First Step

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First Step

Post  Raph on Wed Jan 23, 2008 4:37 am

Hello everyone,

To start off, I'd like to thank everyone who joined and believe we can actually have an influence on how the game is managed.

Where are we at right now:
-WotC decided to change the PT structure for 2008. They cut one of the 5 PTs of the season in a clumsy announcement on MTG.com. They "made up for it" by setting up extra GPs and putting some money here and there (pretty much nothing relevant).

I have the firm convinction that this change is going to kill the Pro Tour. Most of the topic has been treated here: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?p=14858493 . In a nutshell, the changes make impossible for pros to live off Magic. It was hard already but it became literally impossible. The consequences are a lot more important than what they seem to believe. There is nothing left to fight for for pros. The pro wanabees lose their dream to live the Pro Tour lifestyle... I could go on and explain to you how that can affect the FNM or Prerelease players at the end of the line.

I think WotC shot themselves in the foot and that they will lose a lot more from cutting the PT than what they are saving.

We have a few ideas that could fix everything, but for that we need support from the players to have our opinions heard.

I have talked to a WotC official who will do her best to have a meeting set up during PT Kuala Lumpur between them and us, us being spokesmen from the group (for obvious reasons of clarity).


Feel free to post your opinion on the matter, on how the “group” should be managed and your suggestions. If we manage to actually have “some” influence, we will be able to talk about more diversified matters. I do know that we will not have much influence on WotC’s decisions, but if we can at least be heard and our opinion be taken into consideration, it will be a huge step in the evolution of the game.

Raphaël


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Re: First Step

Post  antonino_derosa on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:12 am

I think its important to first figure out what our goals are. What do we want to accomplish from this? What will be happy with? Lets set some reasonable goals, like: Whenever magic decides to change things maybe they should get some player feedback first. (thats a reasonable goal), or if magic is doing bad what can we do to make it prosper and get back to what it was (thats a resonable goal). Getting back what you guys lost this year (not a resonable goal).

Ant

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Re: First Step

Post  ZackH on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:33 am

I'd think a good goal would be to make it clear to wotc that this will most likely kill the Pro Tour. They might have done this from a monetary standpoint, but it will lose them even more money in the long run, and I think we probably need to make that clear to them. And yeah, also what Ant said, about having them consult with the players (not to mention having them tell us earlier and in a better way). I almost decided to attend KL last-minute, and I'm glad I didn't, as these changes would make that decision so awful monetarily.

Zack

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Re: First Step

Post  Ben Lundquist on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:40 am

I would offer to attend this meeting but I am skipping KL as well as all the other foreign PTs. I think the main goal should be to find out why so much was cut and why they did it in such a disrespectul manner. I don't really see them giving anything back just like Ant said, so I think you have to go for the goals he mentioned, and just try to get the answers as to why they decided to cut down so much. I don't believe that they could have lost that much money over the past year, so the money must be going somewhere.

-Ben Lundquist

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Re: First Step

Post  Eelco1972 on Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:03 am

Hey

Nice idea Raph. It's good to know that we voted for someone like you to make it to the HoF. I think it's going to be a though effort to try and make the player's voice heard, not so much because WotC might not want to listen to you, but more because it sounds like a couple of budget cuts were implemented and it's probably not in WotC's power to change that too much.

Some of the thoughts that should absolutely be discussed here about all this:
1. It might just be that we're witnessing the end of competitive Magic and all, but like i said: if WotC got orders from above (Hasbro) to pay less money to programs like the Pro Player Club or the Pro Tour itself, than there is not too much anyone can do about it. The only thing one can ask himself: the choices that were made to change things and to cut budget, were they the best that could be made ? Weren't there other ideas that could have been thought of and weren't there other ways to save money or generate more ? Those are going to be interesting questions and i think one of the focusses of the "group" or the Union should be to try and think of creative alternatives for the changes that have been announced.
2. Another thing that might needs to be discussed here: what's the exact missionstatement of the Pro Tour ? Both in the eyes of WotC and from a (aspiring) participant's point of view. There might just be a too big of a difference in opinion in that department. Some players seem to think that they should be able to make a living out of playing Magic and lately WotC seems to think different. A renewed opinion might be helpful, from both points of view.
3. One of the things that, imho, MUST change is the way certain things are communicated from WotC's side of the Magic World: i can't even think of the number of emails, PM's and messages alone i have written to WotC in my life that have not been answered or got completely misunderstood. I'm pretty sure it's the same for a Pro Player that tried to get some information about the next year's season.
If i look at the last couple of announcements that were made by WotC (Payout Worlds, Level 3 Changes, 2008 Schedule) it feels like someone didn't get a memo at the office considering the moment the changes were announced. That's pretty unbelievable, because it's safe to say that a budgetcut like this has been on everybodies mind for a little longer than the last part of 2007. Or at least it should have been. If such changes need to be made they should have been mentioned a lot earlier in the 2007 season. The Union might want to try and figure out a nicer way to have changes in the future communicated to the world and certain deadlines for those messages that will allow planetickets for next season's Event Schedule to be bought and Pro Points to be gathered better. It's pretty obvious that a lot of Pro's felt that they were robbed of a lot of Pro Points and dollars after the last Pro Club changes. A lot of those things could have been prevented if upcoming changes would have been communicated a lot sooner.

Those are pretty much the things that in my opinion should be discussed for sure in KL. It's probably only a couple things that are on everyone elses minds, but this forum is the ideal way to gather possible points for the agenda. Keep those opinions coming.

