Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 01, 2024
Dungeons & Dragons becomes Chinese?

It seems that Hasbro, current owners of Dungeons & Dragons, are not doing very well at the moment. Games and toys are a very cyclical business; that is especially true for long-running franchises, where customers might well decide that when money is short, they don't need the latest D&D book or Magic the Gathering expansion, but can just continue playing with what they already bought before. Just before Christmas, Hasbro fired 1,900 employees. And as that didn't solve their financial problems, they are now considering selling Dungeons & Dragons.

Curiously they first asked Larian Studios whether they wanted to buy D&D. Larian has obviously made a nice pile of money with Baldur's Gate 3, which is a D&D licensed product. But as a software studio they aren't ideally placed to handle the pen & paper side of Dungeons & Dragons. And the price tag apparently was too rich for them. So Larian passed on the offer to their minority shareholder, Tencent. Which of course is a much bigger and much more diverse company, which could much easier afford and handle Dungeons & Dragons.

Nobody knows whether that deal will happen, but Chinese companies frequently have problems to get access to popular Western IP rights. Tencent is a company that is about 100 times bigger than Hasbro, by market capitalization, so they could well afford an IP which is popular with customers, but according to Hasbro under-monetized.

Of course some fans will protest loudly against Dungeons & Dragons becoming Chinese. But I would say that it has both advantages and disadvantages. Hasbro, and it's subsidiary Wizards of the Coast, are planning to move into the virtual tabletop space. And the track record of D&D digital tools over the last 4 decades is pretty bad. A more video-game oriented parent company might actually be better placed to carry Dungeons & Dragons into the digital age. Will Tencent dilute the IP with a bunch of cheaply produced mobile games? Probably. But who cares? Tencent owning D&D would make it a lot easier for their business partner Larian to make Baldur's Gate 4 or another D&D-based PC game.

Dungeons & Dragons has over 40 years of history of being a badly run business, from TSR, to WoTC, to Hasbro. I say, let's give Tencent a chance to do better than that. If we don't like what they do, we can still play older editions of D&D. Hasbro might also not sell off D&D completely, but just the rights to make D&D video games. We will see how all of this works out.

'Oriental Adventures' indeed. Going forward, will there be numerous think pieces on how the Chinese are imposing their prejudices and stereotypes on medieval Europe settings, I wonder?
I predict regardless of the outcome of a sale DND is in for a bad time in the coming years. It's heavily rumored that Critical Role is ditching DND for their own custom ruleset next campaign. The next largest DND show, D20, also has no qualms with running custom or other rulesets.

The brand suffered a ton of backlash from the last terms scandal and lots of tertiary media creators are moving or thinking of moving to other rulesets.

Unless they release the most amazing 1st party content for DNDNext I don't see how they do anything but spiral down over the next several years.
Considering how the Chinese government has mucked around in the video game industry in the past decade of more, I honestly don't know that I'll be able to bring myself to buy anything from Wizards of the Coast if they are sold to Tencent. I also thing it would force changes to Dungeons & Dragons that would not be enjoyable.

Examples from the video game industry include the business end -- refusing to allow non-Chinese video games to be sold in China unless a Chinese company was involved -- to cultural enforcement -- such as removing all visible skulls from the game -- to regulatory -- where the Chinese government stopped all video game releases for a year because they wouldn't issue permits.

Tencent purchasing Wizards of the Coast might help the financial side, but I fear it is going to be another terrible thing that happens to Dungeons & Dragons. I will keep playing -- I kept playing through the weird and wild days of TSR -- but I don't think I'll be buying, except from third parties. Assuming Tencent doesn't find a way to lock them out, and we're back going through the litigious TSR era all over again.
I heard in Tech News today that Hasbro has already announced: "we are not looking to sell our D&D IP".

1 such source: Hasbro is not selling DnD to Tencent, says Wizards (
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool