Ya Basic! Trying To Understand the Perception of AD&D and the Sales of Basic

GreyLord

Legend
I'm still a bit confused about what you're contesting.

We've got two recent sources of more comprehensive sales data from TSR than were previously publicly available. Jon Peterson's book Game Wizards, from last year, and Ben Riggs' upcoming Slaying the Dragon, which comes out next week.

Jon, to the best of my understanding, used actual TSR records from WotC. The numbers he put in the book were pretty high-level, though, as he wasn't interested in filling the books with numbers and charts, more in tracking how TSR did and what decisions people involved made. He gives summary sales figures at the end of each chapter.

Ben says, if I understand correctly, that he got his figures from at least one anonymous source, likely a former TSR staffer, and that they've been corroborated by other inside sources. He's openly STATED that he only has partial data. For example, he's got numbers for sales of AD&D hardcovers, but not for the modules.

So are you claiming that Jon's lying, or that Ben has incomplete data (which he's openly stated), or something else?

I added to the PS above.

I wasn't commenting on the article itself, just what was talked about here with the upcoming book. If it is based on partial information, it's hard to say if that's good to publish or not. It's good in that this is more information released then has been previously, but bad because partial information can give the wrong picture or impression.

I haven't read Jon's book, so I can't say how it looks or doesn't look. I took a look at financials many years ago (and I will say, that WotC actually did save TSR in some ways, people think D&D would have died if TSR died, that's not true. There were companies waiting to pick D&D up for a song, literally pennies once it was available. By buying TSR for what most would say was an absolutely overvalued price (TSR wasn't worth what they paid for it by any margin, or even close to it), WotC probably saved D&D from complete corporate control in the truest sense of corporate control), so it is interesting to see things that come out occasionally.

I was taking a look at the graphs and noting what I observed. If he doesn't have accurate numbers, there's nothing I really can say about it I suppose. Graphs look right overall in their pictures from my perspective, but I'm not a reliable source either as my information is not primary either so I don't have the full picture. Im not sure using partial information is the best way to go but if it's all one has...one does what they feel they need to do. I feel there are ways to get all the numbers, but the work involved to get them is probably not actually worth anyone's time to actually find and get. It would be more costly than you'd ever make back most likely, in time or money.

UNLESS, of course, as I said, they actually kept the full information from early on, which probably would be with the Gygax's or someone close to them, and later by Williams and their accountants (and I expect those accountants would be HIGHLY watched to make sure they keep their confidentiality, I don't ever expect that venue to be approved for release...but...I may also be VERY wrong as well).

PS: I think if Jon's book did go into depths on how the numbers came out and all that, it may be more interesting for me to look into, but probably far more boring for the target audience. An indepth numbers crunch with all the primary documents presented and how the numbers were derived and the formulas utilized could also be more useful for some, though, once again, probably not something that's going to sell that many copies.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
UNLESS, of course, as I said, they actually kept the full information from early on, which probably would be with the Gygax's or someone close to them, and later by Williams and their accountants (and I expect those accountants would be HIGHLY watched to make sure they keep their confidentiality, I don't ever expect that venue to be approved for release...but...I may also be VERY wrong as well).
I'm still confused as to why you think Gygax would have the records. He left in '86, he was very hands-off on the finance and accounting stuff, and when he left corporate continuity from the founding was perfectly uninterrupted. From the founding of TSR in 1973 to WotC's acquisition in 1997 there were a few shifts in incorporation status and organization, but only that one full acquisition, and it's not like there was a fire destroying records or something like that.

Jon says in that article that...

For some years, I couldn't always find the authoritative figures I wanted. In 1985, for example, the audited financials were so bad that TSR apparently suppressed them -- I've never seen a copy. But we can still arrive at numbers through other sources. During the last of the law suits that Game Wizards covers, Lorraine Williams testified on January 20, 1986 as follows:
tsr-1986-earnings-williams.jpg

I wouldn't really be sold on a data point like that, even in sworn testimony, without some way of corroborating it. By comparing the retained earnings of the 1984 audit with the figures for 1986 (an old cantrip employed by financial sorcerers), the precise sum my model derives for TSR's 1985 loss is $3,856,169.

