Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and teaches marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne reports on how Free Comic Book Day and the Magic: The Gathering--New Pyrexia pre-release went at his store.

Free Comic Book Day and a Magic pre-release--how did it go?

Well, we made it through the New Pyrexia pre-release/Free Comic Book Day weekend unscathed and both crowds went away happy as did our staff.  Of course, the fact that we are a gaming store that sells comics, rather than a comic store that sells games made it much easier for us.  We already had the space available for the pre-release in our regular gaming area at the rear and put the FCBD materials at the front where it would be more visible.  We figured people coming in for the pre-release were already familiar with the store layout and could find the gaming area without any trouble, whilst the people coming in for Free Comic Book Day would need more handholding and direction; so we needed to put the free book display where they could easily see it and we could keep an eye on it.  

I could see the problem a more dedicated comic shop could have since it’s likely their gaming area is either carved out of shop display space at the times it is needed, or pressed into service for FCBD, since Free Comic Book Day is a much larger and more important event for them than it is for a store like ours.

The split between the two groups was rather bemusing, as there was little interaction between attendees at the two events.  Magic players came in, checked in at the front desk, went back to the playing area, and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon, only emerging between rounds to purchase some snacks or step outside for a smoke.  Even pointing out the Path of the Planeswalker comic in the FCBD display elicited a shrug or an “Oh, that’s interesting” reaction and they would take one but generally ignore the comics in the rest of the display; unless, of course, they were a HeroClix player as well, in which case they asked for one of the Green Lantern FCBD Clix.  In fact, we had significantly more people come in, by a factor of ten, specifically for the Green Lantern figure than did for the Path of the Planeswalker book.

The Free Comic Book Day people, meanwhile, did not come in for anything specific this year, unlike two years ago when the Blackest Night book was the hot ticket, with nearly everyone who came in picking up a copy.  This year, it was more like, “Oh cool, a free comic,” then spend time picking out their selections, with no title attracting heavy attention.  As other stores have noted, we had a significant number of customers who came in for the free books and leave without buying anything.  I’d estimate about 20% of  the FCBD people just came in for the freebies, then walked around and left without spending another dime, especially later in the day.  Looking at sales figures for the day, though, comic sales were about 4 times a typical day; sales related to the New Pyrexia pre-release dwarfed them.

So while I have no objections to doubling up the two events, I have to go along with those who would like to see them on two separate days next year, simply because I’d rather have events on two different weekends to draw crowds in and bump up sales than lumping them all together and hope for crossover sales, which this year we didn’t see.

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