Dungeons & Dragons had its greatest year ever when Covid pushed the game off the tables and onto the internet
“Dungeons and Dragons, anyone?” – Adam convinces coach Mellor to make him the team captain in the sports class. He betrays his friends by picking the jocks first, causing the two rival squads to compete against the game the nerds know best – Dungeons and Dragons!
Byron Cohen | Walt Disney television | Getty Images
As the coronavirus spread over the past year, people all over the world became intertwined and separated from each other. For many Dungeons & Dragons players, this meant ending their regularly scheduled in-person tabletop sessions.
And yet the D&D brand had the greatest year ever.
With increasing vaccination rates, the end of the pandemic seems to be in sight. The D&D brand is developing in a strong position. Heavy fans took advantage of Lockdown to teach friends and family how to play and ushered in a new cohort of craps players who will move from socially distant online chat rooms to crowded tables in the coming year.
And the coast parent-wizards will have a new product to devour if they do. The Hasbro division will launch two D&D video games this year and accelerate the release of new books and box sets.
D&D sales rose 33% last year and contributed to a six-year growth period. The toy maker does not share the specific sales figures for the brand or for Magic: The Gathering and Digital Gaming, which also fall under the Wizards banner. However, it was reported that Wizards’ total revenue increased 24% to $ 816 million in 2020.
D&D was first released in 1974 and has long been part of popular culture. Sales have been on a strong upward trend since 2014, when Wizards of the Coast updated their rulebook to bring out the fifth edition known to gamers. This version focuses more on storytelling than complex game mechanics.
At the same time, the number of people streaming D&D games live on video platforms such as Twitch and posting hour-long sessions on YouTube increased. Popular D&D groups like Critical Role, High Rollers and Relics and Rarities with voice actors and celebrity players have continued to spark interest in the game.
That relaunch, coupled with an increase in social media and video sharing platforms, resulted in “a flammable mix of explosive growth,” said Chris Cocks, president of Wizards of the Coast.
Role for initiative
For generations, D&D has typically been played around a table. The dungeon master organizes the game, sets the quests for the players and describes everything they see and hear on their journey. Players create characters, improvise how those heroes – or villains – react to scenarios, and roll the dice to determine their success or failure in those actions.
When the pandemic broke out, gamers, who often gathered in person for weekly or monthly meetings, had to find new ways to interact online. Many turned to video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Teams and Skype to put their group together, and used services like Roll20 or D&D Beyond to swap cards and track statistics.
In recent years, sales of new player manuals and starter kits have been a big part of the D&D brand’s growth. That accelerated in 2020. The company’s box sets and essentials kit, which contains everything players will need need to embark on an adventure posted record sales last year, Cocks said.
“That means new players are coming in and taking over the game,” he said.
Adventure books that guide dungeon masters on how to run a campaign and core rulebooks that help players create their characters and understand how to play also achieved record sales.
A screenshot of the Dungeons & Dragons gameplay on Roll20.
And Wizards of the Coast isn’t the only company benefiting from renewed interest in the nearly five-decade-old game.
“Overall interest in table games has increased significantly over the past year as the pandemic and people have more time to play,” said Dan Leeder, vice president of operations at Noble Knight Games, a hobby shop in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.
Leeder found that D&D book sales rose about 30% over the year, and sales of dice, miniatures, terrain, and other accessories for the game also rose.
Bryan LeBlanc, manager of The Battle Standard, a hobby shop in East Windsor, Connecticut, said sales of D&D and other board games had skyrocketed over the past year, prompting him to double his selection.
“Many of the parents who come in to record the game are returning to players who have taken some time to have their families and focus on the responsibilities of their lives but are taking advantage of the downtime caused by the pandemic Introducing their game to children or spouses to play, “he said.
Do a strength test
Wizards of the Coast has become such an important part of Hasbro’s overall business that it is shown separately in the company’s earnings reports. In February, Hasbro reorganized itself into three areas: consumer goods, entertainment and Wizards of the Coast, and digital gaming.
In addition to strong D&D sales, Wizards of the Coast saw 23% growth in 2020 in its Magic: The Gathering business, a record and a 17% increase in digital game license revenue.
Davyd Atkins rolls digital dice on his D&D Beyond character sheet, accesses a map via his digital book from the D&D marketplace, and uses the platform’s Discord expansion to play Dungeons & Dragons.
Source: D&D Beyond
“I think we got our first real look at Wizards’ financial contribution when they re-segmented the business,” said Stephanie Wissink, general manager at Jefferies. “Boy was that eye opening and I think best regards. I think there was always the view that there was a hidden gem in Hasbro and no one really knew how to think about the size of the contribution level.”
Hasbro has invested heavily in the Wizards brand, trying to double the size of the business unit in the five-year period between 2018 and 2023. The company is on the right track during an investor presentation in February.
Investments have largely been focused on the digital gaming side of Wizards’ business. The division has seen steady growth in online gamers for its game Magic: The Gathering Arena and hopes to develop similar platforms for D&D. Also, Baldur’s Gate III and Dark Alliance are D&D video games coming out this year. The According to Cocks, the brand is slated to launch a number of other titles before 2027.
Wissink thinks it is a wise investment as it has been very profitable so far.
“The more dollars that go into that part of the business, the faster that part can grow and the more valuable the company becomes,” she said.
In 2020, Hasbro reported that Wizards’ operating profit was $ 420.4 million, with an operating profit margin of 46%. Essentially, Hasbro made 46 cents for every dollar of sales Wizards made.
By comparison, the Consumer Products division, which includes toys and games, posted an operating profit of $ 308 million on a margin of 8%.
In 2020, Hasbro had net income of $ 222.5 million on sales of $ 5.47 billion.
“Well, that doesn’t mean you can get rid of the muscles of your business,” she added. “Because this is still driving a lot of the business model’s cash flow, but it helps open up a new perspective on why [Hasbro is] invest where you invest. “
With lockdowns increasing, there are more D&D players than ever, which is a good sign for the brand. The new players may become even more engaging when they can gather around a single tabletop again.
New adventure books and content are planned with a view to increasing the cadence of releases to capitalize on recent growth, Cocks said.
“We’ll put the envelope on where we’re taking things,” he said.