Even the Guardian…

D&D is leaning into being the McDonalds of RPGs: it’ll cost a bomb and taste like cardboard, but there’s nothing else open and I’m hungry.

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Forget monetisation. The crucial currency in the tabletop hobby is player goodwill.

Yup.

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Contrast that with D&D’s cheesy merch onslaught, and you have to worry.

Do we? Who cares if Hasbro wants to sell a bunch of D&D-branded merch?

Take the Lego set. First, Lego is expensive. The Hogwarts Castle is $470. A medieval town square is $230. I wonder what the cut is between Lego and Hasbro. Second, it’s not meant, as the author implies, an attempt to get kids into the hobby. Kids will like it, but it’s not like kids are plumping down $680 for the Lego Titanic. The market for D&D was never “kids” (outside the D&D cartoon). The target here are D&D-playing adults with kids and/or disposable income.

I agree that D&D is not as big of a brand as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but that doensn’t mean it can’t have cool, branded merch. So long as they contiue to supporting the game, what is the issue? The author also seems dismissive of One D&D, but I don’t share the cynicism. The rules are due for a new edition. Yes, it gives Habro an opportunity to sell a whole new set of books, but so what? Any other publisher would not be besmirched for doing it. Even better if they fix, clarify, and expand the rules.

More attention should be made of the way Hasbro has decided to sell digital content. There, a healthy debade could be had of phyiscal books vs. PDFs vs. subcriptions, but so long as Hasbro is making content, what’s the issue with merch to go along with it?

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Sacking everyone who knows how to put a pgysical book onto shelves may be a key here.

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I’m sorry, I strongly disagree with the writer’s premise: D&D has LONG been a franchise. I won’t say “always” as it obviously took some time to gain popularity, but with all the campaign settings that have been created with hundreds of novels set in those worlds, comics, artbooks, video games…I mean how can you even think it’s not a franchise?

And LEGO are no longer just aimed at kids. The multi-hundred dollar sets are for adults, no question, and I would LOVE to have that D&D set, but I can’t afford that right now. So that argument doesn’t fly at all. And considering LEGO put out a call for designs from the public to celebrate D&D’s 50th anniversary and this set was based on one of those submissions, that should be clear.

And let’s face it: fans of things like merchandise! Some merch sucks, sure, like I have no interest in shoes that are inspired by…well just about anything. But I like shirts and hoodies that express my hobbies and interests. I like posters and decor that do the same (not that I can have such things right now with how my kids are, but maybe someday). I bet other people feel the same way.

Even the point about DM’s making up about 20% of the fanbase but also accounting for a majority of the spending is a stupid datapoint. Without branching out, what merchandise is currently available for purchase? Rulebooks! Miniatures! You know, the things DM’s use in order to run games. Why the hell would the average player invest in much more than a player handbook, a mini for their character, some dice, and maybe a sourcebook if they really want to play a particular class (if those kinds of books are still a thing, I haven’t played in years)? Like, no shit the DM’s spend the most, and if you listen to the writer of this article, there shouldn’t be anything else D&D related to spend money on anyway.

I’m not going to deny that Hasbro has done some seriously stupid things in regards to D&D lately with the licensing policy change, and even with going back on that decision, that they did it in the first place has cost some goodwill. But I hardly think that a push to market merchandise beyond game supplements is really the major crisis the author is making it sound like here.

The article didn’t talk about sacking the creative folks who create game material. It was a just a moan about D&D-branded merch. There was no mention of the layoffs this past December (which were not just in WotC).

The drop in sales at Hasbro was cited as the reason behind the layoffs. Selling non-game merchantice related to a brand they already own is one way to increase sales. More people would buy a D&D-branded t-shirt than one with Monopoly. Partnering with Lego or Converse is just an extension of that.

They will run into problems when they stop supporting the game and the community that has coalesced around it. We saw that with the leaked and retracted licensing fiasco from last year. The article mentioned that, but made no mention of what is happening at D&D Beyond.

Sure, I just thought it worth mentioning.

As I see it they’re running on modern accounting practice, which says RoI is more important than absolute numbers. So while they made less money from the D&D film than they did from 5ed book sales, they paid very much less to get that money coming in, because other people did all the work and paid them the licencing fees.

So what I see them doing is twofold: (1) as far as possible push for more passive income streams, and it doesn’t matter if the IP becomes a joke by next year because all that matters is each quarter’s results; (2) pivot to VTT-first because computer gamers are used to having to pay for shinies and can in theory be screwed for an endless stream of not just official adventures (DMs only) but OneD&D subscriptions and shiny accessories for their characters…