The recent controversies surrounding the new edition of Dungeons And Dragons and its attempt to alter the Open Gaming License, as well as fan fervor surrounding 2023’s game of the year Baldur’s Gate III, has led to speculation regarding Wizards of the Coast. The firm has been an active part of the tabletop gaming community since 1990, and publishes D&D, Magic: The Gathering, as well as several other gaming ventures.
Hasbro’s interference with Wizards of the Coast has rankled fans more than once since it was first acquired by the toy giant. Like a vampire spawn, Wizards of the Coast can never defy its master, and its led to some startling disconnects between the loyal fanbase and the powers that be.
Is Wizards of the Coast a subsidiary of Hasbro? Here is everything you need to know about the company’s ownership structure.
Is Wizards of the Coast owned by Hasbro?
Wizards of the Coast is currently owned by Hasbro, however this wasn’t always the case. Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in September 1999 for $325 million. Alan Hassenfeld, Hasbro’s then- president, described the purchase by saying:
“Wizards of the Coast will enable us to significantly expand in the fast-growing games arena, which is a cornerstone of our growth strategy for the new millennium.”
It should be noted when the acquisition was announced, a lot of the press focused on the fact that Hasbro would now own the rights to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. This is because Wizards of the Coast acquired the rights to distribute that very popular game in 1998. Hasbro would lose the rights to this game in 2003, however, when The Pokémon Company took over the rights.
The relationship between Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro hasn’t been static. In 2001, Wizards of the Coast was consolidated into Hasbro’s game division rather than being semi-independent. This caused a decent amount of controversy in the fandom, with one press report describing the move by saying:
“This is seen as a loss of autonomy for WotC by most.”
The most recent change to Wizards of the Coast’s position in Hasbro’s structure came in 2021. At that year’s Investor Event, Hasbro announced that the company was being split into three divisions: Consumer Products; Entertainment; and Wizards & Digital. At the same show, Wizards of the Coast received a rebrand, marking the company as its own operating division, giving it more independence within Hasbro’s structure.
At the time, Comic Book described the change by saying:
“Wizards of the Coast will become its own operating division within Hasbro, reflecting the wild success experienced by the game maker over the last five years. Hasbro will announce the news later today at an investor event. Under the re-organization, Wizards will become one of three Hasbro divisions and will be tasked with expanding Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and other existing games, creating new games and overseeing digital licensing for all of Hasbro.”
So, currently, yes, Hasbro owns Wizards of the Coast, but Wizards is its own separate division within the company, giving it some say in its direction and the direction of its products. It’s still a subsidy of Hasbro, however, and the parent company has come to blows with fans over its proposed changes and for its treatment of employees more than once.
Hasbro vs fans, 2023
In January 2023, Hasbro fired 800 employees, the first step in a plan to save the company $300 million annually by 2025. To increase profits by 50%, the company shifted its focus on its larger brands, digital development, and direct-to-consumer and licensing deals, like Balder’s Gate III. It moved to update its licensing terms, forcing independent creators and publishers to report financial data directly to the company, pay fees, and worse, forfeit old and new content to WotC.
The change was seen as a misunderstanding of the market, or worse, as the editor-in-chief of Mage Hand Press, Mike Holik said, “They’re intentionally trying to salt the earth and get rid of the third-party space.”
Fans were quick to riot, canceling subscriptions to D&DBeyond – an online toolkit for players and dungeon masters – and starting petitions in protest. Hasbro pulled back on the proposed changes after the outcry, but fans are still leery. Holik said it most succinctly:
“Wizards of the Coast has disintegrated decades of trust in a matter of days, and the community will approach every one of their moves with skepticism from here on out.”
Hasbro vs employees 2023
2023 was a massive success for the company. Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks maneuvered a “Dungeon and Dragons blitz” for 2023, starting with Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Though some fans boycotted the film, it grossed $208 million at the box office and was praised by critics and audiences alike.
Stage two was Baldur’s Gate III, a video game adaptation of D&D 5e developed by Larian Studio (Divinity: Original Sin), which pushed the company’s market value up by a whopping 40%. The title swept the Game Awards ceremony, and received an incredible 99% recommendation on OpenCritic.
Another portion of the blitz, an as-of-yet-unnamed television adaptation of D&D is being developed with Paramount Plus and written by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Red Notice), is currently in development.
Despite the massive success of Baldur’s Gate III and Honor Among Thieves, Hasbro announced in December of 2023 that the company was severing ties with about 1/5 of its workforce, around 1100 employees. The move came after a tough year in retail, and when management realized their earnings would drop from an estimated %3-6% decline to %13-%15, they officially dropped the ax – just two weeks before Christmas. Many employees who were laid off worked for the Wizards of the Coast team and the long list includes several art directors, game designers, and other production positions.
Though Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks has yet to reveal just how much he walked away with this year, he received $8 million in bonuses on top of his $1.5 million salary in 2022. Not to fear, Cocks is feeling the pressure, he understands how devastating this is for his former employees. He obnoxiously tries to connect in his internal memo:
I know there is no sugar-coating how hard this is, particularly for the employees directly affected. We’re grateful to them for their contributions, and we wish them all the best. In the coming weeks, let’s support each other, and lean in to drive through these necessary changes, so we can return our business to growth and carry out Hasbro’s mission.
The CEO named Wizards of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering, Honor Among Thieves, and BGIII as the biggest earners for the company. While Play-Doh, Action figures, and classic board games failed to meet projected earnings, it doesn’t mean the company lost money – it simply didn’t make as much as it was aiming for (and it has some serious debt problems). According to Dicebreaker, the company exceeded last year’s earnings in almost every category – except for its stock value.