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D&D is ‘Under-Monetized’ According to WotC

4 Minute Read
Dec 12 2022
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The CEOs of WotC and Hasbro want to create a “recurrent spending environment” for Dungeons & Dragons because D&D is under-monetized.

When you think of the world’s most popular RPG, you might think of heroic orcs, magical elves, or Tieflings running an inn somewhere. But you might not have thought that the tabletop game of fantasy adventures is a game in need of a recurrent spending environment. And you’d be forgiven too. Because unless you’re a WotC or Hasbro executive, odds are really good you’ve never thought the words “D&D under-monetized” before.

But that’s just the thing. According to an investor-focused “fireside chat” with Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks, and WotC’s new CEO Cynthia Williams, D&D is under-monetized.

D&D Under-Monetized – A Fireside Chat

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The recent investor presentation tells us a lot about the future of D&D, under-monetized though it may be. As Williams states, “D&D has never been more popular, and we have really great fans and engagement.” Both points are true, according to data gathered from D&D Beyond, WotC’s newest acquisition.

Williams called out market data from the platform, which shows that while Dungeon Masters make up only around 20% or so of the game’s user base, they account for the lion’s share of the spending.

After all, the DM is the only one who needs to have the full set of rules. A player can get by with just a PHB. But the DM needs a Monster Manual, a Dungeon Master’s Guide, and any of the adventuring modules that WotC puts out if they’re going to run them.

And a look at WotC’s release catalog reveals exactly why. Most of the products released for D&D over the last year alone are DM-focused. There’s:

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  • Dragonlance: Shadows of the Dragonqueen
  • Campaign Case: Terrain
  • Campaign Case: Creatures
  • D&D Starter Set
  • Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • Journeys through the Radiant Citadel
  • Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep
  • D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set

Of those, the only book even remotely player-facing is Mordenkainen, and that only contains a small portion dedicated to playable species.

The last big player-focused book was Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, which introduced new subclasses, spells, and more. But even then, you don’t really have to buy one to play a character using the rules.

On D&D Beyond, players can buy things piecemeal. You can pick up, for instance, just the rules for a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer.

But this too has been an intentional move by WotC. With 4th Edition, the pendulum swung hard in the other direction. Book after book cranked out over the short lifespan of the game overwhelmed players.

There’s a fine line between not enough and too much.

How to Monetize D&D

But Williams and Cocks hope to capitalize on the brand’s popularity. D&D Beyond and the upcoming virtual tabletop represent an opportunity to create a “recurrent spending environment.” Meaning monetization and merchandising, the most powerful force in the universe.

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D&D Beyond seems to be the start of their plans for digital monetization. Players can already buy custom dice and avatars on D&D Beyond. And with new digital-only supplements like the Monstrous Compendiums, WotC may be testing the waters to see what appeals to D&D’s “multi-generational fans.”

Under the new concepts unveiled in the fireside chat, D&D will transition into a “four-quadrant brand” which means not just the TTRPG, but also video games, movies, toys, and more. You might be wondering “doesn’t D&D already do this?”

The answer is yes, but WotC has only just begun to monetize. With the potential to sell things to a full 80% of their user base (per their numbers), they stand to make a lot of money.

Whether or not the D&D community will stand for it is another thing entirely. Right now the executives are focused on ways to keep the brand being the golden goose for parent company Hasbro. Which is about what you’d expect when something goes corporate. It stops existing for the sake of itself and instead needs to turn a profit.

So things like “rules balance” and “world design” might take a backseat when other, more profitable options are on the table. Games like League of Legends and Fortnite are some prime examples of a “recurrent spending environment” right now. But you can’t exactly sell a Thanos D&D skin. I mean, I guess you could, but it’s not the same. Anyone can already put Thanos or Wolverine or whomever in D&D, for better or worse.

2024 is going to be a big year for D&D, which enters its 50th year of existence.

Who knows what the next 50 will hold? All we can say is, WotC will no longer let D&D be “under-monetized”

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Author: J.R. Zambrano
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