RPG Evolution – 2014 Q3

MonsterManualWell, well well.  I don’t want to say “I told you so” but well… I told you so.   *Ahem.*

So, new to this conversation? Well, RPG Evolution is a quarterly column where we talk about the RPG sales trends at Games and Stuff.  Why is this quarter’s column particularly interesting?  Well, let’s just say there’s an old friend sitting pretty at the number one spot after a long absence.

Let’s get into the numbers.  Here’s the Top 20 Role Playing Games (by dollar volume) at G&S over the period of July 1st to September 30, 2014 with last quarter’s rankings listed when applicable.

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q2 Rank #3)
  2. Pathfinder (Q2 Rank #1)
  3. Star Wars (Q2 Rank #2)
  4. Shadowrun (Q2 Rank #5)
  5. The One Ring (Q2 Rank #8)
  6. Warhammer 40,000 (Q2 Rank #4)
  7. Mutants & Masterminds (Q2 Rank #6)
  8. Adventure Maximus!
  9. Doctor Who (Q2 Rank #15)
  10. The Strange
  11. Savage Worlds (Q2 Rank #19)
  12. 13th Age
  13. Legend of the Five Rings (Q2 Rank #10)
  14. Atomic Robo
  15. Fate (Q2 Rank #9)
  16. Iron Kingdoms
  17. Ironclaw
  18. Numenera (Q2 Rank #11)
  19. Call of Cthulhu (Q2 Rank #7)
  20. Double Cross

So, some very interesting things going on this time around.  First and foremost, it should be obvious to anyone that the 900 pound gorilla has returned to the room, and Dungeons & Dragons is back in the #1 spot where it rightfully belongs.  Just to put this in perspective, Pathfinder had been far and away our shining star for years, out grossing the next three or four games combined.  But D&D is now bringing in over double what Pathfinder does.

I cannot begin to underestimate the impact that this has had on our bottom line, or for what it will do for the RPG department for many years.  Having a well reviewed, very accessible version of D&D on the shelves will continue to bring lapsed players into our stores for some time to come.  I also think it will jump start many conversations about the other RPGs that are out there, as is already happening quite regularly in our store.

For a couple years now, the chatter in various industry forums leading up to the release of D&D fifth edition was about how Pathfinder players were simply not going to jump back into playing D&D.  And ya know what?  That’s utterly besides the point.  Having a new edition of D&D is instead important because of lapsed players and yes, new players.  While there may be a few, a tiny majority of Pathfinder folks that extend themselves back into D&D proper, it was never about that.  Furthermore, what a lot of retailers don’t seem to really appreciate is that many RPG gamers are browsers, playing a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Many of my most die-hard Pathfinder players have purchased the new D&D stuff just to check it out, and you know what?  They’re playing BOTH.

AchtungCthulhuPacificIt’s interesting to note that RPGs are strong across the board right now.  This quarter’s games for ranks #21-#25 would have all easily made the list during any other time this year. (Those games include Achtung Cthulhu!, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Dungeon World and the new Firefly RPG among others.)

A few other highlights:

Adventure Maximus! is, in my opinion simply the best introductory RPG ever made.  It’s designed for gamers aged 8 and up, and between the awesome production values and the super accessible box, it’s a bonafide hit.  I’ve sold scores and scores of this thing.  Adventure Maximus! is finally, the definitive answer to the dad in your store asking “So, I want to get my nine year old into roleplaying games.  Where do I start?”

13th Age is finally picking up steam here, and it deserves every bit of it.  It’s the Sprite to D&D and Pathfinder’s Coke and Pepsi. A beautiful melding of old school D&D feel with modern RPG design, it’s my personal favorite way to D&D.  It’s a personal goal of mine to do for this game what we’ve done for The One Ring over the past year (which broke the Top 5 this time around!  Go Team Hobbit!)

Mutants & Masterminds is the little engine that could over here.  Quietly chugging away in the Top 10 for over six months (and the Top 20 for even longer) M&M is simply put, genuinely the only legitimate choice for gamers looking for a traditional super hero RPG.

Double Cross is worthy of a shout out, because it’s a perfect example of why any store that’s serious about RPGs should occasionally be carrying stuff from Indie Press Revolution.  Double Cross (currently only available from IPR) is a weird, anime-themed game dealing with the ramifications of a virus that gives people super powers at the expense of their sanity.  There’s currently only three books in the line and they all move at a pretty steady clip.

IronClawBookofJadeFinally, let’s talk about Ironclaw. The current edition (the game’s second) was released in 2010.  It’s not new. So what’s going on that this strange little game is in our Top 20?  Other than a few special orders, we hadn’t really carried the game prior to July.  Well, July was when the Ironclaw Book of Jade (the game’s Eastern-themed expansion book) was released.  We brought it in, and it sold immediately.  So did the restock.  So naturally, I thought “Huh.  That’s interesting” and I brought the two core books in for the shelf.  Which immediately sold.  So did the restock.  And so did the Book of Mysteries that I brought in.

I’ve sold the two core books many times over, and I know I’ve sold the entire line to more than a few customers. Enough to land this thing at #17 during a quarter that was massively successful for RPGs.  So retailers, listen up.  If you’re gonna learn one thing from this article this time around, remember The Lesson of Ironclaw:

Experiment!  Bring in the core book of some line you’ve never carried before.  It may not be new, but you’ve never had it on your shelf, it’s new to many of your customers! Maybe it won’t sell, but maybe it will!  Then restock it, and bring in a supplement.  From there, who knows what might happen?  Will Ironclaw make the list next quarter?  Unlikely.  Will I even be carrying it this time next year?  Probably not.  *Shrug* Who can say?  What I do know is that I’ve made a pretty penny on a game that has contributed in no small way to the bottom line of my RPG sales these past few months.

And with that I’ll leave you.

What about you, dear reader?  What have you been excited about these past three months?  Through the Breach (the Malifaux RPG) is currently on my nightstand at home, and I can almost guarantee we’ll be talking about that come January.  And I hope to see bigger and better things from 13th Age now that the line is reaching it’s maturity and 13 True Ways hits any day now.

Until next time-

-Paul Alexander Butler is the Store Manager at Games and Stuff.  He’s currently running a The One Ring campaign and is about to be a player in a 13th Age conversion of the Dark Sun setting.
-RPG Evolution is his quarterly article detailing trends in the sales and RPG playing habits at Games and Stuff.