I just, literally like 10 minutes prior to posting this, saw an article about why D&D 5E is so successful. The synopsis was marketing, and I’d have to agree. A lot of things have changed over the years, but the impact of savvy marketing cannot be understated.
People have spoken to the impact of watching live play on YouTube. I freely admit to having done this. It is a fantastic way of showing people how games work. It makes them less opaque, and less obscure.
But the marketing.
Often when I hear people talk about 5E, the system is a mixed bag. No one hates it outright, but it doesn’t have quite the finesse it looked like it was going to have initially. Also, Wizards of the Coast hasn’t published too much content for it. (Granted, the community content is quite substantial.)
Yet, the way the company has embraced things like Twitch, Critical Role, and community content is impressive. I have to agree that what is moving the game is not the game. The brand is strong, and pushing the product through alternative means has helped make D&D a force to be reckoned with again.
I’ve spoken about inertia in gaming, and its something I’ll keep coming back to, but D&D has it in spades right now. The marketing just helps keep it going. I hope that the ability of that one game continues to drive people to the hobby. Everyone who plays TTRPGs will ultimately benefit from the hobby growing.