Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

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Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  bateleur on Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:36 pm

I hope I can be excused starting a new thread here, but I have some points to make which may be of use and they don't really fit the existing topics. (Plus, this is going to be long.)

I am not a Pro player or a PTQ player and never aspire to be. Despite this I strongly support what you are all doing here and would like to explain why. I've been a player of games since I was old enough to know what one was and have in the past played Chess, Bridge and a variety of less serious games well enough to accumulate a few random trophies and some good memories. I have never been a professional game player, but currently work as a game designer and know quite a bit about the modern gaming field (boardgames, CCGs, computer/console games and so on).

Magic the Gathering occupies a unique position in gaming. Never mind what it represents within the CCG field, it is one of very few games to ever have a permanent team working on its ongoing development over a long period of time. Other such games are mostly roleplaying games or computer games and the few which aren't (such as Games Workshop's "Warhammer") do not focus on improving the strategic and interactive aspects of their rules as Magic does.

Why does this matter to the MtG Players Union?

It matters because in the medium and long term, Magic is a uniquely valuable intellectual property. There has been a lot of focus on this site on Wizards and their financial affairs. Much more important is how Wizards look from the outside as an investment. Right now that means Hasbro, but they may have other owners in future.

High level managers in whichever company owns Wizards on a given day will never understand Magic. They will never understand the Pro Tour to any worthwhile extent. What they can be helped to understand is that Magic is not just another game IP that made however-many dollars in the last financial year. Magic will continue to draw in new players. It will continue to be relevant. It will continue to be profitable. Where Magic's long term strength is concerned it has essentially no competition.

Why does the Pro Tour matter?

When a person with a bit of time and money is looking for a game to play, they will be naturally drawn to things that their friends are playing. There is a market for games which people pick up, play for a few weeks, then drop. However, that is not the only viable market for games. A game which players stick with for longer and care more about will naturally draw in more recruits at a lower cost in terms of paid advertising. I play a lot of games, but Magic gets mentioned a lot more on my blog than pretty much anything else. This is because the game continues to be interesting, which in turn is because the game is constantly being improved by a skilled team of designers. All that buzz attracts new players and even brings back old players. (I also suspect Magic has a high ARPU, but I don't have the data.)

The Pro players, PTQ players and other serious competitors (such as deck designers) are responsible for this. It was never WotC or Richard Garfield who invented competitive Magic - it was the players. The first time someone decided to buy not five packs but fifty to make a good deck they created to commercial motive to bring modern Magic into existence. R&D exists in its present form because they need to be absolutely excellent to produce a good enough game to hold the Pros interest. Every time you stay up late into the night testing and tweaking your deck you are making the whole of Magic a better game.

The other key issue is the business of how much money is the right amount to invest in the Pro Tour.

Card sales will be improved primarily by people trying to build tournament decks. For this reason there is a natural temptation for WotC to try to make competitive play accessible to a greater number of people. And WotC also like superheroes. People like the Hall of Fame members make good advertising. But the flipside is that WotC have little motivation to do much for the range of players in between. As a player, of course you want to "go infinite" and have your hobby pay for itself. But clearly WotC are not in the business of helping players to reach this point. Nor should we expect them to facilitate it.

The question that needs to be asked is: what happens if the funding drops too low. Not low like it is now, but really way too low. The answer is that players stop travelling to events and compete only in events which are convenient for them. Unless of course they are happy to fund themselves. And that's a problem, because if the "top players" in a given year are just the ones with deep pockets that harms the image of the Pro Tour and the "heroes" it's creating no longer seem worth emulating. Consequently we can expect more dilute versions of this phenomenon at intermediate levels of funding. I think this is a real danger for WotC and I think this phenomenon is already visible to some extent. The pros we have are still very skilled, certainly. However, we often hear from tier one players how cost factors keep them from particular events. The effect is real.

(There is also such a thing as too much funding. I personally don't see it as healthy for Magic to have professional players sufficiently well paid that they might stay in the game even if it was no longer fun. Right now they're far more likely to play Poker than stay in Magic if they don't enjoy the game, which seems like a good thing.)

In summary:

* Mark Rosewater is fond of saying that Magic's "in it for the long haul". He has the right idea, but to achieve that Magic has to keep its standards up and the Pro Tour play the role of playtesters in this regard (no less valuable post-release because their feedback informs the development of future sets).
* The Pro Tour must be about skill. Take too much money out and it becomes about self-sacrifice instead.

