In the last column I suggested I had some ideas for how to address the issues facing the game and how to grow it. Well, now I am going to toss some of them out. This are just off the top of my head, but I think it’s a starting point.
Getting Retailers to carry the game (again)
In a way, Eye Spy has already fixed this. The one rule in the retail world is to try and NOT lose money on product. The goal, of course, is to make money, but worst case you don’t want to lose. Under the old production cycle of Force many retailers lost money. This isn’t due to decisions that drove away players either. Even if the player base dries up at an LGS the owners can usually unload product online at least at cost.
If you have been reading my finance articles, then you know that a lot of older Force boxes are going for cheap. This isn’t a new thing. This was a thing when these products were not that old. So, say a store buys a few boxes of BFA at $60 a box and sells them for $80. Then the player base disappears, no one to buy locally. When they go online to sell and see boxes going for $50 and lower, they have to eat the loss. This is the kind of thing that happened, and singles was even worse.
Why would anyone go back to carrying a game they got burned on?
The answer is simple, to make money. With Eye Spy the boxes from newer sets are not only retaining value but going up. DBV is the exception, since no one saw that coming. But other boxes are still up there. Even the “worst” set they put out, Ghost in the Shell, is seeing prices for around $50. Considering that the wholesale price was $40 or lower. We all know that the box prices are stable.
This might be a reason for stores to carry the game again, at least in sealed form, singles however will be another fight for sure. Don’t expect that to happen for a LONG while, if ever. I think at this point just getting the game back into more stores would be a win. Singles are still shaky at best, but less work for retailers is good. The key is to get the word out. This is one area that the community can help.
The first step would be to just get stores to give people space to play, then have events, then if that can be maintained for a while, the product might follow. It’s one of those uphill battles that will take time. If you love the game though give it a try. The information in this article should help you too. If they know that new management is making enough product but not too much and that prices haven’t dropped below wholesale on anything they’ve made so far, it certainly won’t hurt.
Bringing back the Old Guard
Older players have already started to come back, so this point is just to toss out the reasons that I’ve seen and some ideas how to increase that. Some of them like the new cards and think it appears to be finally meeting the line between interesting and balance. Others like the reprints and the idea of using old cards.
The way to bring back more goes along the current reasons, in addition to that though I think Eye Spy has to show quick response time to issues that might hurt the game. Old issues like small sets (MOA) and awful sets (VIN2) don’t appear to be on the horizon, so that is a good place to be. The real winner would be quick reactions to balance issues.
I’m not saying they’ve proven they are going to do this, but with the quick clarifications for MSW there is hope there. One can point to the lack of a response to the Sacrificial Altar (AOA-100) meta last year as something that needed a reaction, but I think going from that to now has shown a pattern of improvement in the way they handle situations, and it’s getting better. Proving that the game is still alive and vibrant is the main way to bring back old players, who would be crucial to act as ambassadors of the game and help it grow.
Growing the Player base with limited production
This is the trickier part. Most games lose players, Force is no exception. How to combat that? If they print say 5000 boxes of a set, then players leave and the next set is 4500 boxes because the same amount wasn’t ordered, what do you do? People leave the game all the time for various reasons. But it can be hard for newer players to get into when product is scarce and expensive.
The one thing Force had going for it in the early days was that it was a cheap second game for players of other TCGs. Most players of the big 3 usually want a side game to have fun with, as long as it doesn’t break the bank. That was one of FoW qualities, it was easy to get into and be competitive as far as getting the cards you needed.
Not so much anymore. And as the price point to enter the game goes up, the less likely it will be to attract newer players, or at least those that would stick around or put a lot of money into the game. On the one hand, Eye Spy wants to keep their production model, it keeps costs down, keeps stores from losing money, and is a solid business model. The current players don’t seem to mind it now that they know what’s going on, and their cards aren’t automatically dropping in value because of a glut of product.
It seems like we might be facing a slow fade over time.
But what if I said there was a way to get more players and the company wouldn’t have to do a lot and, in some cases, not even spend any money (or no more than they already are) to expand the player base? What?
Go Old School
It’s called Wanderer. Don’t shoot me before you hear me out at least.
