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D&D 5E The Pitfalls of Success: Hasbro Success Story, Take 2

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Most of the time, I just let a post out and see where the conversation goes; rarely does it seem so many misunderstand what I wrote (albeit @Mistwell got it pretty quickly). Admittedly, a fair number of people commented based on the title without reading the piece, but then again, it did have words. Lots of them. Since I think the topic enough is interesting enough to discuss, and the original thread was closed because it ended up in a conversation about the gender and/or sexual preferences of certain rock musicians ... yeah, I didn't see that coming either ... I thought I'd try again by posting the annotated guide to the first post. Here is the first one:


Here is the annotated guide to that post:

Thesis: D&D has been promoted within Hasbro due to its success; with this increased success will come increased scrutiny and change, along with sweet, sweet opportunities for mining D&D's IP.

Superstructure, repeated 8 times: A slightly changed version of the song, "Sell Out" by Reel Big Fish; the irony of the song is that this is the first single (and most well-known song) by the band after they signed with a major label; Mojo Records - an MCA/UMG label, and was promoted on the radio and through MTV. To put it another way, there is nothing like17,000 people chanting in unison, "Eff you, I won't do what you tell me."

Interlude 1: D&D is very successful, and the success of D&D has caused it to be elevated within Hasbro to a new position of promience.

Interlude 2: A discussion of the term "selling out," and how the idea that success and artistic merit/integrity are opposed is bizarre to most people today.

Interlude 3: The history of D&D, and how it's always been corporate since Arneson went to Gygax to figure out how to monetize his idea.

Interlude 4: Making fun of Disney, because, Disney. And stating that this is what corporations do- they monetize their assets.

Interlude 5: Discussing some of the history of Hasbro in terms of monetizing their assets (Hasbroverse, 4e), and stating that previously, there were few expectations for the D&D brand.

Interlude 6: Combining 4&5 to state that D&D will now be a "managed brand" and that we should expect more D&D, more licensing, more mining of the IP.

Interlude 7: Concluding by observing that not all aspects of increased corporatization are good; expectations can be a killer to new products because they are judged by new metrics, and standardization and homogenization will tend to increase as it is more of a "brand." But "In the end, worrying about the success of D&D is like worrying about selling out- it's a much better problem to have than the problem of failure."

What I Assumed Were Interesting Issues for Discussion:
1. Will "D&D" be a good managed brand? Is D&D the type of IP that Hasbro will be able to successfully mine like the DCEU and Marvel in a happy, profit-maximizing, cross-media synergizing, shareholder-pleasing way?

2. Now that Hasbro has elevated the D&D and MtG (WoTC) "brands" into a new division (along with digital licensing), what types of products do you expect to see?

3. What concerns, if any, do you have about the need for even more performance from D&D? Is this a permanent change that Hasbro should be counting on for continued meteoric growth, or is this a reflection of unique factors, such as the Pandemic and the success of certain streaming shows (similar to the late 70s and early 80s having unique circumstances) that will cause the growth to dissipate?

4. What was up with that whole 90s ska revival, anyway? Zoot suits? ZOOT SUITS?!!??
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think the future is hard to predict, especially when it hasn't happened yet. There may well come a point where I will no longer allow published options but that's about all the impact it will have on me. I don't buy most of the mods now, or if I do I just buy the bits and pieces I find useful on DndBeyond.

Whether the movies are good/bad/mix will have no impact on my game. More D&D based video games? Same answer, if they're good I'll consider buying.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I think WotC has been internally promoted, and that might have as much do to with M:tG as with D&D. Yeah, the current upswing is likely to put more pressure on the writers and developers to ... at least not shrink the market, and the increased prominence is going to mean more people are looking at the game, but I don't think either of those is a threat to how any given table plays.

I'm not sure D&D is particularly laden with IP worth mining. I mean, at its core it's a game, and every player has their own character/s, so there's not a lot of universality, there. That doesn't mean Hasbro won't try, of course, but I suspect it's more likely to work as well as Battleship than as well as Transformers.

I guess I'd expect to see more digital products--probably games played on computer-type devices--connected with all of Hasbro's brands, including M:tG and D&D. It's plausible that some of those will be multi-player (or at least allow for multi-player play), but there might be solo-play options, as well.

I wouldn't count on growth to continue at anything like the current pace. They might--as I said--be able to not-shrink. It's possible the digital products will grow in ways that add more to the bottom line than more people playing in-person-ish; some sort of subscription-based thing seems likely, here.

