Somehow, a movie based on Dungeons & Dragons topped the U.S. box office last weekend. Even more impressively, this cover feature manages to cover the role-playing game — as well as the pitfall-riddled business path trod by its various parent companies — in a way that’s as accessible to tabletop RPG fans as it is to MBAs who wouldn’t know a bard from a druid.
Hasbro is now trying to replicate with D&D what it did with its geeky corporate sibling, Magic: The Gathering. It built the fantasy card game into its first billion-dollar brand, thanks in part to an aggressive expansion into mobile gaming, media licensing agreements and ancillary products. Today, Hasbro makes about $4 billion a year from toys, $1 billion from entertainment and $1.3 billion from its Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming division. The company doesn’t break out D&D-specific numbers for investors, but Arpine Kocharyan, an analyst at UBS, has estimated that D&D generates more than $150 million in annual sales. In October 2022, the toy company set a goal of increasing its overall profit by 50% over the next three years, noting that D&D would be “a major growth priority.”
Judging by the game’s history, supersizing D&D’s coffers won’t be a simple quest. The brand has often struggled to live up to its potential, leaving in its wake decades of infighting, litigation and squandered opportunities. And sure enough, just as Hasbro was gearing up to mobilize its zealous fan base for the feature film, it hit yet another self-inflicted snag.