But the fact that DnD has done so well certainly got me back into the hobby and led to me reading discussion boards, going to conventions and local gaming stores, and finding other games to try.
So you got back into gaming because 5E made a lot of money?
What other TTRPG has a company like Hasbro and its marketing power behind it?
None. That’s part of the problem.
If DnD were to go away, existing players might buy a lot more, but I think that fewer new people would be attracted to the hobby and it would sink back into being an obscure niche hobby.
Except you’re forgetting pop culture. The two main vectors for non-gamers finding out about D&D through pop culture over the last decade had been Stranger Things and Critical Role. Unless something drastic happens, CR and Stranger Things will continue to exist. They will keep going. CR is far more likely to continue putting out new content longer than Stranger Things. That’s not going away.
Word of mouth is still a thing. All the players that exist now, who like the hobby and want to keep engaging with it, will keep on doing so. Regardless of what D&D or WotC does. With D&D around, sucking up the majority of the money and audience, most fans will just stick with them. WotC sours enough fans or tanks the new edition, then interested fans will migrate to other games. We’ve literally been through this before with 4E and Paizo’s Pathfinder.
At a guess, the “new Pathfinder” will be Critical Role. All they have to do is put out a book of rules and their millions of fans will jump on it. If the rules are close to 5E, great. If not, their fans will still snatch it up. And just like that, you have a giant new competitor to D&D. They instantly have millions of eyes on their products and game system. Week after week after week. Oh, and their animated series on Amazon Prime. You want advertising that rivals Hasbro? There you go. I’d be surprised if they didn’t join up with MCDM to do something, considering they’re friends. Mercer can homebrew some classes and worldbuild better than most, but Colville has the design chops. CR has the fan base. WotC tanks it with the OGL…blam. “New Pathfinder.”