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Top 5 RPGs Compiled Charts 2004-Present

This is a compilation of the icv2.com retailer surveys of Top Five Roleplaying Games. They are generally compiled quarterly (with some exceptions). ICv2 notes that "the chart [are] based on interviews with retailers, distributors, and manufacturers." Thanks to jodyjohnson for sterling compilation work and to ZsuEtAm over on WotC's D&D forums for finding the pre-2008 entries.
  • These are not based on actual sales figures. With very few exceptions, sales figures are not available for any of these products.
  • These do not take into account online sales, direct sales, Amazon, or anything other than hobby retail sales (although they do include Kickstarter).
  • These are based on interviews with hobby game retailers and distributors.
  • The RPG industry is tiny. ICv2 estimates its total size (US) as only $65M; see the table below.
  • Note the addition of Kickstarter sales included in the 2015 figures onwards.

US Hobby Game Market ($ millions); based on figures from ICv2

Category201320142015201620172018
Collectible games
$450​
$550​
$625 (+14%)​
$750 (+12%)​
$725
(-3%)​
$625 (-14%)​
Miniatures
$125​
$125​
$175 (+40%)​
$205 (+17%)​
$270
(+32%)​
$285 (+7%)​
Boardgames
$75​
$125 ($160)​
$250 (+56%)​
$305 (+22%)​
$345
(+13%)​
$370 (+7%)​
Card & dice games
$35​
$55 ($60)​
$105 (+75%)​
$130 (+24%)​
$150
(+15%)​
$150​
Roleplaying games
$15​
$25​
$35 (+40%)​
$45 (+28%)​
$55
(+22%)​
$65 (+18%)​
Total
$700
$880 ($920)
$1,190 (+29%)
$1,435 (+21%)
$1,545
(+8%)
$1,495 (-3%)

For timescale context, I highly encourage you compare chart changes with events listed in my chart TSR, WotC, & Paizo: A Comparative History.

In the below chart, I've listed games only for space reasons, unless more than one company produced games with the same or similar names (e.g. multiple Star Wars games), in which case I noted the company in parenthesis. Where ties exist, I put the incumbent first.

For a color-coded (by company) version from Summer 2008 up until Spring 2014 (sorry, I made it before finding out about the 2004-2007 data!), click here.

