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D&D models its digital future on MTG’s Universes Beyond pop culture crossovers

More dolls in the fantasy sandbox.

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons’ corporate owner is apparently looking at the recent success of sibling tabletop game Magic: The Gathering as a blueprint for the next five years. Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks spoke to investors on a February 13th call and told them that D&D Beyond will leverage “Universes Beyond-style content” as one of the digital platform’s main fiscal pillars.

When asked about how Hasbro and publisher Wizards of the Coast would bolster the massive tabletop RPG’s continued financial success without promising another Baldur’s Gate 3 every year, Cocks pointed to a digital strategy constructed around licensed third-party crossovers. D&D Beyond, which Hasbro acquired from Fandom in 2022, was almost immediately lauded by executives as a bright, new future that was less tied to printing physical books.

“D&D Beyond is an excellent platform for us to build upon the ways people are playing D&D,” Cocks told investors, speaking about an increasing trend of taking roleplay from the kitchen to virtual tabletops and streaming video calls. While WotC still plans to sell physical versions of marquis releases, such as their trio of updated 2024 core rulebooks, D&D Beyond opens up a more lucrative and less material-dependent avenue for profit: crossover licences. Or, as Cocks worded it to investors: “targeted entertainment working through partners in an asset-light model”. Yikes.

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Over the next five years, WotC plans to “distribute and showcase a more diverse set of content, whether that’s Universes Beyond-style content like we do with Magic [MTG], our major creators’ content or user-generated content,” Cocks said. D&D Beyond already hosts plenty of homebrewed RPG material created by paying users, and several 3rd-party studios, such as Ghostfire Gaming and Hitpoint Press, manage to survive by publishing supplements and books directly to its marketplace.

Universes Beyond-style content, as described by Cocks, would likely mean crossover material that brings pop culture mainstays such as Marvel, Fortnite and Final Fantasy into the realm of 5th Edition-compatible stat blocks and encounters. Magic: The Gathering has cornered such a massive revenue stream from the once-tiny practice that Hasbro just announced plans to double the amount of premiere set-sized releases featuring outside properties in 2025. As a note, all three of the media listed above have either already appeared or are confirmed to appear on MTG cards in official products.

D&D players have been imagining their favourite anime, television and video game stars as tabletop RPG fodder since pen n’ paper first met. It’s only recently that cashing in on daydreaming became such a profitable exploit, especially when the legal rights to our media is owned by a vanishingly small number of corporations. We don’t know the details on how Hasbro and WotC will handle adding Mickey, Captain America and the cast of Percy Jackson to D&D’s rules, but we should prepare ourselves for those to crop up alongside official Forgotten Realms adventure campaigns in the digital storefront.

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Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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