Role Playing category and the influence of Stranger Things

Did Stranger Things have an impact on Dungeons & Dragons book sales in Canada? @BookNet_Canada grabs their Scarab of Protection and wades into Canadian book sales data to find out.

Last summer, after a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing manual (D&D Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, 9780786966240) made it onto Canadian bestseller lists, we felt the need to grab our Scarab of Protection and take a deeper look at the year-over-year performance of the Games & Activities / Role Playing & Fantasy BISAC category.

Being the book geeks that we are, we just couldn't leave it there. With the release of season three of Netflix's Stranger Things in July, we found ourselves not only revisiting the state of sales in the category but also wondering whether Stranger Things had any direct impact on book sales in this category.

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There's no denying that Stranger Things is a hit TV show. According to Netflix, season three broke records when a staggering 40 million households streamed the show in the first four days alone, with 18 million households finishing all eight episodes in those same four days.

By no means can we say that increases to book sales in the Role Playing & Fantasy category are completely due to Stranger Things, but we can say that we're finding consistent and steady gains year-over-year.

Looking at print unit sales in the Role Playing & Fantasy category in the month that a season of Stranger Things was released compared to the following month, we find:

  • When season one was released in July 2016, there was a 10% increase in sales in the Role Playing & Fantasy category in August 2016.

  • Season two, released in October 2017, led to a whopping 149% increase in sales in November 2017. (It’s important to point out that seasons one and three were released in July while season two was in October, so some of the increase is due to an increase in sales leading up to Christmas.)

  • Season three, released in July 2019, also saw a 10% sales increase the following August.

Sales in the Role Playing & Fantasy category with Stranger Things release dates*

*Note: Not all category sales are represented in this graph. BookNet Canada is continually adding retailers to our reporting panel so in order to ensure that any increases aren’t a result of new retailers being added, we compare the sales a subset of retailers that have been consistently reporting over time. 

When we look at Christmas sales in the category, comparing December 2016 to December 2018, there’s a 78% increase in volume sold. As you can see from the graph above, for three straight years there have been notable increases in sales. Now, it is important to note that these increases are also reflected in 2018, a year in which there was no new season of Stranger Things.

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Another potential impact on sales in the Role Playing & Fantasy category is the release of Hasboro’s new Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons starter kit on May 1, 2019. Between May and June of that year we saw a 10% increase in category sales.

Are you a publisher, retailer, or librarian who wants to see more data like this? Check out SalesData, the sales tracking service for the Canadian English-language trade book market, or the latest edition of The Canadian Book Market report.

If you’re already a subscriber and want to know more about how TV shows, movies, or other media impact book sales, be sure to check out our newest study From Page to Screen: Canadian Edition (available in the research portal). In it, we explore how much a movie or television adaptation impacts sales of Canadian titles such as BittenThe Handmaid's TaleThe Book of Negroes, Indian Horse, and more. Or, if you want to see how other categories did during certain time periods (like we did for the Role Playing & Fantasy category), check out the Market Share Report. If you still have questions, or want SalesData training, contact us!