The parent company of Dungeons & Dragons developer Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, announced Wednesday it is acquiring D&D Beyond, one of the franchise’s most popular officially licensed digital toolsets and online storefronts. Wizards said on its official website it has “no plans to stop supporting D&D Beyond,” and all purchases made by consumers will be honored going forward.
D&D Beyond is the creation of Curse, and launched in 2017. The platform is, at its core, a web application and mobile app that provides players and Dungeon Masters (DMs) with the tools they need to play D&D in person or online. Features include a character builder, a character sheet, and a digital dice-rolling function. For DMs, it allows users to purchase official campaign books and other materials digitally for use inside the app. Prices for D&D books are traditionally more or less the same on D&D Beyond as they are on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local game store.
D&D Beyond was purchased by Fandom in 2018 and, according to Hasbro, the relationship has been very lucrative since that time.
“Over the last three years, the royalty paid to Hasbro by D&D Beyond has represented a significant contribution to the fastest growing source of revenue for Dungeons & Dragons,” Hasbro said. That is undoubtedly true, as financial disclosures show that Wizards — and its attached digital properties, including Magic: The Gathering Arena — earned more than $1 billion for the first time in 2021.
Wizards has become a massive part of Hasbro’s overall earnings since the launch of 5th edition D&D in 2014. With an operating profit of $547 million in 2021, Wizards’ business unit accounted for 72% of Hasbro’s operating profit for the year. Taking that into perspective, the purchase of D&D Beyond from Fandom for $146.3 million in cash seems like a small price to pay in order to lock down a platform with reportedly close to 10 million users — many of which have rushed in over the past two years of the ongoing global pandemic.
But clearly Wizards’ new president, Cynthia Williams, has bigger goals in mind.
“The strategic acquisition of D&D Beyond will deliver a direct relationship with fans, providing valuable, data-driven insights to unlock opportunities for growth in new product development, live services and tools, and regional expansions,” Williams said in a news release. “As part of Wizards, the brand’s leadership will soon be able to drive a unified, player-centric vision of the world’s greatest role-playing game on all platforms.”
Does that mean players will one day be able to purchase a book with a digital code inside, unlocking that content inside D&D Beyond? That’s unclear, but a similar strategy was employed not long ago for Magic: The Gathering, which for a time sold commander decks with digital codes inside that unlocked cards online.
Meanwhile, Wizards does not sell 5th edition D&D materials as PDFs. Books like Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and the upcoming Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel exist only as physical products or as in-app content for D&D Beyond and other licensors like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds. Wizards does sell its back catalog, including first edition and third edition content, as PDF files through a partnership with OneBookShelf.