Reaching out and supporting.
Some game companies have gone above and beyond to support their communities, as mentioned in my last article. What about Eye Spy? What can they do to help the community and themselves? We’ll discuss that in this article. I am going to take a business perspective while doing it. Even though I could sit here and advocate for huge sweeping changes and other stuff, there is a need to be practical.
Most companies will do what’s best for them in terms of profit. So, any ideas need to keep that in mind. A lot of the things I will suggest will be free or maybe light alterations to things they already do that if not costing less, wouldn’t increase costs. If there is any hope of change you must go with the path of least resistance unless you can definitively prove it would be profitable. Remember that.
The Start of a new Era
When Eye Spy took over there was a small rough patch, that was kind of covered in #8. What else changed? Well, the transparency from the old company did. This didn’t mean that they weren’t listening though. One of the first things that came to light was that they were planning to cancel World’s that year. The community was like, no way. And they ended up doing it.
That might seem like a bad move on their part to not have worlds, but one has to understand, that from a business perspective it made perfect sense. They had just acquired a new product and likely needed to take inventory of what they had and what they could do with it. The fact the decided to put out a 4th set to New Valhalla shows they were already going with what was planned.
And no this isn’t a shill piece. I will point out some things they could be doing better as well. But taking over a business isn’t easy; many things must be taken into consideration. Each case is unique, and we don’t know what they had to do to make the transition. The biggest issue I had with the first set they released was not letting anyone know that they were only going to print what was ordered. We were all used to a lot of product being printed, so a lot of people had trouble getting DBV.
Overall though this new printing process would turn out to be successful as once we all caught on it would work out. One thing they didn’t replicate from the past was s shortage of starter decks. That was one worry people had when it was announced that Alice Origins would have starters. A shortage like that of the New Valhalla Cluster. At the time of this writing though the decks are still widely available and still within 25% of their retail price, which is far better than the last cluster.
Another thing they did to help out was to continue providing promo cards to LGSs. Some of them were hard to get, but that was due to the pandemic and some distributors not sending them out like they should have. Eye Spy provided them to be dispersed, but they didn’t find their way. Apparently in Europe many of them found their way, but in the US a lot didn’t. That isn’t the company’s fault though. Also, not their fault was no Worlds in 2020 and fewer GPs, again pandemic.
One of the things they did do to help was providing a lot of promo cards for those GPs and even to other events that weren’t GPs. Uber versions of sought-after cards from DBV were all the rage. They even tossed in Uber versions of the ascended rulers from Alice/Lapis Cluster. I bet no on saw those coming. The old GPs we would get 2 to 4 promos. This year we got 7, with a chance to win 3 more. That is good support. This is one area I think Eye Spy is doing great.
Before getting into community support, I think I need to round out this section with some other things that effect retailers and event organizers. A better way to get the regular promos to LGSs would be great. I don’t think they should do it themselves, that could be costly, and in the rest of the world it seems to be working okay. Maybe getting on the US distributors to do their part would help. There are only 3 in the US that I know of that sell the game, and I know one of them just kind of doesn’t really seem to care.
I’m not going to name names, but only one distributor really seems to take the game seriously. I’m not saying shift all of their business to them, but companies like Bandi (Dragonball and Digimon) limit their products to only 2 distributors. Just an option.
The other big issue I think that needs to be addressed is the software. TCG Meister. The program itself isn’t too bad. The original DCI Reporter for MTG was a lot worse. The issue is that no one can use it unless they get credentials from the company. I understand why this is, but I think it’s kind of backwards. The program should be accessible to everyone that wants to use it. The login information should be used for anyone that wants to upload results. These uploads help to track participation and act as a way to send out Promos to approved stores, which is a great idea. Limiting access to the program used to the game not so much.
A last one that effects retailers and players. 1 ruler a box in EDL was a bit limiting. I am not calling Eye Spy out for this. I think it’s just another thing they are likely to adjust. This was their first set with rulers in the packs. They have shown that they learn as they try new things. Take the Marvel Rares, a lot of people were worried about the distribution of them after they were announced. The rates were adjusted for EDL and it seems to be working.
Also remember the shift back to 36 pack boxes. I’m not sure why this happened, maybe the smaller boxes were due to the smaller sets or they just wanted to try them out. Good or bad, they shifted back. With making adjustments like this as they go, they have shown they are looking at the basic issues and changing as needed. Some companies don’t learn or take to long to react. Eye Spy is not one of them.
