It looks as if the problems Wizards of the Coast had with sourcing and supplying Strixhaven draft boosters still have not cleared up (see "Rolling for Initiative -- 'Strixhaven' Shenanigans and Farewell to Lou Rexing and Robin Wood"). Whatever happened to WotC’s channels after the release of Kaldheim has affected the release of not only Strixhaven draft boosters, but also Modern Horizons 2 and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. WotC announced this week that the release dates for both have been pushed back a week (see "’Magic: The Gathering Release Calendar"). From the email sent out by WotC :
- May 20: Weekly MTG reveals
- May 24: Previews Begin
- June 2: Full Card Image Galleries
- June 3: Available on Magic Online and Magic Arena
- June 11-13: Webcam Prerelease play through Spelltable
- June 11-17: Prerelease week, Including in store play
- June 18: Worldwide Release
- June 29: Previews Begin
- June 8: Available on Magic Online and Magic Arena
- July 16-18: Webcam Prerelease play through Spelltable
- July 16-22: Prerelease week, Including in store play
- July 23: Worldwide Release
This announcement indicates to me that there is something seriously wrong with the WotC supply chain, at least for the short term, as this is the first time I can remember WotC pushing back an already announced release date. The channel has had problems with allocations in the past, leading retailers to play the game of bumping up their orders from multiple distributors with the expectation that those orders would get allocated down to the level that the retailer actually wanted. This was common in the early years of Magic and wound up driving a number of stores out of business with the release of Fallen Empires.
At the time, WotC warned stores that their problems with the supply chain had been fixed and retailers could expect to get the quantities they had ordered. Unfortunately for a number of retailers, WotC had said that about the previous couple of releases; only this time stores got all they ordered, the market got swamped with Fallen Empires boosters and stores that had wildly over-ordered could not pay their bills and closed up. WotC managed to minimize supply chain problems after that, save for some small problems, and Magic releases and restocks have flowed fairly smoothly for the past 20 years. WotC’s retailer representatives aren't quite sure what the problem is, but based on the announcement about the changed release date, it appears to be a problem that will continue throughout the summer.
WotC also announced a return to sanctioned in-store play at the end of the month (see "U.S. In-Store Play Suspension for 'Magic: The Gathering' Will End Soon"). This announcement caught most stores flat-footed, along with the announcement of the "Summer of Legend." No sanctioned OP has taken place in the U.S. for about 60 weeks, and now, we are supposed to prepare for it in about three weeks while there is still an epidemic going on.
The announcement also removed the "having higher authority" that stores reserved over their Magic play community to mitigate the complaints and questions they got from players regarding opening to events. I know of a lot of stores whose owners are truly concerned about the possibility of spreading COVID-19 through events. WotC not allowing in-store OP allowed those stores to shift the blame for no events to a massive corporation who could easily ignore complaints. Now, the FLGS doesn’t have recourse to that and if, out of caution, it opts to not run events, it bears the blunt of the blame.
I would be remiss if I failed to note the passing of Richard Halliwell (see "R.I.P. Richard Halliwell"). Though I never had the opportunity to meet him, his work had quite an impact on the games industry; especially with the release of Rogue Trooper, Block Mania, and Dark Future, all of which are scarce and command a pretty high price. Of course his major impact was his work on the Warhammer Fantasy RPG and Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which led to Warhammer 40,000 and arguably, Games Workshop’s current domination of the miniatures segment of the hobby game industry. That’s quite a legacy to leave behind.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.