Saturday, 19 October 2013

How big is the Wargames Industry?

Over the last couple of days I have been thinking about the size of our hobby, its opportunities and its future. The following is my tuppence worth on this subject and I really would be interested to get peoples views.

Interestingly the TMP forum carry some statistics that reveal that they have over 28,000 members, of these 10,000 are based in the US and 5000 are based in the UK. The sum of all the countries does not equate to the overall total so I suspect that many members have not completed the section on where they reside. If we took membership as a broad brush would seem to suggest that the US is twice the size of the UK market. Of course not everybody in the hobby is signed up to these forums (the Lead Adventure Forum only has 4000 members) – a ratio of 1 in 7 compared to TMP. This is also born out in my own page stats for every hit I have from the LAF links I get at least 6-8 from TMP.

So how many hobbyists are actually online ?

Lets see if we can work this out?

I read somewhere recently that Salute the UKs largest show attracted 10,000 visitors during the day (2500 advanced tickets sold). Although the Show is based in London it is the UK & Europe’s biggest so let us assume from a convenience perspective that 75% of these visitors came from the greater London catchment ie 7,500. Again if we assume that 75% of the potential London catchment attended then we could say that there are 10,000 wargamers of some form in Greater London. So If we further surmise that wargamers in the UK are dispersed evenly across the population and by geography and that greater London accounts for 20% of the UK population then the total number of Wargamers in the UK would count 50,000 individuals. (as a reference this is about 2 gamers per 1000 homes)

This means that 1 in 10 UK wargamers are registered to TMP ( somehow this seems about right so lets stick with this number)

With 50,000 in mind we could therefore surmise that the North American market is at least 100,000 players strong (using the TMP ratio of membership) and that there are possibly a further 50,000 players elsewhere in the world. A total of 150,000 gamers.

Now to try an calculate spend...I personally spend about £100/month on the hobby. I am told by my friends that this is probably at the high end. So taking the law of averages into play lets assume the average gamer will spend £50/month or £600/year. This gives a notional global market of £90million and makes the UK hobby worth about £30million.

Lets bring up the thorny issue of Games Workshop – in their last annual report they published sales of £120million globally (40% revenues came from North America, 30% UK and the remainder from the rest of the world). If my assumptions of the UK Wargames market is correct it must exclude Games Workshop. They are a very different market aiming squarely at the teen market where interest is shortlived. I doubt that less than in 1 in 20 GW teenagers carries on the hobby into adulthood. If this assumption is correct it starts to balance books. Combining the two markets we begin to see a global industry worth around £230million.

To further reinforce my hypothesis It is interesting to note that the Financial times ( suggested the worlds Model railway industry was worth around £1.1billion in 2005. Given the larger number of hobby magazines operating in this sector it must be reasonable to assume that as a market it is bigger.

So we are not really a big market – we are very niche. To put it into context the UK sells around £700m worth of bananas a year (I know this because I was once the UK Marketing Director for one of the largest importers).


  1. Eric is... Bananaman.

    I'm interested by the Kickstarters, you can see how many people are needed to start a new range/ project etc. It's not a huge number.

    1. Agree with so many there must be cash around

  2. Largish industry but very varied..a lot of scales and ranges. Love em or hate em, GW have done a few "clever" things, one being sticking to one scale another having an Overall "theme" to thier Marketing .

  3. That seems a quite English-centric view of it. As a Swede I've often found that the Swedish presence on English-speaking forums is as big as that of the biggest European languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish). I don't think that Swedes are ten times as likely to game with toy soldiers compared to Germans, but I do know that these peoples are generally worse at English, and often stay at forums in their own language.

    So I think your analysis miss vital parts of the gamer population, and that's the ones not gaming in English.

    1. I was rambling about a not dissimilar idea a couple of weeks ago. We're members of a hobby about which we know little other than what's available to buy and play. There are many nationalities involved, but we're not sure which or how many people it involves. This arose in part from a comment of a friend of mine who, although not a gamer himself, suggested it was an essentially European/Anglo-Saxon hobby.

      I think the figure of 150,000 gamers world wide is low, but how low is anybody's guess and the number is as valid as any in the circumstances. I think there's also a likelihood of increasing numbers of gamers appearing in the BRIC economies and other developing nations. As disposable income increases, more and more people (O.K., teenage and adult males, say) will discover wargaming (and certainly GW) via the web or by osmosis or whatever and join the merry throng. If the 'Salute formula' is indexed up and applied to India and China, God knows how many gamers there could be. Even a venture capitalist might sit up and take notice and it would take pretty inexpensive marketing to grow the market - look at PC and console games.