Last thing i want to say about Magic and certain changes that have been implemented lately: I think WotC is doing a awesome job the last couple of years when it comes to building a damn fine game. I can't think of a set other than Coldsnap (but other people loved it, so that's probably just me) in the last couple of years that didn't want me to go to a Limited Pro Tour and pretty much every Constructed format is as healthy as a horse. If budget changes have to be made to keep the game itself as healthy as it is now it can't be bad. It can always be that the current changes that were made are not the most effective, but than it's probably up the the Union to try and think of smarter solutions.

Ciao

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Re: First Step

Post  JelgerW on Wed Jan 23, 2008 1:05 pm

I agree that it is important to decide what our goals will be and the goals ant mentions seem fine, but it seems even more important to me to decide who you are trying to represent. Are you representing the Pros? Are you representing PTQers too? Are you representing everyone who ever plays a tournament? Are you representing the casual players as well? Representing all magic players is a very hard thing to do because there are so many different kinds of players with so many kinds of views and objectives. I guess if the main objective is to keep the game healthy (as opposed to keeping the Pro Tour healthy, which I think would be a very important part of keeping the game going but I am sure there are (casual) players with a different oppinion) than you might be able to represent everyone, but even if that is what you are trying to do it is hard to know (for me at least) what the casual player thinks as they are by definition more low profile than the pros. If you do decide you want to represent all the players you should make sure you have at least one representative from each group present at the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

To me it seems the most practical to just represent the pro and aspiring pro players as the range of players/goals is just to wide to come to a general consensus on a lot of topics. If you decide to represent this group my thoughts on primary goals would be:
1. Make sure Wizards understands that they need to communicate better with the players.
2. Find a way to communicate (meetings at Pro Tours, regular emails between representatives from the union and wizards).
3. Give constructive feedback before major decisions are taken.
4. Keep the Pro Tour healthy.

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Re: First Step

Post  eunck on Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:30 pm

I'm fine with all the goals mentioned so far and I agree that we should try to keep our goals realistic. But for me the biggest goal hasn't been clearly put to words yet here, although I think it includes most of the goals mentioned:
The dream that a good player has a realistic chance of reaching a Players Club Level that makes it possible for him to play the PTs and break even financially and that a few of the very best players can even make a living of it. I'm thinking of maybe 40-60 players in the first category and maybe 5-10 in the second.
Not too long ago I think this would have been a realistic goal. Now I'm not sure anymore. What do you guys think? Is this realistic?
This goal also says something about which types of players we would represent: obviously all the Pros, but also all the competitive players who are driven by the hope of making it to the PT (that's a pretty big group I would think). Not included would be the casual players who just attend the occasional PreRelease, build their fun decks without caring about formats and so on - the kitchen table players. I think it's not possible to include them directly because they are just not really affected directly by all this. They would only be affected indirectly if the game as a whole would suffer from the changes.

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Re: First Step

Post  FrankKarsten on Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:32 pm

Eelco asked for a discussion of the mission statement of the Pro Tour. Let me try to take the viewpoint of Wizards and speculate on Wizards' vision of professional play and what they are trying to accomplish with the Pro Tour (based on some quotes from BDM's article and from my own observations). I could go into Organized Play as a whole, but let me stick to the Pro Tour at first. The ultimate goal is to increase sales of Magic booster packs via marketing. It achieves this via multiple goals. First, it gives people entertainment (matches to watch), and keeps the game dynamic (lots of new deck tech). Thereby, the Pro Tour enhances the value of Magic cards by offering free benefits to those players who keep up with the game, just like the free columns on Magicthegathering.com. Furthermore, big tournaments with big money may inspire newspapers to cover them, offering free marketing. Furthermore and probably more importantly, decent players dream of reaching the Pro Tour lifestyle, see the world, and even make a living of it. By giving these decent players a dream to live up to, they have an incentive to play more Magic and more tournaments in order to become a better player, and if they want to post good results at tournaments they need enough cards, which encourages demand for booster packs. Furthermore, the Pro Tour gives credibility to the game, as you can win a lot of money at a Magic tournament. Pro players and wannabee pros are the game's ambassadors that market this vision of a credible game for free via word-of-mouth. Rather than paying for expensive ads on TV, the players advertise Magic themselves for free by talking about the Pro Tour. I'm sure there are some players who were first reluctant to start playing Magic, viewing it as a childish card game, until they were told about pro players who make a living off the game at big tournaments with a big prize pool. Similarly, teenagers can use the Pro Tour as an argument that Magic it is a skill-intensive mental sport in order to convince their parents to allow them to buy packs. So through these mechanisms (and I'm sure there are more), the Pro Tour motivates players to buy more packs of Magic, where Wizard's profits of course eventually lie.

These mechanisms, are enhanced by the bigger prize pools at the Pro Tour (as this encourages pro players more and thereby is likely to offer the credibility that a couple top players consistently place highly in these tournaments and make a living off it) and by smart allocation of the budget (how many Pro Tours, how much prize pool per Pro Tour, price of locations, additional benefits such as the Pro Club etc.). In a sense, Wizards could forecast the demand for Magic booster packs as a function of the budget of the Pro Tour and its allocation. Once the budget gets high enough, eventually marginal benefits in terms of booster sales will become lower than marginal costs in terms of Pro Tour budget, so what I'm trying to say is that there is an optimum budget that maximizes Wizard's profit. With a sound underlying model that forecasts booster pack sales through Pro Tour budget and allocation and their effects on eventual customer demand, Wizards can view the effects of budget and allocation changes. It doesn't have to be an advanced mathematical model; just a qualitative understanding that explains the main mechanisms by which Pro Tour budget enhances booster pack sales is also fine.

