Interview with Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR !!! I hope you are all well and getting ready for the new set 🙂

A lot of players have asked me in the last few weeks what is going to change for Organized Play and Magic in general in 2013 and I thought it would be a good idea to ask the people at the source what is important to them and to explain the current situation from their point of view.

Here the Interview. The questions are in blue, the answers underneath:

Can you please give us a few details about who you are and what you do?

My name is Björn Meyer and I am a Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast responsible for marketing and communities (social media, contact with fanpages, etc.) in Austria, Switzerland, Eastern Europe and Germany. I play games for more than 25 years and started playing Magic when it was first released. I am definitely a casual player!

 

There will be some changes in 2013… Can you give us a little more detail about what’s going to change and why?

The biggest change is that we have altered part of our distribution model for Europe. Up to now some of our European distributors were also doing marketing and supporting organized play in their markets, while others were only focused on distributing the products. From now on all distributors in Europe will be able to concentrate on the distribution and Wizards of the Coast will cover all marketing and store support activities.

 

Wizards Play Network…  Does that mean tournament play?

We created the Wizards Play Network (WPN) a few years ago to help local gaming communities to form and grow. It means that WPN stores are encouraged to run tournaments but also casual events The Wizards Play Network is much more than just the tournaments a store runs. Tournaments are just one aspect of Magic: The Gathering. Casual play events are just as important. A WPN Store should not only run all kinds of Magic events, but also be a good place for a new player to learn all about Magic: The Gathering, meet other players and have a great time. Our goal is to help the WPN stores to be this place and to offer great event experiences to the players, regardless if it is a tournament or just a few casual matches.

 

How do you support casual play and why?

Casual play is as important as tournament play. We know that a lot of players prefer to play in a more casual and non competitive way. This is why we encourage stores to offer also events for these players. Wizards of the Coast supports casual play directly by offering certain casual play programs to the WPN stores, like for example the leagues. In addition we also explain to stores that Magic is not just tournaments, but all different kinds of playing Magic. It does not matter if you prefer tournaments or casual play. Important is that you have fun with your fellow players, playing Magic: The Gathering.

 

Why do you put so much emphasis on acquiring new players? What about the players you already have?

New players are important for the community and the game overall. The more players that are in the community, the more fun it is to play, because you have different players to play against, bigger events, and the chance to meet and make more new friends, etc.

For the current players we offer all kinds of different programs which the WPN stores can run and of course there are also the premium events, like the Grand Prix and Pro Tour, so that there are plenty of opportunities for the current players to have fun and enjoy the game.

 

Will there be a difference in product allocation (From the Vault, Modern Masters) or tournament allocation (PTQs) depending on the region you are in?

It is our goal to treat all players as fairly as possible, regardless of the region where they live. Similar parameters are used to allocate special products such as From the Vault or Modern Masters. PTQs are allocated based on the number of players based in a given region, as measured by the tournament activity in this region and countries.

 

Can you explain what is happening with the Gatecrash prerelease product shortage?

Magic is currently experiencing rapid growth, which has continued with the release of Return to Ravnica. The prerelease events for Return to Ravnica already set several records and we received even more registrations for Gatecrash. For this block we have special prerelease products (the Guild packs) and what stores may be experiencing with product demand is a result of the growth we are seeing all across Europe.  It’s always a good idea to preregister to make sure you can particpate in the highly popular Prerelease events.

For Switzerland we are in the lucky position that we were able to offer to the WPN stores in the German speaking part of Switzerland to switch to German prerelease product to be able to order the full projection. We know that some tournament players prefer English cards, but our experiences in Austria and Germany, where all prereleases are played with German product, show that the prereleases are much more successful. The language helps to make these events more inviting to new and casual players who do not want to play with or do not understand English cards.

 

Is one of your objective to convert casual (kitchen table) player to fnm player or on the contrary to keep this player data base as it is.

