I was over at EN World this morning and ran across a post that I think sums up the problem with the entire RPG industry. Here’s the choice bit:
Wow. Of my seven players, only three have even the PHB (and one is my husband). The rest just downloaded the SRD. It isn’t that they can’t afford it, and it isn’t that they don’t like spending money on their hobbies. Heck, they all have multiple sets of dice, custom dice bags, fancy leather or cloth bound players journals, etc. But no PHB
Certainly none of them would ever buy a setting book. One of them might conceivably buy a players guide to X class if he got really obsessed with his current PC.
I think this is entirely typical. Sure, there may be 3 million people playing a roleplaying game every month, but how many of them are actual consumers? You’d think WotC could sell at least 3 million Player’s Handbooks but the real number is closer to 700,000. And Dragon, the official you-can’t-this-material-anywhere-else magazine of Dungeons & Dragons sells somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 copies an issue. The number of gamers who will even buy a third party d20 product is even smaller. I’d guess less than 20,000 people regularly buy d20 books and look how many books come out per month.
When I was at WotC trying to get miniatures going, some of the business guys would always throw their market research numbers in the face of my team. “According to our research, only 400,000 people are miniatures gamers,” they’d say, “while up to 5 million are roleplaying gamers.”
I would respond, “Yes, well those 400,000 gamers spend enough money to make Games Workshop alone a 150 million dollar company, while your 5 million roleplayers will generate 15 million for WotC on a very good year.”
In short, we need to find a way to get every player of an RPG to at least get the core book or a player’s guide of some sort. Or start making dice bags, I guess.