Period#5#4#3#2#1Events (click for more)
Q3 2004--GURPSWorld of DarknessDungeons & DragonsWoW and Facebook both launched this year.
Q4 2004Mutants & MastermindsMongoose*GURPSWorld of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q1 2005Green Ronin**Mongoose*Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)World of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q2 2005Green Ronin**Mongoose*Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)World of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q4 2005Mongoose*Green Ronin**Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)World of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q1 2006ExaltedMutants & MastermindsWorld of DarknessWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)Dungeons & Dragons
Q2 2006Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)Mutants & MastermindsExaltedWorld of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q3 2006GURPSExaltedMutants & MastermindsWorld of DarknessDungeons & DragonsWhite Wolf merges with Eve Online publisher CCP.
Q4 2006BESMMutants & MastermindsExaltedWorld of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q1 2007ScionExaltedWorld of DarknessMutants & MastermindsDungeons & Dragons
Q2 2007ScionWorld of DarknessWarhammer Fantasy 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)Star Wars (WotC)Dungeons & Dragons
Q3 2007ExaltedBattlestar GalacticaScionWorld of DarknessDungeons & Dragons
Q4 2007ShadowrunWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2E (Black Industries/Green Ronin)World of DarknessWarhammer 40k RoleplayDungeons & Dragons
Q1 2008Mutants & MastermindsWorld of DarknessWarhammer 40k: Dark HeresyExaltedDungeons & Dragons
Summer 2008ExaltedShadowrunWorld of DarknessWarhammer 40K: Dark HeresyDungeons & Dragons
Fall 2008PathfinderShadowrunWorld of DarknessWarhammer 40K: Dark HeresyDungeons and DragonsDungeons & Dragons 4th edition released.
Winter 2008-2009ShadowrunStar Wars (WotC)World of DarknessWarhammer 40k: Dark HeresyDungeons and Dragons
Q2 2009ShadowrunSong of Ice and FireWorld of DarknessWarhammer 40k: Dark HeresyDungeons and DragonsKickstarter launched.
Q3 2009ShadowrunSong of Ice and FireWorld of DarknessPathfinderDungeons and DragonsPathfinder RPG launched.
Q4 2009World of DarknessRogue Trader/Dark HeresyWarhammer Fantasy RPG 3E (FFG)PathfinderDungeons and Dragons
Q1 2010Dragon AgeRogue Trader/Dark HeresyWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3E (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Q2 2010Rogue Trader/Dark HeresyShadowRunWarhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3E (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Q3 2010Dresden FilesDark Heresy/Rogue TraderWarhammer Fantasy 3E (FFG)(Tie) Pathfinder(Tie) Dungeons & DragonsDungeons & Dragons Essentials launched.
Q4 2010Mutants and Masterminds, inc. DCDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchPathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Q1 2011Mutants and Masterminds, inc. DCDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchPathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Q2 2011ShadowrunDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsPathfinderFor the first time, D&D is not the top-selling RPG.
Summer 2011ShadowrunDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsPathfinder
Q4 2011The One RingDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsPathfinder
Spring 2012Marvel Heroic RoleplayingDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsPathfinderD&D 5th Edition announced and public playtest begins.
Summer 2012Dungeon Crawl ClassicsDragon AgeDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsPathfinder
Fall 2012Iron KingdomsDark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchDungeons & DragonsStar Wars (FFG)Pathfinder
Spring 2013Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchIron KingdomsStar Wars (FFG)Dungeons & DragonsPathfinder
Summer 2013Fate Core SystemIron KingdomsDungeons & DragonsStar Wars (FFG)Pathfinder
Fall 2013Iron KingdomsDungeons & DragonsFate Core SystemStar Wars (FFG)Pathfinder
Spring 2014NumeneraFate Core SystemShadowrunStar Wars (FFG)Pathfinder
Summer 2014Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/DeathwatchShadowrunStar Wars (FFG)Dungeons & DragonsPathfinderD&D 5E launched.
Fall/Holiday 2014FateNumeneraStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Spring 2015Iron KingdomsShadowrunStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Fall 2015Fantasy AgeDragon AgeStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Spring 2016Fantasy/Dragon AgeShadowrunStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Fall 2016Call of Cthulhu 7th EditionShadowrunStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Spring 2017ShadowrunAdventures in Middle EarthStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderDungeons & Dragons
Fall 2017Star Trek AdventuresStar Wars (FFG)PathfinderStarfinderDungeons & DragonsStarfinder released.
Spring 2018Genesys (FFG)Star Wars (FFG)PathfinderStarfinderDungeons & Dragons
Fall 2018Vampire (White Wolf)Starfinder (Paizo)Star Wars (FFG)Legend of the Five Rings (FFG)Dungeons & DragonsPathfinder 2E announced.
Spring 2019PathfinderVampire 5th EditionStar Wars (FFG)StarfinderDungeons & Dragons
*Mongoose Publishing is a company name rather than a game, but this is what ICv2 reported.
**Green Ronin is a company name rather than a game, but this is what ICv2 reported.

Below may not be the clearest of graphs, but it maps the positions of games with 3 or more entries in the ICv2 charts over time.

chart_enworld_rpgs.jpg


 
Last edited:
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
This is pretty informative, so thank you. I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
 

Bolongo

Herr Doktor
I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
Well, the edition didn't actually change then, but IIRC 2013 was when 4e almost completely dropped off the WotC production schedule.
 

ephemeron

Explorer
I hadn't realized that the various Warhammer/40K RPGs were that big -- well, before last fall or so, I guess. It's also fascinating to see how different licensed-property games have waxed and waned in popularity.

How much do we know about how the size of the overall industry changed over this period?
 

TrippyHippy

Adventurer
I recall that reports suggested that the Warhammer 40K RPGs were the top sellers in the UK, ahead of Pathfinder - although that is just a fraction of the market compared to the US. They may have drifted off now a bit due to the attention given to FFG’s Star Wars series instead, the sense that they had completed their five core games, and the fact that most gaming IPs tend to have a limited lifespan of significant sales (about 3 years is normal).

It’s also worth noting that even though the World of Darkness games appear to have declined a lot, this is mainly due to them making a quite dramatic change in their business plans. They no longer distribute through traditional game shops, but through online downloads, POD and Kickstarter. I don’t think these figures count those things, so it would be interesting to be able to get a round figure on how much their paying fanbase compares to other companies.

D&D hardly released any new product last year, so their decline is accounted for. Expect them to be back at the top next year. I’d also be interested to see how The One Ring would do, depending on the extent of the distribution into the US.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
This has just been updated with data from 2004-2007, thanks to ZsuEtAm over on WotC's D&D forums. That gives us a full ten years of charts!
 
