Aug 15, 2022 - Technology

Hasbro plans to make a lot more video games

Photo illustration of Tim Fields.

Tim Fields and an illustration of Archetype's Project Taurus. Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Hasbro and Wizard of the Coast

The company behind Transformers, Magic The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons keeps opening its own video game studios, after years of relying primarily on outside teams.

Why it matters: Should those studios prove productive, it’ll make Hasbro and its Wizards of the Coast subsidiary a much bigger player in the industry.

What they’re saying: Hasbro’s move began a few years ago as an “intentional shift to move more of our product development and publishing efforts in-house,” the company’s general manager of digital gaming, Tim Fields, tells Axios.

  • Fields himself is a product of the new effort. He joined in February after stints at EA, Capcom and, most recently, Kabam, which specialized in mobile games tied to Marvel, Disney and Hasbro’s Transformers. (Another recent hire, former Microsoft/Xbox exec Cynthia Williams, runs the video game team.)
  • The initiative involves making some games tied to Hasbro and WotC franchises and some that are wholly original.

Details: Hasbro/WotC now has six video game studios, many working on unannounced projects.

  • Skeleton Key. Location: Austin, Texas. Announced in July. Led by ex-BioWare developer Christian Dailey. Working on a horror game that may involve an existing in-house brand or something original; a decision on that is TBD, Fields says.
  • Atomic Arcade. Location: Raleigh, North Carolina. Founded in 2021. Led by ex-Warner Bros. developer Ames Kirshen. Working on a big-budget action-adventure game starring G.I Joe hero Snake Eyes.
  • Unnamed studio. Location: Eastgate, Washington. Founded in 2020. Led by ex-Bungie developer Leah Hoyer. Working on an original game since the start of the year. Fields: “I think it's going to be kind of unexpected for our fans.”
  • Archetype Entertainment. Location: Austin, Texas. 50+ employees. Founded in 2019. Led by ex-BioWare developer James Ohlen. Working on an unannounced original sci-fi, role-playing game.
  • Tuque Games. Location: Montreal, Quebec. 70+ employees. Acquired in 2019. Led by ex-Ubisoft developer Dominic Guay. Released one game so far, 2021’s coolly received Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, with an unannounced project in the works.
  • MTG Arena. Location: Renton, Washington (shares an office with the Magic: The Gathering tabletop team). Continuously expanding MTG Arena to create an up-to-date digital version of the card game.

Between the lines: Six studios is a lot but can’t come close to handling all of the entertainment company’s famous brands, so it will remain in the licensing business too.

  • Licensed projects include mobile Scrabble games and Baldur’s Gate III from Larian Studios.

Yes, but: Building a successful gaming group is a challenge.

  • If Hasbro's effort flops, it won’t be the first time an entertainment giant found out how hard it is to pivot to making its own video games.
  • See Disney and its notorious 2016 retreat from in-house game development in favor of partnering with the biggest game publishers on its famous franchises.

The bottom line: “Even great game makers don't succeed every time,” Fields says. “But Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast is committed.”

  • You hire great people, you give them the tools, and you give them the resources that they need. And when they succeed you celebrate and grow it and try and get as many people in the world to enjoy it as you can. And if sometimes things aren't as great as you hope they would be, then you dust off their shoulders and you get them back up and you get them to build another game."

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