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 chimes in on the newest Secret Lair releases and what it means for the future of Wizards of the Coast's drop marketing strategy.

Well, looks as if Wizards of the Coast plans to adhere to the drop marketing strategy adopted by athletic wear and other clothing companies (see "Rolling For Initiative -- WotC and Drop Marketing") even more closely than it has with its previous sets, as  they released a Theros-themed Secret Lair set, Theros Stargazing, with almost no announcement, an even shorter release window (only three days) ending after the Magic: The Gathering World Championship concludes, and in even more limited quantities.

I tried ordering a couple of copies for the store, and received a notice that we would only receive one.  Earlier in the day, the website indicated that customers could order up to 10 of each set, that language has vanished from the site, although customers can add multiple sets to their cart, just one at a time.

The way I see it, this change accomplishes three things for WotC:

  1. Draws attention to the Magic World Championship series.  The handy link provided on the Secret Lair website takes your right to the Twitch Stream for the World Championships.  Given the amount of traffic driven to the Secret Lair website this weekend, I imagine a substantial percentage of it clicked on the link just to take a look at the Championship, increasing traffic and awareness of the Twitch channel.
  2. Harvests emails.  Prominently displayed at the bottom of the Secret Lair website is a box allowing viewers to sign up for notifications regarding future releases.  Given that WotC apparently plans to keep information about new drops a closely held secret (well, it is, after all, a Secret Lair) until just before the release, Magic players and customers wanting to know about any upcoming releases will have to give WotC their email and, since this is information the customers will want to know, it will be an email address the customer checks regularly.  Nope, this strategy makes sure WotC’s emails go right into the frequently checked email box.
  3. Increases the cachet of the Secret Lair drops.  Much like the top clothing, show and skateboard manufacturers using this method, by holding information back about the drop until just before it occurs, WotC has successfully increased the exclusivity of its Secret Lair sets and hence, the exclusivity of those who have access to it.  Even more than with the Mythic sets and the previous Secret Lair drops, I expect demand to increase for these sets after the sale date ends.  Sealed sets of previous Secret Lair releases (OMG Kitties, Bitterblossom Dreams) sell in the range of $50 to $75 apiece.  Unlike previous sets, we have already had customers calling asking if we would get any of this Secret Lair release, which tells me something about how much demand there will be in the aftermarket for the cards.

Given the success of previous Secret Lair releases and the demand for this one, I see no reason to expect WotC to cease using this model anytime in the near future.  Increased sales, increased perception of exclusivity and more emails to which to market, what’s not to like?

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