And you call tell WotC from me that non-pro, non-PTQ players do care about the Pro Tour. You guys rock! Cool

--
Dom Camus (bateleur on MtGO, Salvation and pretty much everywhere else.)

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  Eelco1972 on Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:55 pm

There is not more that can be added to this very fine text.
A very valuable observation. Thanks Dom.

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  raharu on Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:36 am

The future of the Pro Tour may very well depend upon the marketing that Wizards invests into it. Example: they should broadcast Magic: the Gathering tournaments, because everyone loves to watch the game. I can't tell you how many times I've thrown together a 20 man swiss tournament and pitched the first round just to watch the other players' matches. Even when it's bad deck vs. terrible deck, you can find 6 or 7 people standing over tables and jumping onto chairbacks to analyze the game. Now imagine a internet drive aimed at geting people to watch the broadcast. Ultra Pro/ other secondary goods providers could sponsor, and the eitire thing could be advertised for free (getting various forums to run banner adds, thier motivation being to expand the longevity of the game). Even a series of web videos running promotional spots could work. Get comentators, a small camera showing each player's hand, and you would be set. I realize that Wizards already has coverage of Worlds on the web, but an effort to expand and comercialize it would further the longevity of the Pro Tour, and allow Wizards to rake in a little bit more profit to cover the events. The real problem right now is that the Pro Tours are -EV for both the participants (that don't make it big), and the company, and that needs to change, at the very very very least on Wizards'/ Hasbro's end (because they are the tournament).

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  MegaŠ on Sat Jan 26, 2008 10:52 am

I totally agree with Don on this one.

Thumbs up for his post

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  MagicRage on Tue Jan 29, 2008 6:44 am

This post reminded me that Zac Hill wrote a real good article a few months back about why non-Pro players benefit from the Pro Tour. A little Search Fu and here's the link:

http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/article/14675.html

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  plarp on Tue Jan 29, 2008 12:40 pm

Great post Dom, couldn't have said it better myself!

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  LethalLion on Fri Feb 01, 2008 7:11 am

Great post. I totally agree. Smile

-Lethal

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  BurnBait on Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:26 am

I, Too, am nowhere near pro level. Much luck to those of you who are, though, I support you in just as adamant a fashion as Dom, though he said it first and, (forgive me, ego), better than I ever could have.

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  Ragette on Fri Feb 01, 2008 2:50 pm

Im a non pro player as well, and i feel that this change is down right disrespectful to all the players that are below level 6, i frequently read about level 3-5 mages and even read the articles they produce via various magic sites, yet i rarely hear about the really high level mages.
Now im not sure whether this is becuase i do not know of any or just because they dont make the kind of effort that the lower level mages make, but i can assure you that reading about players level 3 or 4 is what inspires me to play magic so that i could one day meet them or be like them, and to leave them in the dark like this just isn't fair.

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  TrickJarrett on Fri Feb 01, 2008 7:33 pm

I've just signed up so I haven't had time to read the rest of the discussions but I think Dom's post leads us to a very obvious point. The Magic Pro Tour is wholly funded by one company, the maker of the game. No where else is that done except by companies mimicing Wizards' business model. A single point of failure is a dangerous thing for anyone.

Let's look at other Pro Tours:

The Poker Pro tour is paid from the revenue provided by sponsors and advertisers, like casinos who want to attract Poker players, or online poker sites, or ESPN who carries it on tv. Poker also often requires a much higher entry fee which is then used for prize money too.

Chess tournament funds come from sponsors as well, and rather than being an organized tour it's more disjointed with lots of tournaments popping up in cities, usually in Europe or Asia. It hasn't really caught on in America near to the same level as overseas.

I don't know much about video game pro tour(s) but as I understand it, they're driven off of sponsorships as well. Not the makers of the game being used.

Sporting Pro Tours like for Golf are another entity to look to. Television provides ad income, players get endorsement deals, etc. Again, no central backer.

The Magic Pro tour is different because one company is footing the bill based solely on driving sales of the competitive tool. We don't see the ad revenue (though they tried with the time on ESPN2.) They could look to outside sponsors to help with costs, or they could begin the process of fully detaching themselves from the running of tournaments and try to make the DCI an independent entity in the hopes that they can stand alone and work deals to drive the tour.