Now, clearly Wizards has lately chosen to cut the budget and has allocated nothing to a sound communication strategy. I think that the gains made by budget costs will be much lower than the resulting drop in booster sales volume. As pro players can now no longer make a living off Magic and have lost faith in Wizard's communications credibility, eventually boosters sales will drop through the mechanisms that I have explained. I do not believe that Wizard's understanding of the effects of their weak communication policy and buget cuts is accurate enough. So I guess we could try to explain our view of these effects to Wizards and give constructive feedback about it; more communication could easily make everyone happy.

-Le Tanc

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Players Union

Post  Chris Lachmann on Wed Jan 23, 2008 6:37 pm

I think Ant is right. The most important thing for this meeting will be to establish a clear line of communication between us (the players) and them (WOTC). Ultimately I don't think that we will be able to have an influence on the decisions that they have to make, but hopefully we can be more informed. I think that we should also make it clear that we don't really care about things like the player lounge and gift bags and all the other aesthetic things wizards does. All of these things could be reallocated into the prize pools of PTs or the players club.

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Re: First Step

Post  friedm on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:01 pm

Chris Lachmann wrote:I think that we should also make it clear that we don't really care about things like the player lounge and gift bags and all the other aesthetic things wizards does. All of these things could be reallocated into the prize pools of PTs or the players club.

I always thought the player lounge was pretty awesome (beats buying food & drinks at those convention halls with nothing reasonable in the neighbourhood). It makes the PT life style nicer for people who are not lvl 6, but I have no idea how much this costs WotC. Even a half-assed player lounge, was still ok most of the time. Speaking of half-assed, lemonade + nachos is not a player party.

But, while I still think the player lounge was a nice thing to make the life of the PT competitor easier, I know that other things are more important right now. All these sudden changes don't just affect the PT players, but also PTQ-ers. Most of them dream of making it one day (making it ranging from playing a single PT to getting on the train). What kind of message does all of this send to them?

And for those who are hoping for a PT payout increase, it seems like 10k has been cut from each PT. No announcements obviously? Maybe that's for next Friday.

Anyway, I'm hoping for a constructive debate between both parties in KL. Good initiative!

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Re: First Step

Post  TobiH on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:12 pm

# I do not think the Union should limit its goals to what may be achievable. Aim high and then see what's possible!

# I've even heard certain Wizards' officials call the Pro Tour "promotional tournament" as opposed to the original name "professional tournament". Pretty sad, in my opinion. If they want to maintain the professional character and use that as a marketing tool, however, I find it absolutely necessary to have at least a handful of players make a living off the Pro Tour. Trying to somehow "dilute" the meaning of the word "professional" is ridiculous. "Professional magic player" means "a person whose profession it is to play magic" – simple as that!

(On a side note: How much money does that mean? A net gain as low as 8,000 $ per year – that is, with all tournament and tournament-related expenses covered – might even be enough for some people to never take on a "real" job...)

# It is impossible to come up with one definite suggestion for a better system without knowing the facts. In Wizards' own forums the speculation has been posted, that each PT would cost up to 5 million $. (I seriously doubt the cost is as high as that!) But as long as Wizards does not disclose any definite information about that, all the Union's suggestions can be guesswork at best. WotC will in all probability keep that information confidential, so the Union will have to come up with quite a lot of different options for a better PT-system – one for every possible amount that a PT might cost.

(Another side note: I think it's very likely that the actual prize money does not constitute more than a quarter of the total expenses for a PT. So there might be a real chance, that the suggestion to redistribute lost prize money among the remaining PTs will be considered.)

# In this meeting the Union's representatives will probably have to pitch the whole concept of professional magic playing as a marketing instrument. Prepare yourselves and prepare well!

# Try to see Wizards' point of view! After all, what they want to achieve with the PT is relevant. Any discussion with them will be totally pointless, if you don't meet with them on their level, talking about marketing issues and concepts rather than player preferences and demands. You will have to convince them on their own ground, that the PT is good for making more money – or fail. Well, as far as I can see, they have (mainly) two aims with the PT, both rather contradictory: On the one hand, they have to at least maintain the illusion that someone can make it from ordinary PTQ-player to Super Pro. The new change certainly is going in that direction. On the other hand, especially for promotional purposes the super stars are very important. Others have already said that the current system will result in less players at the peak and more players on a certain broader plateau. Less super stars, more one-time wonders. More "good" players, less great ones. To preserve the kind of elite circle maybe a switch back to something more along the lines of the old end-of-year payout would be called for. Not rating based, but ranking based, not paying money to every player (regardless of their number) who got a certain amount of points, but always to the select few at the very top.

-------------------

Add-on:

I don't know, if you are interested in radical brainstorming of ideas, but, well, they're bouncing around in my head right now:

If a PT really costs (in total expenses for organization and all) as much as the prize money for 4 or 5 PTs, how about cutting yet another one, but having a massive increase in GPs and doubling the payout for each of the remaining PTs (and maybe tripling the payout for Worlds). Wouldn't that be good for a professional magic player?

