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 recent Eventlink crash during prereleases, and the survey WotC ran about merch based on their games.

The past weekend was the pre-release for the new Magic: The Gathering set, Outlaws of Thunder Junction, and after months of working pretty well (aside from the time the software decided to create a round 0 during a tournament a few weeks ago), Eventlink decided to seize up shortly after 7 p.m. Central Time, caused by a spike in traffic.  Across the country, in the middle of dozens if not hundreds of prerelease tournaments, the software froze, endlessly loaded, or simply presented a blank screen.  To its credit, Wizards of the Coast quickly recognized there was a problem and hopped onto its Facebook page almost immediately to keep tournament organizers apprised regarding the problem, telling those running tournaments to resort to alternative tournament software, or, gasp, pencil and paper.  Stores were told to just enter players’ Eventlink account emails into a player list-only event to garner metrics credit.

This problem could be avoided, or at least minimized, if WotC would modify Eventlink so that it could run on desktops as well as in the cloud, as the now discontinued Wizards Event Reporter did.  On numerous occasions, when the number of stores running events at the same time caused WER to crash, having the software resident on a desktop allowed stores to keep running the tournament while WotC fixed the problem or the amount of traffic dropped.  Allowing stores to migrate tournaments to their in-store computer would certainly mitigate the problem when Eventlink crashes.  It has done this a lot less in the past six months, but as last night shows, it still happens.

Speaking of things I would like WotC to do, how about sending out each set’s promotional posters separate from the prerelease and season promo kits.  Promo cards and badges are designed to get players to come to prereleases, open houses, commander parties, etc., while the promotional posters announce the upcoming set.  Given that purpose, it would make sense to send them out two to four weeks ahead of the event, rather than with the promotional cards, which typically arrive a week or so ahead of the weekend’s prerelease events.  Although these days we rely heavily on social media to promote in-store activities, if WotC is going to provide promotional posters, stores should have them far enough in advance to make use of them.

Finally, WotC sent out a survey last week asking what sort of POS materials stores would like and what sort of licensed products from Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons do we think our customers would like to purchase.  The POS questionnaire was pretty standard: would stores like standees, countertop standees (uh no, my countertop space is limited enough as it is), window clings, floor stickers, etc.

The second part was more interesting, asking if we thought our customers would like to purchase backpacks, clothing, mousepads, plushies, scooters, etc.  This part would give them more information if they had split it into two parts, one for Magic and one for D&D as the purchase behaviors are different for each group.  Magic customers, I have observed, focus on the game.  Their purchases are game related: cards, sleeves, boxes.  I see them using or wearing very little Magic branded material.  D&D players, meanwhile, tend to buy a lot of D&D related materials: t-shirts, miniatures, backpacks, folios, etc.  I would expect to sell more branded D&D than Magic products as D&D players spend less relatively than Magic players do and a separate survey would have reflected that. (Disclosure: I own stock in Hasbro, WotC’s parent company).

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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