“Magic has never been such a strong brand.”
Helene Bergeot from Wizards of the Coast addressed retailers at the 2012 GAMA Trade Show. Her background is in trademarketing and she is Director of Organized Play for Magic: The Gathering and her talk was titled “Moving from Good to Great”. According to Bergeot there were more than 130,000 players for the pre-release for Dark Ascension and “Magic has never been such a strong brand”. The reason, according to Wizards of the Coast, is that Activity drives Activity. WotC has found that the best stores are the ones running the most events. “The size of the event doesn’t matter,” instead, according to Bergeot, the frequency and number of events is what counts. In stores where Magic is highly successful, on average no more than 24-36 players are playing in tournaments or release events.
The response from most retailers was glowing. One retailer crowed that his February sales were big, like his “second-best Christmas”.
Wizards of the Coast to Retailers: “We are here to support you.”
Getting new players to events and engaged in them, Bergeot emphasized, is necessary in order “to grow the community.” Wizards has found that players new to OP balk at participating in their first organized play event. Even their second exposure to OP is no guarantee that they will continue, but after their second time doing organized play, Wizards has seen its “level of retention” among players remain very steady. Twice a year, WotC conducts surveys and spends hours and hours going over them to improve customers’ experiences and their retailers’ sales. Helene affirmed to the attending retailers “We are here to support you.”
A Canadian retailier pointed out that “a lot of gamers have no life” and takes advantage of that by giving them one in his store. He does sealed $25 events and “it just packs the house,” getting 82 players with his last sealed event. For Valentine’s Day he had a special event with girls playing free and wound up getting 22 female players, 15 of them in the store for their first time. Trevor McGregor from the Gaming Pit shared his store’s Full Moon events on the full moon of each month. The special event provides a bonus for including a Werewolf card in the decks, which could be an extra booster pack of cards or whatever the door prize is for that particular night.
I was intrigued when I learned that one of the background images during Bergeot’s presentation was a chandelier made out of Magic: the Gathering cards. Most, if not all, of her background images were taken at Card Kingdom in Seattle. This Magic chandelier was designed by Stacy Lewars from Studio Metro Design. Card Kingdom seems to have a very cozy environment to play in.
Magic Supply Easily Tapped and Problem Players
The seminar flowed into supply issues that retailers expressed with obtaining enough Magic cards to meet their customers’ demands. The Canadian retailers present either were particularly vocal or have increased difficulties in obtaining enough product. Wizards will be eventually placing a cap on the total that a retailer can order, but it will be a year before they implement this cap, which prompted some retailer complaints about the cap’s existence at all. A very popular product seems to be the Magic “fat packs” which Wizards only intends to be on shelves for a maximum of 30 days; instead some retailers pointed out that they go through them in “2 days!”
The next sub-topic was another problem faced by retailers, over-enfranchised players who scare off new players and create bad play environments in stores. One attendee pointed out Wizkids’s Fellowship award as a positive step WotC could take to curb problem players. Trevor McGregor again spoke up, saying that store owners or managers “have to be honest and upfront with” the players creating the bad environment. Another attendee uses a token system in his or her store to correct player behavior, which sounded more like elementary school behavior management, but it works according to that retailer. More and more retailers chimed in. A Canadian store owner has called the police on one of his Magic players before which sent a strong message to the rest of his players about how seriously he takes player conduct. This elicited laughs from the room. Another retailer explained that when he confronted a bad sport in his shop, the player said “This is all I’m good at” as to why he enjoyed crushing his opponents so much.
The seminar returned to Helene Bergeot’s presentation where she reviewed FNM, Friday Night Magic, and there were suggestions for events store owners could hold, such as deck building workshops or conduct trading forums. Wizards will be having an improved store locator on their website available in the next few months allowing players to do advanced searches for specific event formats. Wizards will be looking into rotating stores for the Pro Tour Qualifiers. As the seminar wrapped up, a retailer complained that he doesn’t have enough DCI cards for new players with several others agreeing. There is particularly a difficulty in the turnaround on cards for players younger than 13.