Monday, April 25, 2016

Platinum Pro Club Changes, Corporate Greed or Legal Mandate? (Both?)


Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, announced last week that the benefits awarded to its Pro Players Club members would be cut for the 2016-2017 season.  One of the most critical benefits (critical at least to those players trying to live up to the “Pro” in the “Pro Tour” name) was a $3,000 cash appearance fee at each of the four Pro Tour stops for Platinum players.  This appearance fee was slashed by $2,750 and is now a $250 reminder of the good ol’ days.  A replica (not to scale) of a Platinum Player Appearance Fee.

I am in some ways qualified to discuss this from the impacted player viewpoint, and in some ways not.   I am currently one of about 30 players enjoying the $3,000 Platinum appearance fee, but I am not tracking very closely towards Platinum again for the 2016-2017, and perhaps most importantly, Magic is not my day job as it is for several of my friends and colleagues in the Platinum player’s club.  (By the way, the Hall of Fame appearance fee of $1,500 per Pro Tour is also being reduced – it will now occur at a single Pro Tour each year, not every Pro Tour).

I want to first discuss my conspiracy theory (of which I’ve convinced myself, but that’s the easy part), then the decision to cut benefits itself, then the timing of the decision, with an aside on legal action against Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary. 





Is this All Motivated by a Desire to Undermine the Claim that (Some) Players Are Employees?

I don’t think it puts too much tinfoil on my head to note that the timing of this announcement relative to the lawsuit claiming Magic judges are employees of Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, is interesting.  Also, the announcement itself focused on shifting the goals away from trying to support professional Magic players, who presumably would then be acting in many ways at the direction of Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, in order to earn a living. 

It is possible that because of the judges’ suit, an employment/labor attorney was forced to come in and look at not just judges but other 1099 independent contractors and they said, “Uh oh, here we have a program with not only the function but even the stated intent of creating professional, full time players.  Who decided the company wanted to do this and what is his or her phone number?”  If that kind of analysis is what led to the decision, a change has to be made and announced, but you can’t announce that you’re attempting to reduce future liability for wages & benefits where you might have past or present liability … so what do you announce? 

Maybe you announce that “The appearance fees we awarded for Platinum pros were meant to assist in maintaining the professional Magic player’s lifestyle; upon scrupulous evaluation, we believe that the program is not succeeding at this goal, and have made the decision to decrease appearance fees.

Instead, we will be increasing the amount of prize money awarded at our biggest tournament of the year: The World Championship.”

You revise the Worlds payout structure to create both a positive smokescreen and a sensible use of the available funds. 

The HOF appearance fee reduction doesn't fit neatly into this story, but that's exactly what they wanted you to think when they came up with it.  Okay, I should probably go to sleep - will write the rest in the morning. 

The Decision to Reduce Appearance Fees

Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, is the embodiment of everything I hate about corporations.  It has become not just interested in quarterly earnings, but myopically focused on the trailing few quarters and the targets for the next few.   It is the owner and supposed warden of an important part of my life and culture, but it is constantly willing and able to make trade-offs against my interests in favor of its own.  As KFC has protected the institution of wholesome dinner for working families, Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, has looked over trading card gaming for competitive players.  

This analogy runs fairly deep.  Nobody has to enter a Magic tournament or eat a bucket of fried chicken, and indeed, each year, more evidence emerges that doing neither is a good idea. 

The great bridge in corporate strategy between Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, and the rest of the worst of corporate free trade is the shortcut.  Why scale tournament prizes to keep pace with profits when you can just keep them flat and show a bigger margin in the short term?  Ask the Colonel: if they keep buying the chicken with the cheap ingredients, why use the healthy version?  Why fund a headline grabbing (by 2001 standards I guess) prize pool in the World Championships by increasing the total budget for organized play when you can just cut some benefits elsewhere?  Shortcuts. 

Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, claims that the appearance fee was intended to support players making a living off the Pro Tour, but that it wasn’t accomplishing that goal.  It must be the goal that has changed, since nothing in the announced changes helps professional players earn a living from year to year with any consistency.  Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, is free to change its organized play goals, but all the evidence suggests that they barely know what they want to accomplish with organized play, let alone how to achieve it.

