Friday, March 16, 2018

The Golden Age Goes to 11

On Tuesday, March 13th, at the GAMA Trade Show, WotC announced that D&D 6e won’t be coming out any time soon.

Ok, that was not an official announcement. What they officially said was that 2017 was the biggest year for D&D ever. That they sold more copies of the 5e PHB in 2017 than they did the year it came out. That Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was the fastest selling product (I believe the word was “product” and not “book”) in D&D history.

In short, they’ve no reason right now to invest in a new edition. Everything is coming up roses (or, at least, as close to roses as things get for the publisher of D&D).

They also mentioned that Hoard of the Dragon Queen has been printed seven times (or was that seven reprints?). Reprints can be a mark of how badly a publisher predicts the popularity of a book as much as its popularity, but seven seems pretty large regardless.

Some other numbers they tossed out: 38% of all D&D players identify as female. 40% of all D&D players are college age or younger.

I don’t trust those percentages because I’m pretty sure they come from those polls they link to on their web site, so it’s very much a not-scientific poll. That said, it doesn’t appear they need to retool the game to appeal to a broader audience.

They blame live-streaming games like Acquisitions Incorporated and people publishing videos of themselves playing on Twitch. (More numbers they tossed out: over half of new players were inspired to play the game because they saw a live-streamed game.) Again, not entirely sure I buy it, but I also don’t have a more likely suggestion. (It would mean that another piece of conventional wisdom, that there’s nothing more boring than watching other people play D&D, has just been gored to death by reality. So that’s amusing to me.)

Now, admittedly, the GAMA Trade Show is where manufacturers and distributers are wooing stores to carry their product. Everyone’s going to paint as rosy a picture as they can. But everyone’s talking the same thing. The folks at Gale Force Nine talk about how spell cards are flying off the shelf. Folks at Monte Cook Games talk about how sales for Numenera and No Thank You Evil are rising. Numenera is a 5 year old game. That’s ancient for an RPG. It should be deep into its shrinking long-tail assuming it has one. Instead, they’re doing everything they can to reassure everyone that Numenera Discovery and Destiny are not a new edition. In normal times, they’d be at the point in the lifecycle where a new edition would make a lot of sense, assuming they wanted to keep the IP alive. Outfits that haven’t published RPGs before, like Renegade Game Studios, are getting into the market. Renegade is mostly known for family-style games like Clank! and The Fox in the Forest. This year they’re releasing three RPGs: the second edition of Outbreak: Undead, the Stranger Things inspired Kids on Bikes, and the high-concept Overlight.

But it’s the attitudes and interests of the retailers that is really telling. One couple told me their store went from sometimes having a Wednesday RPG group to having at least one group nearly every night. I saw another get excited when he learned that Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle Earth was written for 5e. If it’s compatible with D&D 5e, he wants it in his store.

Are we about to kill another bit of long-held conventional wisdom: that the boom days of the late-‘70s and early-‘80s are never to return? I don’t think it’s going to be that good, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. We keep talking about it being a Golden Age for RPGers. Maybe we’ll soon need to be talking about a Platinum Age?


JB said...

I don't think they were all just blowing smoke. Tabletop gaming DOES seem to be up, at least in my neck of the woods, and it's due to a LOT of factors. It's a very interesting development.

Also, 5E has apparently burst the Pathfinder bubble (they, at least, ARE coming out with a 2nd edition...though it may not be enough to save 'em).

I have a lot of thoughts on the subject Let's just call it "promising."

trollsmyth said...

JB: oh, I absolutely do not think they were blowing smoke. I can understand why some might think that, but when everyone's telling the same tale, both publishers and retailers, you're almost certainly on the right path.

I'm not sure I agree with their assumptions about the causes and I question some of the details, but I believe WotC when they say they sold more PHBs in '17 than they did in the first 12 month's of 5e's launch.

Interesting tidbit: it appears that Starfinder outsold Pathfinder last year.

JB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JB said...

RE Starfinder

I've actually heard that, too, from multiple (retailer) sources. Also heard there was some discussion (or "call") for Paizo to make Starfinder into their flagship product now that 5E has been beating the pants off Pathfinder, but there was a lot of resistance from the mucky-mucks who actually started the biz.

Down with the ship, I guess.

trollsmyth said...

JB: They're doing a 2nd edition of Pathfinder. Got to play an early version of it at GTM. The changes are good; the game plays faster and it makes spellcasting a LOT more interesting.

Still not my cup of tea, but if you enjoy that multi-page character sheet that makes planning your character's advancement a sort of solitaire mini-game, Pathfinder is probably still going to be your game of choice. Now, whether that's a horse they can keep riding or not, I can't say, but judging by the suite they used to demo their game at GST, they ain't in danger of vanishing in a hole of debt any time soon.

JB said...

Depends on how they paid for the suite.
; )

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