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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Oct 18 2011 8:52am
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(Joshua's Note:  I'm a fan of Ted Knutson, and have had a working relationship with him since he was at Starcitygames.com.  We here at PureMTGO love MTGO and think it is a great overall program there are a lot of things that need to be addressed and we think that Ted does a good job pointing those out. We hope that WOTC will take some of his ideas and implement them.)

(Author’s Note:
 If you agree with this post and feel strongly about these issues, don’t hesitate to repost this to your friends. Definitely feel free to write your own articles about what is wrong with the Magic Online program. Also make sure to send emails to Wizards of the Coast and frustrated tweets to @mtgonline in particular. In short, take action.)

I unleashed a series of tweets yesterday detailing my recent frustrations with Magic Online, with special regard to Online Prereleases and PTQ prize support. Needless to say, many of you had similar feelings and unleashed a wave of support for what I had to say. Tweets disappear quickly though, so today I figured I’d some up a number of action points we, the Magic community, would like to see addressed on Magic Online.

#LetUsPlay
First off, and this one is simple, get rid of the arbitrary dead zone after online prereleases and before the release events kick off (usually from Monday until downtime occurs on Wednesday). There is no sensible reason for this to occur. You told us “playing Magic is good. Playing more Magic is better.” So why do we still have an artificial dead zone after prereleases where we can’t play the new set? Many of us prefer to use Magic Online because it means we’re not constrained by real world deadlines – we have busy lives, and time to play comes at odd hours and sometimes unexpectedly. Making it to FNM can be difficult, but thankfully we have Magic Online. Except when we don’t.  Some of us have time to play at point X and then that time is gone, and with that time goes a portion of our business. It doesn’t come back later–it disappears into thin air along with dollars you could have made from us using the service, and it builds up negative feelings toward the product in general and prereleases in specific.

Stop the arbitrary dead time after prereleases and accept the money we are trying to give you. #LetUsPlay

 

Prize Support
Your online PTQ prize support is now way past bad and resides somewhere between Chip and Dale and beyond terrible. It’s the exact same whether a PTQ has 128 players or caps at 768 like the first Innistrad PTQ did. This is absolutely ridiculous. We have heard vague rumors that you can’t scale prize support because you might run afoul of online gambling laws, but the fact of the matter is a) nearly every TO in the entire world already does this making you out of sync and b) you have to be clever enough to figure out an alternative that works (promos? Point systems for redemption?), especially with the amount of time you have had to do so. By not doing so, players can only come to the conclusion that you are using a potential legal issue as an excuse to justify your greed.

To give a brief (if slightly skewed) comparison, Grand Prix Brisbane had 389 players (which is big for Australia) and you paid out 30,000 in prize money. Your first Magic Online PTQ had 768 players and you paid $2922 in prizes. Both events were run directly by Wizards of the Coast. The PTQ had twice the number of players and one tenth the prize support. If I were trying to interpret your intent via incentives, I would conclude that you want me to attend your Grand Prix and don’t want me to play in your Magic Online PTQs.

This is weird, since you seem to earn a ton more money from the PTQs. (Up to 320K per season – at that rate you may want to add a Pro Tour back, just so you can run more online PTQs…) It’s clear that there is a lot of interest in playing online PTQs, but it is also clear that there is a mounting backlash against your inability to increase prize support with more players, which will eventually hurt online PTQ attendance.

Fix it soon, please.

Online Prerelease Price Gouging #MTGNO
Somehow, despite the fact that a new set has already appeared in the real world and we’ve likely had 3-4 weeks of chances to play with it, you still think you can attach a premium to playing in online prereleases, including paying $20 to play a Swiss Draft. The justification for the incredible draft prices (43% more than a normal draft!)  has been that you also get a promo version of a card for playing in these, which goes toward offsetting the cost, but not a single one of those cards has had enough value to make up for what is pretty clear price gouging.

Some of us have gone so far as to boycott prereleases since you started doing this as a form of protest. Despite repeated complaints and pleas from the community, you have failed to change your behaviour, so now instead of merely boycotting Online Prereleases, we will start reminding others that Wizards of the Coast is trying to dick them with surcharges and encourage others to boycott as well.

Every online prerelease will come with any number of reminders via Twitter and Facebook that the extra money you are charging for drafts is bull**** and people should just not play until the release events start.

Competition for $$$ is Higher Than Ever Before
Magic has gradually become more and more expensive to play over the years, and yet you have actually lowered prize support on Magic Online. There is more competition than ever before competing for entertainment dollars and yet, in the current economy there are fewer of those dollars to go around. Somehow, Magic: The Gathering as an institution has continually cut what they give back to the consumer in search of greater profits.

We keep hearing about how Magic is doing better than ever. Sales are up. Profits are way up. Well outside of the corporate world, disposable income is way down. While you have been squeezing every dime you can out of the Magic Online system, forcing us to pay more and more for less and less, our ability to keep paying to play this game has gradually deteriorated. You make more money from your customers than ever before and are failing to give a single f****** thing back.

In fact, in the real world, your Organized Play changes have actually made it harder for most of us to play. When we can find local prereleases, we can’t get in to them because there isn’t enough space to hold the demand. When we can get in to them, they run out of product because someone neglected to account for the fact that we kind of want to play and play a lot. Most of the highly populated areas in Europe lost Friday Night Magic support when you attached that support exclusively to stores (that don’t exist because of property costs) and exclusively to Friday nights. You even stopped sending us cards in the mail as rewards for playing the game a lot. Oh, and it seems like you are on the cusp of radically changing the Pro Tour (again) just like you did with Planeswalker Points, but no one has been clear on what is going to happen, and if change does happen, there is little expectation

So yeah, the game is pretty great – except maybe for those six months this year we had to deal with CawBlade because you screwed up with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic…

But how you treat your customers lately? That is anything but great. In fact, it’s awful.

