ICv2's Internal Correspondence #86 for Q4 2014:
#1. Warhammer 40K
#4. Star Trek Attack Wing
Whilst the data has to be taken with a pinch of salt, it likely IS somewhat more comprehensive and accurate than your personal observations in your local hobby store (see logical fallacies).
That said, here are some personal observations:
*I'm curious why #3 & #5 weren't combined (local players seem to play them as the one game) and where they would rate if they did.
*I had no idea the twisty-dial games were so popular. Though I do think clix games should be in the collectibles category. I expected X-Wing to make the list, but not be #2. (Perhaps wouldn't if Hordes was added to Warmachine?). I wonder though if they will remain consistent (there has been a lot of clix games that have fallen by the wayside). There must be more Trekkies out there than I thought, as well. Admittedly I have been out of touch with gaming for about 6 months.
*Warhammer Fantasy is conspicuous by its absence. (It was 3rd behind Warmachine in 2012, 4th behind X-Wing in 2013). Vague rumours suggest it makes up only 8% of GW sales. Given how ruthlessly GW has pruned better games, it doesn't surprise me to hear rumours of a makeover, turning 9th ed into a skirmish-type Warmahordes scale game with round bases. Whilst the switch to skirmish from boring, expensive, painful-to-paint big unit blocks interests me, the gut feeling I have - that it will just be 40K with arrows - does not.
*Who else would make the list, if it wasn't for the clix? (Prepainted "kiddy collectibles" aren't proper miniatures wargaming I say!). Malifaux made 5th on 2011, 2012, but I cannot see it being more popular than Flames of War for that or any other year (Yes, I know what I said about personal opinions!). Perhaps Battlefront handle their own distribution.
*OK, this list is officially cr*p. Dark Heaven by Reaper coming 5th in 2009? I don't think a rules system was even in print then. I refuse to believe role-players buying singles of Reaper figures had a bigger market share than, say LOTR:SBG, even if it was dying at the time.
OK, now for "personal opinion"
Top Tier: 40K, Warmachine/Hordes, X-Wing
Second Tier: Flames of War, Bolt Action, Warhammer Fantasy
Third Tier: Malifaux, Infinity, Firestorm/Dystopian Wars.
Maybe there: Dropzone Commander, Bushido
What do we notice about these? (I'm semi-ignoring the clix games as they aren't a conventional miniatures game, and are as much akin to CCGs/boardgames.)
They all focus on MINIATURES (and "Oooh, Shiny!")
All of them have an accompanying miniatures range.
All have "boutique" pricing - i.e. minis 2-3x more $$$ than a similar historical mini
All have multiple, collectible "official" factions
All have a points-based "army builder" that encourages min-maxing unit combos (i.e. a list-building metagame)
All of them have extensive fluff. There's a lot of shiny chrome. The rulebooks are always polished.
They also focus on ACCESSIBILITY
Most have low equipment requirements (not much terrain, ordinary tape, D6s)
Most of them are 'supported' with (excessive) supplements, codexes, army books and rule revisions.
Most of them use "buckets of dice"
Most of them have rather simple mechanics with little math
All have limited record-keeping
Many of them share mechanics
Most of them are quite concrete (WYSIWYG, line of sight)
Most are points-based for one-off 'pick up' games rather than scenarios
Most of them give the player a lot of control (IGOUGO) free of interference (reaction fire, etc)
It's easy to find and buy the miniatures (online or in stores), and also to find out what you need to buy
Most games can be played in ~2 hours
All are dominant in their chosen fields = convenience in finding opponents
I find Infinity the interesting outliers in that they violate many of the "accessibility" rules, but on the other hand their market share is probably proportionately small.
So if I was setting out to make money, I would:
*Make sure my rules were polished and include well written (proofread) fluff
*If I did not have a miniatures line, work with a specific miniatures manufacturer (feature their models through my rules); create some 'official' factions
*Use simple mechanics borrowed from existing games with little record keeping, time ~2hrs to play
*Include a points system for pick-up games (I'm looking at you, Ambush Alley Games!)
*Include a robust army builder so players can tinker (i.e. min-max) to their hearts content
*Support my rules by doling out new content in dribs and drabs
I wouldn't use IGOUGO, and I would allow reaction moves/fire (simply because I cannot sacrifice that much of my integrity!) as games seem to be finally moving on from that anyway.