How about dispensing with the current (complicated) club levels and having an end-of-year payout that awards prizes to:
-the top 4 players in the world (enough to make a real living off magic)
-the top 16 players (enough to make a small plus/poor living off magic)
-the top 64 (enough to break about even)

-------------------

Add-on II:

I vote for Frank Karsten as one of the spokesmen to take part in any meeting with WotC!


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Re: First Step

Post  AllEars on Wed Jan 23, 2008 7:29 pm

Chris Lachmann wrote:I think Ant is right. The most important thing for this meeting will be to establish a clear line of communication between us (the players) and them (WOTC). Ultimately I don't think that we will be able to have an influence on the decisions that they have to make, but hopefully we can be more informed.
Chris Lachmann


I have a hard time understanding the argument that nothing can be influenced. If a good line of communication can be established between players and WotC (and this of course is not an easy feat), it stands to reason (at least my reason) that any good argument will be reviewed. After all the people behind these decisions work for a company and their goal is to make money for the company. If "the message" (which was smashingly well articulated by Mr Karsten) reaches the board that makes these decisions, then it seems pretty obvious that it has a chance of influencing these decisions, if the argument is solid and shows that long time revenues will be lost if the current trend continues. What we don't have as players are statistics and cold numbers that dictate the decisions, but we do have experience and a valuable viewpoint, which might be disregarded foolishly at the moment (and we seem to agree that it is). It's just a question of finding common ground!

I think pretty much anybody with half a brain understands that WotC has not at any time been involved in charity when it comes to the PT, and if Magic is really hitting a slump, then it could just be that those in charge of these decisions cannot share our view. But it is IMO far too early to give into overly pessimistic assumptions.

- Aarne V

(TobiH posted a well-articulated response at the same time, and I'd like to echo that post!)

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Thoughts

Post  morgop on Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:23 pm

The average player not currently on the tour has in the past aspired to (formerly known as) level 3- making the train. I’ll call them a PTA (for pro tour aspirant) for short. For gravy trainers, appearance fees covered most of the airfare and doing well in even one of the events should cover remaining expenses for the year. But that’s expenses only- nothing more. So do pros & PTAs seek to cover expenses only, to make money off of magic, or are they willing to actually pay for the privilege of playing with the big boys? I suspect the kitchen table players are the latter, but the pros and PTAs are looking for more.

The case showing the –EV of GPs has solid foundations. Throw in byes for pros and it is that much worse for non-pros. Currently, PTs are the only consistent method of achieving payouts big enough to counter the expenses of travel, hotel, food, cards, etc. The expense of time is high, but is countered somewhat by this being a game we love to play.

Now take away appearance fees and one PT. Now pros must perform significantly better at a PT in order to recoup expenses- with fewer chances to do it. The competition is already fierce. The demands on time and resources are high. And it takes a keen mind (or immense luck) to make it through 16 rounds without enough mistakes to defeat the average players. Now throw in Magic’s luck factors (now more potent due to fewer PTs). This becomes more like playing stocks. How much confidence does the pro have in their own stock? A lot more than PTAs, if you get my drift.

Are last year’s level 3 players entitled to appearance fees? How about a 4th PT? There’s no question that a promise was made and now it is being reneged upon. This impacts not only pros, but the vision of PTAs, too. The dream of a PTA now must weigh- IF they make the train, how likely is it to recoup the investment, PLUS will there will be any tour at all next year? I liken this to our current economy: when things go south, people start spending less and it makes things even worse. Money must be spent to spark a steady flow. How many PTAs view these decreased odds such that the dream is now beyond reach? And if it is, what is the effect?

The pro tour is not dying off. It seems to me that Wizards is representing only the kitchen table players, at the expense of the pros. More random people will achieve those big payouts (but also do realize that if many pros choose to not show up for PTs, a few pros will look to cherry pick amongst decreased competition potentially leading back to a few headlining pros….). The loss will be in the number of headline pros who consistenly do well. I think it is in the best interests of all PT players and PTAs alike to see people who have succeeded. Without that, it’s much harder to believe that the vision is achievable.

If Frank’s illustration of the prospective business plan by Wizards is correct, then I’m worried, as it will be undermined in many different areas if the pro players and PTAs start dying off. Word of mouth advertising may also be both positive and negative especially when it comes from the highest achievers in the game.

One comment that came up in the forum was to save money by holding PTs in cheaper locations. I’m all for it- as long as it doesn’t diminish the excitement of attending the event. Those of you who attended GP Fitchburg know what I mean. The experience derived from attending one of the big events is just as exciting to many people as the the money won. Money is nice. Memories/experiences last forever. Dumb down these events to their bare bones versions with only money as the carrot and you absolutely lose something.

And some things that haven’t come up: If it costs so much to run a PT, how about a GP? You still have to fly and house all of that staff. Doesn’t this largely offset the costs saved from one PT? What about the impact on stores if sales/reg. fees begin to slip?

To those of you who have voiced your opinion (Raph especially for taking the initiative) to show that you care for this game, THANK YOU! It makes a difference, even if it’s only to see that you’re out there.

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Solidarity

Post  Rich Hoaen on Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:10 pm

I don't really have any suggestions for you guys, I just want to say that I'm with you in spirt, if not in person. If I was going to KL I'd have very much liked to have been involved in whatever meeting you've got organised.

Thinking about the death of the pro tour really saddens me because of the enormous impact it's had on my life, for good and bad.

I wasn't planning on attending any pro tours this season even before the announcement was made, but I wish you all the best of luck.