Our main objective is that every Magic player has fun and the best possible event experiences he can get in the stores, regardless of the play style they prefer. There is no “right way” for a Magic player to play Magic – so converting someone from casual into a FNM or into a focused tournament player is not a goal. By the way, FNM events are one of the entry points for tournament play and should be events which are very open to casual and fun players and a much more relaxing experience than for example a PTQ.

A “conversion” of a player to competitive play either happens, because the player wants it or it does not happen at all. That’s why we support all kind of play styles with our programs.

 

What is your plan to attract more competitive player (is part of your plan?)

Competitive play is pretty strong for Magic and if players are interested in playing in competitive events they will do so and have all the possibilities they want. Traditionally we offer a lot of different competitive programs, from the fun entry level FNM to the Pro Tour – there should be something for every type of player. By the way, we significantly increased the number of Grand Prix events to satisfy competitive players, as we want to continue to support them as best we can.

 

Magic without shop could hardly work (i believe), what are the incentives you give/would give to shop to specialize in magic product. In the USA they have typical shops like this (that sell comics, board games and others) and i believe this is also why magic has more success. Do you see an alternative in Europe for this type of shops (with what other products)?

The Wizards Play Network stores are most important for Magic and the community. The stores are key to making sure that Magic events are entertaining experiences for all players and that new players learn all the right things about Magic, such as the right products for beginning players or the right events for a new, casual player, etc.

Because of this, a big part of our activities is centered around supporting the stores and bringing people into the stores (the Store and Event Locator is one of our most important tools).

It does not matter if it is a store which only sells Magic or if it is a comic or book store which offers Magic as one of their many products. As long as they offer the service a Magic player could expect, regardless of if he is a new player, a fun loving casual player or a highly competitive tournament player, any store is welcome.

 

Can you explain in few words how the wotc/magic strcture works for switzerland, sales channel, tournament, who provide what support. what is the real role of waldmeier,…

Up to now some of our distributors were also responsible for marketing and organized play, including the shipment of support material, like e.g. the event kits. This changed and is now done by the European Wizards of the Coast Teams. The material for the stores (kits, marketing material, etc.) is now shipped from our warehouse in Belgium directly to the stores.

Also, WotC WPN representatives will now be working with all WPN stores in Europe directly. We offer Outreach support in 10 European languages.  Stores have the choice in which of these languages they want to communicate with us. The German speaking stores of Switzerland will mainly be in touch with our German WotC Team (based in Dreieich near Frankfurt) and for the French speaking stores it will be mainly the French Team (based in Le singlessalad.com Bourget du Lac) and for the Italian speaking stores it will be the Italian team (based in Rozzano).

Waldmeier is one of our European distributors and as all of our distributors, they will now be able to concentrate on bringing the best possible service to the stores regarding product availability and delivery.

 

What has been their most successful marketing activites and why? (special pre-release, fnm, …)

This question is very easy to answer: Beside the game itself, it is the great events in the WPN stores. This is simply the best and most effective marketing activity there is for Magic. If the players have fun, if the new players feel welcome and get along well with the local community, if the events are exciting (like the opening of the Helvault at the Avacyn Restored prerelease or the Guild competitions at the Return to Ravnica prerelease), the players will come back more often and more importantly talk about their experiences to their friends and bring them along the next time.

And it is no secret that playing Magic in a fun environment and without pressure is the best entry you can have into this great game.

 

What do they do in less crowded city to make magic sucessfull? (any sucess story to share that we could apply)

If there is a Wizards Play Network store in the city, we work with the store. We encourage them to attract new players and to run all kind events (not only for the community of players they have, but also for those who do not participate yet). E.g. if a store until now only offers highly competitive events we encourage them to offer events for those players who do not want to play in competitive events.

In case there is no store yet, we encourage local players to find a store who will be suitable and willing to become a Wizards Play Network store.

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You can of course discuss it in the appropriate forum thread 🙂

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