Though the big two, Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder RPs get all the attention, there are a number of second tier RPGs that quietly sell, day in and day out. At our store, that’s Shadowrun. Released back in 1989, we’ve carried it since before the store opened, when we used to do conventions and mail order only. One of the few times I remember seeing a crowd of gamers running was at GENCON in 1992, when the release of the 2nd edition of the Shadowrun rules was released. FASA announced only a limited number of copies available at the show. For some reason, I was in the exhibit hall when the doors opened and watched as a couple of hundred excited games ran through the aisles towards the FASA booth, hoping to score a copy of the 2nd edition rules. The only other time I have seen that much excitement over a game release was when TSR finally released the Temple Of Elemental Evil back in 1985.
Since then , Shadowrun has sold steadily for us, to the point we try to keep 2 to 4 copies of the core rulebook on the shelf at any one time. The only other RPGS in the store that get stocked to that depth are Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder RPG. In fact, because of sales, Shadowrun and Pathfinder are the only two RPGs that we stock all of their hardback sourcebooks 2 to 3 deep at all times. Even Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition anyhow) doesn’t get stocked that deeply (mainly because there are a lot more hardbacks for D&D than for either Pathfinder or Shadowrun). Looking at the shelf at the moment, we have nine Shadowrun hardbacks in stock and another 9 or 10 paperbound books. They sell. Week in and week out, they sell for us and justify the shelf space and inventory. We average sales of 3 to 5 of each new sourcebook when they hit the shelves (campaign settings and adventures not nearly so well) and have to restock two to three assorted hardbacks weekly, so this is a line that really gets hurt in our store when a book goes out of print, as happens way too often with the line. Looking at our records, we have sold 6 copies of the rulebook since the beginning of the year and this is of an edition that cam out almost three years ago.
Shadowrun gets little to no promotion (I don’t recall Catalyst mentioning any upcoming releases for it during their presentation at this year’s GAMA Trade Show) and certainly flies under the radar in most stores but its players have quite a bit of devotion to the product, enough to make it our third best selling RPG.