D&D 5E Hasbro Acquires D&D Beyond For $146M

D&D owner WotC and D&D Beyond have announced that the online tools platform is being acquired by WotC.

DDB’s (former) owner was Fandom, which acquired it in 2018, and which also acquired the Cortex Prime TTRPG system recently. Fandom is producing a range of licensed games using the Cortex Prime system starting with the recent Tales of Xadia: The Dragon Prince RPG. Several DDB core staff members and founders moved on to other projects last year.


This move has been widely expected for some time. The purchase figure being circulated is $146 million. By comparison, when WotC purchased then-D&D owner TSR in 1997, it did so for $25M. Hasbro later purchased WotC for $325M.

D&D Beyond was created in 2017 by Curse LLC, a company owned by Twitch. Fandom purchased Curse in 2018. WotC will be the third owner of the platform.

In other news, back in November WotC applied for a trademark for 'Atomic Arcade' for a variety of electronic gaming applications, and earlier in the year, rumours spread regarding WotC’s plans for its own virtual tabletop platform (VTT) following a survey in which they gauged opinions and allegedly showed off graphically rich 3D screenshots.

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Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS) today announced that it is acquiring D&D Beyond, the leading digital toolset and game companion for the Company’s groundbreaking fantasy franchise, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, from Fandom. Fandom, the world’s largest fan platform, has owned and operated D&D Beyond since 2019 and has grown the direct-to-consumer business to be the leading role-playing game (RPG) digital toolset on the market with close to 10 million registered users. This strategic acquisition, for $146.3 million in cash, will further strengthen Hasbro’s capabilities in the fast-growing digital tabletop category while also adding veteran talents to the Wizards of the Coast team and accelerating efforts to deliver exceptional experiences for fans across all platforms.

Since 2017, D&D Beyond has helped to power DUNGEONS & DRAGONS tabletop play and deliver the brand's eighth consecutive year of growth in 2021. Over the last three years, the royalty paid to Hasbro by D&D Beyond has represented a significant contribution to the fastest growing source of revenue for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. The strategic acquisition of D&D Beyond will deliver a direct relationship with fans, providing valuable, data-driven insights to unlock opportunities for growth in new product development, live services and tools, and regional expansions. As part of Wizards, the brand’s leadership will soon be able to drive a unified, player-centric vision of the world’s greatest role-playing game on all platforms.

“The acquisition of D&D Beyond will accelerate our progress in both gaming and direct to consumer, two priority areas of growth for Hasbro, providing immediate access to a loyal, growing player base,” said Chris Cocks, Hasbro Chief Executive Officer. “Hasbro’s gaming portfolio is among the largest and most profitable in the industry, and we continue to make strategic investments to grow our brands, including in digital.”

“This is the perfect next step for the talented D&D Beyond team, who built a transformative digital product that engaged and delighted millions of D&D fans around the world,” said Perkins Miller, CEO of Fandom. “We can't wait to see what this team will do next as an integral part of the D&D franchise, and I look forward to investing in more brands and products to super serve Fandom’s 300 million+ global fans.”

“D&D Beyond has been one of our most valuable partners in the digital space for the past six years and we’re excited to bring their best-in-class talent onto our team,” said Cynthia Williams, President of Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming. “The team at D&D Beyond has built an incredible digital platform, and together we will deliver the best-possible DUNGEONS & DRAGONS experience for players around the world.”

Hasbro’s continued investment in Wizards of the Coast’s digital growth for its two iconic franchises, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and MAGIC: THE GATHERING, is representative of the significant opportunity in PC and mobile gaming, an industry that represented over 3 billion players globally and $129 billion in revenue in 20211. With the launch of Magic: The Gathering Arena on PC in 2019 and on mobile in 2021, Wizards has built a unique ecosystem of best-in-class tabletop and digital play to create deeper player engagement and satisfaction and grow revenue across all expressions and regions. Similarly, with more than 80% of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS fans having already played the game virtually in 2021, aided by online digital platforms such as D&D Beyond, this acquisition accelerates the game’s ability to penetrate new markets, gather valuable consumer insights and provide players with the best DUNGEONS & DRAGONS experience on all platforms.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and the receipt of certain regulatory approvals, and is expected to close during the second or third quarter of 2022. The transaction will be funded out of cash on hand and is expected to be immaterial to revenue and earnings per share in 2022 and accretive to earnings per share in fiscal year 2023 and beyond. The transaction has been approved by both Hasbro’s and Fandom’s Boards of Directors.


 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Oofta

Legend
In all honesty this is a problem for just about every single company out there. The web is a mess.

