Monday, July 20, 2015

Whither Gaming?

ICv2 has released its quarterly update about the hobby gaming market.  But this one also comes with articles about their yearly market survey.  They estimate that the total hobby games market climbed to $880 million in sales a year in 2014.  They updated their methodology and reestimated the 2013 market at $735 million.  For those of you that haven't already done the mind-blowing math in your head, that means that the market as a whole has grown 20% in one year.

The figures are also broken down into 5 sub-categories: collectible games, miniatures, board games, card and dice games, and roleplaying games.  My interest is, naturally, on roleplaying games.  But, we'll take a look at the miniatures numbers as well.  Although its the smallest of the 5 categories, roleplaying games had the best growth with a 67% increase in sales.  That's wonderful news for roleplayers out there--for every dollar that was being spent on gaming in 2013, $1.67 is being spent today.

I went ahead and ordered a copy of the full report, which is fascinating.  It's got an article called "D&D Juggernaut Rolls On As Pathfinder Slides."  One retailer recounts that Pathfinder had a 75% market share in the RPG market in the dark 4th Edition days and that in the last year Pathfinder has lost 75% of its sales to 5E.  I'm not going to list the total sales amount in the RPG category (ICv2 has not posted that figure online, so I'll leave it as a secret).  But, that reduces Pathfinder's sales from 75% of the market to only 19%.  The bulk of the sales (which are also the majority of sales in the roleplaying games category overall) have gone not just from Pathfinder but from Pathfinder to 5E.

Fortunately, continuing to hold on to nearly 20% of a market that's grown by 67% is still pretty good.  But, how has the market shifted amongst the roleplaying games?  We know that D&D and Pathfinder remain the two best sellers in the category.  But, this is where some of the other information from the report comes in.  The report also notes that growth in the miniatures category was 0%.  So, people are spending the same amount of money on minis for their RPGs that they were spending in 2013.  But, D&D and Pathfinder are RPGs that focus on players using miniatures.  So, it seems odd that those two games would be doing well but that miniatures sales are flat.

A few possibilities present themselves.  Maybe people are changing editions from 3.5/Pathfinder/4th and therefore they already have a lot of miniatures.  If you're going to make the investment to purchase a new edition's Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, maybe you don't have cash to throw out on minis.  Or maybe 5E and Pathfinder are cannibalizing against each other and the growth in the RPG title overall is in other systems.  Numenera had a good run and Green Ronin's AGE system are popular--and neither of them require minis.  I'm thinking that maybe the growth we are seeing is not growth in just the big guys, but roleplaying games in general getting more popular?