Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 28, 2022
Failing coastal wizardry

If I ranked all the games I ever played by how much money I have spent on them, the top two entries would be Magic the Gathering, which I played for about a decade in the 90's and early 00's, and Dungeons & Dragons, which I have been playing for over 40 years now. Thus Wizards of the Coast (and their parent company Hasbro) sure played an outsized role in my gaming career. But lately the news coming from them have been mostly bad; Hasbro had rather bad financial results lately, while sitting on a increasing inventory of unsold product. Now obviously some of that is due to bad economic general conditions. But also increasingly it seems that the company is becoming completely tone-deaf to the needs of their customers.

The most outrageous example is the 30-year anniversary of Magic the Gathering. In order to celebrate this event, Wizards of the Coast is reprinting some of the rarest Magic cards. But in order to not ruin the secondary market, they reprint them with special backs, and make the reprints not tournament legal. So, yeah, you could get the fabled "Black Lotus", but you couldn't use that card for anything. So, how much do you think that a box with 4 boosters of 15 unusable Magic cards sold to celebrate an anniversary should cost? Wizards of the Coast decided the right price would be $1,000. For 60 fake Magic cards. Which are randomized, so you might not even get the one you want. Needless to say, the fans are not happy. The 30th anniversary seems more like an outright money grab than an occasion to celebrate. Which ironically led a large enough number of Magic players to want to sell their collection, crashing the secondary market, which was exactly what WotC wanted to avoid.

At the same time, Magic Arena, the digital version of MtG isn't doing great either. The introduction of a new format, Alchemy, wasn't popular. And Arena since its inception has a built-in flaw: In order to drive sales through players feeling competitive, Arena has no way to play against the computer, except for a sort of tutorial. That means that there is a strong network effect, the more people play Arena, the more interesting the game becomes. But with money being tight everywhere and the new format so unpopular, a decreasing number of players also has a strong negative network effect, making the game less interesting. I much preferred Magic Duels, the previous digital implementation of Magic, which was abandoned for Arena, but was a much less predatory game that could be played against a decent AI.

On the Dungeons & Dragons side it is too early to see an effect, but the announced new One D&D edition is proving to be controversial. By releasing the playtesting material, WotC has made it obvious to anybody that the promised "downward compatibility" isn't actually there. We will pretty much be obliged to buy new books when One D&D comes out. And while the new rules are certainly different and a few things are genuinely improved, the improvements aren't large enough for people to be excited about having to replace their existing D&D library. And while the official One D&D virtual tabletop looks really cool in the trailer, WotC has a rather bad track record with digital products for both MtG and D&D, so we will have to see how good and customer-friendly this actually will be.

Wizards of the Coast isn't at the Blizzard level yet, but seems to be on a similar trajectory: A small company got big by making beloved hobby products, and then lost their way, taking their fan base as granted, falling into increasingly predatory business practices and delivering less value for money.

This comment has been removed by the author.
In a world where "sT0nKs Mu5T aLwAyz gO uP!" It's inevitable that companies prioritize profits and growth over good customer experience.
Just received this in the mail yesterday...

"As you may be aware, Daybreak entered into a commercial agreement with Wizards of the Coast LLC and has licensed the rights to develop and publish Magic: The Gathering Online.

Please let this email serve as notice that Daybreak has received your personal information, including your name, email address, mailing address, date of birth, and IPS, from Wizards of the Coast so that Daybreak can begin processing your data in order to allow you to continue playing Magic: The Gathering Online."

Magic Online is the 20-year-old previous incarnation that never shut down. WotC just dumped it on Daybreak. The software has some serious issues, and isn’t as pretty, but some people consider it the better online Magic game.
I heard an interesting theory about the One D&D "backwards compatibility" that made sense to me.
What WotC mean by this is "Dear DM, who gives us most money and has a lot of money invested in campaigns and adventures, don't worry. All that 5E stuff you have sitting on your shelf will still absolutely be useable in One D&D. Dear player, don't worry, you can still use your existing character in One D&D. But, if you roll up a new one (which we know you do often), you will need to buy the new core books - and so will your DM"
I recently recovered my collection of magic cards from the 90s, which has gotten me interested in it again. Unfortunately the few power nines I had seem to have disappeared, but I still have some dual lands and a few other high value cards.

What I have seen since I have been back is that (a) there are way too many sets coming out every year to keep up with and (b) a lot of it is really seriously overpriced. That anniversary set is the most egregious example ($1000 for 60 cards I can't even f-ing play with, are they out of their f-ing minds?), but I you have to be really careful about what you buy and where. It was always kind of an expensive hobby, but it looks like Hasbro has just gotten greedy the last few years.

I also don't like how complex modern cards are. It's not new player friendly at all any more.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool