WotC Hasbro Has Invested $1B In Video Games, Including A New D&D Game

There's "something like" Baldur's Gate 3 coming.

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Wizards of the Coast's head of digital production, Dan Ayoub, spoke to GamesIndustry.biz about Hasbro's future video game plans, with over a billion dollars currently invested in internally developed games.

With Baldur's Gate 3 doing so well, and developer Larion confirming that it would not be working on a sequel, the future of that franchise is still in question, with Hasbro currently looking for partners for the project. Ayoub commented that "something like" BG3 was in the works.

"One of the great things we took from the success of Baldur's Gate 3 is that people really, really like a great, well-executed D&D game, so we've got something like that."
-Dan Ayoub​

Hasbro's four video game studios are Atomic Arcade, Invoke Studios, Archetype, and Skeleton Key. While those studios are working with various Hasbro properties, such as GI Joe, Invoke is currently working on a Dungeons & Dragons game. Of course, the company also seeks to create new IP via video games, and Archetype's James Ohlen (Knights of the Old Republic) is involved with a new franchise called Exodus.

""Over $1 billion is in video game development right now. And that is just these studios. That's to say nothing of the other game investments that are happening. Definitely I've seen the company put its actions around its words in terms of building these studios around strong leaders, thinking about the long game as well. We've got a portfolio that goes much, much larger than anything we're talking about right now."

In Summer 2023, WotC cancelled 5 video games. At the time it owned 6 video game studios, according to then-president Cynthia Williams.
 

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Some of it could turn out OK. Got to invest to make anything worthwhile.
Yeah, I think I'd have a bit more faith if they were starting with companies which looked more promising. Archetype is the only one that really does.

Exodus is interesting. It's clearly ambitious - perhaps excessively so - for a first game in a series by a new company they seem to be betting pretty hard on a lot of elements, and jumping straight to AAA.

Archetype is headed up by the guy who made BG 1 & 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and rhe Mass Effect games.
The bolded bit is simply not true on any level.

Casey Hudson is "the guy who made the Mass Effect games". He instigated their creation - the basic idea of what they should do was his, and was the director for all three games. He was also the director on Knights of the Old Republic. He does not work at Archetype Entertainment.


James Ohlen was the lead on BG1 & BG2, and was the lead designer on Knights of the Old Republic (under Casey Hudson as the director). Also he was the director on Jade Empire - so that's the game he had the most control over. He "heads up" Archetype Entertainment.


He did not work on the Mass Effect games. You can just look in his credits. (NB his credit on Mass Effect Andromeda is because he was Director of Design for Bioware at large at the time - so this is the guy who signed off on the design of Andromeda and Anthem - take that as you will).

You may be confusing him with Drew Karypshyn. Karpyshyn was the lead writer on ME1, and one of the lead writers on ME2. Due to fannish behaviour (i.e. always wanting a single individual to praise/blame), he's frequently miscredited as being "behind" or "the creator" ME1. This is untrue on all levels. The concept was originated by Casey Hudson. The world and setting was built by several people. Much of the best low-level world-building (often credited to Karpyshyn) was done by someone who isn't even credited properly because they were in a different role (sadly I've forgotten their name also). So he's part of what made ME1 great, but let's not get carried away.


What he was responsible for was the plot of ME1 and the way it was structured - not the concepts behind the plot (i.e. the Reapers etc.), but the plot itself - and that is an impressive achievement, because it's one of the few genuinely good and well-executed plots in videogame RPG history.

As a general rule, I'd strongly recommend checking MobyGames before making an assertions about who did what in games. It can only record what actually gets stated, but it will clear up completely untrue things like your claim re: Mass Effect.
 

Dausuul

Legend
To be fair to WotC, it does appear that they have learned this lesson to some degree and are putting serious resources into these studios. We'll see how things play out over the next few years.
We'll see. Being willing to spend a lot of money is something, but it doesn't mean the people running the show have any clue how to make good CRPGs. You need talented people -- and not just talented devs, but also managers and writers -- and you need to give them enough freedom to do their thing.

And then there is the whole question of how much to let your release date slip and when to call it done. A lot of potentially good games become disasters because they get rushed out the door too soon, and many of the best games arrived late, sometimes years late. But you also can't tinker and polish forever, every week of additional development costs a lot of money and sooner or later you've got to ship. And even talented people produce duds now and then; if the game you've built is just not working out, then pushing back the release date to try and improve it is just throwing good money after bad.

This is all really hard stuff with no easy answers, and it's why I think D&D (and Hasbro!) would be much better served by continuing to license out the brand rather than doing it in-house. But corporate empire builders do love to carve out new little fiefdoms for themselves whenever the corporation is flush with cash, pretending the salad days will go on forever.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Some interesting analysis from Treantent's Monk

In short, profits and profit margins are up at WoTC and Hasbro has spent a billion on acquiring game studios and the only big game mentioned in a G.I. Joe game.
 

Generally speaking, I don't think internal development is the best use of the D&D brand in video games. I would rather see robust licensing where we can get D&D crunchy tactical rpgs and action rpgs and cozy sims and 4X grand strategy games and narrative adventures and so on.
The difficulty is balancing corporate greed on the part of WotC with wanting D&D to succeed as a brand.

I don't mean that in some cynical axe grinder way either, I mean, it's a genuine issue.

WotC had a genuine question ahead of them, raised by BG3.

