Column by Marcus King
Posted by Marcus King on January 29, 2016 @ 7:12 pm CT
"Cool story bro" is what retailer Jim Crocker said (in a retailer group we are members of, quote used with permission), referring to this Wizards of the Coast story about “Great Marketing for 25 Cents.” (Check out Jim Crocker at his Facebook page – he once taught me something that made me thousands of dollars, so I kinda like Jim.)
I appreciate that Wizards is trying to teach retailers how to be better retailers. But I wish they would hire a long-time, well experienced retailer to do that. Say Dave Wallace perhaps.
As Crocker pointed out on his Facebook post in reference to the above WotC story, I’m not sure how universally applicable this is. I mean, should all us retail store owners specifically look for locations with no free parking, then hang out in the parking lot feeding meters (which is illegal in some places, btw)?
If WotC wants to actually help retailers, they should concentrate on what they do well. And, one of those things is making good products. I mean, really, Magic: The Gathering is singly responsible for the proliferation of game stores around the world, and certainly in the U.S. They make other fine games, too, along with their Avalon Hill brand and Hasbro in general. I sell a lot of Guillotine and The Great Dalmuti (when available). There are many others. I don't want to get too far into a Hasbro lovefest, because I want to dun them again. But, first, let’s recognize that there are tens of thousands of people who have jobs because of Magic: the Gathering – without ever working for WotC or Hasbro. That's kind of a big deal.
As a retailer I consider myself to be typical. And, typically we do a “lot” of marketing. We work with local churches, scouting groups and schools. We contribute to, and even host events, for fund raisers and charity drives. We contribute to Little League organizations, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and host their fund raisers. In the past year we had charity drives for local people, and did marketing with coffee shops, and hosted school outings for field trips. I would love for WotC to suggest something even better than these efforts.
Back to Magic, “The Greatest Game In The Past 25 years” (my designation, you may not agree). Magic has been a powerhouse in my game store since 1994. And, I have owned a game store for 30 years. MUCH of my personal success, and income, come from Magic, and the CCGs which followed it. Currently, I buy and sell singles for, and run events for, Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Force of Will. We also sell sealed product for other CCGs. All, in my mind, available to my store because WotC published that first CCG.
So, I have to ask, why is WotC encouraging retailers to stop promoting the most "The Most Popular Format Ever" (that is the Standard Format, by the way)?
Standard Magic requires players to stay current. Sets rotate out of Standard after a reasonable life cycle, and this keeps the game fresh – and players buying. A truly dominant deck has not been in place for many years, because things rotate out. Remember The Black Summer? When Necropotence was THE deck. And you either played it, or built to play against it? No? Well, that's because I'm much older than you. But, if you can imagine, for more than a year a deck ruled Magic nearly exclusively at the pro level, and was seen at every Standard (back then called Type Two) event. But, since then, WotC has created a rotation that prevents this kind of one-deck dominance. And that keeps players engaged, and that keeps retailers buying sealed product to sell. But, in the above linked article WotC is actually encouraging shop owners to run Pauper events (Pauper does not drive sales much – since you ONLY use common cards). I don't want to discuss their recommendations in detail, because I find them rather insulting to a retailer. I didn't spend the last 30 years building my store, and the last five building my community of gamers and players, to ask them to play with dime cards.
I mean, WotC, you should realize that most store owners have put a significant amount of their time, money and sweat into opening a store. Most retailers want to excel and not just have a large turn-out. As a retailer, what I care about is paying my staff, being profitable, and taking a nice salary to support my family. And, one of the ways I do this is by running profitable events. And, that doesn't equate to Pauper, or tricks. It equates to customers coming in for the fun of the game, repeatedly wanting the same or similar gaming experience. Now, just think on that: "Customers coming in for fun of the game, and wanting the same or similar gaming experience."
Sounds a lot like: "Customers buying pack after pack for the fun of the game, always seeking the same or similar experience." It is literally the same behavior that Magic: The Gathering has built its business on: players buying a pack, then another pack, then more packs.
I would challenge WotC, Hasbro and those in charge at Wizards to revitalize Standard format. Perhaps allowing stores to run "Friday Night Magic" on another night, and calling it "Arena" again. Having these "Arena" events run in an 8-week season, with national standings like they did during sets like Mirage and Urza's Saga. But that's not the limit. That's just my off-the-cuff suggestion. I imagine that WotC has a nearly limitless talent pool – so allow those talented people to find new ways to promote and play Magic in stores to appeal to that repetitive behavior mechanism that dwells within all Magic players.
Here is the thing. I believe in WotC, and I believe in their ability to deliver the best organized play experience for CCG's, hands down, second to none; the best play-tested product; and the best meta-game environment. They just need to step up and lead. Retailers like me WILL follow, if you lead.
Build it, and they will come.
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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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