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Comparing Magic Prereleases

Magic is the lifeblood of many retailers in "our" industry. Sorry, I'm using that air quote because I don't believe we all are in the same industry. If your store derives more than 50% of its revenue from CCGs we are different industries, and that's okay, there's more than one path to success. This is my Magic picture, as a store that derives less than 20% of its revenue from that product line.

This started by looking at the Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease, but for comparisons sake we're going to look at how Rivals compares with Ixalan, the most recent Prerelease before it, and with Aether Revolt, the Prerelease that took place at this same time last year.

For purposes of this article we're going to look at a few things and see how they compare; total sales, Prerelease sales, snacks, and CCG accessories. The methodology here will not be perfect, because I'm giving the Prerelease credit for every pack of sleeves and Pepsi I sold, even though I had other things going on in my space. But, it's hard to remember which Xing Tea was sold to the Space Hulk guys on Sunday and which was sold to the Magic player on Saturday, so I'm giving Magic credit for all snack and drink sales over the weekend. Let's start by talking Prerelease attendance. As always, deal with percentages, you don't get real numbers. The below numbers are attendance.

Aether Revolt - 100% (this is the baseline)

Ixalan - 112% Rivals of Ixalan - 90.74% So, Aether Revolt being a small set we used it as the baseline because ultimately I wanted to see how small set in January of 2017 compared to small set in January of 2018. We'll typically see a bump in big sets that start a new block, and we see that in the difference between Aether Revolt and Ixalan. The other thing we see is that attendance from Aether Revolt to Rivals of Ixalan dropped almost 10%. How big an effect did that have on my business? Oh yeah, Rivals of Ixalan was the best weekend of the three if you just want to talk about dollars in my till.

Here are total sales over each Prerelease weekend.

Aether Revolt - 100% (again used as the baseline)

Ixalan - 99.2%

Rivals of Ixalan - 103%

So, Ixalan went UP in attendance but went down in total dollars in the till, although we're talking less than one percent, so a rounding error for some folks. Rivals of Ixalan went DOWN in attendance but we went UP in total dollars in the till, and 3% is a real number. The moral of the story is the same as it always is, butts in seats don't necessarily pay bills. For most retailers Magic Prereleases are a chance to get healthy, they'll make a lion's share of their income during the weekend. Despite Magic accounting for less than one-fifth of my total revenue (if you read this treatise on my numbers back in early December something ended up changing during the holiday season, as CCGs fell BELOW board games and became my second largest category for 2017, yay!) even I used to get excited about Prereleases because they were a cash cow, fill-the-till event. I think part of that was on me, and I was doing it wrong. I had too many employees solely focused on running a Prerelease, and we were failing at sales. This Prerelease weekend was the best of the three in total revenue because we did a better job of making sure our walk-in customers were cared for. Some of those people were curious about what was taking place, and we got to explain Magic and Magic Prereleases to them, and they left with demo decks and some idea of what Magic entails, but many of those people received board game demos, or a good solid sales pitch as we showed them games similar to the stuff they already enjoyed. That resulted in numbers that make me very happy. Rivals of Ixalan was the lowest attended Prerelease of the three events we're looking at, and the number of dollars through the till was the highest. This obviously meant that the Prerelease was less of a cash cow than previously, and you can see it in these percentages.

Aether Revolt - 69.7% Ixalan - 73.54% Rivals of Ixalan - 59.38% If I give the Prerelease credit for every snack, drink, and accessory purchase, those numbers above are the total percentage of dollars that can be attributed to the Prerelease over the course of the weekend. We can debate what, if anything, is wrong with Magic. We can talk about strange new rules from Wizards when it comes to OP, we can talk about design flaws that some players feel make Standard unplayable. We can talk about stagnant Modern formats, and 'only one way to win draft' formats, but none of it matters. The simple fact is this. We choose the products we sell. We choose how we want to sell them. Magic, without price protection, and in a market that is grossly flooded with deep discounters and disgusting clubhouses, is still a game I love, and a product that I'm far less bully on.

When you couple those issues with player perception about problems in the design and development of the game, as well as the reality that many of the most vocal Magic players are EV grinders seeking to profit off your store, you get a product that you should keep working on, but working a little less hard on. It's time for our battle cry? Ready? Diversify! Diversify! Diversify! The hobby game trade is amazing! I love what we do! There are so many amazing games from amazing companies and amazing people that to live and die by the work of a single publisher on a single game is, in my mind, absolutely the wrong plan. Tomorrow Wizards of the Coast could roll out of bed and announce that Magic is going to be fully digital, and where would card stores be then? Hope you all had a Prerelease weekend that accomplished your goals, whatever they are! A little less than two months until Masters 25... /poignets

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