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 offers some thoughts on the current Pokemon craze, and on a recent promotion.

I received a few responses to last week’s column (see “Rolling for Initiative – Three Predictions”) that generally agreed with my predictions, with a couple of caveats. They thought I was a bit optimistic in predicting the return of Organized Play in Q2, and figure that the TCG companies, who are the major purveyors of Organized Play events, would err on the side of caution and hold off until 2022.  Another commenter thought that Wizards of the Coast, instead of discontinuing them, might repurpose Theme Boosters into more of an introductory product, which could easily be done by adding some land cards to the pack.  Not a bad idea.  Some sort of intro product for new players would certainly help.

On another note, the Pokemon TCG market has been extremely hot recently, with 1st Edition graded cards and sealed booster boxes going at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars (see “Another record-Setting Sales Number”), while cards out of more recent sets like Vivid Voltage are commanding pretty high prices, especially in graded condition.  Stores are selling out of Pokemon TCG product almost as soon as they hit the shelves.  I have heard of stores getting customer complaints for selling Pokemon TCG products above MSRP.  Apparently, those same customers have not heard of the concept of supply and demand.  Customers who have never ventured into the store before have come in looking for the “hot” Pokemon TCG products and only want those hot products, not the regular Pokemon TCG packs we stock and sell for slightly below our local Walmart’s selling price.  It reminds me of when we dealt in action figures years ago.  We would get in a case of figures and the collectors would immediately only want the short packed figures, leaving us with the rest of the figures which would sit there for months, but not understanding when we charged more for the short packed figures.  When supply is short, prices go up.  When supply increases, prices go down.  Check out the current prices on disposable face masks and hand sanitizer for another example and compare them to pricing on the same products last spring.

Anyhow, this is a perfect example of the “halo effect,” which says that people will often take a single particular factor or characteristic and generalize from that to the overall item, and is a form of cognitive bias.  Typically, the halo effect is applied to people, commonly based on appearance.  If someone is physically attractive, they are often viewed as smart or likable, one positive trait influencing our perception of others.  Of course, other characteristics can cross-influence as well. Someone perceived as nice or social may also be viewed as intelligent or healthy.

Although typically applied to people, the halo effect can also apply to physical items as well, case in point the Pokemon TCG.  I hear that a Pokemon card sold for $300,000 and hey, I have a box full of Pokemon TCG cards stuck in the back of my closet from when my sister played when we were young.  They’ve got to be worth all kinds of money.  After all, it’s Pokemon and I’ve had them for 20 years.  So the customer digs them out and takes them to the store, expecting to get offered the kind of money people have paid for the cards at auctions, only to get deflated when they hear their cards are the same as the hundreds of thousands of Pokemon TCG cards out there and worth next to nothing.

On another note, congratulations to Sara Erickson on her promotion to VP of Marketing at Renegade Game Studios (see “Erickson Promoted to Renegade VP”).  I have been lucky enough to know Sara since her Iello days, and figure Iello made a smart move first by hiring her, then Renegade made a smart move by hiring her from Iello, and now another smart move by promoting her.  She is a great marketer and spokesperson and should really help Renegade develop their Hasbro properties.

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