Are Wizards Really Closing Magic: The Gathering Clubs? Letter To A Local Gaming Store Owner
It seems as though around Europe there is certainly a storm brewing in the sky over us when it comes to clubs and playing Magic: The Gathering. There seems to be a new social media post every couple of days that “my club just got closed down because Wizards”. As someone who has gone through this, I’d really like to share my experience of such events.
It all began reading Sabina’s story (here: Is The Future Of Magic: The Gathering Organised Play In Jeopardy? by Joseph Dunlap) on a particular forum that sparked my attention to my own club of which I am a MTG tournament organiser (TO) and main-contact for any Wizards related topics, which for those who also do the same will know what I’m talking about – in particular you are my target audience for this article and hopefully this is why you are reading it. There’s no need for me to discuss the Richmond store any further as I’m sure its like flogging a dead horse now and is etched into peoples minds as the first club Wizards destroyed, despite it having its WPN status reimbursed.
Immediately, I had to contact Jerome at Wizards of the Coast who is our representative to discuss what was happening. Although I don’t remember the exact conversation as we’ve had too many recently to count, it was along the lines of these issues are directly related to this store only and as a part of a new drive, Wizards are altering the way they work with stores.
Let me (Jerome) elaborate; this is a few sentences which we’ve discussed over the past few months, but greatly summarise the drive to me.
“A business (with the ability to sell) is not a store and we are putting all our energy to build a strong bricks and retail experience. We have had (for example) stall stores reaching us and we denied their application because it doesn’t fit what the company wants. The WPN is about stores who are engaging the players in the store, or engaging the players everywhere, sometimes with the help of a club. But the club isn’t the store and vice versa. What we want is that the store is not a redirection service for you, and who is able to accommodate daily play, even with 2/3 players”
From a business standpoint, I really can’t disagree (sorry, let the hate flow!) but it does make perfect sense to educate stores more in Magic: The Gathering other than just those trading cards you play a game with, to get people playing and introduce them to the game, not just to take away the cards. We’ve had some really trying months with our store too. Quite literally, our store lacks space to set up what we would consider an event, although some people have seen this months WPN Tip of the Month too:
“A WPN event starts with 2 players playing a game of Magic and reported in a Magic League.”
We put this to our store, how possible is it to run an event for just 2 players? In this case, yourself and a new player whenever they come into the shop to enquire about Magic: The Gathering? The reaction and answer was mixed. Stores also have various perks as you may know being a member of the WPN, coming down to allocation on different product, some of these more popular outside of our club player base (Commander, Modern/Eternal Masters, From the Vault, etc) which may be effected by WPN status. By not being a part of the WPN, stores therefore may lose access to some more exclusive product which are really good sellers.
What about us; the club? We use multiple cases of product per set just in prize pools for events, outside of every day sales. For us – we can take our business elsewhere if we were not to retain our WPN status. ‘Our’ being the Store and club as an entity.
What would the club lose? Initially, I didn’t think a lot – but after discussing with my other TO partner, Planeswalker Points and sanctioned events mean more than I thought to some players and a few had mentioned they would move to online play (although now Overwatch is released, I query that statement!). So the store loses customers, the club loses players.
The picture itself starts to unravel. When selling these products, the store has a great opportunity to engage players there and then, even if just for a day before advising of a great local community to play with and in addition gain a loyal follower and not just a one-time customer. Working together with a local club, a store can engage players to play. A local club can then maintain the players and encourage repeat business with the store. Working with the WPN means we as a club can make that player experience a little better by being able to purchase limited print sets, such as Eternal Masters or Conspiracy to play at the club, but also we are able to reward our FNM players a little more by means of promotional material. Everything works hand in hand.
At this point, I really can’t stress just how important it is to work with your store and the guys at Wizards if your store is being scrutinised. These guys are here to help you have bigger and better events, help you keep players playing and help stores to maintain sales. If there are 3 parties involved in your WPN status, be sure to actively involve all 3 parties, work together, come up with solutions.
Need help? Communicate! During this time we’ve also managed to grow a satellite club under the same umbrella, what does this mean? Our store gains more sales and allocation, our WPN status grows and the number of players reported to be engaging in MTG towards the WPN increases. Win, Win, Win. Well, now we have to share our FNM promo’s but its a small price to player on having a great community and great contacts.
I’d like to close this article by giving a thanks to the old Frenchy (Jerome) for all the help and advice through these turbulent times and also Rob Dunbar for being supportive of our activity and advances. Jerome himself takes the time to have really interactive conversations, be in work or out of hours as sometimes a phone call during the day just isn’t viable to my own working constraints. I really can’t say I’ve had a negative experience in the slightest. Some people may disagree with their own story, but I like this.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” – Brené Brown
But those are my experiences, I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences on this matter, so please do let me know in the comments.
- mtgUK & Ireland MTG Gaming Stores & TO Group Facebook Group
Thank you for reading,