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Getting Serious About
A Retailer’s Guide to Hosting, Nurturing,
and Leveraging Casual Gaming
Getting Serious about Casual Play: A Retailer’s Guide to Hosting, Nurturing, and Leveraging Casual
©2015 wizards of the coast llc.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or
unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written
permission of wizards of the coast llc Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and their respective logos are trademarks of wizards of the coast, in the U.S.A. and other countries.
wizards of the coast llc Visit our web site at WPN.Wizards.com What do we mean when we say “casual play?” We mean two things: the structure of the event (round structure, prize structure) and the atmosphere of the event (good humor, good sportsmanship).
This guide can help you leverage both of those things. You’ll learn what casual play looks like, why it’s important, and how other stores are finding success with it.
Ready to get started?
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 3
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 4
Running Casual Events:
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 5Retain New Customers by Up to 75% Find out how to attract new players and increase the likelihood of them returning by up to 75% in this short video.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 6How Casual Grew Games Academy When Fabio Zuccarini started his store Games Academy almost eight years ago, he didn’t like the idea of promoting competitive events.
Instead he focused on casual formats for in-store play, offering a wide and diver- sified game experience, varying from Commander and Pauper to Intro Packs and Duel Decks.
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 7Fabio’s main idea was simple: offer formats that are affordable to customers, but at the same time build profits by promoting sales of new Magic: The Gathering products.
Intro Pack League A clear example is Games Academy’s Intro Pack/League.
Every time a new expansion is published, Fabio starts a league where players can only play with Intro Packs of the new set and can only add cards from new boosters if they do not win games.
Fabio keeps track of all the boosters that players open for the league, ensuring the integrity of the events and educating his customers to play in a casual environment.
The store’s weekly calendar is a great example of casual day-by-day events.
On Monday, the store offers a Commander League, Tuesday: Intro Pack League, Wednesday: Standard; Thursday: Commander Casual; Friday: Commander FNM and Standard FNM; Saturday: Booster Draft.
At every event, he offers a flattened prize structure to entice new players. Everyone at the event walks away with at least a booster pack.
“Veteran” formats like Modern, Legacy, or Vintage are limited to big competitive events like Grand Prix Trials or Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers.
Results Beyond Expectations In 2014, Fabio sold almost two hundred Intro Packs and eighty Commander decks, and his store was one of the first to reach the Advanced Plus level in Italy.
Every time a new league starts, an average of 25 to 30 people join and Fabio signs up at least eight new players each month.
Changes in Friday Night Magic’s structure, allowing playing casual formats in Friday Night Magic events, helped to boost his casual business even more.
Games Academy has gained more than 10% growth in Magic products over the last five years, which Fabio credits to his focus on running casual events.
By Marco Soranno
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 93 Offbeat Event Ideas that Can Draw New Players What events do you run to draw new players? Bring-a-friend nights? Learn-to-play events? Those are good, time-tested ideas, but a lot of WPN stores are getting inventive and finding new players off the beaten path.
Here are three:
1. “Mom-And-Me Magic” Sometimes parents are curious about the game their child loves, but timid about getting involved. Sometimes they’re Magic veterans, eager to share their passion.
Both needs are met at The Gameboard’s “Mom-and-Me Magic” event, in which mothers and their children play Two-Headed Giant against other mother/child teams.
But there’s a catch: if the more experienced player wants to advise the other, they have to sacrifice a permanent.
Owner Lynn Potyen recalls a particularly absorbing match, in which one team was desperately behind when the son identified a way to survive. He chose to sacrifice a permanent—putting himself at risk—in order to keep his mother in the game.
“But it worked out and they won!” says Lynn.
Last March, the parent of a deeply enthusiastic young Magic player asked Keegan Conrad of Comics to Astonish for Magic birthday party ideas.
Ray Nee, the store manager, quickly chimed in: “We could run them their own private party in the store!” Comics to Astonish provided product and an organizer, the parent provided cake and ice cream, and the result was three hours of Magic in a private, VIP-style setting—a great experience, especially for young players.
Many kids experienced Magic for the very first time, and Keegan says they’re still turning out for FNM.
“Once we did it, I was like, we probably should have thought of this years ago.”
Four years running, Jason Webster of Dreamer’s Vault has connected with the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and hosted a Booster Draft on the festival grounds.
Entry to the draft includes admission to the festival and costs about the same as a general admission ticket. The festival provides the product, Jason provides the prizes, plus saleable peripherals like sleeves and deckboxes.
Jason says the Ren Fair has brought new faces of all types into the store.
“It’s probably the most diverse age group of any event that I’ve ever run. It’s a very good way of getting our name out there.”
Jason’s tips for working with Ren Fairs:
• Reach out to the marketing department • Choose a backup location in advance of inclement weather • Stay on flavor (no computer, no printer) • Issue coupons that can be redeemed in the store • Keep the rules enforcement at the “kitchen table” level What unusual events are you running to draw new players? Tell us at WPNStories@ Wizards.com!