Stop trying to squeeze every single extra penny out of us that you can and just be happy that we’re happy paying to play the game. Meanwhile, realize that it is not a privilege to do so, it is a hard choice and one that we can change at any time. The obvious cash grabs have become so annoying and overwhelming that you will cause many of us who have been in the game for years to leave eventually, and it will hurt your business in the long-run.

To put it another way, stop mugging me for the money left in my wallet, especially when the platform your program runs on has been (and continues to be) a steaming pile of s*** for the last decade.

Fix your s***, increase prize support, let us play when we want to, and let players be happy about playing your game instead of grimacing every time they have to reach for their wallets to pay for Magic.

Sincerely,
Magic Players

Appendix 1 – Other Things We Hate About Magic Online
I’m going to say up front that this section won’t even discuss the Magic Online User Interface, which has been publically ridiculed for the last decade and is so bad you could use it as a case study for what not to do in a university UI class. It’s terrible, everyone knows it’s terrible, and supposedly some day in the far distant future (which is rumoured to be not so far as it was in the past) the User Interface will change to… something better. We’ll see about that. For now, we’re going to give you a pass here and discuss other things that irk us.

“ Why do we even have 4-3-2-2s again? Is this a commemorative missing pack formation for a format that died? Couldn’t we setup a memorial burial ground somewhere that people can visit, and have our pack back instead? ” 4-3-2-2 = Subtle Price Gouge

“ I hate how it makes you close the program to log into a different account.  Or if you get disconnected you have to close and reopen.  I’m not sure if this is a measure against people using multiple accounts or just an accident of s***** programming.  Either way, I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to be constantly closing and reopening MTGO. ” LogOff != Close Program

“ Has anyone at Wizards of the Coast actually used their deckbuilding program or tried to make trades? Do they have any idea how terrible every facet of the program is in this area? I’ve had better deckbuilding experiences on freeware programs – how the hell has it been like this forever and no one has made it better? ”    Chinese prison camps believe trading cards on Magic Online is a punishment more severe than death.

64-man drafts should be a regular event/queue.

4322 sucks – 3 ticket 6422 would be sweet.   That way you could come out ahead but still win something if you windiest round.  (note I most play classic drafts where this is only option)

The DE schedule has lots of events that do not fire… Change them. Personally I want a 6pm classic friday nights but that is just me. Meanwhile, schedule MORE 64-man drags during releases. DEs aren’t firing, but these I can never sign up for because they are always full. Is anyone remotely intelligent paying attention? 

“ If I had to pick one thing about MODO I don’t like (and this is a completely different direction from the current conversation,) it would be the entire trading experience. They make it too difficult to find cards you want, especially if it’s not something hot that people will list in their classified ad. 

“ The trading interface is hideous, and I really hate the fact I can’t just throw away cards I don’t want, I wish I could just delete anything over 4 copies.

And I wish there was a decklist browser, where I could actually manage the decklists properly, having them all stored as text files is ridiculous, what is this 1998? I want to be able to browse my decks, delete the ones I don’t want and then tell the client to make all cards (over 4 as a sub option) tradeable except the ones in these decks. There’s just too much pointless inventory management in the current client, it’s like a really s***** mini-game all of its own.

Why they haven’t opened up the API to programmers for proper store management rather than these crappy bots is beyond me. ”

The standings keep scrolling so I can never see my tiebreakers during PTQs. I don’t care how small a deal this seems like, it is infuriating.

I have to be ever-vigilant of the possibility that my clock might be ticking down even though it looks like my opponent’s clock is.

Bots are warping the economy and providing a continuous income stream to their owners in a fashion that is completely unregulated. The economy isn’t remotely efficient for customers, but no one really notices because it’s still better than what happens in the real world.

I have to close the program periodically so that it’s going at a “slow” pace rather than a “glacial” one. ”

You asked for examples of things WotC is doing w/MTGO that make people mad, well here’s mine:  The OUTRAGEOUS price of prerelease drafts.

I think Innistrad is amazing and I was pumped to give it a whirl online this weekend.  Logging in to discover that they wanted $20 for a Swiss really pissed me off.  I’m already paying $14 for a couple hours of entertainment plus digital objects in an 8-4…  not exactly a bad deal for Wizards.  $20 for a SWISS is a straight up fleecing of their customers.

It’s not a question of whether or not I can afford it, I can.  It was just a huge turnoff, it makes WotC look sleazy and at $20/pop I ultimately chose to boycott the drafts.  MtG is expensive enough as it is. 

Appendix 2 – Event Revenue and Payout
Let’s look at some examples of other tournaments run by Wizards of the Coast in the real world and compare them to the recent online PTQ. (I am going to factor out pack costs here because I don’t want to argue about the actual cost and I’m also factoring out tax paid to local authorities because we’re dealing with events in 3 different countries. If one of you is an overly pedantic international accountant who wants to do all the proper adjustments, let me know – it doesn’t change the conclusion.)

GP Brisbane – Worst Case Scenario
389 people played at Grand Prix: Brisbane, presumably resulting in something like $11,670 (389 * 30) in revenues for a prize payout of $30,000. (The amount of revenue taken in was in Australian dollars and varied based on prereg versus paying the day of, while the payout was definitely in USD but I’m trying to keep the math simple here.) There were also hosting costs involved as well as judge compensation/housing, coverage, all of which eat in to the bottom line

Net : -18330

Note: Wizards of the Coast took a substantial loss on the main event here, especially when you consider the cost of the space.

GP Milan – Potentially Best Case Scenario
1785 players paid $47.95 to play sealed. Revenues were 85590.75, prize payout was 30000. There were also substantial hosting costs involved (you have to rent a big space to fit in 1800 players) as well as judge compensation/housing (and you need lots of judges to make the event run properly), coverage… that’s a ton of extra expense that eats in to the bottom line

Net rev less payout: $55,591

Anyway, those are Grand Prix – enormous events that Wizards of the Coast uses for marketing the game and their Organized Play system. PTQs are run almost exclusively by local tournament organizers, and the only thing Wizards of the Coast likely gets from them is the resulting card sales, etc, which is still enough to make them run the events.

