[Drivethrurpg] "Most RPG Products Sell Fewer than 50 Copies"

T. Foster

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I’ve got two products up for sale on DriveThruRPG: a real book that I spent several years working on that has sold pretty decently (currently at Silver, edging close to Electrum and would already be there if Lulu sales were included) and a 20 page thing of mostly charts and tables and a couple pages of new rules-content that I created as a table handout but figured since I’d already done the work I might as well make it available to others as well on a PWYW basis. That one seems to have stalled out at about 2 dozen sales, which I wasn’t expecting - I figured since it was so cheap people would grab it for a dollar (or less), but I guess there’s so much of this low-effort PWYW stuff out there that people can’t be bothered even that much. I probably should have just shared it for free on my blog, but oh well. I’ve earned about $30 on it to date, which is probably fair compensation for the amount of work I did on it.
 

Nick J

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I’ve got two products up for sale on DriveThruRPG: a real book that I spent several years working on that has sold pretty decently (currently at Silver, edging close to Electrum and would already be there if Lulu sales were included) and a 20 page thing of mostly charts and tables and a couple pages of new rules-content that I created as a table handout but figured since I’d already done the work I might as well make it available to others as well on a PWYW basis. That one seems to have stalled out at about 2 dozen sales, which I wasn’t expecting - I figured since it was so cheap people would grab it for a dollar (or less), but I guess there’s so much of this low-effort PWYW stuff out there that people can’t be bothered even that much. I probably should have just shared it for free on my blog, but oh well. I’ve earned about $30 on it to date, which is probably fair compensation for the amount of work I did on it.
Whether it's right or wrong, PWYW is usually a big red flag to me that the author thinks this product is borderline dogshit and is perhaps embarrassed to be asking money for it. On balance I'd say that instinct is right about 9 times out of 10, so I've built up a certain sort of immunity to even giving PWYW products a second glance. There have been exceptions to this rule, but not enough to override my gut instincts.
 

T. Foster

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Whether it's right or wrong, PWYW is usually a big red flag to me that the author thinks this product is borderline dogshit and is perhaps embarrassed to be asking money for it. On balance I'd say that instinct is right about 9 times out of 10, so I've built up a certain sort of immunity to even giving PWYW products a second glance. There have been exceptions to this rule, but not enough to override my gut instincts.
Heh. In that case maybe I should add a couple more pages and release a “revised edition” with a flat price tag of $3.00 or whatever to avoid that association and let people know it’s legit, just small.
 
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Doctor Wombat

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I think DM's Guild and all the other DTRPG "community" programmes which seem to operate on exactly the same principle are really just ways for fans to produce stuff for official settings and maybe make a bit of pocket money on the side, instead of just hosting it on an obscure blog post somewhere. Anyone who finds themselves selling more than 50 copies on there should stop and move to another model, whether that's the normal DTRPG store or some other platform.

That makes some sense. If you've already written the material for your home game, it may not be a lot of extra work to give it a little extra polish and put it up for sale. And given the proportion of people playing D&D, probably a lot of that home material is using WotC IP and it would be too much trouble to file the serial numbers off.
 

DeadBob

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Heh. In that case maybe I should add a couple more pages and release a “revised edition” with a flat price tag of $3.00 or whatever to avoid that association and let people know it’s legit, just small.
Personal opinion?

Bundle it with something ese and put it up for $10, then discount it later.

I don't know what it is about the psychology of that pricing, but I get got by it regularly, while I glance right past less expensive items.
 

robertsconley

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Yes I have seen the same numbers, but the problem is that anything published on DM's Guild is locked in forever (as mentioned by robertsconley robertsconley above). The big attraction is access to WotC's D&D settings, which can't be used outside the Guild. So anyone publishing on there professionally is exposing themselves to a significant risk which grows in line with their catalogue. It may be worthwhile as an intro to the scene, or a side-gig to raise visibility, but anyone making a living from RPGs would be ill-advised to put all their eggs in this one basket.
Unless your project absolutely will only work with a specific setting like Forgotten Realms it is a bad deal.
 

