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Dungeons & Dragons ruleset could be applied to more brands and IP, just like Magic

Hasbro CEO sees ‘potential’ for a Universes Beyond approach

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Hasbro Demigorgon figure and scenes from Stranger Things where the kids are playing Dungeons & Dragons Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Hasbro is considering using the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset as the foundation for games that explore more brands and intellectual property, the company said Tuesday. CEO Chris Cocks said in a call with investors that Hasbro’s newly acquired digital toolset, D&D Beyond, could become the main hub for that kind of expansion.

When asked about the due diligence that Cocks and his team performed prior to the acquisition of D&D Beyond from Fandom, he transitioned quickly into discussing growth opportunities created by that purchase. Chief among them was expanding an initiative called Universes Beyond.

“There’s a lot of international growth vectors we can do,” Cocks said. “There’s a lot of new exclusive content we can do. You know, we’ve talked a lot about Universes Beyond in Magic, which is this concept of thinking about Magic as a play system and bringing in outside brands or outside IP into that play system. We see potential for that with D&D as well, and we think D&D Beyond can be a primary hub for that.”

Magic: The Gathering Universes Beyond was announced in 2021. It’s a series of partnerships with outside companies that puts their characters and their worlds onto Magic cards. The first batch of partners includes Games Workshop, which is working with Wizards to create a Warhammer 40,000-themed collection of Commander decks. Following that launch, a partnership with Middle-earth Enterprises (formerly Tolkien Enterprises), will put characters from The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy into play. A previously released collection of The Walking Dead-themed cards is also grandfathered into the program.

What would Universes Beyond look like when applied to Dungeons & Dragons? Well, it would probably look a lot like the other licensing partnerships that Wizards has already published for the 5th edition ruleset. They include a Stranger Things-themed starter set, a Rick & Morty-themed starter set, and the co-branded books featuring the cast and characters from Critical Role. The only difference here is that Hasbro sees D&D Beyond — a 100% digital platform — as the central hub for those kinds of products.

Cocks also invoked the Hasbro Pulse initiative, which has been a driving force in creating limited edition, high-end Star Wars and Transformers toys starting with Jabba’s Sail Barge from a few years back. It also played a roll in rebooting the HeroQuest franchise and the third edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill. It’s easy to see something like a Beadle & Grimm’s-style collector’s edition of a Universes Beyond D&D campaign up for sale there in the near future. D&D Beyond would be the test bed to find the largest fanbase, while Hasbro Pulse would help to market and execute on the high-end offering.

“We see a lot of e-commerce and direct opportunities working in partnership with our Hasbro Pulse team to have physical-digital tie-ins that are unique to the [D&D Beyond] platform,” Cocks said. “It’s a fantastic learning opportunity for us and, to your point, very similar to what we’ve seen with [Magic: The Gathering] Arena, where we build this relationship with our customers. It’s a great incremental business opportunity and a fantastic learning platform for us to understand how people are playing our games, what do they want to purchase, and how can we make our products better. And I think that’s been an important part of our segmentation approach for Magic over the last couple of years.”

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