paper game business were up in the first quarter of 2011, led by stronger sales of collectible card games. The two leaders in RPGs are D&D and Pathfinder, with Pathfinder making a stronger showing in the hobby stores while D&D does better in mass market channels. I think it's pretty clear that the old-line gamers tend to prefer Pathfinder to the new edition of D&D.
Meanwhile, Hasbro's sales were down 12%, and it's reorganizing its games group and relocating it to Rhode Island, in the process laying off 75 people. Wizards of the Coast is doing well, though, on the strength of recent Magic: The Gathering sales.
In other gaming industry news, the Origins convention is moving from its traditional lat June/early July dates to late May/early June, beginning in 2012. Why? To cut costs for exhibitors and attendees, since the convention hotels offer lower rates earlier, and airfares would also be lower. This has the added benefit of moving it further away from GenCon, so the two big summer cons have some breathing space in between.
Board games and non-collectible card games have been holding their own in the hobby trade, but mass-market sales have been weak. I expect that the wider availability of inexpensive games on smartphones and tablets to continue to pull dollars away from traditional games.
The big transition that's staring the RPG industry in the face is the move to e-books. The high prices that many publishers place on their e-book versions of their RPGs is not sustainable. Just as we've seen indie authors undercutting traditional publishers in the e-book space tending to drive e-book prices down, similar pricing pressures will move e-book prices down for RPG books. The publishers are going to have to change their business model, which is never easy. As tablets really take hold, customers will value properly prepared e-books for that form factor. This will take extra effort, but when you no longer have to worry about printing costs there's some room in the budget. Print-on-demand should be able to take care of the traditional hobby store market, though special editions will always have a place if your fan base is big enough.