Except… when it comes to Magic Online, where they are now running sixteen PTQs a season. And they don’t have to split the profits with anyone.

ISD Online PTQ #1 – Probably Best Case Scenario
768 people played in the first Magic Online PTQ for Innistrad resulting in $23,040 (768 * 30) in revenues for a prize payout as follows:

$1848 in pack payouts
$1000 cash from Superdraft
$73.5 from pack payout from Superdraft divided by 8 (8 PTQs feed in to each draft)

Total PTQ Prize = $2921.5

There is ZERO hosting cost for this event, no one pays for judge housing or coverage costs. There is also no direct tax from this because that is paid up front, by the user when they purchase tickets. Programming and/or platform hosting as a cost is extremely marginal and you can’t possible spread R&D costs here because as we already know, they do their job whether Magic Online exists or not.

Net rev less payout: $20120

52 Comments

Yep, online organized play is by smack8001 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 09:26
smack8001's picture

Yep, online organized play is garbage. It seems the only way to satisfy your concerns by both changing Wizards activity and giving you something fun to do is to not play organized. Do something else.

After all, this is the kind of feedback Wizards acts on. When caw-blade drove down tournament attendance, when coldsnap and time spiral block drove down pack sales, Wizards adjusted their business model. When coldsnap and time spiral were out, people stopped drafting. It worked then and it can work again. People need to leave the online prereleases in greater numbers to kill the increased revenue from the sales.

*I agree with Wizards on the Letusplay point about dead zones. The point of this is to protect the brick and mortar retail shops who have been closing left right and center (because as you say of location costs). They need that time for players to come in, and Wizards doesn't want to kill Peter to pay Paul. I agree that it's better for the game if they take this simple step to save more stores. Just be patient. Wait a couple of weeks. Take a break. Play a different video game or go outside and see the sun on 2 Saturday afternoons every 3 months.

uhh, brick and mortar by howlett23 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 09:52
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5

Shops already get the cards 3 weeks before online releases. If they can't make money during that time, they are doing something wrong. There is no reason to have a "pre-release" online and then a dead zone then a release...other than WotC can gouge us for the "pre-release" dollars. I would rather they wait another week from the paper release and then just release the set online and keep it there.

Ah, I misread the original by smack8001 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 10:00
smack8001's picture

Ah, I misread the original article. I thought he was talking about the 2-3 weeks between paper and online release. I agree with you then, the dead zone between online prerelease and online release (which are both just "releases" but one is more expensive) doesn't make any sense except for price gouging.

In paper there is a difference between prerelease and release; you can only buy boxes at release and people actually buy boxes. But nobody buys boxes online so there isn't any distinction except for the gouging.

Magic Online by Fred1160 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 10:31
Fred1160's picture

I stopped playing online because I got tired of pouring my money into a hole.
Online you're paying for digital objects that you don't even own. Any time
WOTC decides to pull the plug you're screwed.
Their pricing and prize payout are designed to get every last nickel they can
get. Customer appreciation and customer service are non-existent.
I could possibly live with that if the Magic Online were state-of-the-art.
(You have no idea how difficult it is to type the words "Magic Online" and
"state-of-the-art" in the same sentence.)

While I agree 200% with this by Westane at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 10:43
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While I agree 200% with this entire article, the cynic in me believes whole-heatedly that WotC will either never read this article (regardless of where it's posted) or read it and blatantly disregard it. Nothing in the 8 years I've played MTGO makes me believe that WotC give two flying f**ks about its player base. In fact, their CEO basically came out as said EXACTLY that recently...

I'd like to read that CEO by smack8001 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:47
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I'd like to read that CEO comment, where can I find it?

I think that's a stretch by dangerlinto at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 13:48
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To say that the CEO of WoTC said they didn't give a flying F*** about the MTGO player base is a lengthy stretch from what he actually said...

http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/21062.html

That's fair... I'm just an by Westane at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 14:51
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That's fair... I'm just an angry person...

Ok, I agree. But I have 2 by Alternate at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 10:55
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Ok, I agree. But I have 2 issues with this.

1) The pre-release's are overpriced, but you can break even or ever come out on top if done right, or if you get lucky.

Although Pre-releases are more expensive, the bot prices and what people are buying cards for are sometimes 100-300% higher than when the cards are released to the rest of the public. So 1 or 2 cards can make you break even, or you can at least make back your tickets by winning packs + a few cards here and there.

A few examples:

Lilliana was 50 at one point, I even sold my foiled one for $75, and the non-foil for $43. But it has continually gone down.
Geist or Stained Tramp was $16-20, now it's in the 10-12 range.
The Duals were all much more expensive, like 8-9, and are now 4-5
Skaab Ruinator was 16, now it's 5.25 (I haven't checked yet today)
I sold 4 packs for $20.

So if I'm right, you can break even on every pre-release. Granted some people wont, but even if you don't get a single good rare and you win 3 packs, that is $12-15 depending on the date, and 1 Mythic Rare, that's breaking even.

2) I don't play on paper. Even though this is a release for you, this is a pre-release for me.
I think there are other people out there that do the same thing. I mean to be honest if my gf heard that I was playing a card game not named Texas Hold 'em in public, I would be minus one girlfriend. Not to mention most of those places are filled with fat smelly people. I would know, I had to quit a little over a decade ago because you shouldn't be spending your Saturday night's at a small store playing cards with other men.

So what you are saying is by Raddman at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:34
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So what you are saying is that you are only a nerd behind closed doors and you only hang out with fat smelly men behind closed doors?

Truth is, not everyone plays mtgo for profit. Some people want to just play the freaking game. I happen to not be one of those people as I prefer the trading aspect that magic has to offer. At the end of the day, typical players just want to play, they don't want to be gouged at the prerelease just because the profit margins are higher.