I thought the Zoot suits were more associated with bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers than with the ska folks. I wasn't super-interested in either, though, and didn't pay much attention.
 

payn

Adventurer
What I Assumed Were Interesting Issues for Discussion:
1. Will "D&D" be a good managed brand? Is D&D the type of IP that Hasbro will be able to successfully mine like the DCEU and Marvel in a happy, profit-maximizing, cross-media synergizing, shareholder-pleasing way?
Hard to say. DC/Marvel Comics have decades of material that is paper thin and thus easy to make movies out of. D&D is more setting novel focused which is better for a TV series in my opinion. I do think making a successful D&D movie series is possible though. I like the direction that are going. Questions is can they keep churning out hits with a shallow well to pull from? It is exciting to see movies and video games and TTRPG product coming out though!
2. Now that Hasbro has elevated the D&D and MtG (WoTC) "brands" into a new division (along with digital licensing), what types of products do you expect to see?
Video games, maybe another crack at a VTT.
3. What concerns, if any, do you have about the need for even more performance from D&D? Is this a permanent change that Hasbro should be counting on for continued meteoric growth, or is this a reflection of unique factors, such as the Pandemic and the success of certain streaming shows (similar to the late 70s and early 80s having unique circumstances) that will cause the growth to dissipate?
D&D popularity and focus has been cyclical for decades. This is just another turn of the mill.
4. What was up with that whole 90s ska revival, anyway? Zoot suits? ZOOT SUITS?!!??
Ick, thankfully this fad was a flash in the pan. I do have a friend I taunt relentlessly about the ska revival though. This friend had developed a phrase over a summer that he kept using. He was always determining that X was the Y of the 21st century. Ska was the music of the 21st century one summer of the 90's :ROFLMAO:
 

1. Yeah, I think so, because they've already both made all the mistakes and done this correctly with other brands. Habro and WotC have been doing a good job lately.

2. More cross-promotion, but they will be limited by the fact that the magic systems are fundamentally different. Also, the division is MtG, DnD, and digital licensing, so we'll see a lot more attempts at digital products. My guess is they'll try a bunch of ideas and see what sticks before committing significant resources to any one, but that's not based on any specific info about what the company is thinking, just the general corporate approach to entering in a new market area.

3. I'm not concerned, but I could see streaming adding more pressure to incorporate more story-game elements into the core rules. But that's yet another source of that pressure; this isn't a new thing. Basically, expect to see Inspiration get a boost.

The bigger change I foresee is the lessening of race as a game mechanics thing. The safest way to avoid that kind of criticism is to make race fully cosmetic, despite the downsides of doing so.

4. It was a reactionary response to grunge. No matter how nihilistic the zeitgeist, there's always people who prefer positivity in their entertainment.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
4. What was up with that whole 90s ska revival, anyway? Zoot suits? ZOOT SUITS?!!??[/B]
I think you're talking about the late 90s swing revival, not ska, although their popularity did overlap.

As for the broader question, got me. D&D will stop growing, probably in the next few years as I think the interested market will saturate, and people will blame whoever is in charge at the time.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
D&D will stop growing, probably in the next few years as I think the interested market will saturate, and people will blame whoever is in charge at the time.
And whatever decisions they made right before the growth stops (or maybe reverses a little) will be broadly considered to have been the wrong ones, no matter the broader context.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I thought the Zoot suits were more associated with bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers than with the ska folks. I wasn't super-interested in either, though, and didn't pay much attention.
Yep. The '90s saw a limited revival of "big band" style swing music, though it did incorporate influences from ska, rockabilly, and blues. It was jazz-like (e.g., instrumentation, tunes), but it generally lacked the whole improvisation and virtuosity aspect, so it rang pretty hollow with the actual jazz crowd.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Interlude 2: A discussion of the term "selling out," and how the idea that success and artistic merit/integrity are opposed is bizarre to most people today.
I still find this point incredibly misguided and dismissive of the actual situation of “most people today.” We’re not idiots, we recognize the conflict between artistic integrity and corporate influence. Wealth inequality has simply grown to the point that fewer and fewer can afford to take the “high ground.”
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
I think the problem with the previous thread was the "sell out" aspect and the lyrics were very distracting.

So on to your topics:
Will D&D be a good managed brand etc, dunno that really depends on the management and what they do with the IP. I think it has the potential.
Will that impact us as players of table top RPGs. Yes, somewhat depends on how much we depend on published material. As a DM that depends entirely on published material I have only managed to consume Princes of the Apocalypse and Dungeon of the Mad Mage so far, with bits of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist out of what? say a dozen or so APs. So I am good for the next 20 years at least and that is before converting old stuff or Paizo stuff or EN World stuff.

I do not expect much change from a D&D table top perspective: I do expect more video game, may be more board game. TV series and movies.

I do not expect Hasbro to squeeze more performance from D&D and if they do it will be by buying out DnDBeyond or FantasyGrounds and using those as data hoovers to give a better marketing picture.
I expect that Hasbro is looking for growth in the expanded IP, that is, merch, video and boardgames, TV and movies. I would expect more crossover with Magic though.

Ska deserves to be revived.
 


jgsugden

Legend
We've seen a lot of attempts to capitalize upon the D&D IP, increased scrutiny by new management, etc...