There were issues a couple of years ago about MTG’s card quality dropping severely. Players complained and it took I think over a year for them to get back on track. We can’t say that about Force. The quality has been maintained, and if anything, I think the quality of the foils has gone up. Of course, the layout will be a point for some people, but it kind of grows on you after a while, but a slightly large font wouldn’t hurt, at least on cards that have space.
Now I’m going to hit them on the biggest community concern that could have a huge impact. Power levels. I don’t mean the cards themselves; I mean the response to problem cards. The New Valhalla/Alice Cluster format was dominated by Sacrificial Altar (AOA-100). Europe decided to move to cluster only, the US stayed with New Frontiers and the format felt stagnant.
The banned lists for NF and Wanderer haven’t been touched in months (or over a year). This needs to change. I propose something that won’t cost a thing. Have a committee decide for you. Most players accept the EU wanderer banned list for that format (editorial note: with top European players and their distributors in this committee!), since the “official” one is out of date. Why not recognize that body (or something similar) as able to make those choices for the game officially? And another for New Frontiers? Put a distributor or high-level retailers on it with approval authority. This would make the player base happy and show good faith. And it’s free as well as takes something off you plate.
Another idea is to move worlds to a country that still has an active player base. I mean let’s face it, the game is no longer being printed for players in Japan. Paid invites could save money if to a place like Italy or even the US where there are very active populations, do a rotation kind of thing every year. This could also mean more GPs, since travel to those places would cost less for paid invites. Also offering more unpaid invites because more players would be able to go. It also makes Worlds a great venue for showing off the game and offering side events for those that didn’t qualify but want to go anyway.
You could also get someone from that region to run it for you, a retailer or distributor. They have a vested interest in the game’s success. So, no flying over people to oversee anything. A trusted event organizer could do it, thus saving more money. There are a lot of little things that can be done to show the community that you are listening. The two biggest are organized play and addressing problem cards and combos.
Supporting older and alternate formats works too. This brings up an idea for potential revenue at little creative cost. Supporting things like another Vingolf that reprints useful cards for Wanderer, or dare I say it, reprinting all of original Valhalla cluster, but with orange borders in a fixed set like a Vingolf. This would bring the old cards to the masses, not cost anything for art, give you a 5th product for at least 3 years (I wouldn’t do all the cards at once). Similar to the Memoria cards in Alice Origins, but in a bigger product.
Magic has had a lot of success in supporting its Commander format. We have Genesis, while not the same, there could be some room there for support that could be made into products. This is about where my idea runs out on it since I am not a design guy. But the idea is there and might pan out. Maybe offering to let some GPs be ran in these other formats as well. I know the Wanderer GP a while ago, in the US, was kind of a dud, but I would chalk that up to being location mainly. With an active and updated banned list, and being more centrally located, I feel another would be more successful.
On kind of the same topic, but not directed at the company, are mid-level events. The kind that ARG used to do. Vite Ramen was trying to kick something similar off, but then the pandemic. Hopefully, it will pick back up when we can get together again. But this is more of a call out to people and places to maybe try and do something larger or be open to hosting it.
Ruler School, our premier YouTube channel for all things Force, put together an event at the end of 2019 and got almost 60 people. This was essentially on their own. So, it can be done. During 2020 a lot of place stepped up to offer things online via webcam. There is also a lot of stuff happening using untap and lackey. Events are happening.
If your local scene is down or nonexistent there are things you can do there as well. Some articles and videos are out there to help you get it rolling. I also hope a lot of the information I have laid out in some of these articles can be used to tell others Force is far from dead.
Personally, I am looking to start doing some larger events at various locations once I am able. I have been funneling my site’s revenue into infrastructure that would enable me to do so. I started selling online just to allow my hobby to pay for itself. Little did I know that it would take off like a rocket. This has allowed me to make some nice deals, get the stuff I need to run events, as well as make connections to make things even better. I will provide more info on that when it becomes available via my site’s facebook. Needless to say, I love this game and am looking to give back. That’s the reason I slave over these thousand(s) word articles for nothing, well and to appease our FOWLibrarian Overlords (editorial note: very much appreciated Dan!).
That will wrap this one up. I swear #10 will cover Grimm cluster values. Until then have fun slinging.