Ever since Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in 1999, MTG players haven’t been best pleased with Wizards’ corporate overloads. Typically, while Hasbro’s ownership of MTG has caused lingering doubts, Wizards has been steering the ship and keeping players happy. Recently, however, MTG players have been increasingly concerned about Hasbro’s influence over the world’s oldest TCG. For example, the growing number of set and product releases each year is predominantly blamed on Hasbro’s handling of MTG. Similarly, players blamed the immensely controversial 30th Anniversary Edition on Hasbro over Wizards of the Coast. Ultimately, on any given day, Hasbro is typically being blamed for something that MTG players aren’t happy about. The topic de jour today; Hasbro is making magic too expensive.
Rising Cost, Falling Stock
In recent months, MTG has been making waves in the mainstream media as overproduction problems reach their breaking point. Brought to attention by the Bank of America, the frustrated voices of MTG players were finally being heard. Recognizing player concerns about overprinting, alongside 30th Anniversary Edition, the Bank of America took action by double-downgrading Hasbro’s stock. For many players, this was a compelling victory, however, celebrations wouldn’t last long. Responding to now-concerned investors, Hasbro and WotC would eventually claim “there is no evidence that magic is overprinted.”
Following the dismissive response from Hasbro, Bank of America has gone on to reaffirm Hasbro’s stock target price of $42. Considering that Hasbro claims MTG will become its first billion-dollar brand, the Bank of America’s stock target may seem dismally low. In their reports, however, BofA noted that Magic’s immense value is actually part of the problem. After all, even the most devoted MTG fans will only tolerate so much. “Within its Wizards segment, Hasbro continues to destroy customer goodwill by trying to over-monetize its brands.” Ultimately, in spite of MTG’s impressive recent sales records, it’s claimed BofA alleged that Hasbro’s focus is on short-term profit, rather than long-term sustainability and growth.
After repeated dressing-downs by the Bank of America, it’s safe to say MTG has garnered a lot of attention. Subsequently, major media outlets, such as Business Insider, have been platforming the fears of fans and LGS owners. In a recent interview, for instance, Insider spoke to a New York LGS owner, Eric LaGaccia, who claimed Hasbro is “trying to milk as much money from customers as possible.” Alongside this, Insider highlighted how “fans felt that they were rightly concerned that Magic was becoming a luxury hobby.”
Unless you’re playing Magic’s Pauper format, it’s no secret that MTG can be seriously expensive. For instance, a pristine and complete collection of Limited Edition Alpha cards was recently valued at $2.5 million. Alongside this, single MTG cards can sell for upwards of $800,000 to the right celebrity buyer. It’s not just classic and iconic MTG cards that are valuable, either. Serialized Retro Artifact cards from The Brothers’ War, for instance, sold for thousands of dollars due to their immense collectibility. Similarly, Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s most sought-after card is selling for almost $300, and that card isn’t even out yet!
Admittedly, thanks to myriad experimental promotions, new collectible MTG cards are more expensive than usual. As Reddit user u/nd3287 noted, however, Magic has always had an inherent cost. Responding to the recent Business Insider article, nd3287 asked, “am I the only one who has seen magic as an expensive game since I started playing it?” Answering this question, players such as u/Expensive-Document41 noted that while Magic is expensive, “it’s a complex answer.”
“On the one hand, I remember the bad old days of 2015 to like 2021 where the steady drumbeat was that fetches were too expensive and needed a reprint. They’ve since had several and a Tarn is $20 instead of pushing $100. Now $20 is still expensive on some budgets but it’s literally 1/5 the cost. A lot of staples are cheaper today through a combination of reprints bringing scarcity-driven cards to reasonable supply and stuff like secret lairs.
That said, there’s the RL, which WOTC has been pretty cheeky about “not touching” given the 30th-anniversary debacle. Those cards (and legacy, high-powered EDH) as a result have skyrocketed. I think more the issue is that Atandard being strangled in paper means there’s less incentive to crack packs at FNMs and such. How many more Sheoldreds would be in the wild if FNMs were still the priority? Couple this with WOTC doing more sets and more direct-to-consumer products and I can definitely see how wallet fatigue can make the game feel like it’s getting more expensive.”u/Expensive-Document41
Alongside this, several MTG players highlighted how frequent reprints have driven the price of many once-prized cards down. Reddit user u/perfectpencil, for instance, stated they “think reprints have been healthy for the game.” Once again, however, there’s more to this complex issue than the positive effects of reprints, as power creep simply makes other cards the problem.
“Vomiting new staples at breakneck speed is where the ‘too expensive’ part makes sense. Cheaper fetch lands were what Modern needed to grow, but 80 dollar Ragavans that you need 4x of just shifted the expense to new cards making the end result the same or worse.”u/perfectpencil
While Hasbro is facing increased scrutiny from players, media, and investors, ultimately, it’s unlikely that significant changes will happen soon. After all, when speaking to UBS, Wizards of the Coast President Cynthia Williams denied the claims of overprinting. Following this, MTG’s Lead Designer and Communications director stated that Magic’s overwhelming release schedule won’t slow down. Instead, Wizards of the Coast remains committed to serving as many different types of players are possible. Sadly this means, without major change, keeping up with all of MTG’s releases will continue to be confusing, not to mention expensive.
Thankfully, non-rotating and Eternal formats such as Modern and Commander allow players to mitigate some of MTG’s costs. Even these formats, however, aren’t immune from change thanks to power creep and sets such as Modern Horizons. With the next direct to Modern set planned for 2023, it may only be a matter of time before these formats rotate once again.