From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
When Wizards of the Coast launched their secret lair series last year, I didn’t take much notice. Sure the company was now effectively selling singles to players, but this didn’t trouble me.
Existing cards with art styles that you would never see in a general release magic set. This is what Secret Lair has been, and basically what it was announced as being.
So cards you can get elsewhere, but with special art you can only get through the limited release Secret Lair drop. So far, so fine. Greta for those that like it, irrelevant for those that don’t.
Earlier this week, that changed radically.
The cards above are part of a branded tie-in set for The Walking Dead, a TV series based on a comic book set on a post zombie apocalypse Earth.
It’s hard to see the connection to Magic the game. But it gets worse.
These cards are exclusive to Secret Lair. They haven’t appeared before under other names and they won’t be repritned again outside of this limited release tie-in.
Not all Magic players can access Secret Lair. It’s a direct-mail ordering system (remember those?) that is only available to certain countries. Even if you live in a country that could get Secret Lair releases if you start playing after this release or you miss the ordering window for whatever reason- you’re out of luck.
I’m not sure what the wisdom is of releasing such cards which are less exclusive and more exclusionary. Many players will miss out through no fault of their own, and the reprint availability to branded cards like this is effectively zero. One and done.
This isn’t Wizards’ first instance of doing this.
The above card was released at a convention and was available only to people who happened to be at that convention and picked one up.
The reaction to this was so overwhelmingly negative that it was never done again.
I don’t like to be a doomsayer, but I honestly don’t see the game recovering from this in the short term. New players will continue to enter the game, but I think existing players will start to disengage – playing less, buying less, and generally being less interested in new product.
With the Walking Dead cards, one Wizards designer has come out to say they would reprint the cards with different names if they become popular and in-demand. But that is not how Magic works. If two cards exist with different names, you can run both in your deck, even if they are functionally identical.
I don’t think Wizards could have done a better job of eroding customer trust and confidence than this.