I’ve spent hours collecting and organizing TTRPG market data in order to help TTRPG writers (myself included) understand the industry. An obvious category to examine is genre. I went in with no expectations, yet I still found a few surprises. The Family Gaming genre is first among those surprises.
In this article, I’ll be examining common misconceptions around the family gaming genre. I will also be looking at the composition of the market. It’s important to identify who the heavy hitters are, the nature and quality of their books, and, of course, how the indie TTRPG writer can use this information to develop a marketing strategy.
If you would like to know more about the data I collected, you can find a high-level overview of this project in the article, Gauging the TTRPG Industry.
Why so surprised?
When I initially compared the various genres against one another, I focused on the volume of each genre on DriveThruRPG.com. I felt that data scraped from the largest distributor of tabletop role-playing games, DTRPG, would allow me to locate relevant trends. So I first asked, “How big is each genre?”
I quickly learned that this wasn’t the best measure of success. My sample was the top 1000 titles from each genre, but DTRPG has been selling RPG’s since 2001. Titles published 20 years ago maintain a prominent presence on these lists. I needed to shift my focus toward recent additions to the marketplace. Understanding current trends in popularity will provide more actionable insights.
To accomplish this, I compared recent sales within each genre against the overall size of the genre. I found a few discrepancies between the volume of titles and recent sales, particularly in Family Gaming. While family friendly RPGs make up 1% of the overall volume of available titles, in the month of April it made up 4% of books added to the marketplace and 6% of sales.
Compare that to fantasy, which made up 16% of titles added to DTRPG and 14% of all sales. Interest in these genres look radically different. The fantasy genre’s numbers are upside down. Its volume grew larger while its sales were 2 percentage points smaller. In other words, more Fantasy books were added than were sold.
Family-friendly titles, on the other hand, had a higher percentage of sales than books added. Though this is data from a single month, it would seem there is more of a demand for Family Gaming TTRPGs than supply.
Game Master Monday stars actor/director/writer Grant Nordine as Game Master. The show features a new one-shot with a new system and a new cast every episode. Everything from big-name titles (DND, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu) to indie RPGs are featured to show how ANY system can tell a fun, exciting, dramatic, and hilarious story.
Why does family gaming produce monthly and annual sales higher than their proportional volume? There’s clearly a demand for tabletop role playing games the whole family can enjoy. Consumers are buying them faster than publishers can upload and add to the market.
After examining the numbers, I’m inclined to believe the Family Gaming genre suffers from a lack of writers. The graph titled “Number of Titles Per-Publisher” illustrates the range of TTRPG books individual publishers have under their belt. The largest group by far is publishers with only one title on the top 1000 list. This group comprises roughly 25% of the sample data.
I also noticed an inverse correlation between the number of titles and publishers. For instance, 32 publishers fall into the group with 5 to 10 books under their belt. Cumulatively, those 32 publishers have produced 207 books.
The number of serious publishers really striving in the Family Gaming genre is staggeringly small. Only 4 publishers out of my data sample produced more than 20 games, and 156 of those games made it onto the top 1000 products sold under the Family Gaming genre.
On the other hand, most of the books in this genre came from single title publishers. There are a lot of people dabbling in this market, but not a lot of people seriously making an effort to produce. I argue that single title publishers are more enthusiasts than writer. They like the genre and have some adventures worth sharing, but they’re not really putting energy into the industry. It’s more of a hobby for them.
This leads me to believe that popularity amongst consumers is exceptionally high. Gamers that only publish 1 or 2 titles are gamers first and publishers second; gamers are customers. Yes, these 1 title writers have added books to the market, but I’m inclined to believe they are also purchasing. They are the crowd that really enjoy this genre and want material from it.
So what does this mean?
If you really want to write these types of books, competition is relatively low. Especially compared to genres like fantasy, sci-fi and horror. Additionally, you have a much smaller pool of professional publishers. This offers the indie TTRPG writer a lot of opportunity.
A fresh writer in the space has fewer publishers to research. There are big names that are well known within this niche, but you don’t have to wade through a mountain of data to understand why there popular. More importantly, with fewer publishers, you’ll find more holes that need filling.
For instance, I haven’t seen a lot of crossover between Family Gaming and kid friendly Horror. When I was young, I loved reading the Goosebumps book series. Scary stories that help kids deal with fear while still offering a thrill and a fun read. They weren’t too scary, too serious, or too dark, but they still got my adolescent heart beating.
With few publishers regularly producing in this field, there are bound to be plenty of opportunities and untapped markets like spooky adventures. You will need to put in the time to research what is being done in the industry, how it’s being marketed, and what audiences are underserved by this genre.
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.
Who are the heavy hitters?
Who is regularly adding to the Family Gaming TTRPG genre? Who are the writers? Who are the publishers? What books are really knocking it out of the park?
Well, there is a clear and unambiguous winner in this genre. In terms of prolific publishers and writers, Justin Halliday (writer/publisher) and Hero Forge Games (publisher) are the titans of the Family Gaming genre. They write and produce the TTRPG, “Hero Kids”.