The companies that you perceive as doing it right and standing the test of time are constantly working to keep their applications up to date and spending all kinds of resources to make sure that they're keeping up - including completely revising how they do things fairly regularly. The problem that Wizards has historically had with this stuff is that they're not a tech company - non-tech companies often drastically underestimate just how much work it takes to keep a complex public application functioning (especially if their IT folks are mostly used to maintaining internal private apps - which can also be beasts to maintain and also fall behind the times but you can force your employees to use it as is and work around the flaws until you can budget in money for changes. If you're making an app for the general public the constraints are all very different).

Many non-tech companies treat IT as an expense, a necessary evil who's cost should be kept to a minimum. Some companies understand the importance of technology and public interface but even then management tends to be wowed by a cool interface demos. So it kind of trickles down. Management wants something done as cheap as possible, not understanding the importance of infrastructure and clean designs so as a developer if you want to look like a hero you focus on making UIs that look cool because honestly people often don't know what they really need or want while dozing off while some IT nerd drones on about APIs and adaptable data storage structures. Of course a lot of devs also chase after the bright and shiny new thing because promises of the silver bullet that will solve the problems from the last project. Sometimes it does (but usually just has different issues), sometimes it's Silverlight*.

The sad fact is that most software development fails to meet all of their goals. Most come close enough to be useable but it's only after multiple iterations that they achieve toned down goals.

*Or Knockout or some other javascript flash in the pan monstrosity that promises to solve all your problems. Me? Still miffed that we went with technology that wasn't proven when things like react and angular were starting to gain headway? Or even just sticking with slightly older proven technologies until the dust settled a bit? Nah. ;)
 

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Jer

Legend
Supporter
I see no moderation issue on the site, if it ain't broke don't fix it. D&D Beyond has had a successful forums for over a decade, clearly they know what they are doing.

I'm curious if given it's now a WotC Forum if it will get a subforum for MtG.
Wizards had decent forums for a while too, until they didn't. Moderation can be a non-issue for a while, until it becomes an issue. I watched forums back in the day go from fun places to hang out to cess pits that eventually got shut off because the folks running them just couldn't keep up with the garbage.

So it all depends on how much money they want to spend on forum moderation. Once the costs outweigh the benefits the forums will get dumped. The trick is how beneficial they see having forums that they moderate vs. just using existing social media.
 

Foundry and Roll20 (and maybe others?) are already integrated into DNDB.
Not licensed, meaning it can go away without notice and anytime WotC choses.
It's not justifying it to say that it takes labor to move that content into those different platforms. The work it takes to create a book is different from the work it takes to put that content onto DDB is different from the (vast amounts of extra) work it takes to integrate that material into a VTT.
It does take enormous amounts of labor. Or it takes a huge investment in a Content Management System (like Arbortext). I'm talking a few million, along with something like a 25% maintenance cost. Eventually such systems will trickle into the RPG creation world, but for now they are few companies/industries that can justify such.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
It does take enormous amounts of labor. Or it takes a huge investment in a Content Management System (like Arbortext). I'm talking a few million, along with something like a 25% maintenance cost. Eventually such systems will trickle into the RPG creation world, but for now they are few companies/industries that can justify such.
I think people underestimate just how much extra labor goes into putting things into different formats and think it's all automated now. Even where it is automated its incredibly expensive. It's not like having both a print book and a PDF where making a PDF is the intermediate stage of getting a book to print (and even there - the version of a PDF that is good to read on a device requires some labor to create from the version of the PDF that the printer needs, so even there there's a cost being paid).
 

Michael Linke

Adventurer
WotC traditionally asks folks to move to their city and headquarters. From what I understand D&DBeyond does not. Though lately I’ve heard WotC has begun to walk away from that policy.
If WotC wants to get into the dev game, they need to let go of that. Where I work, we're realizing that no matter where your business is located, you're in competition with dev hiring managers all over the world for the same candidates. Nobody's gonna take a job for your company and move to your city to go to your office, when they can take a higher paying job at a more prestigious company that doesn't care where they live. We've basically given up on requiring in-person work for the dev teams.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
They don't need innovation. They need basic functionality.
Basic functionality is a pretty high bar though. Every vtt carries a different use case in its design and has its own long list of things that they can /can't do. Roll20's basic functionality is barely functional compared to a lot of other vtt options, but... It doesn't require a local web server to be running.. It doesn't require a computer powerful enough to run everything locally in unity... It doesn't really require players to install anything.. Etc and it has a massive user base that formed when there were almost no vtt's. Other vtt's likewise have their own lists of does x but not y while needing p but not q features & requirements.

If basic functionality was enough when it comes to software we would all still be using icq yim and aim messenger clients if wotc came out with a vtt that only offered "basic functionality" yesterday it would already be far behind other offerings. They could buy a vtt with basic functionality but again it goes back to investing in ongoing development just to maintain what is considered basic functionality.