So that seems clearly indicative that MOST of the major financial data is still perfectly intact.
 

GreyLord

Legend
I'm still confused as to why you think Gygax would have the records. He left in '86, he was very hands-off on the finance and accounting stuff, and when he left corporate continuity from the founding was perfectly uninterrupted. From the founding of TSR in 1973 to WotC's acquisition in 1997 there were a few shifts in incorporation status and organization, but only that one full acquisition, and it's not like there was a fire destroying records or something like that.

Jon says in that article that...


View attachment 253663


So that seems clearly indicative that MOST of the major financial data is still perfectly intact.

The charts go back to the 70s.

Lorraine Williams wasn't even there. That part you quote, is off a Friggen Testimony...that's not even an accurate financial record!

If you read the article, the entire REASON he used it was because he couldn't GET the accurate records from that year in the FIRST PLACE.

Anyways, I digress.
 

darjr

I crit!
The basic numbers were known before. See various interviews with TSR people, the latest with Stan! about it’s sales vs the Pokémon role playing game.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The charts go back to the 70s.

Lorraine Williams wasn't even there. That part you quote, is off a Friggen Testimony...that's not even an accurate financial record!

If you read the article, the entire REASON he used it was because he couldn't GET the accurate records from that year in the FIRST PLACE.

Anyways, I digress.
Yeah, the charts go back to the 70s. So do the paper records.

Jon shows us three pages of them in that article as examples.

The quote from the Lorraine Williams court testimony is an example of an exception, for 1985, where he couldn't get the exact figures from WotC's records, but was able to get a rough figure from court records, and confirm a more precise number "By comparing the retained earnings of the 1984 audit with the figures for 1986". So that shows he was able to look at the actual audit records for '84 and '86 (obviously among other years).

Lorraine Williams' contemporaneous testimony was only used as a source for a period when she was actually there, and her rough figure (which Jon specifically points out isn't as good as a real record, so I don't know why you're pretending to inform me of this) was improved upon by referencing audit records from the prior and following years.

It seems apparent, at least from from reading Game Wizards, that WotC has fairly complete original financial records from TSR. Not 100% complete, but extensive.
 
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GreyLord

Legend
Yeah, the charts go back to the 70s. So do the paper records.

Jon shows us three pages of them in that article as examples.

The quote from the Lorraine Williams court testimony is an example of an exception, for 1985, where he couldn't get the exact figures from WotC's records, but was able to get a rough figure from court records, and confirm a more precise number "By comparing the retained earnings of the 1984 audit with the figures for 1986". So that shows he was able to look at the actual audit records for '84 and '86 (obviously among other years).

Lorraine Williams' contemporaneous testimony was only used as a source for a period when she was actually there, and her rough figure (which Jon specifically points out isn't as good as a real record, so I don't know why you're pretending to inform me of this) was improved upon by referencing audit records from the prior and following years.

It seems apparent, at least from from reading Game Wizards, that WotC has fairly complete original financial records from TSR. Not perfect, but extensive.

Because you are trying to argue that records exist and are what are being used (while I am saying, many do NOT exist, and if they do, who would probably have them available) and are as good as REAL financial records. Not even the writers are saying what you are saying.

Or at least, that is what is sounds like you are trying to state. Not sure why we are even discussing this to be honest.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Because you are trying to argue that records exist and are as good as REAL financial records. Not even the writers are saying what you are saying.

Or at least, that is what is sounds like you are trying to state. Not sure why we are even discussing this to be honest.
What do you think a "real" financial record is, if an audit record from the company in question doesn't count?

Jon Peterson clearly had access to extensive original, paper financial records from TSR when writing Game Wizards. If you haven't read the book, the article I linked you should make that perfectly clear. That's why I referenced it.