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DMs Guild seems to highly incentivize you to use as much WotC content and as little of your own as you can.
 

robertsconley

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Heh. In that case maybe I should add a couple more pages and release a “revised edition” with a flat price tag of $3.00 or whatever to avoid that association and let people know it’s legit, just small.
Or in defense of PWYW that it is meant as a usable teaser for what you write about. Which is the role Blackmarsh is meant to play for my stuff. Except I write slowly and I got sidetracked trying to clean up Judges Guild's mess. But now that I getting closer (one or two months away) to releasing Into the Majestic Fantasy Realm, Blackmarsh will finally play the role it is meant to play as far as being part of a product line.

I had it out so long that it predated the advent of PWYW. But I have a huge mailing list out as a result. So I will see how much of an impact that will be.
 

Ronnie Sanford

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Whether it's right or wrong, PWYW is usually a big red flag to me that the author thinks this product is borderline dogshit and is perhaps embarrassed to be asking money for it. On balance I'd say that instinct is right about 9 times out of 10, so I've built up a certain sort of immunity to even giving PWYW products a second glance. There have been exceptions to this rule, but not enough to override my gut instincts.
I have had the same experience with the same reaction.
 

robertsconley

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DMs Guild seems to highly incentivize you to use as much WotC content and as little of your own as you can.
It is a predatory trap designed to prey on novices in the hope of getting stuff into print for D&D. The only legit use in my opinion of DriveThru's CCP project is to allow people to play with Setting IP that otherwise would never been opened up except through a traditional license. Even then the no-derivative clause has to go. With the no-derivative clause, the CCP setup is tolerable but not ideal.

Yes I have very strong opinions about this along with tilting at this particular windmill for 5 years.
 

ffilz

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Personal opinion?

Bundle it with something ese and put it up for $10, then discount it later.

I don't know what it is about the psychology of that pricing, but I get got by it regularly, while I glance right past less expensive items.
On the flip side, I've picked up a bunch of sub-$5 items, PWYW or priced for a buck or two because they looked remotely interesting.

Granted, PWYW stuff I usually take for free unless I know the author and know it will be worth paying something for, then I pay the suggested price.

Note that I was an active computer user in the heyday of "shareware" which is somewhat what PWYW pricing is. Though I'm pretty sure I've never gone back and paid for a PWYW item after browsing it for free. But then I only ever "registered" one piece of shareware.

While there is certainly a lot of shovelware out there, occasionally I find something that might be classified in that way that is actually useful to me. If YOUR map for a buck speaks to me, I don't care if you toss out a map a week and rarely sell more than a few copies. On the other hand, my collecting these kinds of items tends to be tied to projects such as:

Working on wilderness setup, especially when I was contemplating a West Marches inspired wilderness.

Working on wilderness exploration rules.

Looking for inspirations for Bushido and Cold Iron Samurai Adventures.
 

chuckdee

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Whether it's right or wrong, PWYW is usually a big red flag to me that the author thinks this product is borderline dogshit and is perhaps embarrassed to be asking money for it. On balance I'd say that instinct is right about 9 times out of 10, so I've built up a certain sort of immunity to even giving PWYW products a second glance. There have been exceptions to this rule, but not enough to override my gut instincts.
Conversely not to me. I've gotten a lot of good things PWYW- some even for free that I've gone back and paid for.
 

dragoner

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I have two at copper and silver there. Having just got my 1099 from them, I know I'm $300 in the hole or so, which is fine, I am actually doing this for the rpg scene, it's why my stuff isn't priced that high. However, as we live in a capitalist society, dtrpg forces me to charge so as to get all the benefits of what they offer. I am a big fan of open gaming, for example I just gave another creator permission to use my maps for zero dollars. Often we creators have a little laugh as well that we are just passing around the same $5 because we'll use our earnings to buy stuff on the site.
 