And listen to TobiH. He knows what's up.

Rich

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Re: First Step

Post  Tiago_ on Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:31 pm

I was going to post on the thread of BDM's articles where all the announcements were made until I realize that most of the arguments have been already said. However, I'm posting here to show my support and solidarity with my friends, my fellow pro players and Magic players around the world.

The players who expressed their feelings and came up with this idea are some of the most sucessful, longest active on the tour, and more respected by the community. Their experience values very precious and should be heard. Everyone was unanimous to consider the bad, almost shady communication policy by Wizards the thing that offended us most. Not so long ago I remember receiving emails, explaining changes related to the Pro Tour and the Levels, money, prizes and stuff that affect the life of a Pro player.

Even if this action won't change Wizards decisions, after all they have the final call over the matter, they will have better information (that's why some companies spent millions on Marketing research), show they're a little more concerned, and I believe communication will be flowing better.

Personally, I understand the changes, even if they're bad to some of us. I refuse to believe the Pro Tour is dying, changes happened because something was wrong, and doing nothing, that would lead eventually to the end of the Pro Tour. I want to believe that something is being done to save the Pro Tour.

More than complain, criticize, accuse, or taking any side, I'd rather be supporting initiatives like this one who show that people care.

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Re: First Step

Post  Raph on Thu Jan 24, 2008 12:02 am

Things are going a lot faster than I thought, both in here and on WotC’s side.

Here are the news:

I have been talking to my contact:
WotC likes our initiative. It is VERY likely that we will have this meeting in KL. We will have the answer soon enough. Then we can fix all the logistic problems (where, when). The “how” and “who” is still to be determined as well but we both agreed that we should be represented by only a few (as mentionned in an earlier post).

As for the future and projects of the Union, they have been thinking on their side and came up to pretty much the same conclusions as I did. This is to be taken very lightly as nothing has been decided:

As we said, WotC needs our opinion and help on different matters. When it comes to communication, to avoid the kind of bad surprises we had last week, they would communicate anything that would affect the players to us first (us being the heads of the Union), who would relay the information. Basically giving us the responsibility of the communication to the players. This would be a long term project, but that would solve a lot of problems and misunderstanding.

We have talked about other issues, nothing concrete, but I have many reasons to believe that this is the beginning of a new era for the PT.

Some other points now:

-I have been asked: “who are you representing exactly?”.

I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, that we represent players from PTQs to Pros, not the casual players. The “fate” of both are linked and issues that affect the PTQ players affect the Pros, and what affects the Pros, affect the PTQ players.

-Who will represent you?

We need about 5 or 6 people able to talk in the name of the others. I am quite sure that only a few of us are willing to take the responsibility of the job. We can set a ballot to vote if there are too many people interested.
So far, I would very much like Frank to be one of them.
Unless anyone has anything against it, I would also like to talk in your name.
We should settle this within the next 2 weeks.

-What’s our first real move?

It will hopefully happen in KL and we need to be clear on what we are going to say and do.
To me, it is important to develop the next points:

-Explain why cutting a PT is bad for them. Basically what Frank said. If we can find figures or anything that can support that. Within that part, we should also explain why pros can’t play the game as seriously as the previous years, even with their extra GPs (point that they seem to be missing).
-This will be a very controversial point, and we have to discuss it here first:
Is there anything they can do to make up for their mistake? When? How?
I don’t think like Ant on this point. They are able to announce a GP 6 months prior the event, they should be able to cancel a GP before it has been announced. By that, I mean that they should restructure the levels THIS season, that if they have some budget to allocate, let it not be for something that won’t matter as much as losing all pros this year.

-I don’t think talking about the Union’s role and responsibility is appropriate on the first meeting. Let’s first see how it goes and then we can plan better.

That’s pretty much it for now, I’ll keep you all posted.

Raph

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Re: First Step

Post  conform on Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:18 am

morgop wrote:And some things that haven’t come up: If it costs so much to run a PT, how about a GP? You still have to fly and house all of that staff. Doesn’t this largely offset the costs saved from one PT? What about the impact on stores if sales/reg. fees begin to slip?

GPs cost WotC dramatically less than PTs, even ignoring prize payouts. Wizards contracts with local TOs, who do much of the work that they bring people onsite for at PTs. A PT has 5-10 WotC staff doing event management, 3-6 coverage staff, and 15-30 sponsored judges (Valencia had 18 full sponsorships -- flight and room -- and 17 partials -- flight or room). The cities tend to be more expensive (Fitchburg, anyone?) and the locations tend to be better relative to GP held in a PT-caliber city. Hotels are nicer as well. For GPs, most of the staff are local or judges paying for their own travel. The local TO will typically provide hotel rooms for most of those judges, but like I said, cheaper hotels, and often more judges to a room.

For GP Vancouver next month, Wizards is flying in three and putting up four people: the Head Judge (that's me, and I live less than 600Km away), the shadow HJ (Toby Elliott, also fairly close), the coverage guy (Bill Stark, I think), and the event manager (Reid Schmedaka). Those last two will be driving up from Seattle. There are no judges being flown in from Asia or Europe. It's costing WotC a tiny fraction of what PT Vancouver would.

Switching from PTs to GPs, even if they leave the total prize pool equivalent, is a major cost-cutting measure for them, particularly in the face of a weak dollar and high airfare costs--those two factors alone, in my mind, dwarf any slowdown in card sales.

Best of luck at your meeting next month.