Even beyond all that, what is "basic [VTT] functionality"? I went looking for a simple side by side chart comparing the different options & found 1, 2, 3, 4 different completely different & likely out of date lists that each lack any mention of one or more VTTs mentioned in this thread alone. That question is really important because VTT choice is almost entirely up to the GM so players can't be a squeaky wheel every few sessions to push for ddb character sheets on a phone even if the GM keeps explaining why that form of character sheet is not allowed. Different GM's will consider a different set of things to be "basic functionality" & ease of use design or time saving features that will always be moving targets can rank even higher
 

darjr

I crit!
If WotC wants to get into the dev game, they need to let go of that. Where I work, we're realizing that no matter where your business is located, you're in competition with dev hiring managers all over the world for the same candidates. Nobody's gonna take a job for your company and move to your city to go to your office, when they can take a higher paying job at a more prestigious company that doesn't care where they live. We've basically given up on requiring in-person work for the dev teams.
As far as I know they have been. But not quite officially yet.
 


Michael Linke

Adventurer
All true, $100 million true? I don’t know. I want to though.
We have the benefit of foresight hindsight, and the bias of nostalgia. I think in 1997, for $25 milion, the TSR acquisition was probably, on paper, a very bad idea (or at best a high-risk investment), and the only reason it happened was because Adkison had an emotional attachment to the idea of TSR and D&D.

My big what-if fantasies are whether Hasbro would have been interested in either WotC or TSR in 1999 if the 1997 deal never happened, and whether TSR would have eventually climbed out of the hole on its own if the 1997 deal never happened and how long that would have taken.
 

darjr

I crit!
We have the benefit of foresight, and the bias of nostalgia. I think in 1997, for $25 milion, the TSR acquisition was probably, on paper, a very bad idea (or at best a high-risk investment), and the only reason it happened was because Adkison had an emotional attachment to the idea of TSR and D&D.

My big what-if fantasies are whether Hasbro would have been interested in either WotC or TSR in 1999 if the 1997 deal never happened, and whether TSR would have eventually climbed out of the hole on its own if the 1997 deal never happened and how long that would have taken.
They would haven’t climbed out. They were done and almost on the chopping block.
 


It takes more than that, because D&D Beyond doesn't just have flat presentation of text content. It implements calculations for mechanics as well.
Hence why part of setting up a CMS system costs millions of dollars. And depending upon the target format needs, their still may need to be manual labor. It depends upon how the consuming systems are setup. Something like FG just needs input xml files, that a CMS system can relatively easily setup and create. Web pages like DDB probably needs a post processor like of setup that adds hyperlinks to known reference. And of course, both consuming systems require new capabilities to be created by developers :)
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
We have the benefit of foresight hindsight, and the bias of nostalgia. I think in 1997, for $25 milion, the TSR acquisition was probably, on paper, a very bad idea (or at best a high-risk investment), and the only reason it happened was because Adkison had an emotional attachment to the idea of TSR and D&D.
I don't think it was a very bad deal - they thought very carefully about it before pulling the trigger and sent folks out to do a complete audit of the books and the inventory to make sure of what they were buying. I'm pretty sure that Adkinson saw the value of the D&D brand and saw how TSR had been squandering it and thought he could get $25M + a good ROI over the course of a few years owning the brand. I'm sure a 3rd edition was on his mind at the time too to push things along in that respect also.

My big what-if fantasies are whether Hasbro would have been interested in either WotC or TSR in 1999 if the 1997 deal never happened, and whether TSR would have eventually climbed out of the hole on its own if the 1997 deal never happened and how long that would have taken.
Hasbro's interest in Wizards was about Magic the Gathering and Pokemon (that they lost the Pokemon license so soon after Hasbro bought them is one of the interesting footnotes about the whole acquisition to me).

TSR had no shot of climbing out on their own - their choices at the time of the deal were a) take the money or b) declare bankruptcy and sell off IP piecemeal to raise the money to pay to their creditors. TSR was well and truly cooked by the time the deal was made - they had reached the point where they were so in debt that they literally could not get their books printed and shipped to be able to pay off the debt. I remember months of no TSR product at all in '97 when nobody seemed to know what was going on.

Without the buyout the most likely scenario is that all of TSR's assets would have been sold off to different companies - you could have different companies owning Dark Sun vs. Ravenloft vs. Forgotten Realms - and some other company could have owned the actual Dungeon and Dragons game. Many of the companies buying them up would likely not have been tabletop game companies - I could see Interplay or some other video game company buying the D&D IP for their video games and then discarding the tabletop game as "not relevant to today's gamers" in 1997. It's doubtful that any other tabletop game company could have afforded to buy all of TSR's assets - Wizards was in a unique position of being very cash rich because of Magic the Gathering. I doubt the next biggest player at the time (probably White Wolf) would have been able to afford it.
 



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