I keep going back to that in my mind: Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, barely knows what it wants to accomplish with organized play, let alone how to achieve it.  If the goal is to scale viewership and community on Twitch, hire a real team to produce that content and don’t let Blizzard hire Brian Kibler to commentate every major event for your primary competitor.  If the goal is to allow aspiring competitive players to rationalize spending way too much money and an unhealthy amount of time on your products, build trust with those players instead of constantly undermining it (see timing section below for more).  If the goal is to grab a few headlines when major tournaments happen, then try to hold those tournaments on the same scale, relative to your sales levels, as the gaming tournaments it competes with for headlines.

Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, has always been, and likely always will be, a group of talented game designers plagued by visionless leadership, incompetent and overly risk-averse legal strategy (of course with blind spots where it really might matter like whether Judges are employees – being conservative doesn’t guarantee conservation), sister and parent offerings that lose money (preventing proper reinvestment into what’s working – Magic), and a corporate culture of hindsight bias and myopia that observes growing sales but doesn’t even start evaluating how much more they could have been growing until a competitor comes along and punches them awake. 

When measuring the progress of Magic as a product in Q1 2016, don’t be content to compare to Magic in Q4 2015, show me how you’re tracking against Q1-2016-Alternate-Universe-A -B and -C in which the game isn't inhibited by a failing online version, isn't held back by weak organized play support that doesn't scale with the growth of the game, and/or doesn't advertise via an embarrassing offering on Twitch.  What Magic earns Hasbro is a fraction of what it could earn them, what it should earn them.  Blizzard filling some of the gaps was supposed to wake these people up, but maybe this wasn’t an “asleep at the wheel” situation but a “doesn’t know how to drive” situation.

Long story short, the decision to gut support for the career player itself did not surprise me.  They are entitled to try different incentive structures for their players in the competitive gaming landscape, and they will in fact try new ones.  And they will do it in the same old frustrating way, as an industry laggard on everything but the product itself holding back a leading (and still best) product.  They will continue to succeed, at an immeasurably fractional rate relative to their potential, despite themselves, and they will call it an obvious success.

The Timing of the Decision to Cut Appearance Fees

Even though I got to enjoy $3,000 appearance fee checks in 2016, I earned them in 2015.  The players who earned them in 2016 have had the rug pulled from under them since their investments of time and money in 2016 are unrecoverable and (for now) it looks like the payoff has been nerfed.  PokerStars recently did the same thing to its players, and the backlash there was something Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, probably didn’t consider or understand.

Here is how it should work: when a company says, “Do X in period 0 and we’ll give you Y in period 1,” the company should budget for Y in period 0 and then keep their promise in period 1.  Maybe accounting rules say you can put Y in the 2016 budget.  Maybe the law says you can break the promise (see below), but this isn’t the way a mature company worthy of trust from its customers should act, if it cares about preserving that trust and continuing to appear mature.

These players deserve the money they earned.  I don’t care if it helps them survive as a professional player or pay taxes on 2016 earnings they used to get by, or if they use it to figure out what to do next with their life, or if they give it to charity like Jon Finkel probably does.  They earned it, it’s their money.    

For the players’ part, when a company acts in an untrustworthy and immature manner, you have to simultaneously adjust your expectations and withhold your full support.  Ask the PokerStars pros if they hold that company in the same regard, provide it with their full support, or feel comfortable tying their livelihood to its existence and success.

Quick Aside: Legal Analysis of Whether Players Could Successfully Sue Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary for Breach of Contract or Promissory Estoppel

Every Reddit thread on any change a company makes will inevitably include a claim that the company can be or should be sued.  I’m sure on /r/SoupCanCollecting when Campbell’s changes the shade of red on its soup cans someone posts “IANAL, but can’t collectors just sue them?” 

I already said above that a labor & employment case on behalf of Pros is possible, but costly and not even likely to succeed.  A case against Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, for breach of contract or promissory estoppel (a fancy term for essentially breaking a promise you made that you knew or should have known others would reasonably rely on), has several issues that in my view are fatal to the players’ cause.