It’s a lot cheaper that New Frontiers and answers the access to product issue. The singles are cheap, older players would be likely to play it and use old cards. It almost makes perfect sense. Lead players into the game with the cheap option, then grow them into the new stuff. Sure, Eye Spy doesn’t make a lot of money off this option but the potential for them is there. And what would have to be done in order to capitalize on this amazing idea? Almost nothing.
For Eye Spy they would just have to acknowledge that is exists, maybe even update the ban list, or delegate it to someone like the committee that does the EU list and let their word be official. No cost, little effort, and poof you have a way in. In the future, they could even capitalize on this direct by maybe having mini sets that support Wanderer or just reprints.
This concept could be extended to fan formats as well, I don’t mean be used as official formats in any kind of competition, but by just giving some digital space on the official site. Like one page with links to the formats. Most of these fall under the Wanderer banner too, as far as card pools, like Genesis, Epic Stories and Conqueror. Commander is huge in MTG, well we have a version of that.
Other things that could be done include the Wanderer Promo every three months that is from Wanderer, encouraging Wanderer as a format for TOs to pick for a GP (and no the one GP we had that was Wanderer doesn’t count). It is an option that is ripe to use to the game’s advantage and there is no downside.
There is a whole realm of older cards that can let people try and play the game to see if they like it and then climb into the seat of the new stuff. A healthy TCG has multiple formats and events, right now there seems to be only one acknowledged one in Force, I think it needs to change. Speaking of events though.
Events are Where it’s At.
We do have to also talk about events and some related issues as well. Worlds is the pinnacle of any game. But before we address that, let’s talk about the people that make it so. Rework the Judge program. There need to be judges to help run the events. I know that there are plenty of community members who would help lend to the basics of it, like providing questions that could be used to create tests. A database of questions that randomly generate tests wouldn’t be a hard thing to develop. All you need to do is pick someone to be the head of it and some general info, then POOF, there is the foundation.
As far as compensation for judges, the past has proven we will work for promos. All other expenses can be at the discretion of the various organizers. Personnel that are knowledgeable about the game are essential for the rest to run smoothly, so that should be a top priority and in all honestly, the most that Eye Spy would have to do when it comes to work.
Next would be working with smaller organizers to get the word out about the tier of events between locals and GPs. We used to have the circuit series and they got unpaid worlds invites from time to time for their larger events. People like Vite Ramen are trying to have national level events, in the USA, and maybe toss them one. I’m not sure what goes into this, I would assume an unpaid invite costs the company much, if anything. Cross advertise these events. Just a link on the official Facebook page would be a start. A copy/paste and publish and the word is out.
By encouraging third parties to host large events and Eye Spy acknowledging them, the game can do nothing but grow. Additionally, use Worlds as a showcase. If my understanding is correct, the game doesn’t publish in Japanese anymore, so why have the main event there? Rotate it to the bigger marketplaces like the US and Europe. By doing that money could be saved on paid invites, more invites could be given out (unpaid) and they could be spectacles for the game.
Treating it like an MTG Pro Tour would be amazing. Having the main event happening while hosting side events and demos could expand the reach of the game. No one from the company would even have to go if there are organizers trustworthy enough to take charge. It might even save money. Not having to fly 100+ competitors to Japan is likely more expensive than them traveling only a few hundred miles or even just across the street.
Relocating worlds year to year also enables more invites and more GPs at little or no extra cost. Giving unpaid invites to organizers that run larger events like National’s level also add to this while exposing the game to more people at the same time. The more people that see it will play it thus more stores may carry it. It increases the player base and sales. And most of these ideas would cost much if anything.
This is a game, and the business side seems to be more than solid at this point. You can’t have a game if the business isn’t sustainable, and that is the main concern. Since that concern seems to be on solid ground, we have to move onto the next one, which is the player base and that was the purpose of this whole article. How to grow our community without effecting the progress that has been made.
But those are my ideas and thoughts on the matter. I have been around a while and played so many of the TCGs that have come and gone that I don’t want to see anything happen to this one. I think it has a strong foundation currently and for the foreseeable future but getting stores and people to get on board is the next issue and I think my ideas are a good starting point.
That wraps up this edition, come back again when we get back to more finance stuff.