Besides, MTGO isn't supposed to care about the 2ndary market, therefore they should be more focused on what benefits the players financially and from a gameplay standpoint. $20 swiss drafts are laughable and if you play them, then you deserve what you get. Get your big boy panties on and wait the extra few days to pay regular draft costs. Spending that extra money to play with new cards is childlike. Children do what feels good, Mature Adults devise a plan and follow it.

As far as the article goes, I agree with most of it, I just don't see the need for the profanity. As a business owner, I guarantee you profanity gets you nowhere. In fact, I am probably less likely to handle your problem because if you are going to be that kind of customer, then I might be better off finding a new customer.

Adding profanity in your statements doesn't add anything to them, it just turns off the business owner to whom you are trying to communicate with. There are other more reasonable ways to request demands than that.

Just my 2 cents

"Children do what feels good, by gamemaster32 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:11
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"Children do what feels good, Mature Adults devise a plan and follow it."

Is that you Dave Ramsey? :P

Lol I wish I was him, but I by Raddman at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:46
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Lol I wish I was him, but I love the guy. I've actually helped teach his class locally 4 times. If our government used his logic we would be far better off! BTW that quote is so awesome, I use it all the time!

Kind of hard to justify by oraymw at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 11:54
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3

Kind of hard to justify cutting the prerelease prices considering that there were around 2000+ people constantly in the prerelease rooms. I'm guessing that Wizards brought in somewhere around $500,000 this weekend.

It's not that I don't agree with you, but I don't think WotC is going to change something for which people keep paying. Same problem with 4322s.

Also, we're supposed to be going into a new client beta sometime soon, so we'll see what things justify ranting after that.

The other problem with releasing the set earlier is that they would have to open up the beta earlier, which means giving spoiler access to non-WotC-employees even earlier. This severely reduces the ability of WotC to manage the roll out of their spoilers. Since WotC sales data suggests that spoiling a set too soon results in reduced sales, I don't think it's going to be possible to get the set sooner.

You're comparing an online PTQ with a Grand Prix, which is actually apples to oranges. Yes, they're both fruit, but I'd like to see the comparative prize structure with an IRL PTQ.

Pre-release gouging by unspeakable at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:07
unspeakable's picture

I agree with much of the sentiment, but believe it is completely pointless. WOTC was charging $20 for swiss drafts of a set that you can play for $14 if you can just wait a few days - yet the qeues were firing rapidly. Obviously for a lot of players, $20 is fine, and if that's the case, why shouldn't WOTC charge that price? I think there are several reasons why people play in these pre-release queues. One, they can get higher prices for some of the chase cards during that timeframe. Two, they can get ahead of the curve on experience so they have an initial advantage over drafters who wait for the regular release. Three, they simply don't have the patience to wait and are willing to pay a premium to play NOW. Until people start not attending the pre-release, I can't blame WOTC for charging a high price. Note that I am one of those players who is happy to wait until the price becomes a more reasonable $14, and accept that I may take it on the chin a couple times from more experienced drafters while I get up to speed.

As far as the dead zone; perhaps that gives WOTC an opportunity to fix any bugs that were identified during the pre-release. Another advantage that I didn't mention above is that the pre-release also provides WOTC a sort of super-beta test before the actual release to make sure the new cards aren't causing any problems.

Wishing WOTC would charge less, but accepting that there's no reason why WOTC should not price at a level that corresponds to demand.

Don't agree with the comment by GainsBanding at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:41
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Don't agree with the comment about not being able to find cards online. True, a search for cards available for trade is not built in to mtgo beyond classifieds, but last time I checked this thing called Google exists and many bots have websites. It's so easy to get any card day or night on mtgo, usually for pennies. I get upset when it takes me more than five minutes to find a card. Compare that to paper where you've got to scour local stores (some of which don't carry every single, or if they do they are in disorganized piles in boxes) or order online and wait days.
I know this is about the things we don't like, but we gotta keep the record straight here, it's super easy to find any card you need online (unless it hasn't been brought online yet, but that's another story).

I agree 100% across the board by NO_WayJose at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 13:04
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5

You just summarized everything I hate about Magic Online. Whoever can fix any or all of these issues please do. Stop waiting. We want online to be a better experience than paper, not the other way around.

An entire restructure of the trading system to mimic that of Urban Rivals would be better. Take away trade sessions altogether. Take away the tix system. Make it so that I can buy a card for .5 cents from the lowest seller off a full list of sellers for any given card. Ie. I search "Doom Blade" and I get a list of all sellers, I click buy, it's done. No interaction, no wasting my time. I HATE HOW MUCH TIME MODO WASTES FOR ME TO JUST GET A STUPID COMMON. THEN I HAVE TO LEAVE CREDIT AT A BOT, AND THAT IS RIDICULOUS.

The downtime is stupid. The client crashing constantly is even worse. Trade sessions are the thing I hate the most about magic more than anything else. I sure hope someone fixes this stuff.

We should make a new hashtag to complain to wizards. How about #WOTCLISTENUP

I completely agree with this by this isnt the n... at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 13:28
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I completely agree with this article.

MY biggest problem with mtgo is the orcs, with calliope being by far the worst. Yes i understand they are there to keep the chat under control, and that if there was nobody the chat would be full of swearing, etc. The problem is that the orcs do a horrible job. They have no sense of context, and will quickly mute one person while letting another do whatever they want. They are not customer service, they are security guards, and they act just like a mall security guard does. The orcs need actual training, and until they get it they will continue to drive people away from mtgo.

My way of dealing with all the bullsht that wotc/mtgo does-

Stop spending money. I used to spend 1000+ a year on mtgo, easily. Now I spend nothing. I may occasionally but something from mtgotraders, but I will never again spend money in the wotc store.

The rudeness from orcs, the crappy program, the greed from wotc has turned me from someone who used to bring new players to the game all the time and used to spend close to 100 a month, to someone who actively tells people not to start playing magic and doesnt spend anything on the game.

