Which is the best genre to begin writing in?
What genre offers the best chance for success?
How does an indie writer breaking into the TTRPG industry settle on a genre?
I can answer these questions with a single sentence. The best genre for you is the one you enjoy the best!
You will always write better when you like what you are writing about. The audience will like it more because they’ll pick up on the joy and energy in the pros. This article isn’t meant to tell you what TTRPG genre you should write in. It’s meant to offer insight into the market. It’s meant to help you formulate a strategy based on the advantages and challenges within each genre.
I’ll be taking a high-level look at the trends found within the various TTRPG genres. Each genre will get its own deep dive. There is simply too much data to compress into a single article. Here, I’ll focus on facts and figures found within the TTRPG market across all genres.
Note: I have left the Miscellaneous category off this list. It will get its own article, but the data found within that group was too widely varied. The outliers through off my analysis. If you’re interested in learning more about how I collected my data and the type of information I was looking for, you can read about this process in my article, Gauging the TTRPG Market.
If you want to know more about where I got the data from and how I collected it, check out my article “Gauging the TTRPG Market”. In it, I also describe the project as a whole and the other types of trends I’ve found.
What Is the Most Popular TTRPG Genre?
When preparing for this research, I contacted TTRPG indie game designers. I asked about the type of information they wanted. Genre came up again and again. Designers wanted to know how popular their genre was. They wanted to know what genre they should start writing in. They wanted to know how much money could be found within each genre.
Unfortunately, gauging popularity can be a murky task. What measure do we use to determine popularity? Does the size of a TTRPG genre paint an accurate picture?
Examining volume alone can be a little misleading. The charts titled “TTRPG Genre Size” indicates the numbers of titles within each genre and what percentage each genre makes up of the total inventory. A quick glance would lead you to believe fantasy drastically out ranks the other genres. However, other factors need to be considered.
This data details the total number of titles available on DriveThruRPG, but that marketplace has been around since 2001. If you’re trying to understand trends over 22 years, then this data fits the bill. If you’re trying to understand where the market is today, looking solely at volume within each genre falls short.
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What TTRPG genre sells the best?
One way to judge the popularity of a TTRPG genre is to examine sales vs volume. To this end, I examined a sample of the top 1000 products within each genre. Though this isn’t a look at the total catalog, we can see many consistent trends across genres. This also helps balance out the effect the back long has in some of these genres.
Clearly, Fantasy is still a powerhouse, but the gulf between fantasy and the other genres isn’t quite so vast. Science Fiction is catching up quite nicely. The discrepancy between the total volume and the performance of the top titles tells an interesting story.
Fantasy controls 31% of the sales made by the top-performing titles. Which is respectable but noticeably smaller than the total volume, 39%. This underlines why volume on its own makes a poor data point. Family Gaming makes up 6% of the sales, while its volume across the catalog represents only 1% of the available titles. That is a huge difference.
What games are flying off the shelves?
How quickly do titles grow in popularity? Do some TTRPG genres sell faster than others? How does tracking the rate of growth help you build a marketing strategy?
To answer these questions, we need to first settle on what we consider rapid growth. I started by defining 5 ranges.
- 1 Month
- 2 to 6 Months
- 6 Months to One Year
- 1 to 5 Years
- over 5 years
Obviously, hitting the top 1000 titles list within 1 month is fast. Only 8% of the total 6000 titles manage this feat. Given how few titles fall into this category, I figure this is worth considering “Very Fast”. So the question remains, how many genres produce high-performing books within the 1st month of publication?
They all do…
If you’re interested in more of this kind of content, consider buying me a Kofi. I’d like to dive deeper into TTRPG market trends, but some of the software needed to collect this data requires subscriptions.
Anything you’re willing to donate towards the project would be greatly appreciated.
Even Family Gaming, which makes up 1% of the total volume of all titles across the entire DriveThruRPG catalog, sees top-performing books ranking within a single month.
This tells me two things. First, it is certainly possible to sell substantial copies of a TTRPG quickly. Second, it is becoming apparent that the Family Gaming genre is held back by a lack of writers rather than a lack of buyers.
What genre sells the most copies?
Fantasy clearly has the most top-performing titles added within the month of April, but what about sales? How many copies are actually getting sold?
The big winner is clearly Science Fiction.
Of the titles published in the month of April, science-fiction sold more copies, more downloads than any other TTRPG genre. Sci-fi made 36% of the sales of books that had only been available for 30 days.
Out of the six genres, fantasy barely pulled in third place. It only beat the Modern genre by a 1% margin.
So what does all this mean?
As I said at the top of this article, I’m not here to tell you what your TTRPG genre should be. Those still unsure about what they want to write may factor this data into their decision. However, this information offers even more to those ready to publish. We can use this research to develop a marketing strategy.
Comparing new publications to sales tells us about the market and our audience. Watching the top-performing titles progress gives us insight into the milestones each title is reaching. From there, we can try to understand what tools the publisher is leveraging for that individual title. If we really go the extra mile, we can pinpoint details about each of these titles and dig out the niche they fill.
Let’s look at Fantasy first. This genre has dominated the TTRPG market for years. It has a huge back catalog and brand recognition. It is still a popular genre, but it’s also a heavily impacted genre. Along with consistent sales, fantasy has the highest number of books regularly added to the market. Alternatively, Family Gaming has the smallest catalog, but its sales drastically outpace the books getting published.
These genres require different marketing strategies and approaches. Fantasy writers have the advantage of being a historically popular genre. There’s more than enough data out there to research what the consumer is looking for, the strategies publishers employ, and variations between products. There’s a lot to look over.
The challenge of publishing fantasy games is differentiating your product from the multitude of other titles. You are one of many within this genre. I don’t want to dissuade you from writing fantasy games. I am trying to describe the tools available and the challenges you’ll need to overcome.
There are plenty of successful publishers within the fantasy genre you can learn from. Look at their marketing strategies. How do their systems very? What do they do to define their brand?
On the other hand, realize that your marketing strategy will be about standing above the crowd. Look for ways to get your name in front of as many people as possible. Develop a network of fans that will help you discuss and promote your product. Look for ways you can make your game unique and distinctive. You’re trying to get picked out of the crowd.
What comes next?
I still have a lot of interesting data regarding how the various genres relate to each other. I intend to publish more articles discussing those trends. I also want to get each of these genres a detailed article of their own. And on top of that, I have a whole other set of data regarding Product Type, core rulebooks, non-core rulebooks, maps & play aids, etc.
In other words, this is only the beginning.
It is apparent, that I have more information than I have time to write. If there’s interest, these articles will continue over the next few months. During that time, I will be collecting more data on a month-to-month basis. At the end of the quarter, I’ll be examining trends across the four-month period.
I will also be looking for key players to track. Who are the best-performing publishers? What is their approach to marketing? How will those books that did well within the first 30 days do in the long run? Let’s find out.