Industry speculation is rife as Hasbro unexpectedly takes back control of Wizard of the Coast’s subsidiary studio, Avalon Hill.
Wizards of the Coast has been a Hasbro owned business since its acquisition in 1999 for $325 million. It has remained largely autonomous, with its feet firmly entrenched within the specialist games market. It took the initiative to revamp and breathe new life into its in-house tabletop games such as Magic The Gathering and the once TSR-owned RPG Dungeons & Dragons. Hasbro acquired the Avalon Hill games and brand rights and associated IP from Monarch in 1998. It later entrusted WotC with management duties in 2004.
With the Avalon Hill brand and back catalog of games, WotC has been in the unique position to reinvent several genre-defining board games by bringing its expertise to the table. WotC’s roots are firmly planted in the specialist games arena, but its ability to innovate and adjust to market trends has served it well. It used this flexibility to build on Avalon Hill’s strong catalog of games with several themed versions. There’s an upcoming D&D version of the Great Dalmuti card game (with amazing art), and many takes on Axis & Allies based on different theatres of WWII.
Avalon’s most popular in-house game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, is one of the notable examples. Rather than outsource the IP to a third party, D&D Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate took the WotC owned license and applied it to the Betrayal game format 2017. In recent months, Avalon Hill did its own version of this idea, spreading its wings further into the mainstream with another game based on Betrayal. Scooby-Doo: Betrayal At Mystery Mansion features 25 haunts based upon the TV shows and movies that we all love and sees players take on the role of one of the gang as they solve the mystery.
The move to take back control of Avalon is surprising but not totally unexpected. Wizards of the Coast has been riding the wave that the specialist board games market has felt with numerous releases performing well. Anticipation has been growing over the upcoming release Dungeons & Dragons: Rime of the Frostmaiden that sees a return to the frozen wastes of The Forgotten Realms. Shifting duties away from Wizards will allow it to focus solely on the Magic and D&D lines. More importantly, it gives Hasbro the opportunity to reposition the Avalon Hill brand into a prominent mainstream player.
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