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Sales landscape changed a lot over the years.
During the golden age, an Italian RPG, distributed by a minor book publisher, could sell more than 5000 copies in a year. In year 1991 the RPG “I Cavalieri del Tempio” (“Knights o f the Temple” an rpg based on Templars’ history) sold about 3500 copies in the first year over a total circulation of 5000 copies. The RPG “Dylan Dog” (based on a popular horror comic) sold 7000 copies of the rulebook and 1500 copies of the first supplement, in the first year. In 1993 the RPG “Lex Arcana”, published by a large editorial group, sold more than 12000 copies of the rulebook. Obviously there was no promotion whatsoever on the mass media channels.
Between years 1994 and the 1998 the RPG market lost the 80% of the revenues, being D&D the only exception which kept selling as usual.
In year 2000 the market revitalized thanks to the third edition of D&D, only in Italy were sold 40000 copies of the player’s manual while the other supplements sold about 8000 copies (the D20 system took its part in this success).
In year 2003 the market experienced a new standstill caused by the changes in the entertainment sector such as the rising of MMORPG, CRPG and the diffusion of digital piracy. Up to the year 2008, the average sales of an Italian RPG stood on about 500-1000 copies per year, whereas D&D supplements kept selling between 2000 and 5000 copies per year (the core books sold a lot more, its calculated that from 2001 and 2008 D&D sold about 60.000 copies in Italy). “Vampire the masquerade” the runner-up in sales, sold in these years 8000 copies, whereas the new edition “Vampire the Requiem” sold 3000 copies.
In recent years up to the last one, when the economic crisis struck hard, the situation improved a little for Italian RPG. D&D began to sold less (replaced by Pathfinder), “Nephandum” a fantasy RPG (based on D&D) sold about 1500 copies in the first year while “Sine Requie” sold about 2000 copies of the rulebook and 500 of the supplements in 2010.
Finally, it is beneficial to highlight a sensible difference in sales between rulebooks and supplements. The latter category is not considered by Italian market, especially when it comes to the adventure modules and typically sell less than a fifth of the main rulebooks.
Digital versions deserve a separate discussion. In foreign countries physical rulebooks are considered a well-regarded plus while in Italy they are still considered a “must have”. Furthermore, In Italy digital delivery is not a common way to distribute an RPG. For example, it’s really hard to find a digital version of Pathfinder itself. Publisher and distributor are not inclined to offer a pdf version of the products because they fear piracy and file sharing.
Usually only indie productions sell their games in a digital version, in order to be competitive and to save investments for promotion. Moreover, RPG authors are beginning to publish in English in order to widen their opportunities.
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