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 addresses the production problems with Commander Legends and the release of the Origins Awards winners.

Heck, any other week the announcement of the Origins Awards would be pretty big news  but then along comes WotC sucking all the air out of the room with the news that, due to production problems caused by COVID-19, the release date for Commander Legends has gotten pushed back to November 20 with pre-release events, scheduled to start November 13 (see "Wizards of Coast Pushes Back Entire Launch Schedule For 'Magic: The Gathering Commander Legends'").  Also, from what I gather, Commander Legends will not have the traditional prerelease kit stores have grown to expect:  a box with six boosters, promo card, and spindown counter. Instead, players wanted to participate in a prerelease event will just get the six boosters.  I rather wonder if pushing out all of the Magic: The Gathering product in a relative short period of time is affecting WotC’s production capabilities. After all since the start of the epidemic, we have seen several three regular set releases, Mystery Boosters, assorted Secret Lair products, a new Signature Spellbook, and even a new booster format (see "Super Summerdrop Announced for 'Magic: The Gathering's' 'Secret Lair'").  That sort of release schedule would put a strain on any company’s production capabilities, much less one operating during the stress of an epidemic.

Still, I find it worrisome that WotC has managed to hit release dates steadily for the past several months, including the launch of Set Boosters, but could not get Commander Legends out on the release date.  Not complaining though, as the new Yu-Gi-Oh! set,  Phantom Rage, has its Sneak Peek the same weekend.  Much easier to deal with one pre-release event at a time, although the proviso by both companies against running in store events make staffing and scheduling much easier.

I always considered the Origins Awards the American version of the Spiel des Jahres, only with the addition of awards for RPGs, collectable games and miniatures, while the Spiel des Jahres gives awards only to family style board and card games, as well as an award for  more complex board games, the Kennerspiel des Jahres (see "Origins Awards 2020 Winners Unveiled").  One factor of note about the Spiel des Jahres is its effect on sales.  While a typical new game sells between 1,000 and 20,000 units, a game receiving the Spiel can expect to sell 200,000 to 300,000 copies, due to the increased awareness award-winning games receive in Europe and the rest of the world. [Sales impact estimate updated 12:45 p.m. CT, October 5 -- Scott.]

I generally see no such bump in sales for games winning the Origins Award, although I have used it as a selling point and vividly remember a parent some years ago try to dissuade their child from buying Pokemon by pointing to Decipher’s Lord of the Rings TCG, which had just won an Origins award and saying, "Look this game just won an Origins Award.  Wouldn’t you rather have a booster pack of it?"  Of course the parent had no idea as to what the Origins Award was but the fact that it had won an award certainly helped it in their eyes.  The kid’s response of course was "No."  Here’s hoping we see an advertising blitz or some steps by GAMA to make the Origins more recognizable in this country.  Any ideas on how GAMA could do that?  Email castleperilousgames@gmail com if you have ideas (or send’em to GAMA).

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