The Business of RPGs
Beyond the Game Table
By Lezlie Samuel
Publishing Group Operations Coordinator

If we lived in the worlds of our characters, the game designing wizards here at Wizards of the Coast would use psionic abilities to know exactly what customers want, employ spellcasting powers to create perfect products overnight, and teleport the games directly to players who want them. But until "game designer" becomes a new prestige class (hey, we're working on it!), the process of planning, developing, marketing, and distributing roleplaying products remains a little more complicated. This regular feature offers insight into the business side of fun and games.

This month, I thought you might want to hear some of the cool things that are happening with our RPG brands in the near future. One of our goals here in the Tabletop Roleplaying Game division is to find ways to build our RPG brands -- to increase recognition of the names of the games you love to play (Dungeons & Dragons, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and so on). Sure, our first goal (as with any profitable company) is to sell more products, but what better way to do that than to build awareness of the underlying brands? Thus, we strive to find ways to create additional products, services, etc. that fulfill the needs and demands of each brand's core customers, while simultaneously introducing more people to those brands through uniquely targeted product offerings. We try to use every avenue possible to increase brand recognition, improve the image of our brands, and further solidify our market position, thereby helping us to sell more products.

In 1999, the purchase of Wizards of the Coast by Hasbro, Inc. opened several smoothly paved and fruitful avenues to aid us in achieving these goals. Rather than relying solely on our own marketing, what better way to get our name "out there" than to attach our brands to Hasbro's board games, toys, and varied other merchandised and licensed products? Plus, Hasbro offers the resources and necessary contacts to help Wizards of the Coast break into television and even the big screen.

So, what's in store? First, steadfast fans (and soon-to-be steadfast fans) of Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms will be able to experience the Forgotten Realms setting in a live-action television series. This project will rock the charts! Fireworks Television (a division of CanWest Entertainment) will develop and produce the series. This is the company behind the top syndicated television shows Andromeda and Mutant X. Plus, for all you dark elf fans, Fireworks also plans to launch Dark Elf motion pictures after the premiere of the series. In other words, get the candy and popcorn ready, folks!

In addition to the Forgotten Realms series, we have many other exciting deals in the works. Fantasy is extremely hot in Hollywood right now, so our brands are in high demand! We have made a deal with an animation company to produce fully interactive movies for D&D, through which we hope to make superstars of the many heroes and monsters we all love so much. These will be essentially "pick-a-path" stories on DVD, where the viewer can make decisions for the hero using a simple remote control.

What else? Soon, Dark Sun will come back to life in a fully animated series targeted at teens and adults. Last, but not least, we have a producer developing the Spelljammer brand for TV and movies.

In addition to all these entertainment deals, we have many other crossover and merchandising opportunities with Hasbro's outside licensing partners. Hasbro's licensing division has had such a huge success with USAopoloy's Dungeons & Dragons Clue board game crossover that it is currently closing a deal for a traditional Forgotten Realms comic book series. Our staff is also working diligently on several licenses for t-shirts, posters, and other retail items.

So, while D&D has reached a level of awareness as a brand that has made it a cultural icon, our team still strives to cultivate a larger niche in the market by employing every resource available. With the assistance of Hasbro's many divisions, we hope to dissolve any negative perceptions about our brands so we can focus our efforts on making the products that D&D players want to have, even if they have long since abandoned the game stores. We'll bring them all back somehow, and a few more to boot!

Did you catch the previous Business of RPGs article?
Learn who's who among Wizards' business staff!

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