Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne reports on the Magic: The Gathering Celebration (#MTGCelebration).
We hosted the 2013 Magic: The Gathering Celebration (or, as Wizards of the Coast called it on Twitter, #MTGCelebration) on Saturday, with about 18 happy players but no more sales than we would have had during a typical Saturday.  Similar to most stores with which I have discussed the M:TG Celebration, turnout ran much lighter than it would for a pre-release or Launch Day, with many of the hard-core Magic players in the area opting to skip our event.  On the plus side we did have six new players show up and fill out DCI cards, making about a third of our players  either comparatively new or, as several commented, people who had not played Magic for several years and wanted to get back into the game.
One comment I heard from several other stores, and thank goodness it didn't happen here, related to players complaining about the giveaways for the event.  You would think people would be happy, maybe not with the free half deck, but certainly with a free 2014 Core Booster and the opportunity to receive more boosters just for winning games of Magic, at no financial cost to themselves, but apparently not.  At some stores, players complained about the packs given out and/or the lack of a promo card for the event.  It appears we have trained those who have played Magic (and other CCGs) to expect a promo card tied to a particular event, and, if there is not one, they feel slighted, even when the event is free.
One problem I noted was that, according to the instructions sent with the Celebration materials, stores should run players in pods of six, sending out a new group whenever the store had six people ready to play.  Unfortunately, the way the event formatted for reporting in DCI Reporter, stores would have to have at least 8 players in the event and submit it as a Swiss style event, with players assigned to an opponent for each round.  This format defeated the overall casual ambiance of the Celebration and I heard of players complaining about the more structured formatting used at some stores.  Several stores figured out a work-around to this by entering all players into DCI Reporter and matching them for the first round and either have them play each other or give them all "byes," then submit the event after one round.  Hopefully, for the next Celebration, it will be sanctionable as a casual event, so that we only need to enter players' names into it and report the event much like we do for casual play now, without having to force a structured tournament on the format.
No idea how the Achievement Cards went over at other stores, but since Wizards of the Coast really wanted people to tweet the #MTGCelebration hashtag as well of pictures of the event (and people promoting our events and store on Twitter and Facebook is always a good thing), we offered an extra booster pack for each five achievements they marked off, meaning that, even if you lost all your matches, you could walk off with one, and maybe two, more boosters, as long as you were willing to get on your social media accounts during the event.  I don't know how highly #MTGCelebration trended on Twitter but I was surprised at the number of people who completed all the achievements, with two of them even creating Twitter accounts while at the store.
Overall, the #MTGCelebration was a bit of a bust as a sales promotion, but gangbusters as far as advertising and PR and, as Meat Loaf says "Two outta three ain't bad."
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of