For as long as I can remember, descriptions of the Players Club benefits have been accompanied by a reservation of rights, the right to change or revoke the benefits at any time.  This language makes it difficult to claim that the promise of these benefits a few lines of text away could be reasonably relied upon in an actionable way, whether contract or quasi-contractual theories are invoked.  Wizards legal is bad, but they did repeatedly pepper us with the right disclaimer in the right place on this issue.  

Few things in law are truly open and shut, so of course there is a chance it could be found the other way, but it would have to be litigated to find out and when the class of potential plaintiffs is ~30 people and the dollar amount per claim is $11k or whatever, that dog just won’t hunt. 



Where Do the Pro Players Go from Here?

Somewhere else perhaps.  But even if we learned that Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary doesn't need us, some of us may need it.  The game is fun, the community is great (the ecosystem of many communities actually, fuck off with that Community Super League appropriation), and only 30 of us were platinum anyway.  Maybe this is getting a little overblown, I respect that take.  And I suspect Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, will back off the timing component of the decision and make the new benefits effective 2017-2018.  I suspect this because the backlash has been much larger than the dollar amounts are.  As described above, Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, is a greedy hellscape of myopic corporate pragmatism, and I predict they do the now seemingly pragmatic thing on the timing issue.

If they don’t back off the timing of the change, I suggest all current Platinum Pros, myself included, coordinate in order to boycott PT Sydney and to prepare and present counter-programming against its broadcast that weekend on Twitch by having top Magic pros learning and streaming other TCGs.  For me, at 28 points with a few GPs coming up, there is a very good chance that skipping Sydney would cost me Gold (and a shot at extending my last-PT-of-the-year top 8 streak and making Platinum, which used to be different than Gold by the way).  As a community of top players, we don’t have many high-powered tools to push back with and we have no such tools which involve zero personal sacrifice.

However, assuming things go as predicted and this is walked back to a 2017-2018 change, that gives professional players a couple years to figure out how to downshift into “hobbyist who pursues the World Championship but not at the expense of everything else” or find something else entirely to spend time and money on (Hearthstone, HexTCG, or even, gasp, personal or professional pursuits outside of gaming). 

Attempting to unionize or sue for back pay on a, based on my best guess, fairly thin but not entirely unprecedented definition of “employee” seems likely to kill the Pro Tour at the same time it consumes a bunch of time, energy, and money of the players involved.  But if the players who did attempt to make a living at Magic feel entitled to unionize or to seek back pay I would support their efforts.  Nothing in this post shall be construed as an admission or waiver, express or implied, of any of the author’s rights under the NLRA, WA or CA state law, or otherwise. 

The one thing none of us should do for several years is trust Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, to act with integrity or respect towards the community of entrenched competitive players.  Some individuals working there certainly want to do right by the players and support them, but if you’ll allow me to return to my favorite analogy, people at KFC merely wanting you to stay healthy doesn’t get it done in a corporate culture that either renders them powerless or incentivizes them to do the opposite while keeping up appearances.   

Aaron Forsythe recently tweeted that Greg Leeds, who resigned as President of Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, “went out on top.”  On top of what, a steaming pile of shit?  Now we have received an indication of where to set our expectations for new President Chris Cocks.  I wish him luck in stopping the hemorrhaging of market share to Blizzard’s Hearthstone.  Unfortunately, Magic’s organized play won’t be helping the cause.  Not with this approach or at this scale. 

Take care,
Matt Sperling.

Twitter @mtg_law_etc is a better place to converse than the comments below if you want me to read and maybe respond.  Someone should also post this on Reddit so we get the free expert legal advice that's easy to find there. 

47 comments:

  1. Brazenly insult WOTC and the leadership?
    Should at least get you blocked on twitter if not #18monthban
    How dare you insult the integrity of WOTC and the leaders of OP.

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    1. Do you need a hug?

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    2. WotC, a Hasbro subsidiary, directly insulted Matt and many other ambassadors of the game. Banning players for offering opinions about the companies leadership would not help the matter any.

