Purple Pawn 2012 Game Industry Survey

The ever-interesting Purple Pawn has published its 2012 Game Industry Survey of retailers, publishers, and distributors. The link to the actual pdf report is in the above article, but the highlights from my perspective are:

  • Pathfinder is outselling Dungeons & Dragons by a significant margin
  • There are a ton of one-and-two-man game companies out there
  • The larger companies are doing better, as a group, than the smaller ones
  • Distributors are like the Federal Reserve. Seems like they print their own money. 🙂
Read the whole survey; it’s fascinating stuff.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

8 thoughts on “Purple Pawn 2012 Game Industry Survey

  1. I'm surprised by how much Paizo is outselling D&D. In my mind, this without a doubt shows that 4E was not the success Hasbro was hoping it would be. If WotC (Hasbro) had done it right, they should have called it D&D Tactics or something similar and kept with 3.x and evolving there. I guess that's what DDN is? We can all stand by our favorite editions – 1E myself – but sales numbers tell you what the players want.

    Personally, I'm thrilled WotC released PDFs of all the 1E material. The only downside is that some of them were not done very well with margins getting clipped, particularly with U1.

    ADD in hardcover, now that has me intrigued.

  2. I don't think the D&D sales slump should be a huge surprise. WOTC announced the Next playtest in January 2012 killing off any new interest in 4E, then put out all of four 4E D&D products in 2012, so there wasn't much new to sell to the existing playerbase. It will be interesting to see how things go when D&D goes on sale again next year.

  3. Apparently it's not so much a slump as a firm and continuing trend, Blacksteel. This has been the pattern since long before they announced DnDNext. 4E just doesn't seem to be cutting the mustard, sales-wise.

  4. I find it interesting that Pathfinder outsold WotC 2 to 1…but Pathfinder also releases 4-8 products a month to WotC's 1-2.

  5. Paizo says they knew PF had passed up D&D at the end of 2010, and that continued thru 2011, then WOTC threw in the towel at the beginning of 2012. So, slump or trend they were head to head for 1-2 years where PF pulled ahead. None of these reports can include Paizo's direct sales (including their AP subscriptions) or WOTC's DDI revenue, so they're based on some seriously incomplete information, but I don't think there's any doubt about who's ahead.

    I think WOTC publicly announcing that they were doing a new edition less than four years into 4th edition indicated 4E was disappointing sales-wise, far more so than a survey published a year later. I'm not sure this tells us anything new.

    Regardless, I think this gap between editions is the reason for the PDF's and hardcover reprints we're seeing now and that's a good thing for fans of the older material. 4E's failure to meet expectations should also give us a new version that's more to the taste of more D&D players. Let's hope some lessons have been learned.

  6. 4E didn't live up to expectations and has been abandoned. The numbers in this report tell me that the 3.x brand is strong rather than that the Dungeons & Dragons brand is weak. The current brain trust at Wizards is on the right path, but unfortunately the path is through a mined field. The current promise is that D&D will be modular and every option will be open to every player. If this can be accomplished, then that is great. If Wizards can espouse universalism rather than preaching the "one true way," then the game can overcome something that has been an obstacle since the 70s. However, there are several obstacles–three of which immediately come to mind: First, the risk of generating confusion must be minimized. How do we know with certainty what rules are in and what rules are out. Are the rules chapters literally going to be modular in the sense that they will either go into or be removed from a three-ring binder or some equivalent? Will we see something in the form of a "Milieu record sheet" for every campaign that a dungeonmaster creates from this point forward? Second, once the player-oriented rules are made modular, how do the creators-that-be intend to make adventures/campaigns/settings that can adapt to the choices made for the milieu? Let's say an adventure is set for 5th level and anticipates a Vancian system of magic. If the group prefers a spell point or even an unlimited casting system, then one would suspect that all you have to do is remove one and insert the other. But what if that adventure is full of evil NPC spellchuckers? If there's enough of them, your challenge ratings are just shot to hell (unless we decide to say to hell with balance and let the environment and the player's resourcefulness provide the balance). Finally, can the creators-that-be back away from generating endless quantities of Player Character-centric rules that are trendy one month and just so much kipple the next? There is so much that Wizards could have done to improve the game that hasn't been done because there was too much focus on making a new splatbook. What about aerial combat. Sad to say, but the abysmally rough-around-the-edges original rules treated aerial combat much more thoroughly than 3.x merely by referring PCs and DMs to Mike Carr's "Fight in the Skies." And those rules would appeal to everyone who might potentially participate in aerial combat. Also, the focus on splatbooks is painfully shortsighted. Much more material needs to be generated for DMs. Players will always outnumber DMs, but without DMs, there can be no players. DMs are the proselytizers; they are the first wave of marketers for the industry. The company needs to make good products for DMs, and it needs to make a product that will make a prospective DM want to be a DM. And every adventure/adventure path/campaign/setting needs to provide the DM with the equipment to provide the player with a well-rounded experience. Unfortunately, this almost never happens. There has never been a product that meets this goal perfectly. By far, the closest anyone has ever come is Carl Sargent with WFRP's "Power Behind the Throne." Ironically, all the hard things were done superbly in that product, while all the easy stuff was sorely neglected.

  7. Without admitting their mistake, the folks at WOTC have acknowledged it. Now they have to fix it. And we have to wait to see if they did. And if they did, they need to do it in an obvious way. I loved AD&D when I first picked it up and never looked back at the Basic or the original stuff because they didn't have what I expected from the game. I liked the idea of second edition, but at the tender age of seventeen, I scoffed at the idea of spending so much money to fill a three-ring binder full of rules one expansion at a time for my monster manual, and I remained satisfied with my old stuff (and strayed off to WFRP and GURPS for nearly a decade). I initially scoffed at third edition, but I liked the new rules (though not necessarily the new art) and gave it a try. And I loved it–the only problem was unlearning some old conventions. When Fourth edition came out, it took me all of thirty seconds to hate it, and the forty-five minute second chance that I gave it didn't help anything. Of course, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't give 4E a fair chance, but I think you'll recognize that I didn't have to.

    WOTC needs to just take its time and work its way through all this. It has sufficient talent cooling its heels at the office and plenty of potential freelancers over at Paizo. If it figures out how to achieve all of the above stated goals with a product for beginners and then follows with solid core rules, then I might just be persuaded to leave 3.x behind.

    Finally, we don't know if WOTC really cares about Pathfinder's dominance of the roleplaying field. If I'm reading this report right, all we see here are reports of gross sales of physical product. The Dungeons and Dragons line was full of bad products last year, and it got half the market share Pathfinder did. I'm not surprised by that. This year, the product line is incredibly lean and it's holding steady. If I were WOTC, I would be incredibly pleased with the Dungeons & Dragons line, all things considered (Pathfinder appears to have dropped a point). What WOTC needs to worry about is what the hell is happening with Magic–it's on top, but it's share is plummeting.

    Dungeons and Dragons is still a big operation with a really big company that is willing to carry it through the hard times. It has the resources to fix its mistakes and spread the news to the world when it finally does. It also holds title to settings like Greyhawk and other copyrighted materials that are near and dear to my heart. D&D is fixable. The question is whether it actually gets fixed this time around. Since I've been a fan of the odd-numbered editions up until now, I'm crossing my fingers. And if it doesn't happen, I still have all my old books….

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