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 number of sets Wizards of the Coast releases for Magic: The Gathering and how Play Boosters might help.

On the one hand, I'm happy to see Magic: The Gathering sales up 20% in the third quarter of 2023, and its total Gaming sales  up 23% (see "’Magic’ Sales up 20% in Q3"). On the other hand, the Consumer Products division is down 18% and Entertainment sales were down a whopping 42%.  Great for Magic, not so great for the company as a whole.  If I ran a company, I'd look at what sold really well for me in the past quarter and make more of that in the next quarter, while cutting back in those areas that did not do that well.  Sadly, over the past couple of decades, corporations have focused more on short returns rather than long term growth to make their board of directors and stockholders happy.

Unfortunately, this means WotC has an executive level that sees Magic up over last year, and it is the only division of the company showing an increase.  Couple that with WotC’s inability to come out with any complementary products that could take the onus off Magic as the primary revenue source (C-23, Duel Masters, Kaijudo anyone?), and the strategic plan for the company appears to have developed into a move from three Standard sets a year plus a summer release and special sets to four Standard sets a year with special direct to consumer sets releasing every month.  This will probably work, goosing revenues in the short term, after all WotC books its sales when its products move into distribution, not when the retailer sells them to the consumer so the onus is on the retailer to figure out how much product to order.

Masters sets kept selling out with price increases, so why not release Commander Masters, which targets players in the popular Commander format and raise the price significantly to see what happens?  Due to FOMO, a lot of retailers stocked up on Commander Masters, only to get stuck with a product that the consumer market demonstrated it did not want, at least not at the prices necessitated by the cost of Commander Masters.  I've already heard of one store closing recently, in part due to the amount of Magic product it had purchased which its market could not absorb.

The newly announced Play Boosters do give me some hope of a turnaround as concentrating Magic SKUs is a good idea (see "’Magic’ SKUs Further”).  While we will likely see further price creep, customers have not shown much price resistance to the increased pricing on draft and set boosters, so seeing an asking price of another dollar on Play Boosters will probably not see resistance.  However, if WotC increases the cost to such a point of $3-$5 for Play Boosters at retail is necessary, I think we would see significant customer pushback.

I know I'm looking forward to ordering one less SKU.  How about you?

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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