BG3, we know has sold upwards of 15m copies, which is just insane amounts of money. It looks like WotC got 5-10% of that revenue - which is nice because it's effectively "free money" for them - they put in very limited effort and no actual investment.

And with robust licencing, they could get a lot more of this kind of "free money". They'd need to employ a few more people to monitor/manage/encourage it, but it's not a large investment.

But what WotC is seeing is the 15m copies at $60+, and whilst that cost Larian $150m+ or whatever, and was risky, it may have made $2bn in revenue, and probably several hundred million in actual profit after everything is deducted. So WotC is thinking (rather questionably), "I could do that!", or rather, a bunch of suits in a meeting got together and probably had some pretty solid research, and decided it looked pretty possible to them.

The trouble I see is, the videogame business is a very uncertain one. Unless you have something that's "gone mainstream", and is an existing franchise, the odds of making significantly profitable game - i.e. lot more profitable, especially when opportunity cost is accounted for, than the "free money" from licencing is taken into account, are pretty damn low.

And I think WotC is probably making a mistake. I think they think that the BG brand, and/or the D&D brand, are more valuable than they are. BG3 didn't succeed because it was called BG3. It didn't succeed, really, because it was D&D. It succeeded because it was a masterwork from a studio that's been getting slowly better and better at designing RPGs for a very long time, and was coming off the back of two pretty successful RPGs. If they want to make their own BG4 or similar, that's going to cost them like like $200m, because they don't have the talent, the experience, any of it. They'll need to hire everyone - designers, writers, programmers, artists, mocap, etc. - and being real, if they try and jump straight to a full AAA, it'll probably take 6+ years for the whole process (already accounted for in the $200m), and they still might well make a game that is only... "okay", that gets 8/10 or 7/10-type scores, and the sales will probably cover the $200m, even after Steam's cut or the like, but, will they make it a worthwhile investment? No. Now maybe they'll somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat, and be pretty much the first corporate AAA ever to get a huge hit on their very first try - I think that's what they think will happen. But equally it might be worse than projected and be a genuine flop (I think the risks are lower with a CRPG at least because the game-buying public seems to have a greater tolerance for "being crap at release" in AAA CRPGs than any other budget level and genre).

Also it requires a huge level of commitment which I'm not sure is compatible with Hasbro's short-term-ism. Game publishers generally understand the game business. They know an AAA game often takes 4-6+ years to develop, and they're not going to cancel something unless it's looking like a failure - sometimes not even then - but Hasbro/WotC? Even if they're "relatively hands off", the huge amounts of money going in to what often looks from the outside like kind of a black hole tend terrify companies not used to this. I could very easily see WotC pulling one of these studios up to AAA, getting 4 years into a BG4, and Hasbro deciding that, in order to look good for the investors, actually they're just dropping that game, even though it was completely on-track. I actually think that's how this will end - Hasbro getting WotC to sell off or shutter these studios before any of them but Archetype actually put out an AAA game.

EDIT - To draw this back to the original point re: greed, probably for the long-term health of D&D as a brand/IP, and the far less risky option, would be to bulk out the D&D licencing team, and aggressively seek out licencees. But nobody is a "Big Damn Hero" for that. We saw that with Mearls - he and his team were fired (the Treantmonk video above incorrectly and rather dementedly claims the only evidence for this is Swen's tweet - not true - we know those people were fired by their own accounts and their LinkedIns showing they left WotC at that time, so not sure what Treantmonk was smoking there) as a reward for making WotC tens of millions from that deal. Whereas if you claim to be behind spending $200m on developing a videogame and then profiting to the tune of a couple of hundred million (which would be lucky but w/e), you'll absolutely be a Big Damn Hero, with associated promotions, pay bumps, insane bonuses, stock offers and so on. And if it flops? Oh well, not your money, and absolute worst case you're probably already getting hired on the basis of your "expertise" managing a $200m project at some other company, before it actually releases into flophood (though even after you will likely be fine - there are a million excuses and the people hiring you want the same excuses for their own failures so won't contradict them). Equally, if you come on board at WotC, or get promoted, and one of your first acts is to cancel that "wasteful and ill-advised" $200m project, you are a Big Damn Hero who prevented WotC sending good money after bad, and you can add it to your CV, even if the project actually completely on-track.
 
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bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
Generally speaking, I don't think internal development is the best use of the D&D brand in video games. I would rather see robust licensing where we can get D&D crunchy tactical rpgs and action rpgs and cozy sims and 4X grand strategy games and narrative adventures and so on.
They're doing this also
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
As a general rule, I'd strongly recommend checking MobyGames before making an assertions about who did what in games. It can only record what actually gets stated, but it will clear up completely untrue things like your claim re: Mass Effect.
To be fair, I did, I just didn't dive deeper than "he was mentioned in the credits for multiple Mass Effext games"
Also it requires a huge level of commitment which I'm not sure is compatible with Hasbro's short-term-ism. Game publishers generally understand the game business. They know an AAA game often takes 4-6+ years to develop, and they're not going to cancel something unless it's looking like a failure - sometimes not even then - but Hasbro/WotC?
It is worth noting that thisnis for four studios, so each does have that $250 million dollar budget. Exodus has been cooking for about 5 years bow, and isn't done, and whatever Invoke is working on now is about 3 years in, so they seem to be giving these adequate time as well as money, though thst is no guarantee of anything.

But all those Microsoft executives at WotC since Cocks came in do suggest that software development might not be as foreign to Hasbro and especially SotC as or was a decade ago.
 
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