Nice job wotc, you continue to piss off your customers.

While I may agree with the by Kumagoro42 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 13:38
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1

While I may agree with the general sense of "let's tell the WotC what our issues are" (like there's not a million forum messages per day doing exactly that anyway - except everybody has different ideas about what's right and what's wrong), this doesn't seem the right way at all. Being over-aggressive and shouting generic, pointless sentences like "fix your shit" is the worst possible way to make yourself heard, especially when addressing a company. That's not being constructive, it's just an outburst. That's why I enjoy reading this type of articles from people like Pete Jahn: because Pete Jahn is a smart, thoughtful guy who always try to understand the reasons behind any corporate choice, without demonizing anyone. This article is just a populist rant to me. WotC isn't "the enemy". It's just a company. With many different departments. Organized play has nothing to do with "corporate greed" policies. And Jace & Stoneforge was an error (in good faith) of the R&D department. It's absolutely pointless and disingenuous to put everything in the same basket.

Btw, the main points look hardly the big problems. The 3-day dead zone between prerelease and release? Seriously? If anything, the real annoyance is the 2/3-week disconnect between paper world and online.
And how many users actually care about PTQ prize support? I'm sorry, but this is a totally elitist point of view. Please take the time to talk to the many thousands of new players who don't even know what a PTQ is, and don't care to know. Teenagers that play Duel of the Planeswalkers. The (huge) casual crowd. The Commander crowd. The PRE crowd. The drafters. The real user base, not the elite. They have issues too, but to give more prizes to the PTQ players is hardly their main one. This article doesn't represent "the Magic players" at all.

Already On Record by bubba0077 at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 14:57
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My comments on the article are already on record on the original post, which PureMTGO neglected to provide: http://mixedknuts.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/the-trouble-with-magic-online/

I agree with Ted completely by NextLevelMTGCoaching at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 15:06
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I agree with Ted completely on this one. Thanks for reposting this Joshua.

I think most people would be by char49d at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 15:20
char49d's picture

I think most people would be OK with paying some premium for the prerelease, but I find it a bitter pill to swallow at $1 per pack sealed, $2 per pack draft, Swiss only.

The price of the drafts is just outrageous, I would never enter one for any reason. The price of Sealed is still outrageous, but due to the early inflation of card value it is possible if you sell everything and open well to break even if you only do a few sealed, although that isn't saying much.

The prize payout is absolutely unjustifiable. Winning the sealed swiss is the only way to come out ahead, and you are still being cheated a pack (10 instead of 11). 9 Points is worth 4 packs instead of 6, and 6 points are worth a measly pack. Considering the extra money to play in the sealed, you would think they could at least maintain the standard prize support. It isn't like the nonredeemable promo cards represent any cost at all to WOTC, so I can't see how they can justify their 6 ticket cost along with a reduced payout.

If the release events were even slightly more favorable, I would do more of them, and might even participate in a draft. When the promo card is weak (Mayor is only a rare compared to Sun Titan or Wurmcoil at Mythic) it becomes much harder to justify entering any release events.

Release events should be a time people are ecstatic and excited to play, not a time to that induces cognitive dissonance and stirs up mixed emotions.

I'd say the biggest obstacle by el_pato at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 17:18
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3

I'd say the biggest obstacle between making the game more profitable or less wallet-raping is the complacency and ignorance of its players. I personally have not put my own money into the system (but I do generate profit for wotc by forcing my opponents to pay $$) for more than a year. I am in the minority.

My format of choice for the last year was 4 Pack Sealed, in the Sealed Swiss room. Since you don't pay any tickets to play, just the packs you open, it turns out for most sets that getting a 2-1 record gives you positive EV after you sell back your rares. For example the EV of SOM block 4 pack sealed is around +.40 right now, probably more since the packs have dropped in price. BUT I noticed that ever since the release of the M12, the SOM queues rarely fire compared to the M12 queues. That's odd, I thought, because even going 2-1 in the M12 queuue, the EV is negative, about -.70 last time I did the math.

So, the majority of players would rather play whatever the latest set is than play what it is more rewarding. That's reasonable. Fun comes first to them at the expense of money. But what is more frustrating to someone in my position, who wants the best paying queues to fire more than the queues I will never enter, is that even the SOM block swiss drafts, which are the same block as SOM 4 pack swiss sealed, fire more than the 4 pack queues. But the EV in the draft is far far worse. So it's not only a matter of people wanting to play with the latest set, it also seems that the majority of players are totally oblivious to the presence of better alternatives. Not only are they complacent with having their wallet raped, they prefer it.

As far as getting restructured events with better EV, like reintroducing the 5-3-2-2 or just dropping the 2 ticket fee for every draft or giving more prize support to ptqs, I don't expect anything to change. There are too many people who don't care about price.

The Horse is dead Jim! Dammit by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 17:21
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The Horse is dead Jim! Dammit I'm a Doctor not a Miracle Worker!

Oh and pretty much echo what Kuma said above. It isn't so much that the article is wrong on any particular point but that it comes off as both elitist and populist (which is a really nifty trick to pull off but despite being impressive is off-putting) to me.

Also saying they get a pass on the UI issues and then getting into UI issues is rather odd. Give them a pass or no but don't mislead us. :)

Josh thanks for reposting but imho pure can do without Mr "I horde $10k of duals just to make a point".

I respect Ted, and I wanted by JXClaytor at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 17:41
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I respect Ted, and I wanted to make sure his words got to as many people as possible. Thank you all for replying and discussing and reading the article.

I'm not all in on the #occupymtgo movement, but I agree with a lot of what is said here.

I hate to break it to you by Alternate at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 18:14
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I hate to break it to you all, but this is a business model that continues to work, and as long as people play it, it will remain this way.

You don't think costs go up? My cable bill is $250 a month when the "intro" price was $99 for the IO triple play. I wish there was a better package, but it's called, a MONOPOLY!!!!

