Yesterday, Hasbro, the huge toy company we all know and love from our childhood announced the layoff of 1100 staff members in an internal, companywide, email on December 11, 2023, thanks to poor holiday sales for this year.  This comes on the heels of an 800 staff member cut at the beginning of the year.  That’s a total of 1900 people laid off just this year and a 20% reduction in their workforce.  Cutting that many employees adrift with an uncertain future as a parting Christmas gift seems like a very Grinchy thing to do.

The signs of impending doom were all there for anyone to read, though. The dramatic stumbling over WotC’s attempt to retroactively rescind the Open Gaming License in January of this year almost certainly had a profound influence on sales.

Many of the layoffs are from the Wizards of the Coast division, which oversees both the wildly popular strategic card game Magic the Gathering, but also the beloved Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game, both of which saw an uptick during the pandemic when people were sequestered at home and needed something to do to online to occupy their time. The future of both franchises is now uncertain.

Gutting this division, while possibly good for Hasbro’s bottom line in the wake of its biggest competitor’s success, Mattel’s Barbie seems near-sighted at best.  While Wizards of the Coast may not have been Hasbro’s most lucrative division it seems like it’s been consistent.  They are coming up on a 50th anniversary.  Its popularity has been steadily rising.  And of course, hard-core fans will always be hard-core fans.  The people who love D&D will always love D&D, no matter what Hasbro does. 

D&D can be played online on sites such as Roll20 which made playing the game during the pandemic very easy to access. The placement of the game in both the Netflix series Stranger Things and the recent movie Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, have been part of the reason for the renewed popularity of this decades-old, dice-rolling favorite.

It’s hard to understand how they can be gearing up for this fabulous and grand 50th anniversary and release of new products when they just slashed their staff like this.  By depleting their numbers so greatly, what does this mean for the Wizards of the Coast division in the future?  Several celebrities play and endorse D&D and it has survived as sort of an underground game amongst geeks and nerds now for 50 years.  If Wizards of the Coast goes under, the ownership of Dungeons and Dragons will have to change hands — but to whom?

Independent publishers such as Dark Horse and their biggest single competitor Paizo, creators of the immensely popular D&D alternative RPG Pathfinder, are very likely going to take this news and run with it.  Maybe Hasbro can’t compete with the indie publishers anymore?  Maybe it doesn’t want to?  But with all the talent it just fired, and may fire in the future, if I were Hasbro, I’d be kicking myself. Dungeons and Dragons existed before WotC got ahold of the rights, and it will continue on without them. They seem not to understand that their role with respect to the franchise was that of caretaker, and that the loyalty of the fans was based on the product, not the company. The future of Dungeons and Dragons as a game is itself now in play.


Jackie Zwirn
Jackie Zwirn

Jackie Zwirn is the recent author of the critically acclaimed “Onion” Best Seller Show Me Where Spock Touched You and other heartwarming tales of Trekkery as well as the author of some of the most popular How-To manuals: Crab Walking Downstairs While Possessed and The Hitter, Hacker, Grifter, & Thief 101 Manual. She also authored the biography of Dean Winchester, When I Was a Demon: Rock Salt, Shot Guns and a Lotta Liquor.

She currently lives in Beaverton, Oregon with her husband, and two cats Mozart and Falcor.

And she never forgets her flash drive. Ever. Bazinga.