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It is a predatory trap designed to prey on novices in the hope of getting stuff into print for D&D. The only legit use in my opinion of DriveThru's CCP project is to allow people to play with Setting IP that otherwise would never been opened up except through a traditional license. Even then the no-derivative clause has to go. With the no-derivative clause, the CCP setup is tolerable but not ideal.

Yes I have very strong opinions about this along with tilting at this particular windmill for 5 years.
I'm thinking of some of the side quests that are not spelled out in their various published modules or details to fill in the gaps in those. They are very specific and I see low risk and high reward in those particular areas. Waterdeep Dragon Heist has a throw away comment about a side quest for solving problems in the farms. Zero detail. Flesh that out and it's all in Waterdeep. Could it be pulled out and generalized?Probably. Would it be nearly as valuable? no. So solve specific problems in the setting that lots of people are likely to encounter and you could do well there with minimal risk.
 

Winterblight

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It's been a while since I put up anything new on DriveThru, though I hope that will change soon. One thing I've noticed, which others have pointed out, is the sheer amount of uploads. The last time I uploaded something I came back the next day to see if there had been any sales and the front page gleefully told me that there were 137 new products since my last visit. My upload probably only lasted on the front page for a few minutes before being swallowed by the avalanche of content.

Regarding adventures, I don't think any of them have sold more than 50 copies, though one might be closing in on the copper medal. I try to put a bit of effort into my 'shovelware' and one thing I can say for sure is that it outsells adventures by a long shot. Most of my 100 lists have reached the copper or silver medals and one has sailed past the electrum medal and is on its way to gold. While I'm never going to try and make a living out of it, my 'shovelware' pays for my RPG hobby. I'm RPG-neutral :dice:
 

robertsconley

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I'm thinking of some of the side quests that are not spelled out in their various published modules or details to fill in the gaps in those. They are very specific and I see low risk and high reward in those particular areas. Waterdeep Dragon Heist has a throw away comment about a side quest for solving problems in the farms. Zero detail. Flesh that out and it's all in Waterdeep. Could it be pulled out and generalized?Probably. Would it be nearly as valuable? no. So solve specific problems in the setting that lots of people are likely to encounter and you could do well there with minimal risk.
Sounds good and it wouldn't really work creatively any other way. So being able to get any type of return on the effort is a bonus.
 

robertsconley

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It's been a while since I put up anything new on DriveThru, though I hope that will change soon. One thing I've noticed, which others have pointed out, is the sheer amount of uploads. The last time I uploaded something I came back the next day to see if there had been any sales and the front page gleefully told me that there were 137 new products since my last visit. My upload probably only lasted on the front page for a few minutes before being swallowed by the avalanche of content.
My recommendation is that if you have enough of a social media presence to generate 100 sales within a year, it is likely you will find the hobby time spent doing this to be worthwhile.

The trick at our level of publishing is to gather patrons who like what we are doing. But to do that they have to know what we are about. And for that we have to use social media at first (blog, facebook (ugh where my damn G+ google!), reddit, and of course forums) to share stuff to let folks know.
 

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Sounds good and it wouldn't really work creatively any other way. So being able to get any type of return on the effort is a bonus.
The problems I'm talking about are everywhere in WotC products. Lots of things where you go: What's appropriate here? Why is there no wandering monster table on half the levels in Dungeon of the Mad Mage? Would someone pay $1-$5 to solve a bunch of those issues? Yeah I bet a few would because it's just handy and costs less than a coffee.
 

AppleJax

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It is a predatory trap designed to prey on novices in the hope of getting stuff into print for D&D. The only legit use in my opinion of DriveThru's CCP project is to allow people to play with Setting IP that otherwise would never been opened up except through a traditional license. Even then the no-derivative clause has to go. With the no-derivative clause, the CCP setup is tolerable but not ideal.

