thus have more time.
 

It also seems to come from complaints that the results SKR described don't meet with our biases. So they must've done it poorly because I disagree with the outcome. It's quesitonable logic.

As far as omitting the over 35 crowd, I would think most people would be aware just how common youth marketing is. WotC wanted to be the overall market leader for the TTRPG segment, so they basically had to do this. They focused on 12-35 because that's where the money is, that's where customers with free time are, and those are the people whose choices are easiest to influence are. It's also whom you market to in order to get customers for the longest period of time, because older demographics tend to stick with the same brands.

WotC doesn't care as much about the over 35 crowd because they're a small fraction of the marketplace, as a whole they spend less, and it's difficult to expand the market for people this age. You might not like it, but that's just reality.

If you're over 35: When was the last time you bought a different toothpaste or laundry detergent just to try something different? How many cars or televisions or smartphones have you bought from the same manufacturer? How often do you buy something new to establish a new habit or new taste? If you have, how often have you done it after seeing it become popular among others rather than being more maverick? Would you say your tastes are pretty well established, or that you're always looking for something new or the next new thing? How about when you were 30? 25? 20? 15?
Ok, but if the toothpaste i use changes its formula such that I don't like it anymore, I stop buying that toothpaste. Customer consistency goes hand in hand with product consistency.
 

I mean, folks, it's not like WotC has tried actively to alienate any market segment. They are publishing Spelljammer and Dragonlance this year, for goodness sake.
They are making significant changes to both of them, however. To young players, that doesn’t matter. To older ones, it very well might.
 


Reynard

Legend
I am 47 and have been playing and buying D&D since I was 10 years old. I don't think WotC should worry about me and my dollars at all. Even if I were a big spender (I'm not) I still wouldn't be worth worrying about because I don't represent any significant majority of players -- especially not since the surge over the last 5 years. WotC should (in my estimation, but I'm not a publishing guru) be working to avoid the "second 90s" that is on the horizon as those players begin to realize D&D isn't the be-all, end-all and that it can't do all the things they want/tell all the stories they want. There is absolutely another Vampire: The Masquerade lurking out there in the shadows, waiting to steal away the D&D player base.
 


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