See WotC can do what they want because there is only 1 Magic the Gathering. But as of right now, most people choose to play 2 different Magic the Gathering's. You have made the choice whether or not to play online and in a store.

To be honest, it's your fault this occurs. Even if you "boycott" Pre-Releases, you still play on both paper and online. If you stopped playing on Paper then WotC would be put in a position where they would have to shift their entire focus online. (Which is where I think the game is going)

But right now you choose to play both online and on paper, and WotC will continue to do this because this makes them money. And last time I checked, Hasbro is a Publicly Traded Company which means they are on the NYSE and therefor their earnings reports are projected quarterly and they have to make those earnings reports.

I played paper. and when I played there was really no "classic" or "modern" there was just Type 1 and Type 2. I saw no reason to buy cards since I didn't play type 1 and type 2 was changing every 6 months. Not to mention getting the cards for decks was impossible since the only way was 1) Buy a massive amount of packs, or 2) go to Neutral Ground and buy each card individually.

But MTGO is better than paper. I mean it doesn't take up space, allows you to play any time of day, and gives you access to every card available.

So unless you stop playing paper entirely, and that means everyone that plays paper, this is the system because it is profitable.

You want to bring the price down? Well here you go.

1) Only play MTGO
2) Less paper means everyone would be on the same level when it comes to pre-releases instead of players that only play MTGO and are way behind in terms of how to play new sets.
3) No paper and more printed MTGO cards means that there would be more available to more people. I mean like the only cards would be online, therefor MTGO packs would remain the same price, but the price's on the secondary market would be more accurate.
4) Make incremental tickets. By that I mean make tickets in 1 penny, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, etc.. This would mean that you would no longer have the "credit" system.
5) WotC would need to print out how many cards they make per pack per set. For example, how many Lilliana's there are in INN. Then you can get a completely accurate price point for cards. Since you would know how many boosters are sold and how many of each is printed.

*I'm the only person thinking this, but I get the feeling that there were a ton of Lilliana's printed in INN. Just based on talking to people and seeing the results of people opening boxes, it seems like there is an almost 3-1 or 2-1 difference between the amount of Garruks and Lilliana's released.

6) Get on Mac. Opening your exposure means you would have more customers.
7) Make the client better. I mean it sometimes feels like I'm playing something made for DOS. I have seen better programs on Facebook. When your program looks worse than Farmville, you know you have problems.
8) Get rid of deck lists online that win tournaments. When you post a deck list, it means that people will just copy it and bots then manipulate the market to make those cards more or less expensive. That takes away from new decks being build, and less use of cards so the main ones will cost the most money and take original deckbuilding out of existence.

and the most important.

9) Get rid of Bots.

Bots create the market based not on supply and demand, but rather what deck lists are the most popular. If S&D was in effect, then you know that cards would go down. In theory, there are plenty of Sun Titans out there. But since Sun Titan is used in STD decks, it makes the price of the card go up regardless of supply.

And where do card prices come from? You can't possibly tell me that they have to do with paper prices. So you are telling me that you know how many packs are produced, and how many of each card exists?

Look, if you don't like MTGO, then all you have to look at is yourselves. You choose to play on both paper and MTGO. That seems rather profitable to me since you are selling twice the product and only having to make half the overall product. You are paying them double. So for people like me who only play online, I am saving money here since I don't play on paper.

If everyone converted to MTGO, would you see pre-releases as viable? Would they become more interesting to you?

And of course they would never have the pre-release the same time as the paper pre-release. The same people, a lot of the people complaining here, would then play both instead of just playing 1.

You guys have very quickly forgot that you are complaining about MTGO on a website that is one of the main prognosticators of MTGO. MTGOtraders is no different than WotC. Do you think they are angry about pre-releases online? Hell no, because they actually make money on online pre-releases. It's all about profits, and if you want to play, you have to give into that fact.

OMG, wait. Is this coming by Alternate at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 18:30
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OMG, wait. Is this coming from that stupid "occupy Wall Street" thing? Haha. That is the dumbest thing ever. Me and my friends pass by them on W. 4th and either laugh at them or join the other kids from NYU that throw Eggs at them. They don't even know what they are protesting.

And nothing says "RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE" like an internet protest. You can protest and then they will fire off a Innistrad Sealed pre-release every 10 seconds from beginning to end.

I'm angry, I'm going to post on Twitter and make a facebook page about it. WAAA.

Haha. Btw, those "Occupy Wall-Street" protestors are not there to protest Wall Street. They are there because you can buy weed for $15 and heroin for $10. If you don't believe me, go there and see how many people offer to sell you stuff.

The only thing you can do is actually do something. Get off your asses and stop playing. If you really think that will matter.

If I thought merely pointing by Scartore at Thu, 10/20/2011 - 10:21
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If I thought merely pointing out how wrong you are was enough, then I wouldn't have to tell you to go fuck yourself.

Alternate, what I gleaned by Gardevi at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 19:02
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Alternate, what I gleaned from the end of your wall of text is a rather simple lack of understanding of the "demand" in "supply and demand". Prices of cards, like Sun Titan, go up because despite the huge supply, it's in the top standard decks and people _want_ to play with Sun Titan, making his demand rise. Sun Titans are still getting opened, true, but less and less now that Innistrad has come into the system and drafting M12 isn't getting done as it was in July.

If there is a lack of demand for a card, the price goes down. Relatively simple explanation for this is Ravnica duals. Up to PT Philly, watery Grave was going for around $10 (rough estimate). After PT Philly, I picked up mine for $5 apiece - the card's supply didn't change, there was just simply no demand for Modern staples with no relevant tournaments upcoming. Now that Modern PTQ season has been announced, Watery Grave is back up to $7.65.

Also, this is laughable: "If you stopped playing on Paper then WotC would be put in a position where they would have to shift their entire focus online. (WHICH IS WHERE I THINK THIS GAME IS GOING)"
-emphasis mine.