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 13Why Your FNM Could Be 15 Times Bigger Every Friday, countless players come together for the indispensable experience of communal, face-to-face Magic that has been lifeblood of the game for years and years.
And then there’s Friday Night Magic.
94% of Magic is played at home.
Of all those gamers, just six percent have that face-to-face experience in stores.
That’s exactly why FNM is open to any format—to give you flexibility to draw players who want that priceless in-person experience, but who want it in a relaxed environment.
Start players off on the right foot with open play, learn-to-play events, or multiplayer formats. It’s all fair game at FNM.
But that doesn’t mean your engaged players lose out.
FNM can be any format.
Pandemonium Books and Games A diverse FNM like Pandemonium’s satisfies engaged players while providing an inlet for new ones.
So add some casual play to your FNM!
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT CASUAL PLAY 16Build a Better FNM On January 9th, 2015, 71 players turned out for Friday Night Magic at Pandemonium.
Twenty-five were playing Standard, twenty-nine were playing Modern.
The other seventeen were blazing a trail toward a better FNM.
Right on Schedule After FNM changed in early 2015—all formats, more promos, no minimum player requirement—Brandon Petitpren quickly diversified his offerings, adding programs for more casual players.
Like those seventeen—24% of an already formidably sized night of Magic.
6pm: Standard New options for casual players doesn’t mean fewer options for everyone else— Standard still fires promptly at six.
Brandon says adding casual play has even boosted his traditional tournaments— new players get a closer glimpse into that world, which sometimes proves irresistible.
7pm: Pauper In Pauper, players build decks entirely out of commons. At Pandemonium, it’s a free-to-join, low-pressure entry to constructed Magic.
How Pandemonium’s Pauper league works:
Players each build three decks, no two of which can share a color. Players switch decks over six weeks, playing three matches per week on up to three weekly league meetup nights.
On certain nights, decks are put into deckboxes, shuffled, and issued at random. The deck you get is the deck you play.
Pandemonium has built a terrific crowd around high-level play. That crowd is as strong as ever under the new paradigm.
“We still get mid 30s to mid 40s for Standard and Modern.” All Night: Commander League Three FNM promos are earmarked for Commander league players.
How Pandemonium’s Commander league works:
Rather than earn points over a season, players start with 40 and lose them for in-game offenses like taking more than two turns in a row or doing too much damage in a single combat phase.
A “cube” is a draft format custom-built out of cards from Magic’s history.
Pandemonium has three, and they’re available to any player who can find three friends to join in.
Brandon says it gives newer players a thrill to see classic, powerful cards in action, which is sometimes a starting point into new formats.
But even if it isn’t, drawing a new player types is an end in itself.
“The crowd has definitely grown and diversified,” says Brandon.
Take it from Lee Wiegand of Know Dice Games!
He Found a Community Partner When a representative from the Boys and Girls Club of America reached out to Know Dice Games, he and his staff headed down for a visit, bringing plenty of Magic sample decks to hand out and use to teach the game.
Getting involved in their community, inspiring and educating children, and spreading joy were rewards in themselves. But Lee quickly realized that it was also an opportunity.
After his experience at the Boys and Girls Club, Lee decided to launch a second Friday Night Magic event and focus it on educating new players.
This new FNM event is free to play, uses sample decks only with no structured tournament, and is marketed towards new and less-experienced players.
Those who participate in this event get a discount on the second FNM event that starts a couple hours later. This includes veteran players as well!
In fact, Lee has a veteran player who regularly attends to help teach new players the game.
He Says a More Casual Event Pays Off About twenty players attended the first few learn-to-play FNMs—a lot more than what he expected!
Not only did the event draw in new players, including some of the Boys and Girls Club members, it created a more relaxed, welcoming atmosphere overall.
Before they added the casual event to FNM, Lee explained, “We had players who would leave before [FNM] even started once they learned that our top player was playing in that night’s event.” Now casual fun is the priority and everyone has an equal chance of getting an FNM promo.
You can follow in Lee’s footsteps! Contact a local community organization like Boys and Girls Club of America and YMCA and see how you can get involved. Then create your casual event for Friday Night Magic and invite the community to come and play at your store!
Think back. What did you wish you could do? What creative ideas did you want to try out?
Chances are, most of those ideas are fair game now. FNM is open to all formats, engagement levels, and all ages.
Here are three ways you can take advantage:
1. All Formats Try out any formats your players like. Even formats that don’t exist yet!
Challenge your players to dream up new, inventive ways to play. Clever communities have been doing this from the beginning, and now they can do it at FNM.
A few examples, courtesy of reddit:
“Field Marshal. 60-card singleton deck, but you can have four of any one creature.”
“Couch Magic. Play Magic across the couch with a friend. Any permanents or spells that fall off the couch are exiled.”
2. All Levels of Engagement Pandemonium Books and Games embraces this philosophy with offerings for every imaginable player, new or experienced, casual or committed. Modern, Pauper, Commander League—you name it.
“Even if you’re not playing, it’s a great time to hang out and talk Magic. See you tonight!”