Seamus Campbell

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Re: First Step

Post  RobertW on Thu Jan 24, 2008 1:50 am

In my humble opinion a first goal should be to get more people in this forum and by more i mean far more.
I guess WotC will not be too impressed by the total number of 50 registrants to this Union so far. If this should represent the PTQ-Players, a group of players WotC will probably care a lot about, much more of them should make clear that they really want to be represented by this group.

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Re: First Step

Post  antonino_derosa on Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:05 am

ZackH wrote:I'd think a good goal would be to make it clear to wotc that this will most likely kill the Pro Tour. They might have done this from a monetary standpoint, but it will lose them even more money in the long run, and I think we probably need to make that clear to them. And yeah, also what Ant said, about having them consult with the players (not to mention having them tell us earlier and in a better way). I almost decided to attend KL last-minute, and I'm glad I didn't, as these changes would make that decision so awful monetarily.

Zack

Are we sure that these changes will kill magic? I dont think so at all....

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Re: First Step

Post  jeroenremie on Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:17 am

I, Like some other guys that have posted on these forums, may not be active anymore, but I just wanted to let you guys know that I support whatever y'all are doing to fix this horrible mess WotC is making of things.

One of the hopes I have is to ever make the Hall of Fame, and without you guys I am sure the PT will not be around when my class is up...Smile

Good luck guys, I am with you in spirit, and willing to help if you ever need me.

Jeroen.

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Re: First Step

Post  ZackH on Thu Jan 24, 2008 2:24 am

Ant, it's my opinion that over time these changes will lead to the end of the PT. Not today, not this year, but the PT is all about marketing for them, and now that the big name pros can't make a living off the game, the marketability of the PT goes too.

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Re: First Step

Post  antonino_derosa on Thu Jan 24, 2008 4:50 am

FrankKarsten wrote:Eelco asked for a discussion of the mission statement of the Pro Tour. Let me try to take the viewpoint of Wizards and speculate on Wizards' vision of professional play and what they are trying to accomplish with the Pro Tour (based on some quotes from BDM's article and from my own observations). I could go into Organized Play as a whole, but let me stick to the Pro Tour at first. The ultimate goal is to increase sales of Magic booster packs via marketing. It achieves this via multiple goals. First, it gives people entertainment (matches to watch), and keeps the game dynamic (lots of new deck tech). Thereby, the Pro Tour enhances the value of Magic cards by offering free benefits to those players who keep up with the game, just like the free columns on Magicthegathering.com. Furthermore, big tournaments with big money may inspire newspapers to cover them, offering free marketing. Furthermore and probably more importantly, decent players dream of reaching the Pro Tour lifestyle, see the world, and even make a living of it. By giving these decent players a dream to live up to, they have an incentive to play more Magic and more tournaments in order to become a better player, and if they want to post good results at tournaments they need enough cards, which encourages demand for booster packs. Furthermore, the Pro Tour gives credibility to the game, as you can win a lot of money at a Magic tournament. Pro players and wannabee pros are the game's ambassadors that market this vision of a credible game for free via word-of-mouth. Rather than paying for expensive ads on TV, the players advertise Magic themselves for free by talking about the Pro Tour. I'm sure there are some players who were first reluctant to start playing Magic, viewing it as a childish card game, until they were told about pro players who make a living off the game at big tournaments with a big prize pool. Similarly, teenagers can use the Pro Tour as an argument that Magic it is a skill-intensive mental sport in order to convince their parents to allow them to buy packs. So through these mechanisms (and I'm sure there are more), the Pro Tour motivates players to buy more packs of Magic, where Wizard's profits of course eventually lie.

These mechanisms, are enhanced by the bigger prize pools at the Pro Tour (as this encourages pro players more and thereby is likely to offer the credibility that a couple top players consistently place highly in these tournaments and make a living off it) and by smart allocation of the budget (how many Pro Tours, how much prize pool per Pro Tour, price of locations, additional benefits such as the Pro Club etc.). In a sense, Wizards could forecast the demand for Magic booster packs as a function of the budget of the Pro Tour and its allocation. Once the budget gets high enough, eventually marginal benefits in terms of booster sales will become lower than marginal costs in terms of Pro Tour budget, so what I'm trying to say is that there is an optimum budget that maximizes Wizard's profit. With a sound underlying model that forecasts booster pack sales through Pro Tour budget and allocation and their effects on eventual customer demand, Wizards can view the effects of budget and allocation changes. It doesn't have to be an advanced mathematical model; just a qualitative understanding that explains the main mechanisms by which Pro Tour budget enhances booster pack sales is also fine.

Now, clearly Wizards has lately chosen to cut the budget and has allocated nothing to a sound communication strategy. I think that the gains made by budget costs will be much lower than the resulting drop in booster sales volume. As pro players can now no longer make a living off Magic and have lost faith in Wizard's communications credibility, eventually boosters sales will drop through the mechanisms that I have explained. I do not believe that Wizard's understanding of the effects of their weak communication policy and buget cuts is accurate enough. So I guess we could try to explain our view of these effects to Wizards and give constructive feedback about it; more communication could easily make everyone happy.

-Le Tanc


One thing your forgetting frank, The Pro tour makes the secondary market survive. No way will the turmogoyf is worth 25$ without the pro tour. Look at games out there with very little OP. Their rares arent worth all that much. Antonino the casual player, or the aspiring ptq player is willing to buy a dual land for 8$ becuase he knows that he can sell it to Antonino the Pro player before a big event for at least 6$.

