RPG Evolution: The Dragons Come Home to Roost

Thanks to the game's surge in popularity, D&D's brand plans are coming to fruition.

D&D has long striven to be more than a game, but a brand. Thanks to the game's surge in popularity, those plans are coming to fruition.


Hasbro’s Strategy​

Hasbro’s association with the movie industry has long been a mutually beneficial relationship, in which toy sales surge with each new movie. Star Wars and Transformers are both examples of how Hasbro’s bottom line is impacted by the release of the latest film. Unfortunately, this strategy means Hasbro is reliant on third party schedules to produce revenue, and the pandemic highlighted just how much can go wrong with the complicated process of releasing a movie. No wonder the company wants its own intellectual property that it can monetize for movies and streaming.

This is why Hasbro's strategy has moved well beyond just producing toys and games. Hasbro divides their new approach into four quadrants: Toys & Games, Digital Gaming, Licensed Consumer Products, and Media (TV, Film, Digital Shorts, Emerging Media). Hasbro previously announced plans to execute on this four quadrant strategy with all of its licenses, including My Little Pony, Transformers, Magic: The Gathering, and Dungeons & Dragons. Some of those Media plans have been easier to execute than others, with Transformer movies running out of steam, the My Little Pony series winding down, and a Magic: The Gathering series yet to launch on streaming. That leaves D&D.

WOTC’s Strategy​

Wizards of the Coast has always struggled to justify its revenue goals for Dungeons & Dragons amidst high revenue brands like Magic: The Gathering. At one point, each division was given a goal of $100 million in annual sales, a number that was not reachable through tabletop gaming channels.

The solution was digital gaming. D&D tried several times to mimic the Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) space, which it inadvertently spawned dating all the way back to Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) and Interactive Fiction (IF). The idea was that if the company could own a slice of that digital engagement dedicated to off-brand D&D, they could reach at least $50 million.

It didn’t work. WOTC never had enough resources, the right partners, or the technical know-how to effectively launch a digital ecosystem that would last longer than a few years. Then something surprising happened: D&D became more popular than all the other Hasbro brands combined.

The Dragons Take Over​

The passing of the previous Hasbro CEO created a power vacuum quickly filled by the staff shepherding D&D into the new age. The twin factors of the pandemic and streaming made D&D uniquely suited to a much wider audience, and it didn’t take long before WOTC was responsible for 72% of Hasbro’s total operating profit. In a very short period of time, WOTC went from a barely-mentioned division on Hasbro investor calls to the darling of the company, with CEO Chris Cocks taking the reins as Hasbro’s CEO in February 2022.

So what’s next? Sure enough, WOTC is executing on Hasbro's four quadrant plan for D&D. Let’s break it down:
  • Media: The juggernaut most likely to influence the other three quadrants is the upcoming D&D movie. There have been many attempts at making D&D movies that have all been commercial failures. This time around feels different, if only because there was a legal battle waged through proxies on behalf of movie-making behemoths (Universal Studios vs. Warner Bros.) for D&D’s film rights. It’s clear they think there’s a lot of money to be made with a D&D movie. Unlike other movie launches, Hasbro is supporting the movie with the full force of its license. For an example of what this might look like, see the above picture of the D&D Advent Calendar. Speaking of which...
  • Licensed Consumer Products: Advent calendars are interesting products because they can contain just about anything, but that thing has to be small. They also require a lot of creativity to produce, as 25 different items is a lot to put into one package. If the D&D advent calendar is any indication, we’re going to see a lot more of beholders, displacer beasts, mimics, owlbears, and gelatinous cubes. There are stylized, iconic images of each monster repeated across everything that’s in the calendar, including stickers, gift tags, pencils, and ornaments.
  • Toys & Games: D&D is a game first and foremost, so the release of the next edition (an edition that requires playtesting but holds out the promise for backwards compatibility) is the obvious prime mover in this space. In addition to the aforementioned licenses, D&D toys are starting to show up in the wild. Egg Embry wrote an overview of just some of the D&D action figures available. We can expect a slew of monster toys too.
  • Digital Gaming: The big news here is One D&D, which uses D&D Beyond as its base. With 13 million registered users, WOTC is banking on D&D Beyond as a base for propagating One D&D to the masses. For better or worse, this includes changes to the OGL with the likely plan to defragment any digital content that currently resides on third-party platforms. There has been several failed attempts at establishing a digital home base for D&D, so it’s really important they get this right.
Cocks has never hidden his digital ambitions for D&D, and now with the company’s full resources at his disposal, we’re about to see a four quadrant D&D plan in action. Hasbro and WOTC are all in on this plan, with the future edition of D&D, the D&D movie, and its reinvigorated digital platform all unified in an attempt to make D&D not just a game, but a brand expression.

Will it work? Perhaps the more relevant question for current D&D fans is ... what if it does?

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


You are right, we don't know anything more than what you choose to share with us. We don't know anything about your players or what their mindset was. We don't know if it was a lapse in judgement, forgetfulness, or brazen stupidity that caused them to take the action they did. Perhaps they didn't realize the wand would help. Perhaps they forgot it was on the character sheet. We don't know their side, we apparently barely know yours and yours is obviously biased to the notion that players aren't what they used to be.

However, the plural of anecdote isn't data. Your experience is yours, but does not speak to a wider truth about gamers today.
Again this was not the only case dude, just one example of many I do not have the time or energy to list all and no one wants to read them. I have played with a good cross-section of people, not just in person but online as well from all over. So believe me when I say IQ levels seem to have sharply dropped mostly in the USA. One of the best online players was from Ireland and another from England but USA players seem to be a random grab bag of mixed nuts. And this is over 5 years or more including online, but hay whatever makes you sleep well at night.

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Von Ether

you're really assuming a lot for someone who is on the outside of this looking in, i have been doing this since i was 20, i am over 50 now so trust me when i say the problem was not with me not "helping" and this group had been together for a few years before i dmed them. So you can keep trying to make excuses for someone you don't know and i do, trust me when i say you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Just to make this clear, the one guy was using a cousin to play one character but he was not into playing it so really the one guy was controlling both characters that had a way to overcome this. And tended to dominate the group. well all but the one guy's wife which he hated the fact he couldn't control her. Funny thing she always was the one who survived the best and really only died once and then only due to his setting off too many areas affect spells causing damage to everyone. You see he had done this before, the person was and did this many times and mostly was just his character that kept getting dead due to his own incompetence. Oh and he was their former DM as well who wanted a break from doing it because he wanted to play not dm, but instead was really trying to be a puppet master overall.
I get that, but also I'm over 50, and I've been hearing, "The latest crop of kids disappoint me," since I was one of those kids. Especially during my time in the military and living in rural communities.

And over years, I've found that overgeneralizing a crowd is a slippery slope. So I ironically, I make other assumptions. :ROFLMAO:
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