“The key to its success is the players”: Cynthia Williams – President of Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro Gaming – on why D&D continues to thrive

Cynthia Williams, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

Cynthia, it’s great to tie-in. To kick us off, can I ask about your path to Hasbro & Wizards of the Coast. Was working in the world of play all part of a plan, or did it come out of leftfield somewhat?
I started off in finance and operations – so definitely not as fun as play! As my career progressed, I had an opportunity to help Microsoft scale Xbox beyond the console to reach billions of gamers, which introduced me to how big an audience and how strong fandoms are in gaming. In my current role, I’m lucky to oversee Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro Gaming, two areas of Hasbro that encompass I’ve some of the biggest and most influential brands that have helped shape the gaming industry – and continue to be an inspiration for countless others.

Let’s talk D&D. How did you get to grips with the brand when you joined the company?
When I started, I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and MAGIC: THE GATHERING… Not only in the industry, but on individual’s lives. As I learned more about the fandoms and the brands’ impact on Hasbro’s portfolio and growth, I knew immediately that it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

I remember growing up in the Eighties and seeing some of my friends playing D&D and being curious about the game. How far we’ve come!

Indeed! You mention the Eighties there – fast forward to today when D&D is celebrating its 50th anniversary. What is the key to its longevity?
The power and reach of this brand is truly amazing, but the key to its success is the players. Getting together to tell fantastic stories with friends and family is at the core of D&D and what helps it stand the test of time. With imaginative play at the core, it resonates with all of us and gives us wonderful opportunities to bring that world to games, entertainment, toys and more to inspire generations to come.

D&D’s latest foray into video games – Baldur’s Gate III – was a critical and commercial smash. Why do you think D&D brand feels so home in the digital gaming space?
Baldur’s Gate III is a true love letter to fans. We are so proud of the incredible level of care and detail that Larian Studios took when making the game – from the iconic settings and monsters to the hundreds of hours of cinematics – and how it has been recognised and embraced by both fans and game critics.

Cynthia Williams, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Toys & Games

And when I started at Wizards of the Coast, D&D was primarily a publishing business… We knew that to expand the business we really need to go beyond that, both in terms of new expressions of the brand and reaching more players, especially those overseas. Video games are the fastest-growing form of entertainment, and we know it’s a critical way to give fans a different way to enjoy a brand and game that they already love.

Does the brand’s success in the digital space ever steer aspects of development of the core game?
Definitely. D&D Beyond was an officially licensed compendium and set of tools for playing D&D. In 2022, we acquired that team as we saw the potential to make the game more accessible to both current and new players and to help reach international audiences. Today it’s also a platform to reach players with original content including interviews and videos that help us deepen our relationship with fans.

Cynthia Williams, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Toys & Games

Good example. Last question: How do you fuel your creativity? What helps you have ideas?
The people around me. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by so many creative, talented, smart, and innovative people that make up our Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast teams. They help drive me to think about what’s next, not only as a game or a brand, but as a lifestyle. I couldn’t be more excited to be where I am today!

Cynthia, thanks again for making time. Let’s catch up again soon!

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