I’ve been asked at panels, on social media and in person about the effect of D&D 5th Edition on 13th Age. The concern is that 5e will negatively affect 13th Age sales is also averred to in this excellent review of the 13th Age Bestiary over at Geek Native. Won’t the new version of 5th Edition have an impact on your sales? My answer is, I sincerely hope so.
When D&D 5e came out, I held my breath. How good would it be? Would it upset people? Would it divide the market? D&D has to be vanilla. I mean that in the best possible way – it has to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible. It was an extraordinarily difficult brief, but Mike Mearls and his team did it. It’s a great game, and there is no noticeable division amongst players of previous versions.
sD&D is the pioneer, with the sales muscle of a big corporation behind it; it’s the category brand, the market leader, the gateway drug. If D&D succeeds, RPGs succeed. (I’m putting aside the special case of Pathfinder for this article, which I might discuss another time). As the co-founder of ProFantasy Software, I am keenly aware that sales of Campaign Cartographer 3 depend on the size of the roleplaying game market – really – the number of tabletop gamers. And we are all D&D players, from the Forge to the OSR. There may well be some churn between different RPGs, but nothing that affects us. The only table-top RPG non-roleplayers can name is D&D.
But this leaves room, more than room, for the distinctive quirkiness of 13th Age and other similar games in the category. D&D can’t speak in the voice of the individual designers, push ideas to the edge of too far, or even irritate reviewers with informal language. But there is room for games which do. I do like the idea that 13th Age is, in some way, a serious competitor to D&D. Hah – we are a pimple on the buttock of their enormous sales! The theory assumes we are talking about a static market, and that 5e is taking share from other RPGs – absolutely not.
What a succesful D&D 5e does is increase the number of gamers.
13th Age appeals to a certain percentage of gamers.We hope that it will continue to appeal to a growing percentage of gamers. However, with D&D 5e a big success and the market getting larger – we don’t have to appeal to a growing percentage gamers. Tiny companies can’t do much to increate market size. Market leaders can. If we appeal to the same percentage of gamers, we will still be selling an increasing number of copies. As it happens, we are doing both.
So in answer to the premise D&D versus 13th Age, who wins?