I don't think it is coincidence that we're beginning to see bigger tournaments put on by vendors or tournament organizations, the money is still much smaller than the payouts for a GP or a PT, but the outside is slowly expanding and testing the waters.

I'm no pro player, I'd like to be one day, but I still have a keen interest in the future of the game and the pro tour.

-- Trick

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Re: Non-Pro/PTQ Players and the Future of Magic

Post  mercenarybdu on Sat Feb 02, 2008 11:20 am

They do have another owner actually who is actually a distributor.

Takara Tommy. When I went over to the Japanese site for Wizards of the Coast: Magic, I found that on one of my previous searches when I was scouring the net for answers that I were over looked. In fact it appears that Takara Tommy has been the Japanese distributor since 2003 as Mirrodin is the oldest of the history meaning that licensing has been handed from company to company.


Then if you go to the most recently recorded Japanese National Championships site you will find the same company decals along side Wizards.

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In the same Situation

Post  kf1100 on Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:43 pm

I would like to express how much i completly agree with what everyone feels and is saying about these current changes. I myself am not a pro nor do i aspire to become one (but i would not mind if it happened), however being a 1 year veteran to competitive magic playing and that there are 5 PTQ's in my state and one in my city i plan to attend all of them for the shear fact that i remember one of the very few and far between articles i read where the writer mentioned the more you attend the better your chances are. But now that i am learning of all of the new changes it puts my intrest of attending the Pro Tour at the bottom because if i was to recieve an invite i must decline due to all of the costs and knowing that i will recieve no compensation sets my decision in stone. I did recently watch "The Magic Show" by Evan Erwin and learn of this site and the amature prizes at the Grand Prix, and i know i am good enough to have recieved one of those, but same situation arises, i no longer have the money to get there; even if i came out with an even break from the cost to get there to the amature prize i would have attended.

Also the local shop where i play has many people who also attend the PTQ's but never the pro tour for the same reason as myself and we are all in agreence that 2HG was not a bad thing, I have heard it was eliminated because of last years mishappenings (funny as they were), but if that is the reason it should be known that the strategy used was a fluke and would almost certinaly not happen again. And even more so now that Morningtide has been released and everyone can tell the multiplayer/team aspects to the cards, thus the format is a sad thing to lose.

So in closing, sorry for the legnth and i wanted to place my name among the hopefully millions of others who agree with the wrong doings in some of the changes.

Kyle F. - San Antonio, TX.

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Analyzing the game via broadcasts

Post  plusua on Sun Feb 17, 2008 6:47 am

raharu wrote:The future of the Pro Tour may very well depend upon the marketing that Wizards invests into it. Example: they should broadcast Magic: the Gathering tournaments, because everyone loves to watch the game. I can't tell you how many times I've thrown together a 20 man swiss tournament and pitched the first round just to watch the other players' matches. Even when it's bad deck vs. terrible deck, you can find 6 or 7 people standing over tables and jumping onto chairbacks to analyze the game. Now imagine a internet drive aimed at geting people to watch the broadcast. Ultra Pro/ other secondary goods providers could sponsor, and the eitire thing could be advertised for free (getting various forums to run banner adds, thier motivation being to expand the longevity of the game). Even a series of web videos running promotional spots could work. Get comentators, a small camera showing each player's hand, and you would be set. I realize that Wizards already has coverage of Worlds on the web, but an effort to expand and comercialize it would further the longevity of the Pro Tour, and allow Wizards to rake in a little bit more profit to cover the events. The real problem right now is that the Pro Tours are -EV for both the participants (that don't make it big), and the company, and that needs to change, at the very very very least on Wizards'/ Hasbro's end (because they are the tournament).

That brings up an issue I see with the current broadcasting of Pro Tour events. I am not that pleased with those efforts, no offense but it can be improved. MTG in this regard seems to be lacking in my opinion. Commercializing events is a start with fees/costs for viewers, as a player I am always looking at strategy. Sure, many people play this game, but how many of them can actually sit back and peruse over game play coverage online. It is here that I think the game can find new avenues for player deck analysis in order to consider trying out an event. I like to read and write, but more video coverage and done more professionally would be something I would definitely buy into as it enhances my game play and appreciation for MTG overall.

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