Ant

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Re: First Step

Post  antonino_derosa on Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:47 am

AllEars wrote:
Chris Lachmann wrote:I think Ant is right. The most important thing for this meeting will be to establish a clear line of communication between us (the players) and them (WOTC). Ultimately I don't think that we will be able to have an influence on the decisions that they have to make, but hopefully we can be more informed.
Chris Lachmann


I have a hard time understanding the argument that nothing can be influenced. If a good line of communication can be established between players and WotC (and this of course is not an easy feat), it stands to reason (at least my reason) that any good argument will be reviewed. After all the people behind these decisions work for a company and their goal is to make money for the company. If "the message" (which was smashingly well articulated by Mr Karsten) reaches the board that makes these decisions, then it seems pretty obvious that it has a chance of influencing these decisions, if the argument is solid and shows that long time revenues will be lost if the current trend continues. What we don't have as players are statistics and cold numbers that dictate the decisions, but we do have experience and a valuable viewpoint, which might be disregarded foolishly at the moment (and we seem to agree that it is). It's just a question of finding common ground!

I think pretty much anybody with half a brain understands that WotC has not at any time been involved in charity when it comes to the PT, and if Magic is really hitting a slump, then it could just be that those in charge of these decisions cannot share our view. But it is IMO far too early to give into overly pessimistic assumptions.

- Aarne V

(TobiH posted a well-articulated response at the same time, and I'd like to echo that post!)


What TobiH (who is that by the way) says very smart things, I just would like everyone to just think about this before you start assuming wizard hasnt had all these chats already. They have a group of guys who are part of their orginized play, they have dudes who are just in charge of the PT and I am sure they have spent countless hours talking about the pros and cons of their decision. Basically I dont think it was made overnight.

I also want to point out that all these people care and are emotionally attached to this project, so none of them wants magic to fail. (especially since their jobs depend on it).

I think asking for things outside a resonable box will make them dismiss your other ideas that could be fixed.

ant

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Re: First Step

Post  PV on Thu Jan 24, 2008 6:58 am

[quote="conform"]
morgop wrote:Switching from PTs to GPs, even if they leave the total prize pool equivalent, is a major cost-cutting measure for them, particularly in the face of a weak dollar and high airfare costs--those two factors alone, in my mind, dwarf any slowdown in card sales.


Seamus Campbell

That would be if they had left the total prize pool equivalent, which they obviously didn't. Basically they cut a PT and compensated the pro points, but not the money.

I agree with what mostly everyone said, but I disagree in some aspects - with chris lachmann, for example, when he says this

" I think that we should also make it clear that we don't really care about things like the player lounge and gift bags and all the other aesthetic things wizards does. All of these things could be reallocated into the prize pools of PTs or the players club."

I might be a minority in this, but I do care about players lounge, exotic locations and a big show (not so much about gift bags). I loved going to Hawaii and having a ula-ula party, I loved going to Japan and having the karaoke party, I loved going to Geneva and having the opportunity to go skiing. Those are things magic did to me. I also care that I'm well fed while I'm playing a tournament - I have to stay the whole day in there, after all, and it's not even healthy that I have nothing to eat. I liked getting back home and having pictures of a great players dinner where everybody had fun. I haven't been able to take those pics for some time now. I mean... nachos with lemonade? that's hardly "player's dinner". Also, the location does matter - a Pro Tour in Hawaii is much more entertaining and much better in a marketing aspect than a Pro Tour in Memphis. I have all kinds of friends who want to know more about the game after I tell them I've been to Hawaii to play, but no one cares that I've been to charleston. Part of the reason I play magic is also to get to travel to those places. Memphis is not one of them.

Of course, if I had to pick either a Pro Tour or those things, it'd be a Pro Tour, but I wouldn't mind giving a little bit of the prize money for that. After all, I play Magic for it's social aspect - it's not only a Job, it's something I enjoy doing. Cut everything I enjoy in it and suddenly there is no reason for me not to go play poker instead - if money was ALL that I wanted from the pro tour, I'd be playing poker and not magic. Unless I'm alone in that, I think we don't have to make it clear for wotc that we don't care about those things because we do.

The rest has already been said by pretty much everyone, so I have very little to add - the comunication problem, the decision ending up costing more than it gains, etc.

Someone suggested cutting the Pro Tour and upping the payout a lot for the other pro tours. That makes some sense - they get to redirect all the prize money and then up it by some more, because they save a lot by cutting one pro tour - judges, place, staff, etc. That way they would be able to pay for more PTQ flights and up the payout for a considerable amount - maybe even double it - and still save a lot of money. I don't think any of us would complain if we had only 3 pro tours a year instead of 4, but with double the prize money for all of them, and I think this is realistic and still saves them money - unless they need to save THAT MUCH money that they have to cut it entirely. I wish I knew a bit more about that, though - I might be far off. It's just weird to me that they just cut an expense of millions and redirected about 10K back - everything else (which isn't much more than that) was taken from the amateur money. Then, again, I might be far off in that.

About the "who": I also think Karsten should be in there, because he said pretty much everything I wanted to say in a muich better way. I also think Levy has the right to be part of it, because it was him who did all this thing - thanks for doing it ^^

Paulo Vitor


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Re: First Step

Post  GavinV on Thu Jan 24, 2008 8:21 am

This is a message from the avid PTQ and GP player's point of view. I have only qualified for the Pro Tour once (Yokohama last year) and I didn't even attend because I looked at the chance of doing well on the pro tour against the what I had a good chance of winning in two or three more years of M/JSS and decided it would be of better value for me if I didn't go. Had I known they were going to cancel the program this year I would have made a different decision.... But that's a whole different topic altogether.