      There appears to be only a nanocosm of gamers interested in this sort of thing, but I'm quietly convinced that if the bigger or more astute operators got wind that others were thinking like this, they'd invest good time and money to check its plausibility (if they aren't doing so already).

    2. Quite happy to consider other views...merely trying to gauge the size of the industry..

  4. I really dont think that you can quantify the hobby in this way, I game with 4 equally minded fellows that believe TMP = Too many Prats and therefore dont use it preferring other forums and groups of which there are many. To negate your hypothesis regarding Games workshop I know of a large group of gentlemen all 40 + who play this game as often as I play historical and spend a lot of money so it is not a teenage premise for GW and therefore has to be included into the factors. There are also a great many non English speaking players who use their own language forums due to the inability to use English as a language as Mrtn has pointed out. This is a diverse hobby and there are niche areas within it but in no way is it a small hobby!

    1. Apart from some smaller forums there really aren't that many out there with volumes of members . I am merely guessing that the English speaking world dominates the hobby based on shows, conventions, magazines, suplliers

  5. Gah, numbers, that's not a topic for me!
    I have to say this is an interesting take on the hobby, but personally, I like my hobby simple as thinking too much can hurt my head :P

  6. Andrew Saunders is right! I'm 40+ and I play Lord of the Rings SBG, a GW game, with some friends of the same age. I'm Greek, I like to read opinions about the hobby, comments, etc but very rare I write something in other people's blogs. By the way, here in Greece there is a forum: in Greek language about this GW game. It has 113 members (I am not one of them). So, I think it is difficult to count the total number of players around the world, but your calculations for UK and US players have a point!

    1. 113 members good but it is a fraction of those listed on the tmp and laf

  7. Then there are the modellers. I suspect that there would be one wargamer for every fifty scale modellers.

  8. I've only just read this in some similar research I've been doing this is what I came up with:

    A few of the available statistics:

    The Miniature Pages is the largest tabletop gaming online forum, it claims a membership of around 30,000. 12,000 from the U.S., 6,000 from the UK, and 12,000 ROW.

    Salute is the UK's largest tabletop gaming show, and the world's largest one day show, held annually in London with an attendance of approx. 12,000 plus 150 traders (many of whom are manufacturers) and around 100 games.

    Games Workshop enjoyed sales of £120 m (2015) globally with sales broken down as 40% US, 30% UK and 30% ROW.

    Kickstarter raised £70m for tabletop game products in 2015, a 76% increase on 2014 and more than double that raised by video games.

    Wizards of the Coast, a large U.S. game company and current owner of the D&D brand among others, repeatedly estimates approximately 5.5m people in the U.S. regularly play tabletop roleplaying games.

    From these figures I surmise;

    The U.S. is the biggest market.

    The UK has a larger market by proportion.

    The ROW has a market which is equal or up to double the UK market.

    On estimating the market size I surmise:

    WotC figures are likely very close, being a global market leader, but concentrate uniquely on RPGs. Although this doesn't include tabletop wargamers, from personal experience I would suggest RPGs are five to six times more popular than wargames, so to include wargamers I would increase that to approx. 7m regular players. Those are just players, and I believe only around half of those are purchasers, so 3.5m potential US customers.

    For the British market I suggest the numbers of players is between 50-75% of the US figure, so at below half that range (60%) that would be 420k, and with a similar to above halving of that that's 210k potential customers.

    For the ROW market I'd suggest players falls between 100-200% of the UK market, so at half way between that range (150%) that 630k players of which 315k are potential customers.

    Total global potential market: 4.025m

    Estimating spend is much more difficult as a lot of competitors are private companies, and often not limited companies so figures are hard to come by. Even with ltd and plcs and their sales figures there's no way to know the number of customers they've served. Anecdotally from the few hundred gamers I personally know I would estimate they spend between £25-100 per month.
    Taking that at average of £50 that would suggest an annual spend of aprox. £2.415B

    There's a trend towards gamers increasingly using Kickstarter for purchases despite a couple of high profile poor deliverers. There's also a resurgence in traditional gaming against electronic gaming. They're definitely trends worth watching.

    1. Interesting data Phil - might come back to look at this again in the New Year