Dozens of former workers for toy giant Hasbro took to social media to announce that they were amongst the 1,100 staff caught in a massive layoff on December 12th. In an internal memo, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks regretted eliminating staff so close to Christmas and called the drastic decision “a lever we must pull to keep Hasbro healthy”.
Job losses were not limited to Hasbro’s struggling toy and entertainment departments, as many artist, designers, product developers and IT personnel within Wizards of the Coast announced on X, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere that they had been laid off. WotC manages both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, two brands that have consistently earned solid profits for their corporate owner when everything else - Peppa Pig, Transformers and Play-Doh - struggled in four consecutive financial quarters.
While Cocks’ memo mentioned that the “majority of the [layoff] notifications will happen over the next six months”, several high profile staff on the D&D and MTG teams confirmed that job losses were affecting nearly every department within Hasbro’s structure and targeted senior members, executives and newer hires, alike.
Game designer Dan Dillon, who came to D&D 5E from Kobold Press five years ago, simply said, “Well. Today was my last day at Wizards. Not sure what's next.” Senior developmental editor Eytan Bernstein also lost his job. Bernstein contributed to several major physical books in D&D’s catalogue, including the upcoming Quests from the Infinite Staircase and Vecna: Eve of Evil - the last as lead editor.
Director of studio operations for D&D Digital, Wendy Despain, and D&D Beyond producer and host Amy Dallen confirmed that they were also laid off. Wizards of the Coast community manager LaTia Jacquise (who is still employed by Hasbro at this time) said they were “losing the heart of their stream team”. D&D’s recently launched FAST channel largely relies on contracted workers, and the tabletop RPG’s related livestreams might soon follow suit.
Layoffs stretched all the way to the top of departments and c-suite positions in some cases, showing that Hasbro’s fat-trimming knife searched deep into payroll to save costs heading into 2024. Michael Kelly, vice president of global publishing at Hasbro announced the end of his nearly 18 years with the company, while Larry Frum was cut from his role as senior communications manager for all of Wizards of the Coasts’ products.
A strange loss amongst the 1,100 layoffs is Megan Galbraith Donahue, who directed Magic: The Gathering’s Universes Beyond creative and production teams. Universes Beyond has led to some of the most profitable and successful ventures for the trading card game, including the Lord of the Rings premiere set Tales from Middle Earth (which sold absolutely gangbusters), Doctor Who and the upcoming Fallout, Final Fantasy VII and Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers. Galbraith Donahue attributed her layoff to “the roll of the dice” on LinkedIn but also inferred that she did not see this coming.
Director of game design Mike Mearls was also reportedly caught in the layoff dragnet. Co-leader of the team that created D&D 5E and the contemporary mechanical foundations of the tabletop RPG, Mearls lost plenty of goodwill with players and the public during his later years.
Posts from affected workers continue to pour into social media streams, too numerous and widespread for one reporter to realistically document here, but they include art directors, software engineers, game designers, digital artists, analytics engineers and product developers for both D&D and MTG. Digital and physical product teams were both hit, and the extent of the fallout remains to be seen.
Dungeons & Dragons is gearing up to launch its 2024 edition of the RPG’s three core rulebooks next year, along with an already announced suite of supplements and adventures. Magic: The Gathering is on the cusp of major change - Play Boosters will shake up collection and limited play, and the first two months of the year will see three major set releases and tie-in products.
Past successes and future plans could not save Wizards of the Coast’s workers from the hungry maw of corporate line-item reduction, and the full extent of this culling remains to be seen. What’s clear is that many workers will spend the holidays and 2024’s first breaths wondering why executive salaries and additional compensation were not instead used as “a last resort”, as Cocks said.