Q4 2016. Post-holiday wrap-up.

Hi there!
I’m pleased to say I’m a little late getting this End-of-Year update posted because Games and Stuff had a phenomenal fourth quarter, December especially. Which is to say nothing of the many sorta secret projects that are currently occupying my time, some of which I hope to be able to talk about soon. Suffice to say, it’s been a busy eight weeks or so.

So anyway, Games and Stuff actually ended our year with the RPG department having greater sales than 2014, which for those of you keeping score at home, was the year that the current edition of D&D was released. Better RPG sales than a D&D launch year? I’ll take it!

So! Onto the rankings. Top 20 RPG lines by dollar volume for the period of October through December 2016 at Games and Stuff:

  1. Dungeons and Dragons (Q3 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q3 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q3 Rank #4)
  4. Shadowrun (Q3 Rank #3)
  5. Call of Cthulhu (Q3 Rank #5)
  6. The One Ring (Q3 Rank #7)
  7. Traveller (Q3 Rank #20)
  8. Warhammer 40,000 (Q3 Rank #6)
  9. White Wolf 
  10. Call of Catthulhu 
  11. Through the Breach (Q3 Rank #9)
  12. Timewatch
  13. 7th Sea (Q3 Rank #10)
  14. Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q3 Rank #11)
  15. Iron Kingdoms 
  16. Fantasy Age 
  17. End of the World (Q3 Rank #13)
  18. Dresden Files 
  19. Lamentations of the Flame Princess (Q3 Rank #8)
  20. Fiasco 

So let’s dive in.
Spots #1-4, yeah yeah, no surprises there, although the success of the rules-light version of Shadowrun, Shadowrun Anarchy* may have the legs to give Star Wars a run for the money in the coming months, that’s if (and that’s a big IF) the game takes off to the point where folks are picking up Shadowrun 5th edition books to support their Anarchy games with source material.
Meanwhile the gap between spots 1 and 2 is widening. Bolstered by third party products like Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth* and Kobold’s Tome of Beasts, D&D was tracking at about three times the sales of Pathfinder for November and December. And that hobby-store exclusive cover for Volo’s Guide was nothing to sneeze at either.

The new 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu continues to sell, and with new products (like Pulp Cthulhu) coming out at a steady pace, good ol’ COC may find itself in the Top 10 for a while. The new edition is really good. It finally looks and feels like a modern game, and not a nostalgia driven relic. We also saw some nice bumps to Cubicle 7’s Cthulhu Britannica* stuff as a result of the success of 7th Edition. Speaking of which, there’s a ton of support out there for Cthulhu. Much like D&D, there’s all sorts of third-party stuff out there to support the COC line. In addition to the aforementioned Cthulhu Britannica stuff, Modiphius’s Achtung! Cthulhu uses the same basic rules set as well. Though for purposes of this ranking, Achtung! is not included in the Call of Cthulhu sales figures.
Many flavors of the same thing! Not entirely unlike a vanilla Frosty. But we all know vanilla Frosties are the false prophet of Wendy’s. But I digress.

Traveller. Traveller! I’m not sure if I’ve got a higher than normal percentage of grognard customers, but the new Traveller continues to sell for me. A steady stream of smaller inexpensive supplements, plus the more pricey Central Supply Catalogue, have kept this thing in the Top 10. It’s been a while since a hard science fiction game has really made an impact on the RPG scene, and I’m glad this one’s got some traction. Much like Cthulhu 7E, it’s the first truly modern looking version of the game in, well, ever.
I just wish somebody had talked them out of that $60 Starter Box that’s releasing at some point in the future. That’s $10 more than the Core Rulebook. Starter Box, people, Starter Box. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The death throes of the Warhammer 40K RPGs continue, and as the prices on the secondary market skyrocket, I’m happily selling my piles of stock at full retail to completionists. I think I’ve got one Dark Heresy and one Deathwatch core book left… expect this to drop off the list almost entirely by the time we circle around again in early April.

