As everyone reading this right now is probably aware, COVID-19 is disrupting just about the entire world’s usual way of life. Magic: The Gathering is no exception. Wizards Play Network updated its website on May 23rd to announce that In-Store Play is officially “suspended in North America, Europe, and LATAM until at least May 10th.” While this is obviously a necessary safety precaution, times are about to get much tougher for physical players, local game stores, and independent MTG sellers all over the world. Let’s take a look at all of the changes mentioned in their article and talk about their potential financial implications around the hobby.
The Latest Updates
The biggest news with Monday’s update is the official suspension of all In-Store Play for North America, Europe, and LATAM until at least May. Ikoria events too, with the exception of their new At-Home Prerelease events (they also mention that there’s a potential for the Ikoria prerelease to be postponed.) All existing events scheduled in these regions have been canceled and event scheduling has been removed from the Wizards Event Reporter.
Wizards is asking all WPN stores to encourage their players to partake in remote play opportunities and they are trying to help players stay connected by partnering with Discord to make a template to help stores create community hubs. You can read more about their initiative in the WPN article, “Keeping Communities Close Through the Pandemic: A 1st Step”. They’re taking numerous steps to try and help keep communities together, allowing stores to simulate Friday Night Magic events from home and give out exclusive arena awards. Wizards is even going to attempt an online-only, Arena-based, Magicfest!
LGS and Seller Impact
Still, I don’t see any way that this isn’t a huge blow for any LGS in the affected areas. I know in my home state of Idaho, our LGS are already feeling the impact due to the ever-evolving restrictions on gatherings being put out by our city officials. Most of the shops near me have completely removed their play areas, stopped taking buylists, and have been implementing different kinds of curbside delivery options for customers who are seeking out product to keep themselves and their families entertained amid their social distancing and quarantines.
Friday Night Magic and other weekly tournaments are one of the biggest draws of customers to most local game stores, and not being able to schedule any official events (not that many cities here would allow them at this point anyway) is going to be a huge blow to their customer traffic, even in places where their local government isn’t severely limiting the number of people who can gather in one place.
Online sellers are also starting to feel impacts, at least in the US. With a large percentage of people all of a sudden unable to work and having to worry about necessities instead of Magic, sales are naturally going to drop. I recently started a TCGPlayer store to move some of my excess collection not long before the pandemic really gained traction. I was making sales every day and even managed to work myself up to being a Level 4 seller! But recently sales have completely dropped for me, and I’ve been hearing the same from friends of mine who also do a lot of singles sales online.
I can definitely see this being slightly less of an issue for non-US based sellers, but the fact that there’s a lot less money being put into the secondary market is a rough prospect for many.
What About The Players?
Not only are LGS’s and online sellers taking huge hits, but COVID-19 is also causing all kinds of misery for Magic players all over the globe. Dealing with the real-world fallout of the pandemic is tough enough, having to worry about your hobby and the investments you have tied up in it on top of all of that is a nightmare for a lot of us. What can we do to help leverage the value of our investments and still keep in contact with a community that is, for a lot of us, an essential part of our social and mental well being? I know a large part of our reader base might not fall into the areas specifically shut down by Wizards on Monday, but the effects of the shutdowns will be felt at least a little bit in all aspects of the hobby.
Now is probably not a great time to have to be selling your cards, but a lot of us (me included) are going to have to part with some of it in order to keep up with our everyday expenses. There’s no shame in needing to part with an investment in times of trouble, but you can try your best to keep on top of pricing trends and not lose a ton of money on the pieces of cardboard you decide to move. Using our Trader Tools is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the market!
What about the players who are looking to take advantage of potential price downturns to add to their collections and investments during this time? Well, now is a great time to look for good deals and also help out people in your community who might be struggling. I am in no way endorsing trying to take advantage of people, but I know at least in my community there are a lot of players who would be super grateful to be able to sell their cards to someone local. Keep an eye on the prices of things you’re looking to move into and be sure to reach out to your community and buy there if you can!
Being separated from your local playgroups as a paper player is going to be tough, but there are lots of ways to stay connected, like playing via webcam and chat programs! Of course, there’s also MTGO and Arena, which are great alternatives! Arena especially is going to be a great place to play, with Wizards adding more and more events for people who are stuck at home, and with their new At Home FNM initiatives and the online MagicFest!
I, for one, am super grateful for the online Magic community right now and am especially excited to be joining the Quiet Speculation team as a writer. Playing Arena with my friends and losing myself on Magic Twitter instead of the news has been a wonderful and welcome respite. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or Instagram (@MTGJoeD), because I suddenly have lots of time on my hands and would love to talk Magic! Take care of yourselves and look out for each other, I’ll see you next week!