Monday, March 12, 2012

Minecraft and Audience

A few months ago Steamtunnel at the Hydra's Grotto proposed the re-release of the 1e books as a census.  Trollsmyth guesses there aren't much more than 10,000 in the OSR.  A commenter mentions ~58,000 downloads of OSRIC.  Meanwhile this one dude I've been watching play minecraft on YouTube has close to 130,000 subscribers.

What the hell.  Now hold on, yes it's visual and you can sit there by yourself; no need for a game group or products or anything.  And yes, I'm guessing a lot of his viewers might be younger, kids in the 11-14 age group, maybe.  But this is not action packed Transformer stuff-- I find my self dozing off sometimes when he gets into the minutiae of moving monsters around with pistons.  Here's a slow paced technical video where he tries to figure out a conveyor for two monster spawners in Minecraft's version of Hell.

I think a lot of his appeal is that you can learn how to do something he shows you, then go back and do it yourself in your own game.  Heck, if you get stuck, you can even download his save game and look at his design in person.  It feels similar to some of the blogging we do about D&D rules, like the recent exchange about fatigue and me discussing with John how disease might play out in a campaign.  Surely some of Etho's viewers would be interested in playing some simple, streamlined D&D. Or maybe, more than playing, tinkering with the rules and making them their own.  So, where are they?


  1. Over 5million people have bought Minecraft, 24 million have registered to their site. Do we have a census of how many people play DnD? What fraction of that watch that site? How accessible is that site? Will it come up on a general OSR search like Minecraft on Youtube? Just some thoughts that first occur to me.

  2. Maybe we need some D&D Let's Plays. A group of players and a DM at a table, and a version of the game edited for brevity and amusement is uploaded to Youtube, and commenters suggest the next course of action.

    Game sessions are about an hour long, edited to 15 minutes, and cover a few dungeon rooms. The comment-vote is sort of like a virtual party leader, not party caller, so the minutae of decision-making is still in the hands of the players and they can disregard the vote if they really need to.

    The vote would be along the lines of "what are we going to do with these goblins?" and some commenters will vote "attack their tribe!" and others will vote "make friends with them, lead them!" and of course because it's Youtube a bunch will say "give the goblins all your magic items and suck their dicks!" but hopefully that's a minority.

    This would work well for a lunch-break game like you hear about students doing, or short ConstantCon games.

  3. I think there is a lot more people playing old school than most people think.

    The comment on Icv2 about how D&D 4e is dropping faster than Pathfinder is rising, yet another article says that tabletop sales is up 28% over last year, which also showed an increase of (I think) 24% the year before.

    There is no accurate way to measure the number of people playing in this arena but it is more than 10, a long shot.

    Think about this for a second. I would guestimate that there are between 2000-5000 blogs on the subject (I have a list of at least 2-3000 myself and find more everyday).

    That's saying that 1 out of 2 players are also bloggers. But if you look at followers to blogs it's maybe 10-20% that write at least one blog. Most don't have a blog.

    100,000 would be a better estimate and counting all the overlap in types of games including indie may still be too low.

    Now the OSR, defined as people who just play original style LBB, that might be 10,000 give or take.

  4. Thanks, for the comments.

    @Lukas: Yeah, lot of folks playing Minecraft. I wonder how many people bought 4e. Was it millions? I brought up this particular YouTuber because he's of a more technical persuasion that would seem to match up with the kind of blogging I tend to do and like.

    @1d30: I thought I hit it with My Axe was a pretty good example of how you could do a let's play. And you could add more audience participation, though I think that would change the game from the D&D we know a little.

    What is really cool about a lot of these Minecraft games for me is not that they're playing the actual game (they often mine for resources and explore off-camera) but that they're showing you how to play, and figuring out how to play in front of you.

    I wonder if you could make a video that would be the equivalent for D&D. A video houseruling blogpost. I don't know, I guess there would be nothing to see.

    @ADD:Yeah, they are probably more people playing than we think. But I was wondering more about the technical subset that would subscribe to EthosLab. Why aren't they following OSR blogs? He's adding more subscribers a month than I've managed to get reading my feed after three years of blogging!

    Some more thoughts. Minecraft is good at solo and multiplayer. You can build stuff for hours on a server then show it off to friends. There is really no solo play for D&D. Minecraft functions effectively as the DM, but with D&D there is that split. I imagine there might be a lot of people that like playing D&D but don't have time to sit around thinking how to abstract a martial arts system that's fun to play but won't bog down the game.

    If the ratio to DMs to players is something like 1:5, and if we assume most of our blog readers are DMs, maybe we should multiply our feed readers by 5 to get a comparable sense of the size of the gaming community?