Hasbro's Quest for Digital Dominance: A Cautionary Tale of Overreaching and Lost Consumer Trust
Updated: Jan 12
The acquisition of Wizards of the Coast by Hasbro in 1999 brought the popular tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) under Hasbro's ownership. At the time of acquisition, Wizards of the Coast was already a well-established company in the gaming industry with both the Magic the Gathering and D&D brands under its umbrella. Hasbro recognized the potential of these brands, particularly Magic the Gathering, and initially invested more heavily in it. However, as the popularity of D&D grew over time, Hasbro's focus on the brand increased as well.
As a result of the acquisition, there were some internal issues that arose between the teams developing Magic the Gathering and D&D. These issues stemmed from the rivalry and different cultures between the two teams. To mitigate these issues, Hasbro made the decision to combine the two teams and resources in order to increase efficiency and productivity. While this move was beneficial from a business perspective, it resulted in the loss of talented and experienced developers for both brands.
Despite this, the D&D brand continued to grow in popularity and was able to establish a strong legacy within the gaming community. This was due to the investment, community building, and financial risk taken by both Hasbro and the third-party publishers who were a part of that growth. However, as the industry became more competitive and over-saturated with new and traditional fans, negative events started to occur such as scandals, negative PR, over-privileged mistakes, and the clash of ideas. It also saw some individual creators and long-standing community members getting discredited and cancelled due to their actions and behaviors.
The arrival of the pandemic changed the landscape of the industry as well. Traditional face-to-face role-playing games suffered due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, this also brought a significant increase in the potential of digital media. Publishers, content creators, and the community quickly had to adjust and move to digital platforms. Hasbro, as a large corporation, was not able to adjust as rapidly to the changes, resulting in missed opportunities and unforeseen financial changes.
To adapt to these changes, Hasbro decided to invest more heavily in digital platforms, specifically by acquiring D&D Beyond, a digital toolset for D&D players and Game Masters. While this decision was likely influenced by the spike in growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to note that the pandemic's impact on the industry was temporary and the industry is still adjusting to this recent trend. However, Hasbro's overreach in this decision, without fully understanding the volatility and temporary nature of the situation, has led to a loss of consumer trust and a less-than-ideal outcome.