Yes I have very strong opinions about this along with tilting at this particular windmill for 5 years.
Even then, I don't think these settings are worth comprising your creativity for.

Forgotten Realms is so generic that it's unnecessary to make something only compatible with it, especially when you can use OGL. You want to use yuan-ti, slaad, beholders, or whatever? You can make your own substitutes or use ones that somebody else already made and released under OGL (google "Iconic Bestiary: Classics of Fantasy" for an example).

Storyteller's Vault is just completely unnecessary and strangles all creativity within dark fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror rpgs. Which is ironic, because that setting not only takes copious influence from public domain sources but also liberally rips off works still under copyright like Interview with the Vampire, Necroscope, and 3×3 Eyes. Do you want your vampires to grow more powerful with age and not be restricted by how many steps removed they are from the first vampire? Then you're screwed, because that's the only option you have and if you ignore it then the fans will rip your head off for daring to defy their religious dogma. As much as I love to complain about D&Disms and sacred cows, D&D doesn't hold a candle to that sterile consumerist abomination.
 

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My recommendation is that if you have enough of a social media presence to generate 100 sales within a year, it is likely you will find the hobby time spent doing this to be worthwhile.

The trick at our level of publishing is to gather patrons who like what we are doing. But to do that they have to know what we are about. And for that we have to use social media at first (blog, facebook (ugh where my damn G+ google!), reddit, and of course forums) to share stuff to let folks know.
One of these days I will get on the social media bandwagon - my entire social media presence vanished when G+ closed its doors.
 

Vile Traveller

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Whether it's right or wrong, PWYW is usually a big red flag to me that the author thinks this product is borderline dogshit and is perhaps embarrassed to be asking money for it.
I did put my BLUEHOLME™ Prentice Rules quickstart on DTRPG as PWYW, mainly because I'd heard DTRPG didn't like you putting your first product up for free (in case that's all you ever did, and they're in the business of charging commission). Not sure if it has put anyone off, I should probably put it down to free one of these days. I mean, it's only been 10 years. :tongue:

EDIT: Oh, I just noticed that BLUEHOLME™ Journeymanne Rules is Gold. I wonder if it's get to Platinum before WotC has it taken down?
 
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Nick J

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I did put my BLUEHOLME™ Prentice Rules quickstart on DTRPG as PWYW, mainly because I'd heard DTRPG didn't like you putting your first product up for free (in case that's all you ever did, and they're in the business of charging commission). Not sure if it has put anyone off, I should probably put it down to free one of these days. I mean, it's only been 10 years. :tongue:

EDIT: Oh, I just noticed that BLUEHOLME™ Journeymanne Rules is Gold. I wonder if it's get to Platinum before WotC has it taken down?
This would be one of those 10th case out of 10 situations for me that violates my general rule. Again, I don't even think I'm being fair, but with so much crap to sift through on DTRPG, I've winnowed things down to a select group of authors and game publishers where I'm willing to go against my intincts.
 

Burgonet

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Fifty copies?? THAT MANY?

It’s about a dozen book sales for at least half the novels written each year, a sad fact that came out during the recent attempted mega-merger, and anti-trust case, before the US courts.

So take heart, that’s quadruple the amount of the average number of novels sold each month!
Seriously, anyone who still thinks creatives do this ‘for the money’ need to have their head examined.
As I often joke, “if I was in it for the money, I’d have become an arms dealer thirty years ago”.
 

migo

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Fifty copies?? THAT MANY?

It’s about a dozen book sales for at least half the novels written each year, a sad fact that came out during the recent attempted mega-merger, and anti-trust case, before the US courts.

So take heart, that’s quadruple the amount of the average number of novels sold each month!
Seriously, anyone who still thinks creatives do this ‘for the money’ need to have their head examined.
As I often joke, “if I was in it for the money, I’d have become an arms dealer thirty years ago”.
Is that mean, median or mode? I imagine some sit at zero, what is the spread?
 

