We recently caught up with James White, CEO and founder of Legend Story Studio, to talk about their announcement of more sustainable booster packaging with the release of the new Everfest set (see "Next 'Flesh and Blood' Set"). We talked about Legend Story’s plans for making TCG packaging more sustainable, how channels affect packaging, and what's in the pipeline for Flesh and Blood in 2022.

ICv2: What features of the new Everfest set make it more environmentally sustainable than previous Flesh and Blood sets?
James White
:  Pretty simple, the flow wrap (the booster wrapper) is made of fully recyclable paper.  Typically, trading card games are packaged in a plastic-metalicized wrapper, which is generally not recyclable.  We have transitioned over to fully recyclable paper flow wrappings.  It's been years in the making.

I do have to acknowledge that this is something that is being enabled by our partners, Cartamundi.  We've been working with them on this for quite some time; it's gone through many prototype stages, QC checks, all of that.  Going way back to Arcane Rising is actually when we were first exploring the possibility.  We're very proud to be able to finally launch the sustainable flow wraps with Everfest.

What does being "environmentally sustainable" mean to you and what's your general philosophy on it for your company?
Look, it's just about doing the right thing.  I can tell you straight up, it's not about cost saving, that's for sure.  It's more expensive to produce, but it's worth it.  Our industry creates a lot of waste.  Simply, you can take our booster wrappers and put them in the recycling bin, and they're good to go.

We've noticed in the last several years, a lot of the major TCG companies have been stepping up the amount of packaging material they use to optimize shelf displays.  What has Legend Story Studios done to make sure retailers still have a optimal TCG display, and at the same time, balance that with the amount of packaging used in Flesh and Blood?
This is a great question.  We're at the other end of the spectrum, where we actually don't put much weight on having big, flashy shelf displays.  If you look at our Blitz decks or the original hero decks that came out with Welcome to Rathe; the Monarch and Tales of Aria Blitz decks are very compact.

That's about acknowledging the packaging issue again.  It's about being efficient with our packaging. It's not creating waste.  It doesn't have plastic inserts and all of that sort of thing.  It's also with a little bit of respect and acknowledgement to our retailers that their shelf space is precious as well.

We don't think that Flesh and Blood is going to see big sales spikes because it has a big box.  It's going to sell because people want to play the game; and all of the things that we do with our player engagement, with our marketing campaign, with our organized play, with our installed point of sale, and the big banners that we send out is what brings attention to the brand.  It's not about having big, meaty, chunky, plastic‑filled, air‑filled packaging sitting up on the shelves.  That's our approach to packaging.

Starter decks, at least for a lot of the other TCG companies, seem like one of the bigger packaging waste producers.  How are Flesh and Blood starter decks set up to save resources?
It comes back to where we are selling Flesh and Blood.  Typically, these big shelf presence packaging strategies are designed with mass market in mind, so your Walmarts and your Targets.  We don't care about Walmart and Target.  That's not where we want to sell Flesh and Blood.  We want to sell Flesh and Blood in local game stores, and all of our focus is on supporting local game stores. That's why we have not gone down the path where you have big air‑filled, big‑box packaging.

It's because our priority and our focus is on local game stores…  Typically, the store managers and local game stores are very good at understanding, "Ah, so the blitz decks are a good product to sell someone who is maybe a casual player or wants to just play at home on the kitchen table with their friends or family."  They have their deeper product knowledge to understand what kind of product matches with the different kind of end‑user.

Whereas, if you go into Walmart or whatever, the people selling the products don't have that innate understanding of what the product is, so you need to hand-hold the consumer by offering them a big, flashy box.

Let's switch gears real fast here, and talk more about the booster boxes and the amount of waste that occurs with booster packs.  One of the things with Flesh and Blood is that it offers a pretty prominent draft scene.  Am I correct?
Yes, drafting is a very important part of Flesh and Blood.

Draft chaff, for our readers, is basically the refuse left over after a booster draft has occurred.  This includes tokens, advertisement cards, unwanted cards, and the packaging.  What does Flesh and Blood do, especially with their product design, to curb draft chaff?
Firstly, there just needs to be some pragmatic balance between creating meaningful, valuable human experiences and something like the residual draft chaff.  What's more important: having no draft chaff, or having things that actually bring people together as a community, form friendships, and valuable life relationships?

From a pragmatic point of view, I'm not that concerned about it, to be honest. Secondary to that is, in general, Flesh and Blood cards have more utility across all of the commons.  There's less cards in Flesh and Blood that are absolutely useless than perhaps in other games.  Also, if players are doing drafts in stores and are leaving cards on the table, instead they should just sort of pick them up and put them in community boxes maybe for other players who are entering the game to help themselves to or have access to for a good price.

Where do you think the future is headed as far as making TCGs more sustainable?
The no‑brainer here is that the industry needs to move entirely to recyclable flow wraps. Legend Story Studios is the pioneer here.  We are leading the industry on this topic.  I'm pretty sure that we'll see all the major publishers fall in line with the paper flow wraps as we move forward maybe this year, maybe in future years. It's a given that everyone needs to get onto the sustainable flow wrap program.  It needs to happen.

Anything you’d like to share with our readers on plans for Flesh and Blood?
2022 is going to be a exciting year for Flesh and Blood, not only product-wise, but programs as well.  We have Pro Tour #1 (see "'Flesh and Blood TCG' $100,000 Pro Tour Event").  We’re very deliberate with how we've structured our OP program.

The Road to the Pro Tour starts in stores with ProQuests, Skirmishers, Road to Nationals, and all of the in-store programs, which essentially are the beginning of your journey to the Pro Tour.  We have ProQuest running in stores all across the world, all across the U.S. over the next couple of months, and then that feeds into our Pro Tour in New Jersey in mid‑May.  There's going to be a lot of reason for the fans to actually get into local stores, engage with their local community, and pick up Everfest and the other products coming through to participate in those programs.

From the product side, we've put particular focus on creating better first‑play experiences.  We've always had the Ira Welcome Decks, which have been available to stores free of charge, and they've been a fantastic way for people to learn the basics of the game, in conjunction with the learn-to-play video, which is on our website.

We have a product coming through in April, which is one step up from those Ira Welcome Decks. It's simple to play; it's really, really fun.  It is a retail product, so retailers will be able to sell the product, unlike the Ira Decks, which are supposed to be given away for free.  It is packaged beautifully, I have to say, it's a little bit bigger than our other packaging, but it's still without the plastic.  It includes some background, some lore tied to the heroes, which are featured in the product.

Mid‑year, we have our next stand-alone booster set, which will come through in June.  That's a fully-draftable product, which is exploring another region of the world of Rathe, where Flesh and Blood is based, that we haven't been to yet.  I think the fans will be excited to do a deep dive into this particular region.  We've had a lot of requests to go to this region since Flesh and Blood launched.

As we come through to the back end of the year, there'll be another supplementary set similar to Everfest that has come out and some other really, really fun and interesting products leading into that Thanksgiving/Christmas period, which will be ideal for gifting to your friends, and family, and fellow gamers.