RPG Evolution – 2015 Q2

RPG Evolution is a semi-regular column in which I discuss the retail business side of selling role-playing games.  In addition to periodic special installments, once every three months I break down the twenty top selling RPGs by sales volume at Games and Stuff.

Happy July everyone, and welcome to the halfway point of the year.
Today we don’t have any especially big surprises about our best selling RPGs, but we do have the reappearance of a few old friends, and we get to see if my predictions from spring have proven true. So here’s the Top 20 for the period of April 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015:

  1. Dungeons & Dragons (Q1 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q1 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q1 Rank #3)
  4. Warhammer 40,000 (Q1 Rank #5)
  5. Shadowrun (Q1 Rank #4)
  6. Dungeon Crawl Classics
  7. The One Ring (Q1 Rank #6)
  8. Mutant Year Zero (Q1 Rank #15)
  9. 13th Age (Q1 Rank #8)
  10. Fate (Q1 Rank #7)
  11. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  12. The Dresden Files
  13. Iron Kingdoms (Q1 Rank #17)
  14. Numenera (Q1 Rank #10)
  15. Through the Breach
  16. The End of the World (Q1 Rank #12)
  17. Legend of the Five Rings
  18. Dread
  19. Trail of Cthulhu (Q1 Rank #14)
  20. White Wolf/World of Darkness

ShadowrunRunFasterNo big shocks in the Top Five, as Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000 continue their tussle for the number four spot.  The 40K sales are absolutely driven by the second edition of Dark Heresy and the new releases for that line, although the back catalog sales of Deathwatch and Rogue Trader are quite strong.  As I’ve stated before, six months ago I would have never thought that the 40K games would still be in the top five, but the enduring appeal of the grimdark future of the 41st Millennium has proven me wrong.
Shadowrun for its part, didn’t have a core hardback release this quarter, so the flip-flop is expected, but with both Data Trails and Chrome Flesh releasing in Q3, Shadowrun should return the punches next time around.

It’s also worth noting that in April, for the first time since its release, the sales of Dungeons & Dragons were eclipsed by those of Pathfinder, but it didn’t last, and as you can see, it wasn’t enough to keep D&D from the top spot over the course of the quarter. In case you missed it, back in May I wrote a big article about my thoughts on the future of D&D and Pathfinder, which you can check out here.

DCCGhostRingMy personal favorites The One Ring and 13th Age seem to have mostly firmed up their positions in the Top 10, although the appearance of Dungeon Crawl Classics in the #6 spot shook things up a bit. DCC has been in our list before, but my full time Assistant Manager George recently took a shine to the line after hosting the game for a Free RPG Day session, and his excitement for the game (and his own not insignificant purchasing) helped push it back into the Top 10.  As always, never underestimate what your own passions will do for the sales of an RPG line in your store.

MutantYearZeroProductsThe big story this time around is Mutant Year Zero.  Yes, I did in fact predict this back in May.  This is the the post-apocalyptic game you’ve been looking for.  Not as silly as Gamma World, and not zombie-centric, once we got a decent restock (thanks Aldo!) the thing has taken off and never looked back.  It’s got some really cool “Ark” rules that detail the survivors’ enclave and how it grows and changes throughout the course of the campaign.

A lot of fresh and returning titles this month: Legend of the Five Rings makes its return to the list, thanks to a massive and long overdue line-wide reprint.  Lamentations of the Flame Princess had four simultaneous releases in April, including the $42.99 hardback A Red & Pleasant Land.  Dresden Files generated a pile of cash from the release of the game’s third hardback, The Paranet Papers, while the appearance of Dread on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop drove sales of that game.  For those of you that don’t know, instead of cards or dice Dread uses a Jenga set, and sales of that classic game have picked up as a result.

PrimevalThuleOf special note is Primeval Thule.  This setting book from Sasquatch Game Studio (the creative team behind D&D’s Princes of the Apocalypse) is available in both Pathfinder and 13th Age versions.  So while the sales of those books are included in their respective lines above, it’s worth noting that if the Primeval Thule setting was listed as its own game line, it would have ranked at #19.  Similarly the Dragon Kings book, a completely system-free setting book which is a spiritual descendant of Dark Sun (from one of the original designers of that setting) just barely missed the chart at #22.

Looking ahead, I expect the Star Wars Force and Destiny rulebook release might potentially threaten Pathfinder’s hold on the #2 spot.  I doubt it will actually break through, but it might be close.  The second End of the World  book, Wrath of the Gods will give that game a boost, although it’s unlikely it will reach the heights that Zombie Apocalypse reached, although with Cthulhu on the cover, even that’s not certain.  (Not to mention, is there room for two Cthulhu Apocalypse RPGs?  Pelgrane’s Cthlulhu Apocalyse for Trail of Cthulhu is will probably be out before the end of September as well.)  Finally, if Cubicle 7 manages to release Horse-Lords of Rohan in Q3, The One Ring might see a massive influx of new players as the fan favorite Rohirrim enter the game as a playable culture.

Until next time,

-Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff.  For those keeping score at home, RPG Sales at Games and Stuff are up 29.3% over this time last year. But August of 2014 was the release of the D&D Player’s Handbook, so NEXT quarter is when those year-on-year numbers will be interesting.