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 looks at the impact of more stores hitting high level organized play status and the targeting of new players.

I’m sitting here in the quiet of the evening (with MacGuyver on in the background so there are explosions), having wrapped our first Grand Prix Trial, this one for Oklahoma City, around dusk.  A dozen players showed up to have a go at the grand prize, a Modern Masters "Tarmogoyf."  We figured, given the current valuation of the card and that this was a Modern tournament, it would be a pretty good draw.  The chatter I heard prior to the event led me to expect some 20 to 40 players in and I thought we might have a chance of breaking 50 for an event, which we have not hit in several years.  However, 12 was what we pulled.

I was talking with another store owner who also had a Grand Prix Trial running the same day and he expected to pull in about 10-12 players.  He opined, and I tend to give this quite a bit of credence, that the newness and excitement of players getting to play in a Grand Prix Trial or a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier has worn off.

Originally, in order to run an event like this, stores had to have a very large player base and focus heavily on Magic, or whatever their card game of choice was.  Now, with it being comparatively easy for stores to reach Advanced status (which is the DCI level stores must reach in order to run events like GPT and PPTQs), even stores with a comparatively small player base like ours can run what used to be a fairly elite event.  We often struggle to pull eight players for a Friday Night Magic event, yet, because of the number of events we run, the number of unique players and the number of new players we generate over a year, we get to run the same events that much more focused stores get to run.

This is one reason why Wizards of the Coast introduced the Advanced Plus level for stores about a year or so ago, simply due to so many stores hitting Advanced level.  The company had two choices, either make it harder to reach Advanced or add on another level to the program and it is likely a lot easier to create another level than it is to modify the numbers needed to reach Advanced, especially given the number of complaints WOTC would like receive if they tried to rework the numbers required to reach Core and Advanced level.

So, given the number of PPTQs and GPTs around, players can afford to pick and choose which events they attend.  We have a PPTQ scheduled for next month and another local store set one for mid-October.  The market can only bear so many premier events.

This is one of the reasons we really like to target new players.  They feed into the hobby and are much more interested in casual play.  Case in point, a young Yu-Gi-Oh! player and his mother in the store last weekend.  They were looking over Yu-Gi-Oh! common cards and he was reading them to her and explaining what the card did.  She seems surprised as this and from conversation with her, I gathered her son had a slight learning disability which made it hard for him to read.  He didn’t show much interest in reading otherwise so she was delighted to learn how interested he was in Yu-Gi-Oh! and how enthused he was to read the cards.  After telling her about casual Yu-Gi-Oh! night, she brought him back for it and he spent a couple of hours with more experienced players who helped him understand the rules better and get some ideas on how to construct a deck.  Expecting him back again next week.

Old customers and new, I like 'em both.

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