As a pseudo-outsider to the pro tour since I still PTQ, here are the main things I have a problem with:

1. Three Pro Tours

I won't tread on this for too long, because it's already been covered well. I can see how Wizards would want to cut from 5+Worlds down to 4+Worlds, as 5 is a lot. But three feels like one too few. It not only makes a big difference to the pros, but it also cuts down on variance for the PTQ players because it means only three PTQ formats a year. When a format drags on for too long, it gets boring. Also, PTQ's need a healthy alternation between Constructed and Sealed. I don't know how many PTQ players are on here, but anybody remember the seemingly never ending sea of sealed qualifiers in 2006-2007? Ravnica sealed, short three persons team season, Ravnica sealed, Time Spiral Sealed. I had forgotten what a Constructed PTQ was like until Extended finally rolled around! Three qualifier seasons isn't enough.

2. Nationals as a Pseudo Pro Tour

While I think that the change to award pro points at Nationals is long overdue, if you are going to promote Nationals as the new fourth pro tour, then make it seem more like one. Divert some money into them, and add additional ways to qualify. City Champs is a nice start to letting more people into Nationals, but an extra one slot per State only in the U.S. isn't enough. There should be more ways to qualify than just Regionals, grinders, rating, and the one City Champs slot. Bump Regionals back up to the top 8 qualify instead of just the top four, and hold additional PTQ-esque qualifiers. Since it's all in the same country that people will play in the qualifiers, Wizards won't even have to award plane tickets for the "NCQ's".

3. Fix the New Level 3 Pro Rules

First of all, I think it's awful that level 3's had a money cut. That topic has been beat to death however, so I'm not going to rewrite it again. Instead, I'd like to look at the flip part of that announcement. Level 3's are now allowed to play in PTQ's. While there aren't that many level 3's, it is frustrating that they can play in PTQ's and that the slot doesn't even pass down. Even if you ignore the fact that they can just "block" for their friends, at least let the slot pass down so that one slot isn't just eliminated. While I am in complete agreement that us PTQ players are going to have to face people on the pro level once we qualify and that we need to be on their level, there are enough things that have to go right to win a PTQ already. You have to pick the right deck, not lose to random bad matchups that people play even though the deck is outdated, beat players at your level, navigate through the popular decks, outplay people in the mirror, get lucky when you need to, and then not lose a match once you make the top eight. I don't to need to have "oh, by the way, you might have to play somebody who has had recent pro tour success and is actually already qualified in the finals, and if you lose to this guy who is already qualified you don't even get a slot" thrown on top of that.

4. Pro Tour and Worlds Locations

I'm not going to comment on the free sandals or the players lounge, because I've never been a part of that. However, I will say that the exciting locations of the Pro Tour made me a lot more interested in winning a PTQ that I had been in the past. I would love to go to Japan, Europe, or even New York. The locations this year are overall OK (although I really feel like it should have a Japan stop in there.... I heard a rumor that's what Worlds was going to be originally?), except for Worlds. While having it in the U.S. is convenient for me, even I am amazed that they chose Memphis. For Nationals, they can put it where they want and I won't really mind, but for Worlds, the World Championships of the game we love, the headline tournament of the year, we get Memphis?!? No offense to anybody that lives there, Memphis is a fine place to be I'm sure, but it is simply not a very exciting travel location to foreigners or people across the country. I can't even compare the last few years of Japan, Paris, San Fransisco, and New York to Memphis. Someone said earlier on this thread or on the Wizards thread that he didn't care where the event was, he just wanted to play. And while I agree that if it was a choice of better locations or a 4th Pro Tour I'd take the fourth Pro Tour, the exciting locations are really important to entice people to go.

5. Communication

Once again, most everything has been said here. Better and quicker communication, please Wizards. Announce these changes as soon as you can, instead of waiting until some arbitrary date and putting them in Brian David-Marshall's column. NOTE that I have no evidence to show that the date was arbitrary for these announcements, but it seems like so much was in the same batch that they could have said some of it earlier.

These are the main five things from my view as a PTQ/Nationals/GP player. I know that they don't all line with up with what has been discussed by the pros, and I definitely care about the other changes to the program such as the changes to the pro players club besides just level three money and PTQ eligibility changes. But, Raph said that this should be a union for not only the pros but the PTQ players as well, since it does indeed effect all competitive players in some way, so I thought I'd chip my thoughts from a different point of view.

I'd also like to note that I am really concerned about the junior circuit going away because I think it's pretty integral for people entering on that level, even if not all of the players were the best. But, that's not really an issue that concerns most of the people here since it doesn't deal with the pro tour (at least not directly, although I think that it may stop a lot of younger American players from maturing into Pro Tour quality players.... Although it's yet another money cut to Magic overall which concerns me) and since it was not an international program and this is an international group.

Thanks for forming this Raph. This is something that the pros really need that could be a gigantic boon.
I'll try and get the word out about this group through channels that good players will see so that we can help the cause. If I start writing again soon, I'll try and include a link to here in some kind of section at the bottom. Hopefully we can, at the very least, get some answers, and at the most, help some change to happen.

Sincerely,

Gavin "Lesurgo" Verhey

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