I have written in the past about the issues surrounding Hasbro, and in particular, Magic: The Gathering, over the last couple of years. It frequently appears to me that they still believe players are ATMs, just dispensing money for every new product that comes out. That logic is, at least within my four walls, fallacious, to say the least. More and more Magic players are "specialized", and only play a format, or two formats. Maybe they really play one format, like Standard, and then mess around with another, like Commander. More and more though the Magic player that plays every format is a thin of the past.
This has resulted in many stores selling the same amount of Magic product annually, in total dollars, despite the increase in the number of releases and how many products are coming out. It has also resulted in an increase in the number of lapsed players, people who used to play all the formats but have become exhausted attempting to keep up with an overly aggressive release schedule.
If players are going to play fewer formats, or stop playing completely, it falls upon stores, and Hasbro, to encourage new players to begin the game.
In that, they have frequently failed, as niche products did nothing to encourage new players, while years where seven new randomized booster releases have, simultaneously, discouraged current players.
Enter Dominaria, when Hasbro figured out that nostalgia sells, and it brings back not just lapsed players, but heavily lapsed players. During the Dominaria Prerelease I got handed a four digit DCI number. He grinned, said "I haven't played since Ice Age," and then got crushed repeatedly through his Prerelease.
The numbers for the Dominaria Prerelease were a joy to behold, as all four of our events outperformed Rivals by a substantial margin.
Saturday Morning - Up 35% Saturday Night - Up 60% Sunday Morning (2HG) - Up 48% Sunday Night - Up 80%
Weekend Total - Up 50%
It was an absolute joy to see so many people having fun with Magic again, and for the first time broke what had been a progressive downward trend in our Magic numbers, both sales and attendance.
We've been open since 2009, and the release of Zendikar in September of that year is the first time we're open and runnig Magic for the beginning of a new block. From Zendikar block we see increases through Scars block, Innistrad block, and Return to Ravnica block, before we see the first downturn at Theros block. From Theros to Khans the numbers drop even further, and the three set blocks end. During the life of the three set block our best selling individual set is Innistrad, but the Return to Ravnica block boasts higher sales per set in the block.
The two set blocks continued the downward trend for us. BFZ block outsells Khans block on a per set basis, but we're talking tenths of a percentage point. BFZ itself outsells Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir, but falls behind Khans in total sales.
The second two set block, Shadows Over Innistrad, sees a sharp increase in players. Innistrad was hugely popular, and players were excited to return to the setting. Eldritch Moon is the best selling small set in the history of the store, and propels this block to first place among two set blocks in our history. Looking at the per set numbers for this block it comes in third in our history, behind RTR and original Innistrad. I actually was filled with hope at Shadows block.
Which means I'm a sucker. Kaladesh block dropped 40% from Shadows block, and then Ahmonket block got even lower than that. Rivals of Ixalan is the single worst selling Magic booster product in our history. Core 2010, the first new product we ever get to carry as a very young, very small, store, sold more product than Rivals. Yuck.
But now we get Dominaria. Dominaria has about eight weeks of life left where it will be the most recent set that matters, but it has already outsold every small set in the two block set era. Dominaria has brought players back to the game, something Hasbro has failed at repeatedly.
The announcement of us going back to Ravnica again was met with collective groans in my shop, but that was employees. Personally, I'm really hoping for a Return to Return to Ravnica Dollars, so I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Magic is, for the first time in a while, in a spot that makes me happy, and I thought for once I'd write something nice about Hasbro.
Now if we could stop getting just dumb supplemental booster products...