Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thought Experiment: When Is Hasbro Going to Realize That It Owns D&D?

"When Is Hasbro Going to Realize That It Owns D&D?"

This was the question posed by the Comic Dorks Podcast last week, and it kind of caught my imagination, especially since I've been on something of a G.I. Joe kick this past week.  The reasons for that kind of vary, but for now, we'll blame it on a lack of exercise and a lack of female companionship during my week away from home.

Anyway.  The guys on the podcast argued that there's not enough money in D&D for Hasbro to really take a serious interest in the brand as a property, that the guys at Hasbro are worried about movies and merchandising while the guys at Wizards of the Coast are stuck in the arcane minutia of rules differences between the various versions of the game itself.  To put it another way, Hasbro wants to appeal to millions of potential fans and earn billions of dollars while Wizards is focusing on the needs of tens of thousands of admittedly very hard core fans, who will maybe spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on published product--in the archaic hard copy, printed format.

But this analysis ignores the value of Wizards' paperback fiction empire.

This is where G.I. Joe started.
D&D has miniatures like this, too.  It could easily
monetize the concepts in similar ways.

Which is to say that Wizards is not only a game company, it's also a character repository.  And as we've already seen with Marvel in recent years, it's not the published material that makes it valuable, it's the value of the characters themselves.  But that's complicated, too, by the fact that Wizards hires writers on a presumably work-for-hire basis for its novels, meaning that it may not own its own characters.


So.  To truly capitalize on the potential value of the brand, the company needs characters that it owns outright in a setting that it can market, merchandise, and monetize.

This, to me, is where you basically repurpose one of your existing brands into something that is a little more relatable and mainstream.  If it was me, I'd repurpose the concepts and characters from G.I. Joe for the Forgotten Realms, specifically using the Coronal Guard of Myth Drannor in place of the Joes and the Zhentarim in place of Cobra.  But to save myself some headaches--and make this thing a little more approachable to the average D&D novice--we'll use some more generic terms and mythological reference points for the thought experiment below.

Let's start with the Bad Guys.  We'll call them:

The Legion of the Red Lord.
The Legion of the Red Lord is a ruthless terrorist organization dedicated to Mars, the god of war and conquest, that is determined to rule the world.  Led by their leader, The Crimson Commander, the Legion of the Red Lord employs necromancy, alchemy, and magical super-science in their ongoing efforts to subjugate the free peoples of the Western Isles.

This is a balor.  He could easily be a member of the Legion of the Red Lord.

Now all we need are the good guys.  We'll call them:

The Spellswords: Guardians of the Western Isles.
The Spellswords are an elite team of magical commandos--and all that stands between the Legion of the Red Lord and world domination.

Yeah, yeah.  It's nerdy stuff, right?

But in a world where Iron Man is now a household name, and there's a major new movie coming out where dark elves are gonna play a huge part, I think the truth is that this could not only work, it's actually a necessity if Hasbro doesn't want to let Marvel steal a major part of its brand appeal.

Your thoughts?


  1. Spot on Danno, D&D is the little brother in the WotC lineup and it shows. They know they're not getting the value out of the brand that they should, seems ripe for a PE buyout to me... Find someone who can unlock the potential.

    1. Well, last I heard they were trying to develop a movie based on D&D as a property, but it seems like a tough slog to me. Lots of studios are trying to replicate the success that Marvel has had, but there are at least as many cautionary tales out there as there are success stories.

      If it was me, and I was looking to make a movie out of D&D, I'd look to some of the classic Gygax adventures. Something like "Against the Giants" (a personal favorite) would be really interesting if done correctly. But they'd have to find folks who believed in the value of the mythos and sold it like it was the gospel.

      As far as PE and a potential buyout is concerned... I don't know, but I'm under the impression that some of WotC's other properties are doing well. For example, Magic: The Gathering is a cash machine. Cards are cheap, and the game is infinitely expandable with annual updates. That's good. So maybe they could sell of just D&D (as a property), but I doubt they'd want to dump the entire unit.