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Former DnD and MtG boss will soon rule over Funko Pops

Cynthia Wililams, who spent two years leading the DnD and Magic the Gathering manufacturer, trades tabletop games for big-headed toys.

Split image - on the left, a closeup on Ex-MTG and DnD boss Cynthia Williams, a smiling woman with dark curly hair - on the right, a closeup of an MTG Chandra Planeswalker funkopop, a beady-eyed bobble-headed toy with orange goggles on her forehead and red hair

Novelty vinyl toy maker Funko will appoint Cynthia Williams, the former president of Wizards of the Coast, as the firm’s new Chief Executive Officer on May 20. Before her appointment at Wizards of the Coast (WotC) put her in charge of gaming mega-brands Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, Williams worked as an executive at Amazon and Microsoft.

Williams led WotC from 2022-24, replacing former CEO Chris Cocks when he stepped up to become the overall CEO at Hasbro. She was also in charge of Hasbro Gaming, the firm’s board game arm which publishes HeroQuest, Monopoly, and more. She left her role as the queen of DnD and MtG on April 26.

In a press release this Thursday, the chairman of Funko’s nominating and corporate governance committee Jesse Jacobs says that a “thorough and comprehensive search process” went into Williams’ appointment.

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Wizards was the most profitable part of Hasbro during Williams’ tenure, led principally by sales of Magic the Gathering cards. Commercial highlights in the period included the massive success of the Universes Beyond programme, which produces new magic cards using licensed IP, with a Lord of the Rings MTG set becoming the second best selling set ever.

Despite high profitability, Williams’ arm of the business was still caught by a wave of layoffs at Hasbro in January 2024.

WotC went through a patch of very bad public relations during Williams’ tenure. In January 2023 WotC proposed changes to the OGL license, the licensing system that allows third parties to make supplemental material for Dungeons and Dragons.

These were received with universal hostility, and were eventually walked back entirely by WotC. Wargamer staff writer Matt Bassil argues that this misstep has created a market opening that competitors are now exploiting with their own DnD competitors.

Funko pop board game "Funkoverse Strategy Game: Game of Thrones"

It will be interesting to see if Williams – with a background both at WotC, and as the General Manager and Vice President of the Gaming Ecosystem Commercial Team at Microsoft – does anything with gaming at Funko. In February Funko sold the rights to its board game portfolio, and all the assets of two design teams, to games firm Goliath: staff at the design studios reported mass layoffs following the acquisition.

It’s an interesting time in the corporate world surrounding the board games industry: make sure you check out Wargamer’s analysis of what a new debt burden attached to industry giant Asmodee could mean for the future of the firm.