Many of you looked at the title of the article and said, “this is old news. The set would have been completely spoiled by now. This is beating a dead horse.” While the set would have been completely spoiled by now, the leak of the New Phyrexia God Book is still affecting you, the casual player, and will continue to do so for a long time. The ramifications are far greater than you think.
A quick primer for those who are completely out of the loop. The entire set of New Phyrexia was leaked to the public weeks ahead of schedule because Pro Tour player and current World Champion, Guillaime Matignon provided the God Book (the term commonly used to describe the pdf with all the text and card images for every card in the coming set) to a friend, who gave it to a friend, who blasted it all over the internet.
After this happened, Wizards decided to just officially spoil the whole thing themselves, since pretty much every major Magic site had the complete list of cards anyway. Consider yourself up to date on this issue.
Consider the likely results of this leak:
This leak cost Wizards significant profits from New Phyrexia.
The idea that some people believe Wizards is losing nothing from the early spoiling of this set is simply ludicrous. These people believe that if the set is good, people will buy the cards whether they knew about them weeks before or not. I somewhat doubt that. My doubt is not based on sales information, but in how Wizards regularly releases the set. If simply spoiling the entire set three weeks early made no difference to sales figures, why would Wizards slow-roll the release of the cards for two weeks, whetting your appetite with single card reviews, right up to the prerelease? Why would Wizards spend all the money marketing the set? They know that getting you excited about each individual card in turn will make you believe that the entire set is full of amazingness (yes, I am the first person to ever use that made up word) and you will desperately want to buy every card in the set. I don’t doubt for a second that Wizards’ marketing guys do all they can to maximize each sets’ sales, and spoiling a set three weeks before its scheduled release can’t be a good thing.
Wizards will have to crack down on spoilers.
There is no way Wizards of the Coast will be handing out the God Book on any set to any media outlet ever again. They have taken significant shots from players and websites who wonder why Lotus Noir (the magazine where Matignon was employed) had the entire God Book, and why they had it so early. While some have said that it was done to allow them to do a timely review of the entire set, hindsight is strongly suggesting that the risk of having the entire set spoiled early far exceeds the reward of having your set advertised by a magazine. Perhaps next time Lotus Noir will get to spoil a card or two. If they want to continue to do set reviews, they will have to work out a way to rush the magazine to the print shop.
It may very well not stop there. If Wizards really wants to control any possible leaks, they can simply stop giving out spoilers to any media outlet. Wizards can certainly keep all the spoilers to their website. They could still release all the cards they normally do, just use their internal resources. With the wide variety of social media, along with the various writers and sections in their website, it would not be difficult at all to spoil the cards without ever having to give any of them to any private websites.
Does this sound too extreme? Compare the God Book leak to the fraud from several months ago when a few independent TO’s were caught selling the foil cards they received. Wizards did not want to appear to condone their actions, so they eliminated all independent TO’s. This response was a monstrous overreaction that is still being felt by many people in the WPN community, but it did demonstrate how determined Wizards is to protect itself. Considering this reaction, deciding not to allow outside media to spoil any cards fits Wizards’ M.O.
Online stores get the benefit. Brick and mortar get nothing.
Chris McNutt is a regular writer at www.Quietspeculation.com. His recent article discusses card sales in relation to the early spoiling of cards. While you should check it our for yourself, the gist of his article is that stores that presell the set do well when the entire set is leaked. People are excited about the cards and the set when it is spoiled. Since the whole set was spoiled at once, everyone was excited about the set before they could buy it anywhere, except online. Many people who could not buy the set anywhere else, bought the cards online from the online stores.
The problem is that this spike in sales is followed by a drop in sales once the cards become available everywhere. The people who are buying the cards tend to buy them earlier, and the people who buy when they get excited by the slow set spoiling are less likely to buy cards altogether. This means fewer sales overall, with the brick and mortar stores suffering the most severe sales dropoff, percentage-wise, over other sales venues (primarily online).
Why do I care?
So why does the casual player care? Perhaps you don’t follow the spoiler season, so spoiling early or on time is completely irrelevant to you. Perhaps you liked knowing all the cards weeks in advance, as you got the chance to really examine the cards before deciding if you wanted to buy a box or individual cards. Either way, how does the God Book leak hurt me?
The best way to see how it hurts you, is by looking at who we already know it hurts: Wizards and the Brick and Mortar stores.
As long as Wizards makes less profit from the game, there is always danger. Will they need to cut sales, marketing, or R&D to maintain profits. There is always a risk that a leak like this will hurt Wizards in the long run, and any problem that the makers of Magic have, is something that puts the game itself at risk. I’m not expecting Wizards to collapse due to the leak, but this does nothing to help the company that provides you with shiny promo cards, prereleases, and other perks that can all be taken away.
The next group most likely to be hurt are the store owners. How exciting is a prerelease when everyone there has already seen the cards online for weeks? Many people may have even made proxies of some of the cards. Getting the prerelease experience is somewhat lost due to the spoiling, so you know attendance will be down. I understand that prerelease numbers for the second and third sets in a block tend to be down, since people get three packs of the original set, so they aren’t as excited. I can only imagine how hard this is going to hit the store owners for this prerelease.
Another group you might not think of are the small websites, like The Muse Vessel. The Muse Vessel hasn’t been around for too long, but there are three of us writing weekly articles at the site. We focus specifically on multiplayer Magic, and have seen our hit count rise just about every week since we first started in late January.
I can only imagine how much a preview card would have increased our visibility in the Magic community. People who are interested in multiplayer Magic but haven’t found us yet would be much more likely to discover our site if we had the chance to exclusively preview a card. Even a common like Suture Priest would have provided the Muses with validation that we had become a recognized part of the Magic community, as well as giving us access to a far greater reader base than we can reach on our own. This was lost when the set was spoiled.
So when you ask how this affects you remember that this affects the small websites with content you enjoy like this one, the store owners who provide you with singles and places to play, and the actual game itself. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen again.
Rather than end on a depressing note, I want to encourage all of you to attend the New Phyrexia regional prerelease nearest you. I have already ranted about the loss of these wonderful events, so I won’t continue that here. I will encourage you to take advantage of your last opportunity to enjoy a great event. Encourage those TO’s to continue providing these great events, even if Wizards will not be providing the same level of support.
I will be running a small Prerelease for my son and his friends this weekend. You can expect to see the pictures and read all about it next Friday.
Until then, I hope each of you opens everything you are looking for this weekend.