About a month ago I did an article comparing the Web traffic of major RPG companies and communities using Alexa data. It was interesting to see how they ranked, but of more concern was that traffic appeared to be spiraling downwards hard. I just went and re-checked and that trend continues; over the last three months all sites are down and some sites are down by more than 70%!
A quick rundown on traffic change over the last 3 months –
- wizards.com: -31%
- rpg.net: -25%
- sjgames.com: -56%
- paizo.com: -14%
- enworld.org: -46%
- white-wolf.com: -66%
- privateerpress.com: -37%
- d20srd.org: -59%
- alderac.com: -74%
- peginc.com: -72%
- palladiumbooks.com: -77%
- rpgnow.com: -23%
- drivethrustuff.com: -46%
- atlas-games.com: -77%
- indie-rpgs.com: -53%
- mongoosepublishing.com: -15%
From looking at the graphs, a couple of these properties had a big spike in the June-July timeframe that is hurting their compare. Take a look at Palladium. But even without that they are way down off pre-spike numbers, more than 50% easily, and continuing to decline at a good rate.
Heck, even looking through the smaller properties, the best showing is Flames Rising, only dropping by 3%.
This seems to be to be a crisis. At the company I work for, a large computer-related manufacturing concern, we know that Web traffic is directly proportional to our company revenue over time. If our traffic was down 50% our CFO would shit a brick. We’re down a little due to the economy, but nothing near this amount.
Why is traffic to every RPG company and community site dropping?
It’s not the school year starting, if you go look at the maximum data Alexa will give you there’s no similar drop in 2007. Basically, everything was doing fine, slipping slightly, until June-July 2008. Some properties got a bump then, but ever since everyone from Wizards to dungeonmastering.com is in a death spiral.
Is it “the economy?” Well, despite all of the furor in the media (in my opinion this is a largely manufactured crisis by the current administration, YMMV) major sites aren’t going down. dell.com is down just 2%, for example. You could argue that the economic problems would have a more vigorous effect especially on discretionary/entertainment spending. But I’m not seeing that anywhere else. Check out amazon.com‘s stats – they are down only 11%. (They had a June bump too!) worldofwarcraft.com is down 25%, with no June bump. Heck, fandango.com (movie ticket sales) is up 14%. So there is certainly some slippage overall, and you could chalk up some 10-20% of it to the economy if you wanted to (though given some of the stats I’m seeing I think that’s more excuse than reality), but why is it is much worse in the RPG realm? Also, the dropoff has been in progress for a while and the current “economic crisis” really just got sprung on us in September.
Is this Alexa data accurate? I don’t know, I’m going to inquire especially because that “June bump” is appearing across all kids of industries. Hey RPG publishers out there, are you seeing these kinds of dropoff in your site traffic yourselves, and are you seeing it correlate to revenue as well?
Is it “4e’s fault?” Well, you could interpret the June-July bump as interest in 4e and the slide afterwards on Wizards and 4e-related properties as 4e not having staying power. But all the smaller publishers are down too. You could argue that 4e coming out has had a “chilling effect” on other folks who don’t want to release product in competition with the 900-pound gorilla. (If that is the case, it’s time for folks to reverse their thinking, because apparently there’s a huge gap right now.) I’m not sure this is the reason. There are some possible data points for it – like that the indie/3p stuff is also down but not down as sharply, and communities focused on non-4e stuff aren’t droppping as badly (paizo.com, Flames Rising, rpg.net). But I’m seeing the “June bump” on amazon.com as well, and RPGs have to be a very small part of their sales.
Whether it’s 4e-caused or not, I do see a dropoff in RPG product being released. I heard of little from Gen Con that interested me, and every week I go and vainly click on the links in my blogroll to see if anyone’s releasing any new RPG stuff. I just got a new Game Trade magazine and the games section seems to be very, very heavily weighted to board, card, and minis games with maybe 20 new RPG products for the rest of the year. In fact, the companies that seem to be releasing the most product – Paizo, Mongoose – are doing pretty well (though Wizards and White Wolf have a good number of releases too, and are sucking). Heck, I’m even getting grumpy because lots of my blogroll-buddies haven’t updated anything in a while (Trollsmyth and dungeon_grrl, get on it!).
What do you think – check out the data yourself. Is it waning interest, the economy, 4e ruining the industry, what?