Given that such original paper records clearly do exist in WotC's corporate archives, Ben Riggs having gotten his hands on copies of other records doesn't seem implausible.
 

Yora

Legend
The perception that there were always a lot more AD&D books on the shelves and just one red Basic box and one blue Expert box might very well be correct.

But how would you know if it's always the same red and blue boxes you see every time you look at the store shelf? No clue how it was back then, but all the stores I've been to in the last 20 years always only have a single copy on the shelf.
If the Basic boxes need to be restocked every week, but all those AD&D book sit there for months, they could very well outsell AD&D.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The perception that there were always a lot more AD&D books on the shelves and just one red Basic box and one blue Expert box might very well be correct.

But how would you know if it's always the same red and blue boxes you see every time you look at the store shelf? No clue how it was back then, but all the stores I've been to in the last 20 years always only have a single copy on the shelf.
If the Basic boxes need to be restocked every week, but all those AD&D book sit there for months, they could very well outsell AD&D.
That's also just comparing what we see in a specialist hobby shop, right?

The boxed sets, even if they stopped being carried by Sears in 1985, were available in more retail venues, like toy stores and department stores, which wouldn't necessarily have carried the hardcover AD&D books.
 

GreyLord

Legend
What do you think a "real" financial record is, if an audit record from the company in question doesn't count?

Jon Peterson clearly had access to extensive original, paper financial records from TSR when writing Game Wizards. If you haven't read the book, the article I linked you should make that perfectly clear. That's why I referenced it.

Given that such original paper records clearly do exist in WotC's corporate archives, Ben Riggs having gotten his hands on copies of other records doesn't seem implausible.

I worked in business. I did finanacial research into companies. I am retired but STILL am involved with a company and it's board at times.

An audit is A financial record, but it is not ALL the financial records. For a company starting out, there aren't as many financial records at the beginning (such as when TSR first started out) as later.

In the early periods, most of the time you find that the owners or those who started the business are the ones who actually have the financial documents. These go over the actual NUMBERS that are coming in. This will depict sales, expenditures, income, gross, etc.

When you write up something, you want it based on the primary documents. You need the source document. If we are talking about historians, they talk about things called primary and secondary sources. You want the primary sources, not the secondary to have a stronger argument. The MORE primary sources you have, the stronger the argument.

What brought this up was information presented on this site. We have charts that depict these numbers from what we have seen. The question is WHERE is this information coming from...WHAT are the PRIMARY sources...aka...where are the primary documents that were sourced and can we see ALL of them.

An accounting WITHOUT the primary documents to source them is like an accountant coming up and saying..."You just have to trust me on this."

No one is just going to trust someone's word without the documentation (or at least those who work with keeping the stuff on the up and up). Much of this is because the GOVERNMENT doesn't normally just trust what we say without documentation. It's a good way to get in trouble.

The books claim to have numbers going back to the early 70s. The financial documentation when TSR started WAS NOT something Williams has ever presented as having, nor has anyone else...really The people who would have them were those who were actually RUNNING the business at the time and perhaps those that were their friends that they may have entrusted later. Those documents would be kept in some sort of filing system.

There are other ways to get documentation as well. I know some who HAVE some of these papers...personally. You know how many of these authors have approached them (at least that I am aware of). ZERO. NONE. NADA. NILCH.

Not that they would RELEASE the information, as there are certain ethical values there that would probably mean they would not...BUT...the very fact that no one has even requested them...

This is why I bring it up in question. If you knew who had some of these papers and KNEW no one was actually asking to see them...you might question where some of the information is coming from as well.


Anyways, I've been over this already. I am no being asked to repeat things I've already stated in the thread. I'm not a fan of talking in circles because what I already wrote and was being responded to is not being read and taken into account is leading to going in circles. I suppose I'll be done with this. I'll boil it down to this...

People say they want the information, but they don't want to know the sources it seems. That's okay, but this is where my questioning lies. Probably because, as I said before, a LOT of it is available, but to hunt it all down may take more time and money than it is actually worth to hunt down for any one person at this point.
 

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