Digital roleplaying platform Roll20 released its annual Orr Group Industry Report on February 18th, sharing some hand-picked insights behind the most popular games people played. Unsurprisingly, Wizards of the Coast’s gigantic Dungeons & Dragons held its top spot on the rankings, but diving deeper into the numbers showed a wider variety of titles have started to make headway.
The company began by addressing the elephant in the room of celebrating increased users and time spent on the platform since the main contributing factor was the ongoing global pandemic. It reported that players spent over 100 million hours in Roll20 in Q3 of 2020, with that number increasing another 6% in the last part of the year.
Many of those top titles took a smaller piece of the pie in both campaign hours invested and number of accounts when compared to the same report in 2019, though. D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder 2E and the World of Darkness series lost stake to Warhammer and the conglomerated mass of uncategorized titles. The former makes sense - Games Workshop reported increased sales figures despite the pandemic as folks (and Henry Cavill) seemingly turned to constructing and painting miniatures as a new pastime.
The recent release of R. Talsorian Games’ Cyberpunk Red brought home the prize for system with the biggest growth in 2020 with a 75% increase over 2019, beating out predecessor Cyberpunk 2020 and the Year Zero Engine, which powers systems such as Mutant: Year Zero and Tales from the Loop.
That shouldn’t discount the gains made by those eating Cyberpunk Red’s dust, as all three previously mentioned games increased their share of player hours by at least 30%, showing a renewed interest in roleplaying in worlds with more than just castles and owlbears on offer.
How about that 15% Uncategorized mass, then? The report breaks down some of the top contributors into a separate list, pulling out a number of remarkable indie games that have found popularity on Roll20 - even if their percentages quickly dwindled into the tenths of percents. Remember, we’re dealing play hours in the tens and hundreds of millions - putting even a chink in the +1 armour of tabletop titan D&D is noteworthy.
Monster of the Week and the broad array of Powered by the Apocalypse games ranked high, showing a continued interest in narrative-led moves, dice pools and those tasty mixed successes. Gruesome metal-inspired OSR Mörk Borg ranks above contemporaries such as Zweihänder, while Blades in the Dark co-designer John Harper can trace his direct work or influence to a number of performing games in Agon, Scum & Villainy, Forged in the Dark titles and one-page RPG Lasers and Feelings.
Surprisingly, the general board game category also made the relative shortlist, showing that not everyone uses Tabletop Simulator or Boardgame Arena to get their worker-placement and Eurogame fix.
Roll20’s Orr Group Industry Report is a narrow view of the available data and shouldn’t be used to draw any specific conclusions on player behaviour. That said, seeing a vast spate of indie titles earning attention in a hobby that many view as monolithic is heartening. The lack of a real table didn’t stop folks from gathering to tell stories - here’s hoping the trend of exploring new settings continues into 2021.