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 talks about what's happening with the latest Magic: The Gathering release, especially the Fat Packs.

If you are in the tabletop game industry, you likely noticed that Magic: The Gathering -- Battle for Zendikar hit the shelves with a resounding ringing of cash register bells.  Many stores said that Friday October 2 was the best sales day in years if not ever and even some stores dealing primarily in comic books said that only their sales on Free Comic Book Day surpassed those of Battle for Zendikar Launch Day.  Mind you this was in spite of allocations of booster boxes and event decks and a severe shortage of Fat Packs.  We received half our original order and, while it lasted us through Launch Day and the day after, did not make it through the weekend.  Oh well, selling through a hot product is far better than sitting on one for long periods of time (I'm looking at you Magic 2014).

Amidst all this merriment, a note of gloom sounded as a video started circulating accusing retailers selling Battle for Zendikar Fat Packs above MSRP (that's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price, for those who missed that column) of price gouging by doing so and urging customers not to purchase them.  Incidentally, I never hear anyone thank me or any other retailer for discounting the price of booster boxes, as most of us are wont to do.  Needless to say, the rapid sell out of Fat Packs means most people ignored him and adhered to the basic economic laws of supply and demand, but first one note:

  1. Starting off your video by flipping the viewer off is not a great way to make your point. You have a complaint, great. Glad to listen but not if you come into my store, dropping F-bombs and gesturing obscenely.
  2. Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand has kicked in on BFZ Fat Packs.  As noted above, these are in seriously short supply.  Most stores saw a serious cut in their orders, meaning much less product on the shelves.  When there is a shortage of product, prices shoot up.  I don't see the price of a Black Lotus or Mox Opal coming down anytime soon.  When there is a glut of product on the market, prices drop.  I can still remember $20 boxes of Fallen Empires and Saviors of Kamagawa.  I haven't heard anyone reporting a glut of Battle for Zendikar yet.  If anyone has serious amounts of overstock of boosters and Fat Packs, I can point them in the direction of numerous retailers who will gladly help them with their problem.  Currently, until production at Wizards of the Coast catches up with demand, it looks as if distributors will limit restocks to most retailers to 1 to 2 cases a week.
  3. Price Increase.  If you remember WOTC cut the discount on products the company sells to distributors and stores several months ago, without raising MSRP.  Most stores, unlike the mass market, where you can find booster packs priced at $4.12 and other odd prices to reflect this reduced discount, opted to absorb the loss of margin.  If the MSRP on Fat Packs reflected the actual margin, it would be close to $45.
  4. Perceived Value.  Fat Packs come with 80 basic lands, serving as a proxy for the tournament decks of yore.  However, the basic lands in this box are FULL ART lands.  Typically, a basic land sells for anywhere from 1 to 10 cents or even less.  However, full art basic lands sell for $1 to $5 each, given each Fat Pack a minimum retail value of $80 and that's before one even considers the value of the booster packs.  Given that, a retail price of $45 to $60 per Fat Pack starts to look cheap and it's rather amazing that any of them got to market at all, instead of retailers breaking them open for the lands and selling the boosters individually.  If you want a Fat Pack, I would probably buy it now, as WOTC has never, that I remember, done a second production run of Fat Packs, so as what is available sells down and they get even scarcer, the price will invariably rise further.  Just basic economics.

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