by Adam Willson
Hasbro Chief Marketing Officer, John Frascotti, addressed investors at the annual Investor Day at Hasbro HQ in Rhode Island, announcing that the Magic: The Gathering brand has doubled in volume since 2008 (Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in 1999), and the brand is still trending up. Frascotti went on to say that the player base has grown by 80% since 2008, and that individual spending by players has increased by 16%. Now before you say, “Sure, because the price of singles is skyrocketing…”, remember, Hasbro and its investors don’t care about the secondary market. They care about Hasbro products. The spending on Magic: The Gathering sealed products is what’s represented by these numbers. The jump likely represents a few things, including increased support and marketing for Prerelease/Release Celebrations, increased visibility of the brand due to Duels of the Planeswalkers and the popularity of Magic: The Gathering Online, and products like Event Decks, Duel Decks, and Commander Decks.
Frascotti also described Hasbro’s image of the Magic player: the male high school or college student, though the company acknowledges the age range to fall between 16 and 35. He went on to say “For the more than 12 million players around the world, Magic is more than just a product and more than just a game, it’s a lifestyle. The average tenure of the Magic consumer is over eight years. And the more engaged the Magic consumer becomes in brand the more value they are to us as a business, as we migrate them toward successively deeper levels of engagement with complementary analog and digital experiences.” Meaning basically, “We want more players to be more hooked.”
It should be no surprise that Hasbro is quick to parade the Magic: The Gathering brand in front of investors. It’s a great game! We love it: we love playing Magic, we love buying new Magic cards, we love attending Prerelease events, and we especially love bringing our friends into the game. That’s a homerun product! But doesn’t the knowledge of Hasbro’s Investor Day, and Hasbro’s eagerness to tout the Magic: The Gathering brand as a financial success story (alongside the Transformers 3 film and Littlest Pet Shop) this week at Investor Day shed some light on recent changes in Magic? It certainly explains the seemingly premature announcements. “It’s about the bottom line”, the more tempered voices of the Magic community have been repeating throughout recent changes. Changes like the discontinuation of the Player Rewards Program and recent announcements regarding the Organized Play changes and the disbanding of the Pro Players Club. These are all cuts that pare “dead weight” off the Hasbro bottom line. Sure, their great for players, but they cost a lot, and don’t really bring money in. From the perspective of a corporation accountable to its investors for maintaining growth in a depressed economy, it’s a no-brainer.
The bad news here is that Magic isn’t ultimately controlled by Magic lovers anymore. But it hasn’t been since 1999. The good news is, that Magic is made by people who have in their own words devoted their life’s work to keeping Magic great, and they’re backed by a company that is very interested in seeing Magic continue as a brand. Will the new Pro Tour and Worlds tournament structures make the live coverage of those events a little less gripping? Possibly. Will it ruin Magic? Absolutely not. It’s not a great time to be a Magic ‘pro’, we all can see that. But the Dark Ascension Prerelease will be as sweet as any other. Standard is a GREAT format right now (even if you hate Wolf Run Ramp). Everything is going to be all right.
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