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    3. Unfortunately I doubt the boycott will work out as too many Platinum pros would probably just play because the top prize is worth not backing this plan. But I wish you luck in changing minds Matt.

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    4. Dude this isn't anything like the thing you got banned for, don't act like you and Sperling the same.

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  2. Hello Matt,

    I come here thinking that Wizards of the Coast's decision is short sighted with the state of Professional Play as it is currently is now. However, I do think that the players have not done enough to help their own causes to be able to stay playing in a professional manner. In fact, I don't see the most popular Magic: The Gathering players and teams taking advantage of the multitudes of revenue streams that are available out side of Wizards.

    For example, when has Channel Fireball developed sponsorship details with companies to help defray costs?

    Why aren't the most popular Professional Magic Personalities streaming consistently and generating ad revenue?

    Why aren't Professional Players creating jerseys/uniforms that have sponsor's logos on them?

    Why haven't the Professional Players aligned with established eSports organizations such as TSM, Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud 9, Team Liquid and many others?

    When I look at other eSports (and I consider Magic: The Gathering to be one), I see professional teams trying to take advantage of all available options to generate revenue to pay it's team members and staff outside the arena they are competing in. But in Magic: The Gathering that hasn't happened. The players have become too reliant on Wizards high appearance fees and neglected to find other ways to pay for their sport. And this, ultimately, is why Magic: The Gathering is failing as a professional endeavor.

    Thank you for reading

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    1. You know, this kind of makes sense to me. I'm not sure if they will be able to "pivot" the sponsorships to larger brand store names in terms of sponsorship, though if that was the intent it is certainly one option that isn't strictly terrible so I'm gonna go ahead and hope for this one.

      I still think the whole thing is brazen and weirdly timed and conceived, but at least I can get a few more hours knowing they thought they had a line.

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    2. You mustn't be very familiar with the Pro Tour by asking some of those questions...
      1st- ChannelFireball doesn't need to develop sponsorship deals, because the team is an advertising vehicle for their online store. They're already sponsored.
      2nd- The most popular Pros can't stream all the time because the reality is that many (most?) of them have higher employment. They are just very fundamentally good at the game and use their time away from work to travel to events. A regular streaming gig is like another full-time job - just ask Kenji.
      3rd- Do you not watch the Pro Tour? Half, if not more, of the participants are wearing shirts on behalf of their sponsored retailers.
      4th- Magic does not have enough of a reward or exposure to viewers that would attract the big esports organizations. This isn't the players fault, but that of WotC/Hasbro being incompetent event promoters, and Sperling went into great detail in the blogpost.

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    3. It's not like people haven't tried. Do you think Magic teams don't want to be aligned with TSM, C9 etc? There's just nothing in it for them. Magic viewership is pitiful compared to what they're used to. The infrastructure is bad and the casters are in big part people who are grandfathered in and have no idea what is happening in a game of Magic. WotC continues trying to market specific cards rather than players.

      As for streaming, there are just not enough people who want to watch. Magic is less watchable than a lot of other games, and the program used to stream it is horrendous. There is a reason why Brian Kibler streams Hearthstone and not Magic, and it's clearly not because he's lazy (since he does spend all his time streaming), but because those paths are just not not nearly as lucrative for a Magic player as they are for a Hearthstone or League player (and that's in part because some people at WotC are awful at their jobs).

      So, to answer your question:

      "Why aren't the most popular Professional Magic Personalities streaming consistently and generating ad revenue?" - because not enough people want to watch it compared to the number of people who watch the other games.

      "Why aren't Professional Players creating jerseys/uniforms that have sponsor's logos on them? " - because no one wants to sponsor them other than Magic stores (which are already in the shirts).

      "Why haven't the Professional Players aligned with established eSports organizations such as TSM, Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud 9, Team Liquid and many others?" - because there is nothing in MTG for those organizations.


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    4. Anonymous is spot on - there just aren't enough eyeballs in Magic to attract any mainstream sponsors. I approached Razer about a sponsorship a few years ago and they told me to let them know if I decided to start streaming HS.