The truth is that every edition is going to see change, and it comes down to who is in control at the moment as to whether it is good or bad. Marvel is owned by Disney, and has never been stronger. It is in good hands, and those hands are trusted to do the right thing by a smart management team. They see it as a long term asset and build value.

D&D could have the same, or could be chopped for short term profits. We won't know which we'll get for quite some time.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
it will not be chopped, not while it is doing this well. As for creating a larger franchise, that depends on a successful movie, since that is where they are moving forward initially.
Can they make a decent movie? dunno, we will find out in 3 years or so. Can they follow that with another and a TV series or 2? who knows? Hollywood has being trying to bottle the formula for success for a 100 years and not managed it yet.
 




Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think you're talking about the late 90s swing revival, not ska, although their popularity did overlap.

Dang it.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the Cherry Poppin Daddies tend to get swirled together in a general, Cocktail 1.0 revival.

Hey, buddy do you got the time?
No I don't got a watch can you spare a dime,
But I got two olives and a couple of limes,*
Guessin' that means it's martini time.



*I love the good reverend, but ... limes in your martini? C'mon, now.
 

Dausuul

Legend
1. Will "D&D" be a good managed brand? Is D&D the type of IP that Hasbro will be able to successfully mine like the DCEU and Marvel in a happy, profit-maximizing, cross-media synergizing, shareholder-pleasing way?
I think the comparison between the Marvel cinematic universe and the DC one is instructive. Marvel started by making some superhero movies, and they happened to be really good movies, with witty writing and brilliant acting and engaging characters. Marvel then built up their cinematic universe on that strong foundation.

DC saw Marvel making money hand over fist and said "Hey! We want some of that!" So they set out to create a cinematic universe based on DC properties, and made movies with that in mind. But most of those movies were awful, and DC's cinematic universe remains a pale shadow of Marvel's.

Lesson: Start by doing one thing. Focus on doing that one thing well. Don't burden it with your grand plans for the future; just make it as good as it can be, and put it out there. If it succeeds, then you can build on it. If it fails, junk it and move on. (Also, good writing matters.)

It smells to me like Hasbro is going the DC route instead of the Marvel route. They're signing a lot of big names for the D&D movie, which makes me think they're putting a lot of heavy expectations on it and trying to buy their way to success. That rarely turns out well. The good news is, even if the movie flops and the TV show crashes and burns and other tie-ins don't go anywhere, it won't hurt D&D itself... unless the money for those ventures is being taken out of D&D's budget.

2. Now that Hasbro has elevated the D&D and MtG (WoTC) "brands" into a new division (along with digital licensing), what types of products do you expect to see?
Tie-ins galore. We're already seeing this in Magic's "Universes Beyond" initiative, with tie-ins to everything from Lord of the Rings to the Walking Dead. D&D hasn't really felt this yet (except for Stranger Things, but Stranger Things is basically a love letter to D&D, so it's hardly surprising). But D&D tie-ins are surely coming if the boom continues.

Mostly I regard this with a shrug. It ain't my thing, but if it brings in money for the game, more power to 'em. However...

3. What concerns, if any, do you have about the need for even more performance from D&D? Is this a permanent change that Hasbro should be counting on for continued meteoric growth, or is this a reflection of unique factors, such as the Pandemic and the success of certain streaming shows (similar to the late 70s and early 80s having unique circumstances) that will cause the growth to dissipate?
My biggest concern is that Hasbro ends up replicating TSR's mistakes, where the D&D brand gets taken in a thousand different directions and the company makes unsustainable commitments based on short-term growth. Meteoric growth is unsustainable more or less by definition. Sooner or later, it has to slow down, and that's always a painful adjustment. And if they go too hard on tie-ins, you risk ending up with the late-2E scenario where the company is supporting many different settings, each of which sells to only a fraction of the market.

Fortunately, the game is in a much safer place than it was in the TSR era. Hasbro is a behemoth with many, many revenue streams; the failure of one of those streams will not put the company or its IP at risk. And even if Hasbro mothballs the brand, the OGL ensures that a company like Paizo can step in to keep the flame alive.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
As for the broader question, got me. D&D will stop growing, probably in the next few years as I think the interested market will saturate, and people will blame whoever is in charge at the time.

To Hasbro, the interesting question isn't whether D&D qua D&D stops growing; there is a finite amount of money that can be mined from a pen & paper TTRPG, even with streaming and internet and, um, pivoting to video or what have you.

The real question is whether D&D is an IP that be used to make money. Movies, TV shows, toys, books (are those still a thing?), licensed cosplay ... who knows?

It's like Marvel and the comics. The actual comics are barely a blip when it comes to the House of Mouse.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Here I am, doing everything I can, holding on to what I am, pretending I'm a superman.
Last week, the Ringer (a sports and pop culture site) had a online tournament voting for the best video game character of all time, and Tony Hawk made into the semi-finals; I'm convinced that Goldfinger is responsible for a large portion of that game's enduring popularity.
 

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