RPG Evolution: What If the D&D Movie is a Hit?

Like, a really big success?


The Big Bet​

It's become clear that the Dungeons & Dragons brand has transformed in the eyes of Hasbro from a product that didn't merit much attention to a tentpole merchandising machine that's a lynchpin of Hasbro's brand playbook.

I've covered the battle over the movie's rights elsewhere in detail, but what's most relevant to this discussion is that somewhere along the line, it was decided the movie property was much more valuable than it had been in the past. Valuable enough to go to court over it.

Hasbro's always wanted to mimic Disney's success with Marvel's intellectual properties. Given that Hasbro was particularly concerned about Disney using the Open Game License, it seems the game company feels they're going to be successful enough in the brand space to be a competitor.

All this adds up to Hasbro betting big on the movie and treating it like it will be a success, well before the movie is even released. But what makes a film successful?

The Right Ingredients​

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science:
Star power, acting expertise, rousing reviews and public ratings are all key factors that influence our decision to see a movie. Researchers from UTS, HEC Montreal and the University of Cambridge compared these factors across 150 studies to boil down the formula for box office success.
The D&D movie's star power is certainly higher than any other D&D-themed movie released to date. It will feature Chris Pine as bard Edgin davis (Wonder Woman) and Michelle Rodriguez as barbarian Holga (F9) in the lead roles. Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu) as sorcerer Simon, Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Grey Man) as paladin Xenk, Hugh Grant (Paddington 2) as rogue Forge, and Sophia Lillis (IT) as druid Doric. Additionally, Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies), Jason Wong (Strangers), and Daisy Head (Shadow and Bone). Test screenings have been positive too:
...the thing that we learned the most from our test screenings was that it really appealed, not just to D&D fans, [but] people that had no idea what they were watching when they were going into the test screening actually were engaged, and they didn't think that they would be because it's a D&D movie, and it's got us not necessarily a stigma, but it has a lot of baggage attached to it in terms of what people expect out of it. I think that was like a pleasant surprise for a lot of people.
The D&D movie was advertised during the Super Bowl, which is another data point indicating the company's confidence in the movie. An average 30-second Super Bowl ad costs 7 million dollars. The movie itself $151 million (UPDATED, thank you for pointing this out!), with Chris Pine's salary pegged at $11.5 million.

Of course, reviews and public ratings will be determined after the box often returns are tallied.

And If It Does Well...​

After box office returns come in, the most immediate sign of the movie's success will be how much it earns. Estimates range between $100 to $120 million.

If the film clears the bar of making more money than it cost to produce and market, the outcomes will be familiar: sequels, spinoffs, and merchandising. That merchandising can take a lot of forms, from pencils to bookmarks, socks to blankets. D&D's already in these spaces, so it won't be a big stretch to brand specific creatures or characters from the film.

Of relevance to tabletop gamers is if any of this attention will result in more players. Hasbro seems to be following the Disney playbook, which means there isn't much cross-branding between the movies and the books that spawned them. While there are signs D&D tabletop gaming will reference the movie, it seems to be a one way street. Contrast this with DC's new strategy, in which they advertised the Flash comics that inspired the movie at the end of its Super Bowl spot.

The good news is even without specific tie-ins, D&D will likely get a boost. We can use the sometimes fraught relationship between Marvel movies and Marvel comics to understand if brand awareness drives readership. According to ComicBookHerald, we can expect anywhere from a 4.5x to 6x increase in sales of D&D-related books:
During non peak seasons (defined here as the first 14 days following a tentpole movie, or the month-long duration of WandaVision hype), the average views for the ‘Where to Start’ guide were 245 per day. During peak seasons, that total jumps to 1096 per day on average, a near 4.5x jump. And if we’re just looking at the Avengers movies, the average is closer to 1500 per day, a 6.1x increase.

Buckle Up!​

Between the legal wrangling, financial investment, and advertising dollars at stake, there's a lot riding on the D&D movie. The brand is about to be introduced to folks who have never played D&D but likely heard of it (thanks to streaming and Stranger Things) in a very big way.

One thing is clear: if the film is a blockbuster hit, D&D fandom will no longer consist of D&D players alone. Here's hoping we can welcome them to the hobby.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

I guess Ravenloft will be the next one to be adapted to an action-live, maybe with a totally new domain, or even with XX or XXI technologic level. Birthright is perfect for a serie style Game of Thrones or House of Dragon, but here they would need a lot of work with the lore and the plot. Maybe Paramount wanted to start from zero with their own IP to enjoy absolute control, and this to be licenced to WotC.

If there is a project about Spelljammer this should be an animated production to save FXs.

Dark Sun could be adapted for a horror story for mature audiences. It could be about fugitive slaves trying to hide in an underground zone, and they are pursued by the templars, but the zone is cursed, and soon people from both sides start to be killed. (Sorry, I was thinking into something like the videogame Dark Pictures: Houses of Ashes).

Savage Coast/Red Steel could be for a movie style "Pirates of the Caribean".

Jackandor would be better for a one-shot story.

Mystara's Hollow World is perfect if you want to mix Jurassic Park and Conan the barbarian.
Last edited:


The budget for this is actually $151 million. The $45 million number seems to have been the budget for the 2000 movie.
That sounds more like it, although they could have stuck with 2000 CGI.

If the movie does well, I can see the Chris Pine trilogy. Movies 2 and 3 get filmed together and pumped out over the next couple years. From there, do they do spin-offs or bring in new characters for another trilogy. Do not see them pulling off a MCU endgame with actors from several independent movies if produced.


Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Planescape: Marvel's: What If?
Dragonlance: War of the Lance Trilogy.
Spelljammer: Pirates of Dark Water in Space.
Dark Sun: R-Rated postapocalyptic Scorpion King/Sword n' Sorcery film.
Eberron: Dungeonpunk Indiana Jones journey to Xen'drik -or- Magenoir detective of Sharn.
Ravenloft: Shape of Water style creature-focused gothic romance which humanizes the monster and reveals the "Real Danger" of the specific Dread Realm.

Von Ether

The good news is even without specific tie-ins, D&D will likely get a boost. We can use the sometimes fraught relationship between Marvel movies and Marvel comics to understand if brand awareness drives readership. According to ComicBookHerald, we can expect anywhere from a 4.5x to 6x increase in sales of D&D-related books:

I want to be less optimistic as both ttrpgs AND media ties are in a weird space. Part of it is that a D&D book ("That's a game?') are thick and intimating to newbies.

Then again, my rpg stuff has sold a lot more than my fiction ever did (though it's only short stories.) And up to a point people seem to prefer words they find useful over initially entertaining (non-fiction, how tos, gaming.)

Either way, I just cannot wait for the next generation of new gamers being told they are "not doing it right" by the new crop of now old timers. The more things change ...

As a side note, Jim Butcher is very grateful for the Dresden Files TV show. Even though it only has one season, it permanently boosted his readership by that same 4.5-6 X ratio.

I think D&D as a movie franchise is likely to be extreme "fragile".

That is to say, it may succeed in producing sequels, but at some point fairly soon, the bubble will burst, due to some kind of bad creative decision - i.e. wrong director(s), wrong writer(s), big cast change/failure to change cast, etc., and then that'll be it for a few years. But I will say that even they only manage one successful sequel, it's then likely Hollywood will continue attempting to "reboot" D&D movies for the rest of eternity, every 10 years or so.

Remove ads

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases