The company that owns Dungeons & Dragons might be planning a big expansion, according to comments from a recent investors call. Hasbro executives said they are looking into ways to develop games and books using D&D’s rules combined with other media’s worlds, and the recently acquired D&D Beyond could be at the centre of this initiative.
Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks laid out the details during the Q&A portion of an earnings conference call that took place on April 19th. In response to a question about the purchase of D&D Beyond from Fandom (which is still not quite finalised at time of writing), Cocks assured the investors that Hasbro is already strategising how best to use its newest toy.
“We’ve talked a lot about Universes Beyond in Magic, which is this concept of thinking about Magic as this play system, and bringing in outside Brands or outside IP into that play system,” Cocks said. “We see potential for that in D&D as well, and we think D&D Beyond can be a primary hub for that.”
Universes Beyond is a recent initiative by publisher Wizards of the Coast that will allow them to print sets, Secret Lairs and other products containing characters and worlds outside the official Magic: The Gathering canon. Fully detailed last year, Universes Beyond will deliver cards similar to the much-maligned The Walking Dead Secret Lair, but it also promised a full card set featuring The Lord of the Rings and Commander decks full of Warhammer: 40,000’s Space Marines, among others.
How this will look in a tabletop RPG such as Dungeons & Dragons wasn’t part of Cocks’ presentation, but he did say the company could pursue “a lot of potential synergies” now that Hasbro owns both the D&D Beyond platform and the creative teams developing adventures, rule books and supplements. What is clear is that D&D Beyond will be the focal point - the digital toolset is already positioned to sell licensed game material, and the development team who build and understand it were part of the $146.3 million cash purchase.
The setting book for Magic: The Gathering’s planes might offer the best example of how this can play out. Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos applies a D&D 5E translation to the collegiate world, letting players familiar with 20-sided dice and a standard array of stats explore something that isn’t Faerûn. It’s not difficult to see other properties receive the same treatment - the cities of Piltover and Zuan from League of Legends's Arcane or the increasingly fantastical town of Riverdale would marry broader pop culture salience with the already established audience D&D enjoys.
Cocks further noted “a lot of potential synergies” and direct-to-consumer sales of physical and digital product tie-ins through Hasbro Pulse. The website sells collectibles, action figures and other toys for Transformers, Star Wars, G.I. Joe and more. It also hosts “team ups” between Hasbro and other non-toy companies, such as a range of Reebok shoes stylised after NERF guns. As of now, Hasbro Pulse’s board game offerings only include Betrayal at House on the Hill, Avalon Hill titles and the many, many themed editions of Monopoly.
Hasbro wants to “build this relationship with our customers” as an opportunity for “incremental business”, eventually using the D&D Beyond platform to sell a greater range of products to the players already using it for managing campaigns, characters and rules references. Cocks explicitly likened it to Magic Arena’s marketplace model, which sells cosmetic sleeves, pets and avatars alongside booster packs and in-game premium currencies.
That same logic also gave birth to Secret Lairs, so it's hard to pin down what exactly Hasbro executive want this future to entail. The tabletop RPG market is quickly pivoting to licensed adaptations as an easy sales pitch - even when the results leave much to be desired. Maybe D&D 5.5 edition - or whatever we end up calling it - pivots to genre nuetrality, or maybe we just end up with plush Volos and enough pop culture reskins to choke a tarrasque.