The Business of RPGs
The Role of Market
Business Manager, Tabletop Roleplaying Games
we formed the Roleplaying Games (RPG) Brand Management team several years
ago, we took a hard look at our sales trends to determine what caused
the declining revenues that led to the near-demise of TSR, Inc. We discovered
several surprising things, but perhaps the most significant was that our
customers -- you -- were unhappy with the direction our products
were taking. We had been designing products for us, not for you, blissfully
unaware of how that affected our sales.
thats not so hard to fix, right? We could just start designing the
products that you want to buy. That seems easy enough.
Though we realized you were unhappy, we still didnt know what you
wanted. Millions of people played our games, but we had regular contact
with less than 40,000 of them. How could we find out what the majority
of our fans really wanted?
where market research came in. The first step was a large study we conducted
in 1999 to assess our overall customer base. This study collected information
on 67,176 individuals and chose a sampling of 896 people to complete a
more in-depth survey on their gaming interests and behavior. Among other
findings, we learned that:
- 3% of the U.S.
population between the ages of 12 and 35 (approximately 2.8 million
people) play paper-based tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs) at least
once per month.
- 59% of monthly
TRPG players (approximately 1.65 million) play Dungeons & Dragons
at least once per month.
first tidbits confirmed for us that we had a much larger customer base
than we were actually reaching. With approximately 1.65 million D&D
players out there, we should have been seeing much higher sales. We definitely
needed to make some changes to bring the company back to health!
immediately, we had to find a way to appeal to the people who were playing
our games but not purchasing any products. Unfortunately, we had no established
line of communication with those customers. Thus, we started an advertising
campaign in several mass-market magazines (including Maxim); we
also created a "reengagement" strategy to bring those players
back into our stores and make them care about our product lines again.
This strategy included the creation of our upcoming Wheel
of Time RPG, since research showed that lapsed customers were
very interested in that brand.
also revealed that:
- 46% of D&D
players (approximately 759,000) have acted as DM at least twice.
- Dungeon Masters
spend five times more money on TRPGs than do players.
information told us our key customers were Dungeon Masters, and that to
keep our business strong we should provide products that appeal to them.
When we followed up with smaller studies, we learned that DMs specifically
wanted tools to help them develop their own campaigns, and material they
could easily adapt for their existing games, rather than detailed worlds
and intricate storylines.
we discovered that TRPG players prefer games that offer the following
- Strong characters
and exciting story.
- Opportunity for
- Complexity that
increases over time.
- Involvement of
- Use of imagination.
- Add-on sets or
new versions available.
- Mental challenge.
we had to figure out how to ensure that all of our products offered each
of these elements to some degree. Our product lines already contained
most of these elements. We just had to try to emphasize them more. This
meant highlighting the increasing complexity (level advancement and options),
strategic elements (returning to grid and miniatures in combat), and competition
(through RPGA). We also realized that D&D itself did not offer
enough in the way of strong characters or stories, relying instead on
campaign settings for these elements. In response, we created the iconic
characters and adventure path for the core D&D game.
this first market research report, we crafted the first draft of our current
RPG business plan, which outlined how many products our customers wanted
to buy each year, how much they wanted to spend, what they wanted those
products to be about, and how we could make the overall RPG experience
more engaging and satisfying for them. Since then, we have done two more
in-depth studies, more than 25 customer response card surveys, and countless
convention and web surveys. Now, each time we receive more data, we reevaluate
our strategies and make any changes necessary to ensure the satisfaction
of the largest number of consumers possible.
like to participate in future market research surveys, visit the Wizards
of the Coast booth at Origins and Gen
Con, and watch this website for upcoming polls.
you catch last months Business of RPGs article?
Find out why life just got tougher in the new Realms.