Damn you are stupid. by Alternate at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 21:15
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1) Just because Sun Titan is in demand doesn't mean that it's in limited supply. We don't know what the supply is, and also don't know what the demand is.

During my spec articles, I wrote about some cards that were reprints, and you called me stupid for suggesting reprints. Well not only is Sun Titan a reprint, but it was also an MTGO promo card. There must be massive supply out there.
In Eco 101 you would know that even if there is demand, there is a huge amount of supply out there. The price going up is based purely on bots and people who don't want to create original deck lists.

2) I do think the game is going to be primarily online.

Think about it. All things in life are shifting online, from your mail to your grocery shopping. It is just a progression. And playing online has the major advantage that playing on paper doesn't.
Availability.
If you play paper, then you go on Friday and Saturday nights. There might not be the large amount of events or people needed to make it a good experience. While on MTGO, you can play all day long at any time, you can buy cards on demand, and you have access to tournaments on your own schedule.

Also think about how easy MTGO is compared to paper. MTGO does things for you, like life loss, transformations, legal blocks, things that playing in a store might not guarantee you.

For the last thing, look at the dwindling amount of stores that are TCG stores. I live in NY, the largest market in the US, and there was only 3 pre-releases in the city, with 1 of them having only 8 people there and the other had probably less than 20. Compare that to the times when Neutral Ground was open and there would be 3-400 people at each pre-release.

If you don't see MtG shifting to a primarily online game and the paper game going away then you haven't noticed the world around you. Lets see:

1) If you work a lot, MTGO allows you to play casually.
2) If you don't have a store near you or choose to go out on a Friday/Saturday night, you can play on Sunday.
3) Card stores aren't profitable in the largest markets.
- I have seen many card stores close in NY, Chicago, and LA over the years. These are major markets, and if you are like me, returning to the game after a layoff of a decade, MTGO is the only thing that makes sense.

If you don't see a progression from paper to MTGO then when your groceries are delivered to your door from Fresh Direct or have your bills payed automatically through your bank online, maybe you will see that all things have a natural progression. It would be so cost effective for WotC to switch only to online since it would cut down on costs massively, and don't think Hasbro won't want all their subsidiaries to start to cut costs. The first things to go are paper and printing. Why print 1 card 3,000 times when you can make that card once and just have it randomly generated 3,000 for less than 1:100th the cost?

I don't agree with much by GainsBanding at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 22:16
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I don't agree with much Alternate said, but the game will be all-online one day. The next generation of Magic players will still hang out around the kitchen table, but they won't shuffle cards, they'll connect their ipads to the network and load up their decklists. Count on it.
Or another game will come along that uses the available technology better and they'll be playing that instead.

But admittedly that's many years in the future and not relevant to this discussion.

Part of the problem with the by walkerdog at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 22:31
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Part of the problem with the NYC market is the insane cost of a storefront there... NG did good business but just couldn't afford to stay in town.

Unfortunately, world-wide... by Phroggie at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 23:19
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Unfortunately, world-wide... small retail is going downhill. Based on the type of industry it's a different gradient of slide, but it's there for the majority.

It's getting a massive hit in Australia at the moment because we're the least effected GFC country and our dollar has gone up massively. Almost any type of product you can think of can be bought online from America for $100 when it will be anywhere between $200-$400 in the store in Australia.

I think it's a real sad thing about small retail, because those shops bought life and culture to areas... a Wal-mart doesn't. But it's the way of things :(

I'm not sure if I completely by Raddman at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:22
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I'm not sure if I completely agree with what you are saying here. I def see your point and heck you might even be right.

I started playing mtgo in 2001 and haven't stopped since, but in July 2010 I started playing paper magic and I must say MTGO is garbage compared to what paper magic has to offer. Just the trading factor alone is worth the headaches of paper, not to mention the interaction, the feel of the cards, the smell of a new booster.

I'm not sure I'll ever totally get out of magic, but paper magic is much more likely to keep me playing than mtgo and I know I'm not alone in my feelings here.

They really need to find a way to make MTGO more interactive. Have a trade system that works, have a voice chat or something.

I'm sure one day paper will cease, but as long as there are collectors and buyers I don't see that day coming for quite a long long time.

"During my spec articles, I by Gardevi at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:27
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"During my spec articles, I wrote about some cards that were reprints, and you called me stupid for suggesting reprints."

I never call anyone stupid. Please don't put words into my mouth.

Thanks a bunch. :)

As long as everyone is by ArchGenius at Tue, 10/18/2011 - 20:54
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2

As long as everyone is talking economics, let's look at it this way.

There is a VERY LARGE supply of criticism and suggestions for improving Magic Online.

There is not much demand for criticism and suggestions for improving Magic Online.

Therefore the value of criticism and suggestions for improving Magic Online is very low. WotC can pick and choose who and what they want to use.

Josh, This is the first time by Sheldama at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 08:24
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Josh,

This is the first time that I have read one of your articles and to be honest I don't know what to think. The content was fine and I understood where you were going with it but there are two things. One, this topic has been done over and over and over and oever again so it come off as a huge whinefest. Two, drop the explicatives. It is just a sign of lazy writing when you cannot think up any better words than ones you have to put little ***** after the first letter. We are all intelligent, rational human beings and using college level words would be fine. Just my two cents.

I do think you have a valid point though. I have recently sold my online collection because I no longer found the game fun without the interaction and part of the problem was the pricing. I mainly played commander to a great degree of success and love to build decks that destroy people (preferably with a large degree of interaction). Unfortunately commander cannot inherently pay for itself and prices of singles only seem to got up. There is one part that I don't know if it interacts with the paper community is the redemption process. The other day a foil Sphinx Ambassador was 20tix. Yeah. 20 Tix. 20. Foil mythic that noone really kept track of and now i need it to redeem my foil M10 collection. Redemption alone might be why some of the prices are that high. You CAN in fact get paper cards from these digital ones. A uncolated set of m10 = x dollars, so therefore packs are going to cost x dollars. I dunno. Just a thought to throw out there.

