Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

The roof is on fire: Organized Play problems in Magic

Wizards of the Coast employees have been wondering out loud on various social media – especially Twitter, about why attendance at Magic: the Gathering events is dropping.

I’m not sure 148 characters is enough to discuss that in any helpful way. The best I could come up with was ‘stop fiddling with Organized Play’. It begs more explanation though, so I didn’t bother tweeting that as a response; how would someone act on that?

Players have been acting on the recent slew of changes to Organized Play by not playing. At least, this is my theory.

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The cumulative effect of the many changes of the past couple of years has left many players confused, disoriented, and fed up. This includes the changes that have been reversed. Because changing a change is itself a change.

Some of these changes have been quite major, others less so. They all add up. If you want players to come to your organised events, it’s a good idea to provide stability and certainty around those events.

People eventually realize that the pattern of announcing half-baked changes as a fait accompli, and then walking back those changes if the players complain long and loud enough, or otherwise fiddling again is now established. The cycle repeats, and each time it does a group of players gives up communicating, and a non-zero amount of players reach their limit and walk away from the game.

If Wizards are serious about growing Organized Play, the first thing they need to do is stop fiddling with it. Stop treating it like an office plaything and start showing some respect for the time and effort players around the world are putting into playing the game. They don’t need a different way of playing thrown at them every month. They certainly don’t need the rug pulled out from under them at the highest levels of play. The impact of events like this cascades down to all levels of organised play.

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There are many other calls of players’ time, from other games and from real life. If you make it difficult to answer the call of your game, don’t be surprised if some people find that too difficult to be worth the effort.

Constant changes aren’t just driving people away, but also stopping them from returning. If Wizards makes a change a group of players doesn’t like and they stop playing, that’s one thing. Eventually they may come to terms with the change and attempt to return… only to find yet more changes have been made in the few months since they left! Don’t be surprised when players don’t return.

On the subject of returning, Wizards don’t make it easy to find the changes that might draw you back in. Do you want to know what is currently in Standard and when it might leave? Don’t look under Organized Play – it’s not there and neither is it linked to from there. You’ll find info on what sets are in Standard under rules and formats in tabular form, except the table is incomplete. It shows when sets enter standard, but now when they are going to leave it. At the very least get that information in there asap. Hiding that info four clicks deep may not be the best plan either, but I’m no website designer.

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If you were new to Standard and got your info from this page you’d be forgiven for not knowing that Standard has rotation or what that means. There’s a note towards the bottom of the page on rotation, which is not otherwise mentioned on the page. For the uninitiated here it is: “Each year, four Magic sets are released and added to Standard. Those sets are grouped into two-set blocks (For example: Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon are a block). Once per year, when the first set of the second block releases, the two oldest blocks in Standard rotate out.”

Clear?

Wizards currently have a problem of their own making. The first step to fixing any problem is to realise you have one.

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2016 by in Industry, Magic the Gathering, Writing and tagged , , .
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