      Top MTG streams get 2-3k viewers; HS gets 10x that. There is no audience and thus no other revenue streams available.

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    5. Tom (assuming you are Tom Martell) and Anonymous,

      Outside of Kenji, what big name MTG Pro streams regularly? Hearthstone created an ecosystem where there were enough personalities to support streams of 20-30k viewers regularly. No high level magic pro streams enough to even come close. If the pros don't care enough to create the environment for people to watch, people won't watch. It needs to be treated like a television show with a set schedule that viewers can regularly come back to.

      TSM, C9, CLG fund all sorts of minor eSports like Smite, Heroes of the Storm, and Vainglory. They are already in Hearthstone. Unless they've already said no (which we wouldn't know), there should be incentive to talk with the owners of those Orgs to set up teams for MTG. I agree that WotC has failed to set up a compelling broadcast and has failed to maintain a consistant prize pull with the other eSports but that doesn't excuse the players from failing to take advantage of the popularity that they do have. And to sit back on only Channel Fireball as the sole sponsor is very short sighted because CF is almost completely dependent on WotC doing well.

      I want Magic to continue as a high level eSport but we have to take the funding model more seriously on both WotC's and the community's part to make sure that there is enough there to make people want to play at the very highest level.

      Thank you

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    6. I wonder how stream viewership would be affected if MTGO wasn't pure canine feces

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    9. Who would sponsor Magic Pro Players?

      Recall the statement about conservative legal strategies. What WotC has done is close off MtG from co-branding with other toy/tech/merch companies. While it makes sense to do so because it is owned by Hasbro, the truth is that doingva side deal with LEGO or BioWare or some other game company (that is actually decent) can do nothing but improve sales.

      In this sense the only otside sponsorship is actually direct sponsorship from within the community.

      I think the only types of people/companies that would sponsor people like Pro Players would be someone like Martin Shkreli, who does ridiculous stuff like buying a 1 of 1 Wu Tang Clan Album just to own it. That is what you are looking at.

      WotC has made it so the external world doesn't care at all about Magic unless they are getting sued by WotC.

      That's the truth.

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    10. What about these companies: http://cloud9.gg/partners/

      Outside of a couple which are League of Legends specific, all of those companies could sponsor Pro MTG teams. I agree that WotC has done a terrible job branding the Pro Tour but the players should be able to get personal sponsors that they can represent.

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    11. I think what Matt S said rings the loudest about why Magic Streamers are not more prevalent. MTGO is such a bad interface that it is not enjoyable to watch a stream of it. I get bored of HS which is why I do not play it more than I play magic, but hearthstone streams are pretty fun.

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  3. Yeah, this says it all about WotC's disgusting corporate greed and how they stribe to hit new lows. I expected a lot of shit from then, but NOT breaking their promise to platinum players of the rewards such status would achieve for next year. That's completely in bad faith.

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  4. The Pro tour survived 20 years without appearance fees. What Wotc did is unethical, immoral and possibly bad for the game, but, the game will continue on.

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    1. This is basically untrue, there have been appearance fees and similar incentives since at least 2003. Prior to that they have the Masters series before each PT that was like a "mini-worlds" designed to give the top 32 players another tournament to make money on to be able to be professional. They got rid of that in 2003 to make the players club so that things would be more consistent for players. So for about ~13 of the years they've had a pro club with appearance fees etc.

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    2. If you think appearance fees were literally just invented, you haven't been paying attention to the PT for the last decade at least.

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  5. they seem to forget that a lot of players dream to make platinum, HOF or even PT... (to live of mtg) and they sell a lot of products with this dream. without money, the game just become a casual game. they still make money with EDH and other formats, and they might think investing in the competitive scene doesnt worth it compared to their sales with the casual stuff. but IMO a less enthusiasm competitive scene will make them lose some casuals as well... i don't like their decisions right now. they redid the price of GPs (top64 of a 3000persons event, like seriously? all the money to the top?) They are losing market share to heartstone and cie (elder scroll are coming with a virtual cards game this year) and it seems they dont care about it all. may be the golden age of magic is over and the game is dying... it just seem imo the thing(MTG) became too big for them too fast and they dont know what they are doing with it.

