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
Summer 2019Star Wars (FFG)Vampire 5th EditionShadowrun 6EPathfinderDungeons & DragonsPathfinder 2E released.
*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


chart3.jpg


 
Last edited:

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Scarecrown

Villager
Looking at GDW's numbers gives credence to the TSR Estimates; IME, about 1/3 of Traveller players had rulesets.
But GDW numbers don't include the Judges Guild semi-core Traveller's Logbook, which includes character gen (Bk1 & bk 4), ship operations, trade and commerce tables, expansions to char gen (background/family mods, mods to atts by ho,eworld gravity and TL), alternate damage tables by standard ship type.
Curiously specific on the GDW details, but thank you for your thoughts.

I take it that you are indicating a period in which information from certain organisations became publicly accessible. Would you correlate this public access with the 2015 spike in sales numbers?
 

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aramis erak

Legend
Curiously specific on the GDW details, but thank you for your thoughts.

I take it that you are indicating a period in which information from certain organisations became publicly accessible. Would you correlate this public access with the 2015 spike in sales numbers?
2014 is whe the only vaguely reliable information starts being released.
Traveller is the only documentary source from prior.
Claiming a trend exists from before there is reliable data is, to be blunt, not smart.
The reliable data dates only from 2014 on, and is only reliable from 2015. The only available data from prior is Traveller's data.

There's nothing curious about the Traveller data other than that Marc released it at all. Traveller selling 170k units of CT, which went OOP in 1987 and OOS in 1988, and TSR claiming a million players - dissimilar data - but it makes it clear that, given the ratio of bookless to book-owning players, D&D was likely not lying about the million player number, but also that D&D sales numbers are probably only about 1.5× to 2× that of Traveller. (The circa 1990 survey that was sent to RPGA GMs had a "send me the results" tickbox. I did. Only about 1 in 4 players and almost all GMs had bought the AD&D2 PHB rules. Few players bought the DMG, but the number was unmemorable.

So, the 1990 status quo was probably about 1 million D&D players, 250K AD&D2 PHBs, and some lesser number of DMG's and MM's. But we don't, and can not, know those sales numbers until WotC releases them... Mike Mearls has stated having seen the numbers. We know that by 18 months after release, Mearls noted 5E has outsold all other D&D editions. I don't recall any clarification whether he meant any single other edition or meant all others combined.

At end of the day, we have very little data, and not enough to actually note trends prior to 2015.
 

MGibster

Legend
But nevertheless the info indicates a sales spike at 2015, do you think the survey became more wide ranging, or that it shows an actual change in the market?
As a former historian, I have a certain skepticism regarding surveys just as I do with a great many other primary (and secondary) sources. As someone about an event they witnessed in 1972 and ask them the same questions in 1992 and you might get different answers. Not beacuse the person who answers is lying, but because they don't necessarily have the same perspective they did twenty years before.

But it's not like there's any such thing as a perfect source of information, and sometimes you just have to go with the information you have available when making your interpretation of the past. Which is why I appreciate Morrus' efforts here. As to what it represents? Well, it does appear there was a sales spike in 2015, but I don't have any theories as to why.
 

aia_2

Custom title
What about the retroclones/OSR? Are these games not material, or are they somehow "out of scope" (meaning they are included in the "label" d&d)? There are at least a couple of titles that are worth to be mentioned in terms of market size...
 

Scarecrown

Villager
At end of the day, we have very little data, and not enough to actually note trends prior to 2015.
Thanks for your explanation, I guess I was looking at pyrite all along.
Still, the data probably does help one understand the general popularity of various game systems, as long as it’s seasoned with a grain of salt.

Thanks for engaging in this topic. Maybe one day we’ll get some hard data on this whole scene.
 

Scarecrown

Villager
As a former historian, I have a certain skepticism regarding surveys ...

But it's not like there's any such thing as a perfect source of information, and sometimes you just have to go with the information you have available when making your interpretation of the past.
I agree, in the end all I can really say is, that I noticed the old school media started reporting a newfound interest in board games and table games about 5-8 years ago.

But what that says about M’s data spread is not really clear; it may be that sales crept up in a steady type fashion that for some reason is not reflected in the data, or that there was a critical mass of interest and information about that surge of interest, leading to a feedback loop.

2015 is as yet an unanswered question (although it’s obvious that everyone got Mayan calendars for Xmas and figured they might as well get around to playing those games they always said they were gonna, before the world ended. ironic, as those calendars were also probably lacking in data).

Cheers for the chat. I’ve really enjoyed it.
 

MGibster

Legend
But what that says about M’s data spread is not really clear; it may be that sales crept up in a steady type fashion that for some reason is not reflected in the data, or that there was a critical mass of interest and information about that surge of interest, leading to a feedback loop.
I noticed a growing trend in board game popularly around 1999-2000, but I'm hard pressed to remember the first time I saw Settlers of Catan at Walmart. Was it around 2015-2016? According to this article from The Atlantic, Walmart was selling the game online in 2011, so there's a good chance I also saw it at one of the stores around that time.
 

Scarecrown

Villager
I noticed a growing trend in board game popularly around 1999-2000, but I'm hard pressed to remember the first time I saw Settlers of Catan at Walmart.
Anecdotal data is so powerful upon the memory.
I really can’t be sure when I noticed news shows reports on a board game renaissance, because it meant a lot to me at the time, and maintains a potent emotional impact upon me to this day.
Memory is heady stuff.
 

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