Short one this time.
Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997. For the ýoung ones here, TSR was a company found by Gary Gygax that published, among other games, Dungeons & Dragons from mid-70s onwards. The name apparently wasn’t worth much, since WotC just let it expire and the companies that have used it since were short-lived (as far as I know – I didn’t bother to check).
While Wizards was in a situation where they had more money than they knew what to do with and that was part of the reason why they bought TSR, another reason they were able to was that TSR was doing very bad at the time, which is kind of weird considering that RPGs were big at the time. The reason for this was that TSR put a lot of stuff out. In order to maintain growth, they needed to publish a lot of books, mostly known as modules, but as there were more and more of them, the game became more cumbersome and harder to handle, while the quality of the product was also falling. This led to a situation where players were no longer able to keep up or interested enough. At some point the FOMO just died.
While WotC has grossly misjudged their audience in other ways, they should have learned from the other part of their own company in regards to Magic. While I haven’t played D&D actively since the 2nd edition, it would seem that the game is now carefully curated so as not to inundate the market with uninteresting and creatively bankrupt product.
Magic doesn’t quite feel creatively bankrupt yet, but at the same time, we seem to be getting there. Vampire wedding, anyone? Time travel is another sign of getting close to jumping the shark. They even tried an Endgame type of thing for their storyline, but weren’t really willing to pull it off at the same time.
Which actually reminds me of the reason Marvel was going bankrupt back in the day. They tried to force the collectability of their comicbooks, which worked for a while, but then caused their whole model to crash.
I don’t expect Magic to go down anytime soon. There’s always going to be enough cards for the game to go on, but that doesn’t mean that it will be WotC or WotC under Hasbro making it. Especially if they are no longer interested in keeping the game fun or balancing it, there’s no reason to need them to even design it. We can easily mess up the game with overpowered cards ourselves.
I’m a little late on this, but as it happens, Hasbro and WotC CEOs held their fireside chat the day after I wrote this. On that chat, they told us that they would be pumping out D&D products in the future as well. They also claimed they weren’t overprinting anything MtG-related despite having to dump a lot of product to their Amazon store at discounted prices.