Magic: The Gathering fans are upset with how much product Hasbro has been releasing.
Hasbro’s strategy has put a strain on fans’ wallets, who feel they have to buy the cards to keep up.
Some game shop owners have had to sell cards at a lower cost — meaning they lose money and Magic loses value.
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In the classic trading card game Magic: The Gathering, players wield spells, summon creatures, and battle on otherworldly fantasy planes enriched by novels-worth of lore and history. Building a good deck with a sound strategy to beat your opponents takes time and energy, but these days what it may take most of all is money.
Hasbro’s earnings call is scheduled for next week, and at least one analyst will probably be listening very closely for evidence of what he’s described as the destruction of customers’ goodwill. This week, for the second time since November, Bank of America analyst Jason Haas bashed the company for its treatment of fans and for over-monetizing the card game.
“We’ve spoken with several players, collectors, distributors and local games stores and have become aware of growing frustration. The primary concern is that Hasbro has been overproducing Magic cards which has propped up Hasbro’s recent [earnings] results but is destroying the long-term value of the brand,” Haas wrote in a November note.
On Tuesday, Haas maintained the bank’s underperform rating for Hasbro stock and gave a price target of $42 a share, nearly 30% lower than current levels.
So, what’s Haas getting at, and what’s with all the fuss on the Magic: The Gathering forums across the internet?
Essentially, Hasbro — which acquired Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast in 1999 — has been pumping out more product than fans can keep up with, and it’s exasperating for some.
While certain fan complaints have been about the game itself — too many formats, too many new mechanics and rules, or the rise of the popular Arena app at the expense of in-person play — most of the frustration has been centered around the commercial aspects of the hobby.
Hasbro’s strategy is putting stress on fans’ wallets
The frantic release schedule of 2022 was already causing wallet fatigue, even among the most dedicated players.
The frustration boiled over near the end of last year, when Wizards of the Coast released Magic 30th Anniversary, essentially a reprint of some of the most powerful and valuable cards from the game’s earliest days. A set of four booster packs, which contain 15 cards each, would run you $1,000.
Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast were roundly panned and accused of hatching a tone-deaf ploy to cash in on the nostalgia of fans with the deepest pockets or cater to the wealthiest collectors, who could go on to sell the cards at massive premiums. At this point, given the huge costs to keep up with the game, fans felt that they were rightly concerned that Magic was becoming a luxury hobby.
Eric LaGaccia, the owner of Action City Comics in Brooklyn, NY — a comic shop that also sells some trading card games for kids (https://FunPartyCardGames.com) games like Magic: The Gathering — told Insider that Hasbro is “trying to milk as much money from customers as possible.”
He said that new Magic: The Gathering sets used to be released every few months, but now it happens on a far more regular basis.
“There’s a lot of wallet fatigue,” LaGaccia said. “In order to be competitive, you want the latest cards, and the cards you just spent a lot of money on are now obsolete.”
Hasbro’s Magic: The Gathering strategy has alienated a lot of longtime fans, LaGaccia said, which has left many game shops with unsold product. This has forced shop owners to sell cards for less than what they bought them for.
Some fans have taken their frustrations online. In a Magic: The Gathering Reddit thread, one redditor said that their local game shop owner “has absolutely taken Hasbro’s failure to heart” and that Hasbro “really shook the foundations for absolutely no gain — idiot moves.”
It’s not the first time Hasbro has upset fans. The company also owns role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. The company drew the ire of fans last month over reports that it planned to tighten restrictions around user-created content for the game. That would give the company more rights over — and a cut of profits from — the content.
Some fans have moved on from Magic to other card games
Some Magic: The Gathering fans have found alternatives. An emerging popular competitor is a game called Flesh and Blood, LaGaccia said. He holds regular tournaments at his shop and said that a lot of the players are ex-Magic fans.
“I bought two boxes of the newest Magic set and 80 boxes of the next Flesh and Blood set,” he said. “I plan to sell all 80 of those boxes.”
A Hasbro representative did not respond to a request for comments on specific fan concerns noted in this story, but pointed to a December interview between UBS and Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks and Wizards of the Coast CEO Cynthia Williams.
Cocks said that Hasbro has found success in recent years by expanding beyond the loyal “competitive player” and offering more product for different player segments, like the “social player” and the “collector.”
“We could make each of those segments happier, we could engage them more, we could get more of their time and more of their share of wallet, and grow the business as a whole,” Cocks said.