Books have the New York Times (and many others) Bestsellers List. Movies and television shows have websites that track box office numbers and Nielsen ratings. Comics have sales lists all over the place. What we don’t have a lot of for role-playing games are lists of what is selling. There are some publishers who go public with their sales figures, but it is harder to build an overall idea of how things are working from something like that. Now we have an EN World Bestsellers List for RPGs.
Will these lists tell us what the most popular game in gaming is right now? No, but it will allow us to have a starting point for conversations. Which is a good thing.
Thanks go out especially to Michael Webb, VP of Marketing and Data Services for Alliance Game Distributors, helped me out by putting me in touch with those he considered to be “top retailers.” Hopefully we will see these articles on a quarterly basis. These lists all refer to the stores’ last quarter of 2015 sales.
From Angie Blackmon of Dragons Lair Comics and Fantasy Austin, TX comes:
The top five RPG items overall are…
D&D 5th Edition PHB
D&D 5th Edition Starter Set
D&D 5th Edition DM Screen
D&D 5th Edition DMG
D&D Fantasy Miniatures Icons of the Realm (Assorted Sets)
The top five RPG systems are…
D&D 5th Edition
Pathfinder Core Rules
Fate Core Rules
Star Wars RPG Edge of the Empire
Shadowrun RPG 5th Edition
This information is from our Merchandising Manager, Michael Wolff, on indie RPGs.
"First, the new version of the Dragon Age RPG released this year and it’s a marked improvement over the previous version. Green Ronin streamlined their system a lot and pulled from all corners of the Dragon Age world to make new character options, backgrounds, and campaign ideas. Even if I wasn’t a Dragon Age superfan I’d still be interested, since it’s a simple 3d6 based system that is still tactically rich and intuitive. The best part about it to me is the inclusion of “stunt points”, which occur on a doubles roll from any 2 dice. This ability lets you add flair or other effects to whatever you’re rolling, and keeps games and stories interesting, sometimes when you least expect it. I’m still itching to run a game of this, especially since it’s all (so far) in one book at a good price. They should be releasing various sourcebooks and add-ons in the coming year."
"The other main book I’ve been keeping an eye on is Star Wars: Force and Destiny. Fantasy Flight’s not exactly a small company, but the creation of a game that lets people play out their childhood fantasies of being a Jedi and using the Force is fan service incarnate. That’s not a bad thing, if you ask me. The best part, if you ask me, about the Star Wars RPGs is that they all have a unique dice system of variable success or failure which keeps games from falling into binary pass/fail mechanics, which I and others I know appreciate. Force and Destiny, like all other Star Wars RPGs, is definitely hanging around for a while, since FFG has a solid release schedule of expansions as the games age. I’m hoping that after the movie comes out, they create a campaign or book related to the Force Awakens events and characters."
"The last one I’ve noticed lately is the Dread RPG. This is the horror themed game that’s played with a set of Jenga blocks. Every time a difficult decision is made or an action happens, a player has to pull from the tower and hope it doesn’t fall. If it does, bad stuff happens. It’s gained in popularity after being played on TableTop, and because of this unique inclusion for decision making. It’s definitely more suited to one-shot type games rather than long campaigns but it still seems very different compared to its peers. This one is an older one, so it’s not getting updates anytime soon, but it’s still grown vastly in popularity thanks to Wil Wheaton."
Travis Severance of Millennium Games in Rochester, New York provided:
1. 5th ed PHB
2. 5th ed DM Screen
3. 5th ed Monster Manual
4. 5th ed DMG
5. 5th ed Starter Set
4. Star Wars
Paul Butler of Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, Maryland provided this list of product by quantity sold.
1. Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
2. Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
3. Monster Manual (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
4. Bestiary 5 (Pathfinder)
5. Dungeon Master's Guide (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)
Steve Ellis of Rainy Day Games in Aloha, Oregon sent in this list:
Top 5 RPG Items:
- D&D5 Sword Coast Adv Guide (Wizards of the Coast)
- D&D5 Players Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)
- D&D5 Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)
- D&D5 Spellbook Cards Cleric (Gale Force Nine)
- D&D5 Dungeon Masters Screen (Wizards of the Coast)
Top 5 RPG Systems:
- D&D5 (Wizards of the Coast)
... HUGE GAP
- Star Wars RPGs (Fantasy Flight Games)
...another decent gap
- Mouse Guard RPG (Archaia Studio Press)
- Pathfinder (Paizo)
- Savage Worlds (Studio 2 Publishing)
Putting on my analyst cap, I think that the obvious is shown: D&D is a big seller across the country. I don’t think that surprises anyone. What I think surprises me is the fact that there really isn’t a clear “winner” for the second place spot. Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars lines look like they are battling it out with Paizo’s Pathfinder for second place, with a pretty much everything else fighting for the other places at the table. Certainly not as clear cut as you would think.
Pinnacle’s Savage Worlds and Evil Hat’s Fate games have a good standing, and it is good to see Mouse Guard getting a mention.
Hopefully we will be back next quarter, to see how these games fared into the new year. As with anything new, we are all learning what we want to do with these lists and I learned more about the questions that I want to ask retailers. With the next quarter, I hope to pick up a retailer or two who were unable to respond, and maybe even convince OneBookShelf to give us a peak into some of their best sellers.
Matt McElroy, the Director of Publishing and Marketing at OneBookShelf has contributed their top five best sellers for last quarter (and they will be contributing to this list going forward):
Top Five selling titles:
Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition - Onyx Path Publishing
Shadowrun: Rigger 5.0 - Catalyst Game Labs
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition - White Wolf Publishing
Chronicles of Darkness - Onyx Path Publishing
Shadowrun: Hard Targets (Deep Shadows Sourcebook) - Catalyst Game Labs
Top Five selling Systems:
World of Darkness, classic (Storyteller System)
World of Darkness, new (Storytelling System)