Update: Wizards of the Coast provided the following statement to Dicebreaker. Original article follows:
"We regularly talk to Tencent and enjoy multiple partnerships with them across a number of our IPs. We don’t make a habit of commenting on internet rumors, but to be clear: we are not looking to sell our D&D IP. We will keep talking to partners about how we bring the best digital experiences to our fans. We won't comment any further on speculation or rumors about potential M&A or licensing deals."
A recent report from Chinese financial news outlet Speed Daily reports that Dungeons & Dragons' owner Hasbro is actively chatting with multinational tech company Tencent over “a series of rights including the adaptation rights for electronic games” - likely meaning more big-budget projects the size of Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 video game.
Posted January 30th and reshared by English-language publication Pandaily, the report unhelpfully claims up top that Hasbro is “seeking to sell its well-known IP ‘Dungeons & Dragons’” and that the proposed deal would “enable Tencent to gain dominant control over the IP”. Speed Daily’s source is economic consultant Snow Leopard Financial Group, which claims business ties to Tencent and other Chinese private equity.
Dicebreaker has reached out to Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast, which published Dungeons & Dragons for comment and clarification, as the original report’s audacious headline clashes with details in the body of the article. Tencent owns a 30% stake in Larian but does not outright own either the studio or the IP rights to the Divinity video game series. None of Tencent’s prior business decisions with Western entertainment companies would forecast the wholesale purchase of the D&D brand.
While not confirmed, it is more likely that the meteoric success of Baldur’s Gate 3 has emboldened Tencent to invest in another banger of that size and their large stake in Larian opened the door for just such talks. Additionally, Wizards of the Coast previously partnered with Tencent to publish the digital version of their trading card game, Magic: The Gathering Arena, within Chinese markets.
Hasbro posted financial losses through 2023’s four fiscal quarters, despite continually strong performance from MTG and D&D. The company decided to bump its short-term stock price using a similar method to dozens of US-based companies over the past couple of months - namely, a swath of layoffs that affected nearly 1,100 people two weeks before Christmas.
Dungeons & Dragons is on the precipice of releasing three new core rulebooks (planned sometime later this year) that will lay the foundations for the next decade of creative development on the popular tabletop RPG. Barring its own tumultuous 2023, which included the OGL debacle, recalled products and several brushes with AI-generated art, D&D has never been more successful or stronger as a brand.
Hasbro’s own strategy regarding digital media shifted in 2022 to focus on its core IPs, licensing out to third-party companies where it made sense. The one in-house project tied to D&D - the mostly okay Dark Alliance - did not sell according to expectations, so perhaps the toy giant also wants to do everything it can to coax another Baldur’s Gate 3-shaped lightning out of the sky.