An In-depth Look into Magic the Gathering at Curiosity
If you don't care about Magic the Gathering, you can stop reading here, otherwise we ask that if you start reading this, that you make sure to read all of it, because it is a lot of information and if you only read part of it, it may lead to misunderstandings. This is intended to be a pretty long post, with lots of information pertaining to multiple different parts of Magic the Gathering at Curiosity. We also apologize for any grammatical or spelling errors.
Magic the Gathering “MSRP”
First and foremost I wanted to touch on the belief that “MSRP” no longer exists, while true Wizards of the Coast stopped providing an MSRP, there is still a metric to arrive at MSRP based on the average of data from years and years of product release from WOTC. So while we do not have a physical MSRP from WOTC, it isn’t the Wild Wild West when it comes to pricing these products…. usually.
What about the Stock Market?
Secondary market, while we do not completely ignore it, when it comes to new products, it is only our concern when it could create a vacuum of product in our store from resellers/scalpers buying up large amounts of products at lower prices to resell at a higher price, we are adamantly against this. On the other hand if the market price for newer products drop below MSRP that does not mean the MSRP magically follows the market, that is just not how this usually works for any legitimate business doing legitimate business things. We contended with large buyouts early-on during the Pokémon craze, and we scrambled to devise a plan that worked for both us and our guests, at first we just decided to follow the market and provide VIP members with 15% off that price, we then realized that really sucked for anyone just trying to enjoy a product, and we also realized it meant in some ways we were contributing to something we did not agree with, so instead we added pricing protection to our VIP membership to ensure that VIP members would be able to get products at or slightly below MSRP regardless of what the market was doing while Non-VIP pricing would continue to follow the market, and we placed limits on how many of any one product a ViP member can purchase per day. This works great; we do get the occasional guest in our store who isn’t a fan, and while we understand, it’s difficult to explain that these items would not be in stock 99.9% of the time if these policies were not in effect because someone else would have already bought it out because of the perceived resale value. We know “but we got paid” and some people would rather we just leave that up to chance, but unfortunately that is our policy, and more people enjoy the way the policy works. There is a flip side to this, what if the market is under the MSRP? Shouldn't the whole product follow it down? No, that is not possible. The only reason the non-ViP price follows the price during an uptrend is to dissuade buyouts, promote our loyalty program, and ensure everyone is getting a fair deal. While we have built entire algorithms for pre-owned games, and TCG singles to track their market values and help us price them competitively, when it comes to new, sealed products from the warehouse; we have to meet certain margins otherwise we can’t carry that product, so when the market price is below the MSRP we have to put the price at MSRP (There is some other complex math here, especially if the product inside can be immediately traded back in for more and we do have to meet a specific internal margins in-order to carry a product, and sometimes even the MSRP is below that internal metric.) So that usually means we price the product at MSRP and provide VIP members with 15% off. There is some math that can lower the price further for unpopular products after some time, but that means the product will never be restocked, and as we have seen with some other games, if that becomes something that happens immediately to new releases, the whole game could be in jeopardy. The distributors do not drop their prices when secondary prices drop, nor does Wizards give us any kind of kickback when secondary market prices drop, so neither can we.
Commander WTF Masters.
Let's give some general pricing information regarding Commander Masters; What was the MSRP of Commander Masters? Set Booster Box: $594.99
Draft Booster Box: $448.80
Collector Booster Box (with 4 packs): $349
Give or take 10% if a store has some amazing volume deals (we don't)
But…. as we have used the word “usually” above a lot, when it came to this set, we were immediately awe-struck by the prices before us, and so we needed to use another metric, which brought us to be able to provide cheaper prices on these products which ended up looking like this
Set Booster Box: $469.99
Draft Booster Box: $349.99
Collector Booster Box (with 4 packs): $269.99
Based on Wizards distribution pricing while not ideal pricing; we figured these were some pretty good price points and still met our requirements, we were happy with this, and many VIP guests partook in purchasing from us with their 15% discount, utilizing our great trade in deals, as well as their earned points from past purchases and a lot of people found a lot of enjoyment in this set. But here, we wanted to share how insane this set was to price and market for very minimum marginal percentages, and it was not without ire from some guests expecting a lower price.
