Well, the results are in and 2017 was certainly the Year of the Nerd. Why do we say this? Because Dungeons & Dragons had its best sales year since it was acquired from TSR Inc. by game publisher Wizards of the Coast in 1997, the company confirmed to SYFY WIRE. While the records going back to the days of TSR ownership are less accurate, Wizards is very confident that 2017 sales could top those of the brand's previous owner. In any case, they've seen "unprecedented growth" since the release of their fifth edition, in 2014.
Moreover, 8.6 million Americans have played the game in the last 12 months. Streaming has also contributed a big part to the product's growth as 9 million have watched others play Dungeons & Dragons on Twitch, a streaming subsidiary of Amazon. An appearance from Joe Manganiello (Deathstroke at the end of Justice League) during a livestreaming event last year was a huge boost to the already increasing numbers, showing that even major celebrities enjoy Dungeons & Dragons.
"In 2017 alone, we had more than 7,500 unique broadcasters streaming live play D&D for more than 475 million minutes watched over the course of the entire year," Greg Tito, senior communications manager for D&D, told us over the phone. "It's been super popular on streaming and I think that is a big contributor to the surge in success of D&D and why it's so present in the public sphere."
The game gained an international stage with the release of Netflix's Stranger Things in the summer of 2016, as its main characters play Dungeons & Dragons regularly. Tito calls the show "another data point in the zeitgeist." It has also shown up on other popular TV programs like The Big Bang Theory and The Goldbergs. Even Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon hosts a show called HarmonQuest, which is heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. His former show, Community, also had two episodes solely devoted to playing the game.
"I think what D&D does, it taps into that innate human desire to tell stories to each other and listen to other people's stories," said Tito, commenting on how mass communication allows any novice see how the product works, thus ensuring its meteoric rise in popularity. "Something that was always kind of there in the human psyche is now getting a chance to be expressed through the lens of what the D&D rules and mechanics can do... the old stereotypes of what it was are kind of swept under the rug."
What was once an idiosyncratic game played only in game shops and other geeky paradises is fast becoming mainstream and chic at locations like posh bars, Tito noted. "I was just at a bar in west Seattle called 2 Fingers Social, which you might call a hipster bar in a way, and there we were playing Dungeons & Dragons... I was struck for a moment like, 'Here we are talking about the adventure that's going on, and griffins, and whatnot.' "
As for his hopes for D&D's future, Greg wants it to become as mainstream in society as possible "so you can tell your older generation, 'Oh, I'm gonna go play Dungeons & Dragons' and they know exactly what that means."
The role-playing fantasy game was created in 1974 by designers by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Players take on the personas of fantasy creatures and spellcasters and set out on an adventure mediated by a Dungeon Master. Players advance the plot by attempting to slay monsters and cast enchantments, the outcomes of which are decided by rolling many-sided die. A movie based on the franchise is in the works, with Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) rumored to play the lead.