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MartyW

Explorer
This is pretty informative, so thank you. I think it is interesting to see D&D fall so far down from summer of 2013 until spring of 2014, but it could be due to the edition change and everyone attempting to relearn the system.
As another poster noted, 5e was not put out yet (although the play test was under way). No new 4e product was being put on store shelves.

No new product = no sales, therefore it's not surprising the sales numbers dropped to the floor as everyone awaited the new release.

I'd be horribly surprised if Q4 2014 didn't see D&D back in the top spot. The Player's Handbook and Monster Manuals have been top sellers on Amazon. Even though Amazon sales are not reflected in the distributor's reports, I'm certain the traditional retail channels will see the same spike and D&D will reclaim #1.
 

lud

Explorer
I find it interesting to see from your compilation the pattern of the 3rd fantasy game in the lower part of the charts.

Starting in 2009 we have:

Song of Ice and Fire who loose its place to
Warhammer Fantasy RPG 3E that is replaced by
Dragon Age who is in turn replaced by
Iron Kingdom RPG who is at the end of this cycle...
 

Lord Rasputin

Explorer
Spikes by games coincide with new editions, since the core rule books always are the big sellers. To pick uncontroversial examples, GURPS got a new edition in 2004, but hasn't since, so it hasn't shown up again. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay got new editions in 2005 and 2009, explaining its spikes then.

What the Essentials line did for D&D 4th was work like a new edition. Right before it came out, Pathfinder tied it, but D&D pulled into the lead again once the Essentials line got folks to update their core rule books. Once that boost was done, Pathfinder climbed into the lead.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I dunno. Pathfinder had a spike right as Essentials was released, tying for the top spot briefly, and then D&D started dropping very soon after the Essentials launch.
 

WackyAnne

Villager
As much as I am enjoying 5th Edition, I think D&D will have a hard time regaining first place for the foreseeable future. None of this speaks to quality of either game, or its players. Unless/until WotC ramps up to full production, especially on the adventure side, they don't have the lineup. Pathfinder also sells quarterly or more modules, the monthly APs, at least a new core book a year, and tons of splatbooks; even assuming that the maps & cards Paizo also publishes aren't counted, they still vastly outproduce WotC's D&D output.

D&D5E only has 5 products out now (Starter Set, PHB, HotDQ, MM for Q3) and two more due before the end of the year (RoT & DMG for Q4).
Pathfinder will have 22 books out in the same time frame: 2 hardcovers, 2 double-length modules, and 6 volumes each of the Adventure Path (Iron Gods), campaign setting, and player companions.
 

MartyW

Explorer
Unless/until WotC ramps up to full production, especially on the adventure side, they don't have the lineup. Pathfinder also sells quarterly or more modules, the monthly APs, at least a new core book a year, and tons of splatbooks;
I agree only partially with your conclusions. Because the AP subscriptions and other direct sales from Paizo will not be counted in the ICv2 numbers, Pathfinder will need to sell a lot of splat books through the retail channels to keep up.

Splat books don't sell as well as core books. This is true industry-wide (there have been many posts from people in the know on this one). WotC has 3 core books out between August and November and this will give their product line a huge spike. Given that, it would be near impossible for Pathfinder to stay on top for Q4 2014.

Now, I do agree that WotC needs to put more product in their pipeline for the New Year or they may not be able to hold that spot for more than a quarter or two... but in the near term, I think WotC will be back on top for at least this particular industry report.
 
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While I'm at it, Evil Hat make their sales figures public knowledge. So we can do some baselining of absolute numbers.

Fate core position: Summer 2013 - 5, Autumn 2013 - 3, Spring 2014 - 4, Summer 2014 - 6 or lower.

Fate Core Direct sales (not counting the 10,000 Kickstarter sales or One Bookshelf):
Q2 2013 - 0 (they sold PDFs but hadn't yet hit the retailers)
Q3 2013 - 1675
Q4 2013 - 1330
Q1 2014 - 1392
Q2 2014 - 2062
Q3 2014 - 2301

(And yes, I've drilled down - direct Fate sales are actually increasing but they aren't selling new PDFs.) Numbers only apply to the corebook.

Which is very interesting. It means Numenera has been a bit of a damp squib but everyone's sales have increased recently. I'm not surprised ICV2 are happy with the recent trend.
 

MartyW

Explorer
Missing game on the chart: Fate Core. (Summer 2013-Spring 2014)

Interesting reading. :)
FATE isn't likely to show up because it has less retail channel sales. Most of the FATE sales came through its Kickstarter, or direct sales from Evil Hat or POD. None of that will show up in ICv2 reports. The ICv2 reports have limited utility on reporting larger trends in RPGs because it covers only a very specific distribution channel.
 

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