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  6. "And I suspect Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, will back off the timing component of the decision and make the new benefits effective 2017-2018. I suspect this because the backlash has been much larger than the dollar amounts are. As described above, Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary, is a greedy hellscape of myopic corporate pragmatism, and I predict they do the now seemingly pragmatic thing on the timing issue."

    Yeah, they will revoke the cuts, but start banning the 3 most popular modern decks each B&R update, saying it is nessecary so the platinium pros don't solve the metagame, until we all beg them to do away with platinium level alltogether, to which they will, after some torturing wait, gleefully agree.

    See, it is easy to figure them out.

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    1. Jokes on you, they just cut modern as a format for PTs, because it doesn't promote the new set enough. Its the promotional tour after all so go figure. :(

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  7. People tend to forget that this is not the first time the goalposts have moved. It's more like the fifth time that major changes were announced which took effect nearly immediately. As with the current change, those past changes affected people who had earned their benefits by paying with their time, expense, etc. in order to achieve the success. The real travesty to me is that they still refuse to learn from the past. There's brief uproar, then eventual resignation and continued support for WOTC. It's happened to players, to stores, to tournament organizers again and again. Nobody should be surprised at this point.

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  8. Might even be that Greg Leeds left because he could not be president of what Hasbro was shoving down Wizards' throat...

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  9. Whenever others have tried to get me to pick up Hearthstone or Hex I've replied "I barely have time for Magic, why would I pick up another game"? WOTC's decisions to limited the relevance of non-standard formats, make standard cards legal for only 12 months, increase the cost of sealed product (either through MSRP or cost to supplies which causes stores to raise prices), inflated premium sets like MMA that have poor quality control, and an increasing cost to play the game for my friends who often don't have as easy access to cards makes me question more and more why I don't take another break from the game and try out the games many of my peers are now playing - games with a better online experience that are cheaper and more accessible.

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  11. Novak Djokovic is not an ATP employee (Tennis pro for those who don't follow sports) and he gets appearance fees sometimes multiple times the amount the winner of the tournament gets. Yeah, I think the employment theory can go right out the window.

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    1. Those appearance fees are paid by the tournament organizer, the ATP has nothing to do with that so I fail to see your point... The biggest tournaments (Grand Slams) don't pay appearance fees. In magic this would be the Pro Tours

      In magic it would be like the organizer of a GP paying $5,000 to Jon Finkel to show up, because he somehow believed he could monetize mr Finkel's presence. (by selling more drafts or whatever)

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  12. Your theory about how the paying of appearance fees might be construed as employment struck a particular chord with me when I began to draw parallels to the NCAA and their ongoing battle to NOT pay their athletes. Athletes on scholarship receive room and board, an education, and a stipend to cover food but nothing else (any more and it's considered a violation, subject to revocation of scholarship). Despite the fact that the NCAA and schools make millions (billions!) off of their athletes, they fight tooth and nail to not pay them anything more than the scholarship provides because that would open the door to employment status and subject the athletes to benefits, not the least of which would be healthcare.

    I assume that if you reach platinum status your airfare and hotel are paid for? The appearance fee seems to be just the right amount to cover food for the duration of a PT weekend and maybe some extra if you don't eat extravagantly or drink. The more and more I think about it, this seems like an attempt to reduce professional players to some kind of amateur status so that WotC (very much a subsidiary of Hasbro) won't be responsible for benefits or lawsuits claiming employee status.

    Great read! If you're interested in learning more about the NCAA and that whole shitstorm, I recommend the documentary "Schooled:The Price of College Sports". The parallel might not be totally accurate from a legal standpoint, but it definitely got me thinking.

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  13. I agree with everything you've written aside from the conspiracy theory.

    I think the reality is that you have lot's of nice and incompetent game designers who understand Magic and the community, and some third rate business folks who don't understand the uniqueness of MTG and how much of a value add to their bottom line the community is.