This product is not for us.
While we appreciate all the amazing support for Commander Masters, this set was hard on us as a business from cost stand-point, to a customer relation standpoint, to a policy standpoint. It was just plain hard, and we are not interested in revisiting these feelings of anxiety and stress ever again, and as such we just don’t plan on really carrying these premium style sets in the future outside of direct-to-guest preorders for boxes and a handful of loose packs when able. While we are not fans of collector boosters as a whole, if wizards wants to continue making them, they should always contain 12 packs with a distribution cost that allows for pricing in the $250-$350 range, set booster boxes need a minimum of 30 packs with distribution cost allowing for boxes to be priced in the $150-$200 range, and draft to allow drafting for $15-$25 a person.
Reprintapoolza vs Trade-In
Starting as a video game store, it’s pretty simple to calculate and understand what a video games intrinsic value is, we look at it’s sale through rate, general popularity, as well as market trends from reputable sellers, and then devise what we plan to charge for it, then devise a trade in value to offer our guests. When applying this to cards, it is much more difficult because a lot of the needed data is hidden so that people with a higher pay grade than us can manipulate and control the overall TCG market, and what we are left with is attempting to glean the available data and do with it what we can. There is however, especially in Magic the Gathering a reprint problem that is only getting worse; for players this is great, for evaluating cards however this is a nightmare, for the first time ever we have some of the most sought after cards in one premium set being spoiled in the next standard set a week before the premium set is even officially released. That is not sustainable for any type of trade-in economy. And as such; changes are coming to our Magic the Gathering trade in program, while we are still working on how these changes look, we wanted to touch on it because without some guarantee from wizards of the coast on not reprinting cards for certain lengths of time (we would recommend 3-5 years), we can’t in anyway continue playing this guessing game that we are currently. This is not to say we don’t think the cheaper cards and driving the secondary market down is great overall for players everywhere, but we believe the balance may be off a little bit.
Events / Cost / Prizes
We kind of touched on this about a week ago, and we do think there were some misunderstandings. Magic will never leave our store, we are to much of a fan of Magic the Gathering for it to ever leave; but we just don’t know how the future of it looks because we need to meet certain margins and metrics to dedicate time, promos, prizes, etc to any one specific product line and magic hit some rough ground over the past 30-60 days and had us worried. This did not mean “Spend money or we will get rid of magic” it meant, we would need to adjust where and how the money is generated and wanted to make sure everyone was kept in the loop so nothing seemed sudden. A big issue that we have faced is we are concerned that a lot of people don’t enjoy just playing the game; if there is not some extra incentive or value gain every single time you sit down to play, this is in many ways exclusive to the Magic the Gathering community is and worrisome, now that is not to say it’s everyone or even a majority; it’s just something that is hard to work around and in many ways unsustainable. We have tried to do draft, sealed, other interesting events, but they are always very hit or miss. There was actually A LOT of love for Commander Masters draft and we would love to add a monthly Commander draft to our monthly event rotation, but our launch event was priced in a way to help the community enjoy the set, and it’s difficult to separate if it was enjoyable to play vs. the value incentive. Normal Commander Draft events would fall around $40-$50 and that is with little to no additional prize support. & because sealed lends itself to odd numbers (not needing 8) it is actually the better way to run these limited sealed events, and that causes the price to double (6 packs vs 3). Just know that we are looking into ways to add these fun events that provide fun experiences, and letting us know what you want to see is always helpful.
While there was a ton information in this post, we hope you were able to take the time to read it all; and please if you have questions or need clarification on ANYTHING, there is no such thing as a stupid question, reach out; we try to be extremely transparent, upfront, and honest with everything we do.