Since it first appeared way back in 2020, the Universes Beyond product line has always been controversial. By pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and acceptable, many players felt Wizards had gone too far. Unsurprisingly, not everyone was happy about seeing Negan, the Cold-Blooded helming a totally legal Commander deck.
While initial opinions toward Universes Beyond were incredibly negative, over time player sentiment has steadily improved. Following powerful, flavorful, interesting, and enjoyable back-to-back Universes Beyond releases, many players have come to enjoy the MTG sub-brand.
With The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth being an outstanding sales success in 2023, Universes Beyond is undeniably popular. Despite raking in the money, however, it now seems that MTG’s new golden goose isn’t entirely faultless. According to Hasbro, Universes Beyond is to blame for their latest earnings being somewhat disappointing.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Back in 2023, MTG made an absolute boatload thanks to The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Selling over $200 million worth of products in just six months, this set is the most successful in MTG’s history. As you can imagine, this made the quarterly reports following the set’s release incredibly impressive.
Seven months on from this landmark set’s release, unfortunately, things aren’t looking quite as hot for MTG. In their latest Q4 and end-of-year report, Hasbro revealed that Wizards of the Coast only grew its revenue by 10%. While this is no small feat, the rest of Hasbro’s empire has been struggling resulting in a 15% decline in revenue overall.
Curiously, despite MTG’s massive record-breaking sales, it wasn’t propping up Wizards revenue in 2023. Instead, according to Hasbro, the increased revenue was “driven by [am] increase in Licensed Digital Gaming.” In layman’s terms, this growth was thanks to Baldur’s Gate 3 blowing absolutely everyone away and being an unprecedented success.
Given its successes, you might be wondering why MTG wasn’t leading the revenue-boosting charge. Thankfully for our curious selves, Hasbro explained this was due to an increase in operating profit margin. Specifically, this was caused by “higher royalty costs associated with Universes Beyond.”
While we don’t know the details of each royalty deal, due to the lack of increased profit the costs certainly seem substantial. Unfortunately, this problem may stand in the way of future Universes Beyond sets, especially as costs mount. For standout sets like Lord of the Rings, this shouldn’t be a problem, however, smaller crossovers like Jurassic Park could suffer.
There’s No Stopping Now
While the increased royalty costs may harm the potential of Universes Beyond, Wizards is hardly calling it quits. In both 2024 and 2025, there are a number of major Universes Beyond crossovers in the works. These pile on top of the expected cavalcade of in-set and Secret Lair crossovers too!
Right now, four major Universes Beyond products fill the release calendar for 2024 and 2025. In chronological order, these are; Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, and Marvel. While there’s undoubtedly going to be interest in each of these sets, the final two are the big-ticket items.
Both planned to be released in 2025, it’s believed that both Final Fantasy and Marvel are fully-fledged MTG sets. Just like Tales from Middle-earth, this gives the sets immense potential with multi-format appeal. On top of this all-important detail, Final Fantasy and Marvel are both obviously massive and much-beloved franchises.
Even before we’ve seen a single spoiler for either of these sets, it’s reasonable to expect they’ll be insanely successful. While this seems like great news for Hasbro, a cultural juggernaut like Marvel probably doesn’t come cheap. With this in mind, the set needs to be a success lest Hasbro take a serious profit hit.
While Final Fantasy and Marvel seem like sure things, the Assassin’s Creed set is a much bigger unknown. Not only is this gaming franchise experiencing a rough patch, but this UB crossover is getting a new unique product. Known as Beyond Boosters, this new mysterious product could make this set a smash hit, or doom it to failure.
A Worthwhile Cost
Considering how much Hasbro loves its profit, it’s reasonable to expect that each Universes Beyond set has to be a hit. While this is undoubtedly somewhat true, Universes Beyond sets aren’t just temporary money printers. Instead, arguably the greatest benefit from the product line is its ability to grow Magic’s audience.
As if it wasn’t impressive enough, this point was proven by The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. According to Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks, this set was “far and away” the most successful Magic product in terms of bringing new players into the game. Unsurprisingly, the same is expected for Final Fantasy and Marvel next year.
Thanks to the massive growth opportunity that Universes Beyond provides, ultimately, it’s not going anywhere. Even if royalty costs continue to be a burden, they’re likely still worth the cost of new players. If not, the most I’d expect to see is a reduction in Universes Beyond products, not their outright extinction.