“Magic: The Gathering” Proxygate

So, the latest storm of outrage has erupted in the “Magic: The Gathering” community over the decision by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro to ban any proxy events being run by a local game store, under threat of that store losing its accreditation to run sanctioned WOTC events.

Mmmm…so how do I feel about this?

On the one hand, I think that proxy Vintage/Legacy events are a good thing. It clearly allows players access to the older formats without needing to spend $1,000s to buy the rare and powerful cards needed to play the format. More players actively participating in events is a good thing overall and I guess the only objection that WOTC would have is that they do not directly profit from these players. I’d imagine that any active player contributes in some way to the WOTC coffers, no matter what format they play in. However, I guess that Vintage/Legacy players would contribute the least.

This argument prosecutes the idea that an active and healthy player community is good for the overall game, even if specific segments of the players may contribute less than those currently playing Standard, the current WOTC cash-cow.

The arguments that WOTC put forward for banning proxy events are somewhat ludicrous. Seriously, the idea that writing “Black Lotus” on a basic land card is a violation of International Copyright law is laughable, but then again, lawyers are not know for their sense of homour.

Yes, real counterfeit cards are a bad thing and all steps to stop their use and prosecute those who produce and trade them are to be applauded. Banning proxy events has nothing to do with this, or any sort of copyright infringement.

The bottom line is that MTG sales are stalling and maybe even falling. Trying to corral everyone into Standard won’t work, and the tactic is likely to backfire and as far as we can tell has alienated large sections of the community.

The problem is not new, and one gets used to seeing large organizations making ham-fisted decisions. It’s just the typical bureaucratic evolution of an organization. You end up with employees in the middle ranks making narrow decisions without necessarily seeing the bigger picture. What usually happens is that either the organization recognizes its failure in its decision making and reforms, or it starts to fail in the marketplace and shrinks.

I’m not entirely sure that a shrinking MTG market is all that bad. Maybe it’s time WOTC and Hasbro had a bit of a shakeup with some culling in the ranks. I was at IBM before and during the giant turnaround in the late 90s, and it’s possible for a company to emerge refreshed from a situation like this. The game has fundamental strengths which has meant that it has survived for over 22 years. I’m sure it can weather a situation like this.