Wizards under the knife

Wizards of the Coast has not been spared the axe, even though it seems to be what has been keeping the company afloat. This decision to cut jobs appears to be a part of a broader effort by Hasbro to manage its operational costs and adapt to the changing market.

As we reported before, the layoffs at Hasbro will affect approximately 1,100 employees, which is nearly 20% of the company’s workforce. This move comes after an earlier round of layoffs in January where about 800 employees were let go. These layoffs are occurring despite the success of certain Hasbro divisions, particularly Wizards of the Coast.

Wizards of the Coast has been a high-performing subsidiary for Hasbro, with Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering generating substantial revenue. The division of the company that includes Wizards of the Coast and digital gaming reported a 40% increase in revenue year over year, reaching $423.6 million and netting a $203.4 million operating profit. This growth is attributed to the increasing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, bolstered by third-party content creators and successful video game releases like Baldur’s Gate III.

Despite this success, Hasbro still faces challenges. The company’s overall revenue declined by 10% year over year, prompting a strategic shift towards licensing opportunities and new brand development. Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks has indicated that these layoffs are a necessary step to keep the company healthy and focus on areas that are driving profit.

The impact of these layoffs on the teams at Wizards of the Coast has been significant. Several high-profile employees from both the Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering teams have confirmed their departures on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. This includes figures like Mike Mearls, co-designer of D&D 5th edition, and others involved in various aspects of game development and management.

So far, the list looks to include; Paul Cheon: Magic: The Gathering talent manager and producer, David McDarby: Magic: The Gathering game designer, Breeanna Heiss: Art director, Robert Sather: Art manager, Amy Dallen: D&D Beyond producer and host, Natalie Egan: Product manager, Jessie Hill: Magic: The Gathering community manager.

There’s also an unconfirmed report regarding Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing, being laid off. However, this has not been officially verified.

The timing of the layoffs, occurring just before the holiday season, adds layer of difficulty for those affected. It highlights the broader trend of job cuts in the gaming industry and other tech-related sectors. The decision has been described by the CEO as a “last resort” to ensure the viability of Hasbro in a challenging economic environment.

Wizards of the Coast has been performing well, however, the broader struggles of Hasbro have led to significant layoffs affecting many employees, including those working on successful franchises like Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. One has to wonder how much of this is because of the repeated scandals like the OGL debacle, and the Pinkerton mess, as well as all the changes that have been projected to the game such as the no more half species and other strange changes. With an updated version of Dungeons and Dragons slated for release next year, and the fact that they are still in playtest for several of the books, we will just have to see where this takes us in 2024.

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