Friday, October 05, 2012

Google Trends: The Retroclones

It crossed my mind tonight that there is scant information out there about how big of a piece of the RPG market OSR-style gaming represents. We hear the occasional odds and ends in relation to Kickstarter print volumes vs. the economics of the big game publishers like Paizo and WotC, but beyond a vague idea that the OSR market is 'small', there isn't much information available. Despite its small size, the OSR community makes a lot of noise online. So I started plugging things into Google trends to see what I got.

Several surprising things:

  1. Hackmaster is more popular than I would have imagined according to Google, but seems to have lost some ground to both OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord over time.
  2. Getting numbers for OSRIC is complicated by real and fictional people named 'Osric', and particularly by a WoW NPC named Osric Strang.
  3. Google seems to think that these OSR games are all mostly North American phenomena. Vast majority of the volume is from the USA, to the extent that other countries register as a big zero in the regional breakdown. There was a significant volume for OSRIC from England, but that vanished when I added a filter to get rid of WoW results. Wonder if this relates to the lack of localized translations for OSR clone rules.
  4. Despite being the oldest of the retro-clones (since Hackmaster started out as something else), Castles & Crusades retains a very low profile online- something I saw mentioned in a recent thread on the OSR Gaming forum.
  5. OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord seem to have been neck-and-neck since roughly 2010.
Obviously, this graph doesn't represent how popular a game is in terms of number of downloads or number of players; Kenzer & Co.'s legal trouble with Wizards of the Coast, for instance, probably served to raise Hackmaster's profile significantly. 

An unsuprising result:

Pathfinder crushes the most popular OSR games by a huge margin. And...

D&D is still the 500lb. gorilla in terms of profile on Google... though it has dropped steadily while Pathfinder is trending up, something that Google extends out if you turn on the 'Forecast' option: Largely meaningless? Maybe. But still interesting to play with for a bit.

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