Released in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Dungeons & Dragons enjoyed early success for its unique selling point of letting tabletop RPG players create their own characters. By the 1980s, especially in 1982, it was a sensation. Now seen by many as the originator of modern role-playing games and the first smash-hit of the format, it has certainly faced many challenges throughout its life.
The rise of digital gaming media could have been devastating, and if you believe the headlines, home video gaming did remove millions of people from real-life and in-person experiences. Then again, Dungeons & Dragons was accused of inspiring Satanism on many occasions in the US. Despite the challenges and development of more tech-savvy ways to game, D&D has remained a top seller for its current publisher, Wizards of the Coast.
Helping the now-d20 game has been semi-regular publications of new editions, with the 5th edition coming out in 2014, six years after the 4th edition. Still, it’s the known brand, the nostalgia-fuelled thrills passed on to others, and several entertainment references that have really set D&D on its current ascendency. In fact, as the sales figures show, the tabletop RPG is only growing.
A monstrous run for Dungeons and Dragons
Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast saw the sales of its tentpole product, D&D, explode by 33 percent in 2020, which not only shows remarkable growth year on year, but also its sixth consecutive year of growth. The sales jump was put down, by CNBC, as being the result of fans teaching it to relatives and friends during that year. As a result, more people were tipped to partake in live games and online games.
In 2021, Wizards of the Coast surpassed $1 billion in sales for the first time in the publisher’s history. As reported by ICv2, digital sales for Wizards of the Coast must have clocked in at over $50 million, based on the tabletop game sales figures. Along with Magic: The Gathering, HeroQuest, and Duel Masters, D&D will have been among the largest contributors to this landmark haul for the publishers.
Among other hard-hitting figures further proving the power of Dungeons & Dragons are those for its Google searches. The Guardian reports that “how to play Dungeons and Dragons” rose by 600 percent in May 2022, while “Dungeons and Dragons starter sets” also saw a hefty uptick of 250 percent on the dominant search engine. The NPD group also marked D&D books as being the sixth-fastest rising in Q2 of this year among licensed books, and Hasbro has enough confidence in the brand to splash $146 million on DnDBeyond.com.
D&D’s icon status bolsters interest
Dungeons and Dragons became so big in the US through the late 1970s and 80s that it became the quintessential part of the stereotype of the “geek” – those who didn’t want to go outside or compete in athletics and would rather stay inside to pretend to be in fantasy realms. Of course, around the world and increasingly in the US, “geekdom” has become the norm and even trendy, with D&D being called back to regularly.
On the TV and big screen, we can think back to beloved classics like the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon from the 1980s, which perfectly captures the fantasy fun of the game. It took until 2000 to get a movie, and even though it featured the great Jeremy Irons, it was a bust at the box office. That said, the third came out in 2012. In 2023, however, a reboot will be released, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, starring Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Pine, Love Actually star Hugh Grant, Justice Smith, and Regé-Jean Page.
Whenever “Dungeons & Dragons” is mentioned, everyone knows that they’re referring to a much-loved, proven fantasy tabletop game that’s earned its fame. It’s why the Betway game Dungeons and Diamonds remains among its top slot games. Simply by association, the game’s tile is immediately eye-catching. After that, it’s all about finding the dragon, using the dwarf’s collect powers, and seeing the elven archer multiply prizes.
Perhaps the most profound recent use of Dungeons and Dragons in entertainment, however, has been in the show Stranger Things. Now, D&D has been at the center of episodes of The IT Crowd, House of Lies, Community, and many others, but in Stranger Things, it’s the central premise and the way in which the protagonists explain the goings on in their town. So close is the connection that Wizards of the Coast even released a special Stranger Things D&D starter set based on the one played in the series.
Dungeons and Dragons has been around for so long and remained so incredibly popular as the tabletop RPG experience that it doesn’t come as a surprise that sales continue to rise. The brand goes beyond the tabletop, to the top beat ‘em up games, and now to online D&D games. So, it’d be a fair guess that sales will only continue to grow through the roof in 2023.