You should read the beginning by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 08:44
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You should read the beginning again. Josh did not write this. He reposted it from an article Written By Ted Knutson.

Well then, Josh, sorry about by Sheldama at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 11:14
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Well then,

Josh, sorry about the misread on my part. Forward that to Ted I guess?

I will make sure that he sees by JXClaytor at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 12:48
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I will make sure that he sees it, thank you however for sharing!

Many valid points and all I by George McBain at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 10:39
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4

Many valid points and all I have had in the past. I still think charging the full $4 a pack online is ridiculous, but I rarely have to purchase packs, so I am not always miffed at it.

I wanted SO bad to do pre-release events on MTGO, but I finally pulled myself out that mindset. I resigned myself to waiting until today for the release events while playing the PTQ on Sunday. If I had my way, MTGO can keep pre-releases sealeds at 30 tickets, but have the same support as release. I think the prize payout is the biggest issue.

MTGO is a way for me to play more Magic, since I usually only play at Limited FNMs. I hope it improves more and more in the future.

apaulogy's picture
3

I do like the way Ted writes.

RE: poor prizes, blatant money grabbing- Is anyone really surprised? If you are, then it seems that you belong to a very marginal group that doesn't feel the broomstick that is capitalism penetrating you on a day to day basis.

RE: Poor UI programming- I think they are working on it. The best thing we can do is keep sending in suggestions on how to improve it.

GPs and Online PTQs do not draw a good comparison. It is apples and oranges (ed. I had a candy today that was orange mixed with apple, though. It was awesome.). Online PTQs should be compared with IRL PTQs, where the prize support and attendance is similar.

Look, I am all for bitching about stuff, but I have done enough of it in my life to know that it gets you no where.

Having worked a corporate (light) job for a number of years has taught me to build a case for my process improvement suggestions, otherwise no one will listen to them. This just comes across as being demanding and QQ'ing about the fact that "I deserve moar digital packs, cuz I spend lots uv moniez".

Having worked a corporate by Sheldama at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 11:22
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Having worked a corporate (light) job for a number of years has taught me to build a case for my process improvement suggestions, otherwise no one will listen to them. This just comes across as being demanding and QQ'ing about the fact that "I deserve moar digital packs, cuz I spend lots uv moniez".

I think this is what needs to happen. Solid cases are very important. Also, every magic player wants to go "infinite" on mtgo, but Wizard needs to keep that number of infinite players to a minimum in order to stay in business. A small increase in prize might have a larger ripple effect of people that are no longer actually paying to play.

#occupyMTGO is the best thing by menace13 at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 11:57
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5

#occupyMTGO is the best thing I heard all day.

I also wanted to mention, the by char49d at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 13:14
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I also wanted to mention, the article itself comes off in tone and presentation as amateur, and not in the pleasant way that this site is community driven content from everyday players.

I realize the article was posted from another source, but it reads more like an Alternate rant than a well thought out piece, which is disappointing because it is a subject that deserves more.

When my ISP broke my internet by oraymw at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 13:38
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3

When my ISP broke my internet connection, they charged me to come out and fix it.

When someone stole my credit card and used it to buy something from Amazon, Amazon refused to reverse the charges until I had my cousin, who is a lawyer, send them a letter by certified mail.

When I didn't have insurance and took my son to the doctor for Strep Throat, the doctor told me it would cost $180 dollars, which I paid up front. Two weeks later, I received a bill for $300 dollars for additional fees.

When my wife's college lost her fingerprints twice for the background check for student teaching, they made her pay for another set of fingerprints, and forced her to student teach a full two semesters later than when she was scheduled, since she didn't have her background check in time.

My point is that Wizards of the Coast treats me much better than any of the other companies that I deal with. When I stick up for Wizards, it's not for being a fanboy. It's because they are one of the best companies I've ever dealt with in my life.

When I have a problem with a draft, MTGO reimburses me with absolutely no hassle. They produce a quality product that I love to play. They are attentive to my complaints, and I have received personal messages from both Aaron Forsythe and Mark Rosewater addressing my concerns. I message Worth Wollpert about a problem with my MTGO client, and he messaged me back personally within 5 minutes.

Sure, MTGO and WotC aren't perfect, but they are so much better than any other company I've ever dealt with.

These are some good points. by Paul Leicht at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 21:09
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These are some good points. Not reasons to stop asking for better but good points. It is important to maintain balance.

The difference is that those by walkerdog at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 21:43
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The difference is that those are all EXTREMELY important institutions compared to an entertainment provider (amazon is a joke ofc, but your CC should have been fighting them once you reported it stolen, not you).

Universities are awful; I've had to fight through them several times and basically just laugh at them when they say, "Well, you need to..." when it's actually their problem.

My point is that WTC treats MTGO players pretty badly CONSIDERING it is purely for entertainment, not a bit necessary.

They do respond fairly well though, and I do like the people who work AT wtc, but WTC/Hasbro is a profit-seeking company, so they abuse customers at times.

Prereleases by Amar at Wed, 10/19/2011 - 22:43
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The entire concept of the "prerelease" is a scam.

The prerelease was invented for paper magic to smooth distribution issues. They needed to get product to everyone in time but didn't want to ship much in advance of the release date, so they sent out "enough to play" with the "enough to sell" quantity then coming a week later. Thus the prelease was there to cover the week when the set was fully spoiled but couldn't be sold because not everyone had received their supplies yet.

None of this has the slightest relevance on MTGO. There 's no reason to even HAVE a "pre" release except to manufacture scarcity and charge a premium. But apparently it works.

Of course it does. People by Paul Leicht at Thu, 10/20/2011 - 02:20
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Of course it does. People want the product soonest. WOTC knows this from observing paper prerelease sales and demand. Some people are willing to be ripped off to be first (check out the initial prices people paid to get things like a ps3 or iPhone.)