Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois.  This week, Thorne talks about the potential hazards of a Magic pre-release and Free Comic Book Day on the same weekend.

There’s a surfeit of riches coming later in April and early in May if you are a CCG player or game store-owner, that is.  More specifically, if you play or sell Yu-Gi-Oh! or Magic: The Gathering or both.  The pre-release dates for the next Yu-Gi-Oh! set, Absolute Victory, has been announced for April 30-May 1 and the pre-release for the next Magic set, New Phyrexia, runs the following weekend, May 7th and 8th.  Pre-releases always mean sales are significantly above average since players come in to try out the new set and drop money on other things while they are in the store for the 4-8 hours the pre-release runs--and we get both of them within a week of each other.

However, what is manna from heaven for a game store is a Hobson’s Choice for a comic shop that carries Magic.  I hear a number of comic shops that carry Magic complaining about the timing of the New Phyrexia pre-release, since it coincides with the annual date for Free Comic Book Day--the first Saturday in May for the last ten years (save for 2004 when it moved to July to take advantage of the release of the second Spider-Man movie.  The event did not do as well as the previous two and FCBD has remained the first Saturday in May since).  FCBD, as it is called, is typically one of the busiest days of the year for comic book stores, with many seeing three to four times a normal day's foot traffic.  Since they often need to add on staff to handle the customers for FCBD, adding on an additional big event such as a Magic pre-release can strain the staffing of smaller stores to the breaking point.  Many comic stores also won't have the space to host both events and will need to decide on which one to focus.  Needless to say, they don't like having to make this decision as both events bring in lots of customers and sales.

Wizards of the Coast’s take on the event is that the customer bases differ enough that the two events don’t have significant overlap; that the Magic customer differs from the comic customer; and that pre-releases are international while FCBD is a national/regional event.  This is, of course, nonsense as the prime customer base for both is young males.  However, stores do have the option of running the pre-release on May 8th, which still makes for a hectic, albeit profitable, weekend.  It probably also cuts into attendance for stores running it then since many of their players who would attend a Saturday pre-release will likely default to a competing store running one on the 7th.  Unfortunately, Sunday tournaments have a track record of pulling in significantly less attendance than Saturday ones do.

Still, for a number of years, the two events have co-existed, though I believe past Magic pre-releases generally took place the weekend before FCBD. As a game store that sells comics on the side (and has participated in FCBD for several years), I’m quite happy to have both events on the same day.  Still, I can understand comic shops’ frustration as I worried quite a bit that we would have to deal with a Yu-Gi-Oh! pre-release the same weekend as New Phyrexia, since the two sets release the same week.  That’s probably a good move on Konami’s part since, though Yu-Gi-Oh!’s sales have increased nicely again over the past few months, Magic is still the 800 pound gorilla of the CCG industry.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely  those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of