WotC WotC Cancels 5 Video Games

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While D&D itself seems to be still growing rapidly nearly 10 years after the launch of 5th Edition, WotC has recently scaled back its video game plans, costing up to 15 people their jobs, although they may be able to relocate within the company. WotC spoke to Bloomberg and told the site that they were "still committed to using digital games" and that the change in plans was designed to focus on "games which are strategically aligned with developing our existing brands and those which show promise in expanding or engaging our audience in new ways."

Studios working on games for WotC include Otherside Entertainment and Hidden Path Entertainment. WotC owns 6 video game studios in various cities according to CEO Cynthia Williams in an interview with GeekWire.


We’ve announced six different studios that are first-party and owned. There’s Archetype in Austin that’s working on a sci-fi game that we’re really excited about. It’s a new IP.

You’ve got Atomic Arcade in Raleigh-Durham, that’s working on a very mature G.I. Joe game, and then, Invoke is working on a D&D game. The key piece I’d tell you is that we have been really fortunate to hire some amazing industry veterans, who have a passion for the brands and games that they’re building.


The Bloomberg article also mentions an internal cancelled project code-named 'Jabberwocky', but does not say what that was.
 
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It may also herald a change of strategy when it comes to WotC videogames under WotCs new management. If the cancelled games were, for example, all relatively cheap (but highly microtransaction-intensive) formulaic mobile games with graphic swaps (like so many Warhammer shovelware games have been over the years), it might make sense to kill those. You have the D&D movie coming out this year, with a big budget and high production values. If a handful of crummy licenced tower defence games pop up at the same time then it probably doesn't do the value of your IP much good. With the movie and with BGIII on the horizon, WotC could have decided that 2023 is a year to focus their licenced material on quality rather than quantity.
 

It may also herald a change of strategy when it comes to WotC videogames under WotCs new management. If the cancelled games were, for example, all relatively cheap (but highly microtransaction-intensive) formulaic mobile games with graphic swaps (like so many Warhammer shovelware games have been over the years), it might make sense to kill those. You have the D&D movie coming out this year, with a big budget and high production values. If a handful of crummy licenced tower defence games pop up at the same time then it probably doesn't do the value of your IP much good. With the movie and with BGIII on the horizon, WotC could have decided that 2023 is a year to focus their licenced material on quality rather than quantity.
We can safely say this doesn't apply to the known studios here for two reasons:

1) Neither company was making a cheap mobile game or the like. We don't know the specifics, but we know Hidden Path was making an AAA open-world RPG D&D game, and it appears from hiring that Otherside was making an immersive-sim-type D&D-based game (unsurprising given their history).

2) Neither game was due out in 2023.

Also, re: "new management", no this videogames-heavy strategy was itself a result of WotC's "new management". That management hasn't changed in the last two months, but the strategy has. Chris Cocks has been in place since 2016. Cynthia Williams since Feb. last year, and she praised the videogame-heavy strategy extremely recently (last month maybe?).

So this is a very recent change in strategy, and a fairly dramatic one.
 

AAA is just a buzzword. It's usually applied to actual successful games/franchises something they haven't achieved yet.
This is, just as a matter of fact, not true.


It certainly began as a buzzword, but eventually acquired more of a meaning. Typically at the very least it means you're talking about about a game with a development budget in excess of $30-40m, and probably at least 100 developers, at this point in history. Often a lot more.

The idea that it's "usually applied to successful games" is just wrong though, that's never been the case, let alone "usually". AAAA is however, as yet a buzzword. Every game that's been called that has either never been released (lol) or was released and was just a slightly higher-budget-than-average AAA game.
 
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So, if you want to make big money in videogames, quantity may not beat quality. If the cancelled games were some combination of behind on schedule, over on budget, or not seeming like they'd be good, cancelling them and putting folks on other projects may make a lot of sense.
For sure, though the reporting so far suggests these games are simply cancelled, not that the studios are working on different WotC games. Given they're mostly (all?) independent studios, this presumably means they'll need to find entirely new projects. This is interesting on another level because the fact WotC was able to cancel them like this strongly suggests WotC was funding the development of the games, which is very unlike the strategies typically employed by IP holders. Games Workshop, for example don't typically fund the development of games by independent studios at all - rather they licence their IP. This seems like it was a different arrangement.

Cancelling five at the exact same time means it's not really plausible, imho, that all five were behind schedule, over budget, or looking bad. Especially given that WotC has been highlighting how important videogames are to its strategy for much of 2022. That said, I'm sure at least a couple of them "had it coming"!

However even if the games were on-schedule, looking decent, etc., it may have made sense to WotC to have a more focused portfolio of D&D products that directs people more to the lifestyle/tabletop aspects of D&D.

In the end, given they hired 350 people to work on the 3D VTT, this may simply have been a matter of finances. 350 people is basically a "full-size" AAA studio, particularly if working on one product, and it ain't cheap. At all. In fact, it probably costs about as much as funding the development of several smaller AAA or AA games.
 


I didn't even know they had video games planned, but I will say one thing that would get my interest are some turn based RPG video games like the old gold boxes from back in the day (I found when they switched to non-turn based games it didn't feel as D&D to me)
Sadly it seems like the closest we're going to get is BG3 and Solasta. I'd love to see an indie or AA company do something that was maybe 2D, sprite-based, and just really focused on providing a fun D&D experience, but it seems like that either isn't something anyone wants to make, or I think more likely, that isn't something WotC wants to even licence, let alone fund.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Cancelling five at the exact same time means it's not really plausible, imho, that all five were behind schedule, over budget, or looking bad.

The percentage of major software projects that deliver on-time and on-budget is low. Humans are really bad at estimating how long things will take, or what resources are required. Generally, time and budgets are still managed with methods built for late-18th century manual labor, rather than 21st century intellectual labor.

However even if the games were on-schedule, looking decent, etc., it may have made sense to WotC to have a more focused portfolio of D&D products that directs people more to the lifestyle/tabletop aspects of D&D.

Fair point. Either way, I don't find it terribly surprising.

In the end, given they hired 350 people to work on the 3D VTT, this may simply have been a matter of finances. 350 people is basically a "full-size" AAA studio, particularly if working on one product, and it ain't cheap.

Definitely. A good rule of thumb would be that each employee is at least $100K a year (between salary and benefits), and possibly much more. So, that's $35 million we are talking - not chump change.
 

aco175

Legend
Feels like the old 2e days when there was several worlds that TSR was trying to make modules and supplements for. It just split the pie of gold up and people only bought the line they liked instead of buying all of them. They pared it down to just FR and was/is doing great. The last couple years of expanding lines may start to show sometime soon.
 

Definitely. A good rule of thumb would be that each employee is at least $100K a year (between salary and benefits), and possibly much more. So, that's $35 million we are talking - not chump change.
I'd agree with that as a good rule of thumb for cost these days in software, esp. games. And $35m is nearly the entire dev budget of a lot of lower-end AAA games (most have fewer employees and work for more years). Even if WotC just employs all 350 for a couple of years the costs could easily be $70m which would put the 3D VTT up with a lot of more serious AAA games in dev cost (rather than dev + marketing - depending on the game marketing can be anything from about 20% to 200% of the dev cost). It's a hell of a thing and I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't interested in seeing the results, even if them announcing microtransactions as one of the first features was a tad concerning!
 

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