There aren’t a lot of details yet, but Hasbro has announced an upcoming D&D-themed line of Kre-O building blocks. Kre-O blocks are compatible with Lego, but are marketed by Hasbro, which also owns D&D.
Now, I don’t find this particularly interesting in and of itself. There have been many off-the-wall D&D tie-in products over the years (including the infamous D&D gummi bears). Lego has its own official adventure game line, and so it’s little wonder that Hasbro is making the connection.
It does, however, confirm something that various game designers and publishers have been reporting behind the scenes for a while, now. Hasbro, for reasons unknown, is simply not pursuing any licenses for D&D outside of its own umbrella. That’s why there’s a D&D Kre-O and not a D&D Lego. That upcoming D&D movie? Bear in mind that Hasbro and Universal have a deal that isn’t scheduled to end until 2014. They could view the new D&D movie (which has its own rocky history so far) be a last gasp to try to salvage the relationship.
But outside of multi-billion-dollar companies like Universal, Hasbro (which handles all such things for its subsidiary Wizards of the Coast) has been singularly unwilling to discuss any sort of license for any of its D&D related properties. I know they have been approached about licensing Mystara, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk (and possibly more such properties that I haven’t heard about) to third parties and have shown absolutely no interest in doing so, refusing to consider any deal no matter how hard the would-be licencor tried.
So to me, the fact that the D&D name is on an in-house Lego knockoff, rather than Lego itself, is indicative of an overall company policy to keep everything in-house. Even if the IP is not being used, even if there are fans clamoring for new material, and even if there are third parties willing to write Hasbro checks and make other sweetheart deals, Hasbro would rather see it lie fallow than let someone else even have a crack at it. I couldn’t pretend to understand the reasoning, but I would speculate that it’s all about politics. Nobody wants to be the guy who made the bad deal.
And even if that isn’t the reason, the whole situation well and truly sucks.