    There is no other product in existence that is similar to the MTG business model. Managing it properly is clearly beyond the skill of whatever product and brand managers Hasbro is putting on the case, although they are admittedly doing an extremely poor job even factoring in the inherent difficulty.


    At the end of the day, they need to do right by the players who earned the cash. I suspect they will, as their is a pretty long precedent of them admitting they have no clue what they're doing and backtracking.


    Honestly, Hasbro missed the boat on a new CEO. Whoever is running the show at Starcity games should have been their person, as that is a company that has fantastic business sense as well as an understanding of Magic and the Magic community, and how to form a mutually beneficial relationship between those two entities. Of course whoever is at SCG may have been contacted and told them to kick rocks, who knows.

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  14. Not paying out the earned benefits is a bit rough and is a stand alone issue. There is another side to this, and evidence of this is all over the PPTQ participation. Progressively the PPTQ's attendance have been rising. JC Tao proved to all the grinders and the hopefuls in the world following his top 8 profile statement of (Previous Magic Accomplishments) "Nothing Worth Mentioning", that even you, the random guy who has a dream to win the Big One, can. Given that statement there is a lot of people who would happily trade off appearance fees for a shot at the finals. Maybe most people don't understand what it takes to sustain a magic Pro career or even get there, but the dream of hoisting the trophy is what is being sold. On any given Friday Night, you walk into a shop the players would probably not even be able to name many of the pros who are ranked in the top 20. The people paying for the R&D and all the salaries up in Washington are the millions and millions of booster packs and licensings Wizards is selling. The ProTour is a giant marketing expense for them and if they feel they are not able to push more product out the door because of the Pro Tour its possible to see why they would be slowly backing away from it by reducing their support for the Pro's as step one. Conversely GP's are becoming the premiere showcase for magic they are: growing and accesibe to anyone so pushing the prize support and support in general there makes sense. I saw Martin Dang in GP AC last year walking around by himself, very few people even recognized him and he had just won the pro tour a month back! I think the bottom line on all of this is that Magic is an extremely fun and entertaining game to play. And hopefully the judges and the pros and WOTC can come to a meeting of the minds on their problems, we've had some great years behind us, and for most of us these issues dont' directly touch us so it's hard to take sides. But again, one thing is for certain most of us really enjoy playing Magic even if only pride is on the line.

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  15. I would've been fine had they increased prizes to the stakes of other games such as poker or esports. But they rip off the players then rip off the players? I quit.

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  16. What exactly is the purpose of adding "a Hasbro subsidiary" after every single time the word "Wizards of the Coast" is used? It looks extremely clunky and odd. If the point was to try to imply that Hasbro was the one responsible, you should have done so explicitly and then moved on, because continually seeing "Wizards of the Coast, a Hasbro subsidiary" got annoying rather quickly.

    I know that didn't have much to do with the content of the article, but that stuck out at me as so awkward it ended up distracting me.

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  17. Hmm, I've been saying for years that Wizards is inept and the response I always got from everyone in the community was "this fame is huge and growing, you're an idiot and Wizards is brilliant". Glad to see someone with more credibility towing my same line of "if they weren't idiots, they could be doing so much better..."

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  18. So let's introduce internal drama within the pros. Let's turn magic into big brother. Put 6 pros in the same house for 6 months. Spread nasty rumours about each of them and film the snippets where it all culminates into one big grudge match of magic where the winner gets to supplex the loser. And then John Cena shows up screaming YOU CAN'T SEE ME MEDDLING MAGE! and punches Tom Martell in the back of the head and then stealing all his cards. Seth comes on to discuss how he's been struggling with an eating disorder and it's wrecking havoc on his ability to tap lands like a normal person, LSV finally takes a shower and gets a decent haircut after much taunting from the flat mates. Gerry is introduced half way in the season to inject some coolness in the room but he just walks in and then walks out (a la Papa Simpson and the brothel). He'll have a cool hat.

    We then introduce Gaby Sparkz so that a love interest can develop between her and Laarson only to be thwarted when it's revealed he's wearing a wig because let's face it, no one has hair as cool as that in real life.

