revel in riches
2, Jan, 23

MTG's Billion Dollar Brand Reveals Metrics Measured for Success

Article at a Glance

2022 was the biggest year for Magic: the Gathering that we’ve ever seen. Mark Rosewater recently confirmed the Billion-Dollar headline we’ve heard repeatedly throughout the year. Alongside this incredible growth are some realities that most of the vocal MTG community is not fond of. This may have been the most lucrative year MTG has ever seen, but we’ve also seen the largest number of products ever released in a year. The community constantly complains about product burnout, to the point where a Bank of America analysis cited it as a significant reason Hasbro’s stock took a nosedive near the end of the year. Like it or not, however, as many may imagine, Magic’s metrics for success do not include listening to the vocal minority.

A Plea to End All Pleas

Mark Rosewater, one of the creators of Magic: the Gathering, tends to interact with some of his more vocal fans over his ‘Blogatog’ on Tumblr. From time to time, some of the replies he makes turn into more extensive discussions in the community. As you may imagine, this is what occurred with this particular question.

The complaints about product burnout have been continuing for some time now. Following that trend, Tumblr user piccadilly-blue ‘asked’ the following question:

“Mark I’m gonna be real with you, every time we tell you that we have concerns with the volume of product being release, your response thus far has been “We hear you, but get used to it.” I realize that you are contractually obligated to refrain from voicing any concerns you might have about the current release cycle (since that would hurt sales) but it comes off as aloof and glib, like you don’t have to care what we think because you think we’ll buy whatever you produce anyway. I’d honestly prefer if you didn’t say anything about it at all.”

This does speak true to many of the replies we’ve heard in recent times. An example can be found in Blake Rasmussen’s recent response regarding whether Wizards of the Coast plans to slow down their release calendar. That said, just because the vocal minority is complaining about the product doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is doing badly.

Metrics of Success

Planar Celebration by Wisnu Tan

Rosewater’s reply to this statement was rather lengthy and means a lot more when broken down. Here, we will look over the most critical part of the reply. To see the whole reply, feel free to check it out here.

“If our current approach is fundamentally flawed, that will come out, and I promise you we’ll do something different. The metric of success though won’t be volume of internet chatter. It will be all the metrics we look at (play numbers, sales numbers, digital numbers, social media metrics, market research, etc.)” – Mark Rosewater

This paragraph really cuts to the core of the two major issues addressed in Rosewater’s answer. First, is the metrics currently being used according to Rosewater when choosing where MTG should go next. These include the bracketed topics above. If these metrics covered by Rosewater show development issues with MTG, they will come out, and Rosewater will try to steer the ship into clearer pastures. An example of this can be seen with the recent discussion about Standard’s decline in paper play.

Secondly, internet chatter holds little to no weight in any decision-making that Wizards of the Coast does. Honestly, this makes sense. The players who speak up are an extreme minority, according to stats already spoiled by Mark Rosewater. He recently stated that most MTG players don’t even know who he is.

Magic’s Best Year Ever

Regardless of all the controversy around the 30th Anniversary Edition and the Bank of America’s scathing report of Hasbro’s stocks, Magic: the Gathering seemed to have its best year ever:

“So far, for the last three years, the metrics have not just been good, but the best we’ve ever seen. This year Magic made over a billion dollars (something we’ve never done before).”

This statement proves that this was indeed a billion-dollar year for Magic: the Gathering. As you may imagine, this, combined with the previous statement, may not go over well with players who are discussing this online:

“When people fear that you’re sacrificing the long-term health of the game in pursuit of short-term profit, pointing to large short-term profits will not reassure them.” – sanctaphrax

When looking at the Reddit post debating this answer from Mark Rosewater, the above quote has thousands of upvotes and multiple awards dedicated to making the post stand out. In other words, a major community response to Rosewater’s statement is that he missed the mark as to where the community concern lies. While all analytical information points to a fantastic year for MTG, fans aren’t worried about the health of the game short-term, but where the game may be a decade from now.

While some MTG players can keep up with all the changes constantly happening with the release of new products, many players feel like they never have a deck that’s with the times:

“I think for the standard sets they are doing great. I’m not a fan of bombarding us with so many alternative products. This is actually funny for me to say as I only play Commander. But as someone with a full time job and can only play once a week it feels like any deck I make is outdated before I really get to play it.” – SamohtGnir

This perspective was shared multiple times over multiple months in 2022. Many players had not even started looking at the cards they were interested in one set before the next one came out. The Brothers’ War and Jumpstart 2022 only had about a single month apart, making this incredibly apparent. The Brothers’ War release also happened a month before the consecutive releases of Unfinity and the Warhammer 40K Universes Beyond decks. This standpoint is expressed multiple times throughout the thread:

“I’m in the same boat, but my friends and I only end up playing like once a month, so we really don’t have much time to actually enjoy new sets before another one gets thrown at us, especially since we also like doing some draft/sealed stuff too.” – Chowdahhh

What Happens Next?

While Rosewater directly addressed some community concerns (why they don’t take advice and that if something goes wrong, they will speak up), the big concern brought up by the community still seems to be misaligned with the answers they are receiving. If these short-term successes don’t line up with the long-term picture of the game, will MTG have a future? Health versus growth was a big topic discussed in the Reddit covering Rosewater’s response. The biggest takeaway from that discussion seems to be that no one can truly agree on what a healthy version of Magic: the Gathering looks like.

Read More: MTG Players Claim Alchemy Card Is Ruining Beloved Format

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