Burgonet

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Is that mean, median or mode? I imagine some sit at zero, what is the spread?
I’d have to do a bit of hunting to find the relevant articles.
But the case has demonstrated that there is a strong disconnect between what publishers think will do well in the reading market, and what readers actually want to read.
 

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Creating stuff and sharing it is practically the essence of this hobby. Whether one does the sharing commercially or just for kicks is a personal choice.

I've chosen to share my stuff for free. Partly because I believe in the hobby sharing ethos (Fudge was concieved as a free system and my stuff is Fudge-based), partly because I don't want the hassle of running a mini-business on the side.

I am pretty sure if my stuff were on Drivethru even with just price tag, they'd be way under the 50 download mark. A free stuff, they have enjoyed a much wider audience. These are rough estimates based on what Wordpress analytics tell me of my most downloaded games.

Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wastelands (2014) 3500 downloads​
Cyberblues City (2015) 2000 downloads​
Lawmen v Outlaws (2018) 500 downloads​

Obivously not eveyone who downloads the game actually plays it, over even reads it.

So overall I am happy with my choice. I was never going to give up my day job either way. Kudos though to all those who are able to make their hobby als provide into a decent, secondary income stream. It's not easy.
Hi man. It might be off topic, but I wanted to mention that I have found BHAW - Fate edition few months ago, and ran a one shot last month. Its a very cool game, and everyone liked it. So big thanks to you for your free but awesome stuff.
 

FreeGamer

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Worse
Summarizing in Section 4 of the license that the DM's Guild uses



The bolded words means even if you strip your content of Wizard's IP, you can't use your original content outside of the DM's Guild. It is predatory in the extreme.

However, I have made progress in getting OBS to remove those damn words from their boilerplate license they use for the other CCP. It not done yet as each program has to decide to change its license. So only Modiphus 2d20 program and Genesys Foundry have fixed it.


Another thing that heartens me in the midst of whatever's going on now. I like that some companies have looked at the current WotC situation and decided to be proactive in looking over their own ongoing licenses in order to change/remove things that could cause similar problems.
 

robertsconley

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Exactly, you like GURPS :shade:
Nice! :grin:
I kid, I kid. But Rob is 100% right, what rule set someone likes and what they consider crap is incredibly subjective.
I will concede this. Maybe it isn't Sturgeon's Law 90% but looking over Metal Levels and tallying their percentages it comes to 41.05% of products there have over 50 sales. Knowing that free products are not counted let's assume that 41% of free products and PWYV products likewise are not crap. So we can assert that at least 50% of RPG products sold on DriveThruRPG are probably crap having less than 50 sales or downloads.

As a side note, the only way to guess how many products there are on DriveThruRPG is to use the price range search. I set it from .25 cents to $10,000 and it listed 136,272 products. Easier to find from the front page searches reveal that are 12,541 free products and 10,819 PWYW products. For a total 159,632 works listed on DriveThruRPG.

Also while we are on the topic, 31, 049 are third-party listings on the DM's Guild.

If folks are interested I can list more categories.
 

Akrasia

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Those numbers are somewhat misleading, as it does not account for titles sold via other venues, such as lulu, amazon, and the publisher‘s own website.

Yeah, in the case of Mythras TDM have their own store for books and PDFs. And their books are printed at Lulu (which are of higher quality than those printed by DTRPG). I wouldn't be surprised if those sales equal or exceed those via DTRPG.
 

BedrockBrendan

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Those numbers are somewhat misleading, as it does not account for titles sold via other venues, such as lulu, amazon, and the publisher‘s own website.

This is something that I think a lot of people don't realize. For example I don't sell any of my print books on Drivethru. They are available on other platforms, but I hear from folks all the time who seem to think none of our stuff is in print because they don't see the print up at Drivethru.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
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