    I'd watch that.

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  19. Wouldn't a solution to the legal liability problem (of players being employees) be to just include wording in the agreement for when you reach platinum (agreement which should be public knowledge beforehand) of "My agreement forms a legal contract in which I have the status of independent contractor, and I will in no wise claim that this contract grants me the status of an employee of Wizards of the Coast, or entitles me to any of the benefits of employment beyond what is specified in this contract". In addition, many contracts nowadays enforce the waiver of the right of initiating or being part of a class action lawsuit - I assume such clauses are valid before the law.

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  20. WotCaHS deserves everything they are going to get in backlash for this change. For years now the fans of the game have had to put up with the outrageously bad management at the company, which was apparently held afloat only by the fact that there was no real competition. What boggles the mind is that now that there IS competition, WotCaHS apparently STILL don't feel spurred into action and continue on a course of short-term myopia that any outside observer can tell will only lead to disaster.

    To me, one of the biggest offenders in that whole steaming pile must be MTGO. As the entire world goes into a digital millennium, MTGO thinks it's alright to offer customers 1990s-level software quality, and a business model that fits the times and trends like whalebone corsets fit fashion. In a world of streaming, mobile, and micro transactions, MTGO is about as useful as a toilet paper umbrella.

    It is entirely a problem at the top. The people down the ladder are passionate fans of the game who love what they do, but they are forced to do it in a way that is dictated from above - and dictated terribly. That the community does not take off and enter the world in the same way games like HS or LoL have is no surprise. The conditions for any magic player to get themselves out there and use the game as a platform are as terrible as they could be, and consistently being sabotaged by mind-boggling decisions from WotCaHS's leadership.

    What needs to be done to fix this? There are many answers, but one thing seems clear: it has to be directed from above, but built up from the ground. You want people watching more Magic online? Make it more watchable. Have a client that doesn't reek of Netscape Navigator, with a business model that isn't obviously terrible to ever get invested in for anyone with more than 3rd grade math. Hire people who can produce and deliver a coverage worthy of a 20-year old game instead of a 20-day old webcast from mom's basement. Provide the MEANS, and people will provide the CONTENT. That's how all the other games do it, and they are more successful by orders of magnitude despite being, game-mechanically, inferior products with far less history.

    WotCaHS has apparently grown so accustomed to being the only fish in the pond, that they've grown arrogant to the point of decadence. They think they can do no wrong and that who and what they have is perfect; that a quick sheen equals a deep polish; and that anything and everything will be forgiven, because they can do no wrong and will retain their customers forever by simply being who they are. Now, IANA businessman, but that doesn't seem like a sustainable strategy to my untrained eyes.

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  21. "fuck off with that Community Super League appropriation"
    I thought that wasn't something WotC had come up with - Randy started the VSL on his own accord and did include the "Streamer-bracket" in the SSL. But as far as I can tell, WotC is willing to sponsor these types of things as a marketing vehicle (After LLR set themselves up to stream paper magic, they suggested to WotC that they could have a sealed event and stream it, WotC came back to them within a day offering to send them prerelease packs a week early and offer travel costs for the people they would invite, which James from LRR found rather surprising, because they were thinking about doing something maybe for Eldritch Moon).
    One of the basic ideas with any kind of geek economy is that to some degree it tries to make people invest not only money, but more importantly unalienated labor. That's why there are very active communities for computer game mods, there are people building terrain for tabletop wargames, that's why there are a lot of youtube channels and podcasts dealing with MtG. I think one of the things that has changed over time is the shear breadth of angles under which MtG can be viewed and it took WotC a long time to figure out that it existed (they first noticed a lack of correlation between tournament attendance and cards sales furing Time Spiral block and really only found a product that sold primarily to people who did not find their way to organized play with the first Commander releases). Community content got me back into MtG (Here's the demand for more head games). I think looking for ways to use the community to advertise is something WotC is handling well. And I'm not sure how much this is related to changes in OP. The LRR Pre-Prerelease has 10 times as many views on YT as the finals of PT OGW (I think PT SOI is too new to make a decent comparison).

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