OK, let’s talk about Call of Cathulhu. I know I’ve mentioned it a few times already here, but let’s be serious. You sell Cthulhu stuff, and I know you sell cat-themed stuff. I cannot undersell just how many of this little thing I’m moving. It flies off the shelves. It’s coming to ACD distribution soon, and it’s available from IPR now. Get on it. You’ll thank me later.
There’s cat dice too. That can totally be sold to anybody that wants unique cat-themed six-siders.

Anything else new and interesting? Well, Timewatch from Pelgrane made a decent showing, though I doubt it will make much more than this splash upon release. That cover art isn’t doing it any favors, but there’s a solid game in there. If we see some support material, it could have some legs.

White Wolf shows up again, thanks to moving a few of the super costly Print-On-Demand volumes during holiday shopping season. If the forthcoming new edition gets something resembling a regular retail distribution deal, things might get interesting…

What else to keep an eye on in the coming months?

7th Sea could make a play for a regular position on the charts if we start seeing some of those supplements come into print.

Through the Breach announced a second edition. Mark those first edition core books (Fated Almanac and Fatemaster’s Almanac) down now! Everything else stays relevant in the new edition.

Starfinder anyone? Sigh. Who the hell knows?
What I will tell you is that Paizo opened up pre-orders for a bunch of titles on their site, so there’s no reason you can’t start taking that money for yourself.

Finally, curious about my Top 10 for the year as a whole? No surprises in the Top 5, but I think the next five are noteworthy. All that little stuff adds up people.

  1. Dungeons and Dragons
  2. Pathfinder
  3. Star Wars
  4. Shadowrun
  5. The One Ring
  6. Warhammer 40,000
  7. Call of Cthulhu
  8. Through the Breach
  9. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  10. Dungeon Crawl Classics

Until next time.

*Full disclosure: I am an employee of Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd, and was a contributor on Shadowrun Anarchy from Catalyst Game Labs.

5 thoughts on “Q4 2016. Post-holiday wrap-up.”

  1. My store has struggled with RPG sales, aside from D&D and Star Wars for the last several years. It doesn’t help that not 1, but 3 local bars serve as the home to the cities big RPG groups. However, since bringing in a bunch of titles from IPR, sales have been going up for the department as a whole. D&D is far and away the leader, Star Wars at #2. After that it goes to a bunch of the IPR games, Ryuutama has been very big for us, followed by Schoolgirl the RPG, and lately Dread. I’ve also had some luck with titles like Saga of the Icelanders, Durance, The Warren, and Downfall. Milwaukee as a whole has a long history of being very cliquey since the grand daddy Gen Con packed up for bigger venues, and that is proving a hard habit to break. I am still working to crack that nut though.

  2. Congrats on the improved sales.
    IPR stuff can be a huge boon to the department.
    Have you tried reaching out to those bar groups to see if there’s some sort of co-marketing you guys can do?

  3. I have worked with one of the bars before. As I mentioned before, Milwaukee is very cliquey and it is really hard to get people to step out of their comfort zones. I am hoping to co-sponsor a board game night at one of the local taps, as it is pretty hard to compete space-wise against a place that has food and beer, two things my mall store is not allowed to have.

  4. I was surprised to see that no Cypher System games appeared in the top 20 in Q4, despite MCG having had a number of new releases over the course of the last year. What do you think is driving that trend at your store?

  5. Hi Ryan.
    Monte Cook games, and Numenera in particular are tricky.
    Yeah, there were a lot of gorgeous new Numenera releases in this period, and indeed we were even seeing some regular in-store play, but MCG’s second Numenera Kickstarter really took the juice out of retail sales of all of these titles.
    As long as they don’t go back yet again, to Kickstart more of the line, we should see some sales improvement. The core products sell fine enough, but returning to the well for an established brand is a kick in the pants to retail.

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