These games offer simple mechanics that children can learn and employ. Whereas many systems focus on combat, Hero Kids is geared towards overcoming obstacles. It helps develop communication and collaboration at the gaming table. It’s also parent friendly. GM’s don’t have to track too many mechanics. Mom or dad can sit down with their children and play a game for 30 minutes to an hour.
If you’re looking to research prolific publishers in the Family Gaming TTRPG genre, this is where you start. Understand what this game does well. Figure out who it is for. Most importantly, figure out what it is not. That’s how you find an underserved audience that may be interested in a new product.
Hero Kids Isn’t the Only Game in Town
Though Justin Halliday and Hero Forge Games certainly produce a large number of successful titles in the Family Gaming genre, they’re not the only game in town. I’ve collected the top-performing publishers from the list of top 1000 titles from the Family Gaming genre. I’ve also supplied the number of ranking titles. As you do your research, these are the names to look up.
|Fat Goblin Games||33|
|Onyx Path Publishing||22|
|Third Eye Games||17|
|Roving Band of Misfits Press||15|
|B Drone Games||14|
|River Horse Games||13|
Should you write Family Gaming TTRPGs?
Yes, absolutely you should write family friendly TTRPGs if that’s what you’re interested in. There is certainly opportunity in this genre. The number of sales compared to the small number of publishers leads me to believe there is greater demand for these books than content.
Compare this to a more popular genre like Fantasy. Fantasy adds more titles than sales on a month-to-month basis. In some ways, the Fantasy and Family Gaming genres mirror each other. Their numbers go in opposite directions. Fantasy is a popular but impacted genre. Lots of writers competing with each other has rendered a high volume of content. There are more books on the market than there are buyers picking them up. Family Gaming offers a fraction of the content that Fantasy provides, but there are far more consumers than writers.
If you’re looking to take game development seriously and the Family Gaming genre is your style, this is a good time to be you. There’s a lot of demand for this content but little competition.
However, if you’re looking to get into this genre simply because the numbers look good, I implore you to stop and think about what you’re doing. The cliché, “Write what you know,” carries weight. Do you know Family Gaming? Do you know how to write content children can understand and enjoy? Do you even know any kids? If the answer to these questions is “no”, I suggest you look toward the Science Fiction genre instead.
Jumping into a genre that you don’t really understand simply because the competition is light is an uphill battle. It will end up consuming more time and energy than simply entering a competitive market that you are already proficient in. It’s simply not worth it.
Why write family friendly adventures?
Family Gaming offers all of the typical reasons to try your hand at writing; you love the hobby, you’ve always wanted to be a writer, you’re already writing adventures at home, why not try publishing? I’ll admit, this genre isn’t for me. I’m not a parent, I’m not a teacher, and family get-togethers aside, I’m never around children. I don’t know the target audience.
So I reached out to someone who does.
Steph C. from TTRPGkids (https://www.ttrpgkids.com/) offers valuable insight from someone who understands the genre. They’ve been writing about kid friendly TTRPGs for years and has the real-world experience critical to writing. They took the advice “write what you know” to heart.
Steph told me, “TTRPGs have a ton of benefits for families – they provide family bonding time, encourage collaboration across generations, are a fantastic learning tool, and are a great way to have fun together.”
These games have an impact. They offer a family something more than can be provided by checkers or hide and go seek. They allow a family to make cherished memories.
Steph continued, “I’ve used TTRPGs, or at least TTRPG elements for storytelling, with my kid since he was 2 years old, and it’s helped us so much to grow together and learn about each other while also having fun.”
Why should you write in this genre? Because this families playing these games benefit from the experience, and because the genre needs more writers. Giving parents another way to connect with their children is a good thing. If you’re interested in making games, you’re needed here.
If you’re interested in learning more about how TTRPGs can impact the family, I recommend taking a look at TTRPGkids. I’ve linked to a few articles that discuss the topic.
Who should write family friendly games?
The ideal writer for this market is a parent or teacher. They possess a passion for writing, children, and games. They understand the target audience. They understand how to explain a game to children because they’re practiced at it. They talk to kids daily. They play with their children. They know what kids think makes a fun game.
Does that sound like you? If it does, writing family friendly, kid focused TTRPGs might be worth considering. Hell, you probably have little play-testers running around your house eating dice and getting peanut butter and jelly all over character sheets. Why not try publishing your own stuff?
If you confidently feel you can write a game for children, this is a good time to jump into the market. Parents are buying these games. They want more content than is available. There are holes in the market that need to be filled because there simply aren’t enough writers working in this space.
Are you the person to help this genre grow?
If you found this article interesting, reach out! Leave a message below. I want to know what data you are most interested in!
My next market research article focuses on the Science Fiction genre, but I also have data on product types. I will soon be diving into the trends across rulebooks, modules, and play aids such as maps, assets, and supplements.
There’s a lot of information to pour through, so if there’s something you are specifically interested in, let me know!