Throughout 2022, one of the year’s most controversial issues was the overwhelming tide of product releases. Frustrating players, both new and old, this issue posed a serious problem for the future of Magic: the Gathering. Thankfully, in 2023, it appeared Hasbro was finally addressing this contentious issue and listening to the concerns of the community. That’s according to Hasbro’s CEO Chris Cocks, at least. Since then, however, MTG players have once again been inundated with a wave of aggressive product announcements. While this news delighted some MTG players, many others were quickly overwhelmed, reigniting concerns about product fatigue. Further highlighting this issue, MTG’s biggest YouTuber has recently addressed this issue, explaining why it’s such a significant concern.
One Set, Many Problems
In the opening of their video, aptly titled “Magic: The Gathering Product Fatigue,” The Professor of Tolarian Community College highlighted how, technically, Wizards hasn’t announced too many sets recently. Discounting MTG Arena releases, paper players were only given details about three new sets to digest. In case you’ve all the hubbub about them, these are March of the Machine, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, and Commander Masters. Launching in April, June, and August, respectively, these three MTG sets are deliberately spaced fairly evenly apart, explicitly mitigating product fatigue.
As The Professor went on to point out, however, it’s not the number of sets causing product and mental fatigue. Instead, the real problem is the number of individual products Wizards is creating. Throughout the recent trio of set announcements, Wizards of the Coast announced a staggering 31 unique products. Even though these products are only part of three distinct sets, they’re nevertheless incredibly hard to keep track of. After all, many of these products contain unique cards and art treatments that can’t be found anywhere else. “All of which means that an individual player has to do research into and pay attention to each and everything with evergrowing scrutiny,” The Professor explains.
Understandably, keeping track of 31 new products is certainly easier said than done, however, Wizards does have a solution. Responding to concerns about product fatigue, Wizards has recently been telling players to pick and choose what they follow. While this would help to mitigate product fatigue, in theory, The Professor explained how many MTG players don’t have this luxury. Instead, the majority of players are being forced to follow more products than ever before thanks to Wizards’ segmented product catalog.
“It is not fair to say to me ‘just pay attention to the Magic products that are relevant to you’ when I am required to pay attention to, and research into, every product just to attempt to determine if indeed it is relevant to me. For formats like Commander, the most popular and played format in Magic: the Gathering, every release is relevant in some way, because every card is Legal in that format.
Perhaps Pioneer players have the luxury of tuning out Modern Horizons, tuning out Lord of the Rings, tuning out Double Masters, but Modern, Legacy, and Pauper players still need to double-check that these sets are not creating new cards for their formats that they need to track and be aware of, or reprinting something they may need to pick up. Just pay attention to what is relevant to you is not really good advice. How do you know if something is relevant if you’re not paying attention.”
The Professor | Tolarian Community College
Unfortunately for players hoping to keep track of every release, the product fatigue problems aren’t over yet. Continuing their criticism, The Professor went on to lambast the ever-changing roster of products that are available for every release. Without a standard formula to follow, players are always required to pay attention and update their knowledge. Alongside Wizards and Hasbro’s near-constant foil experiments and new promotions, even the contents of MTG packs are always in flux. Subsequently, keeping track of just where you can find unique art treatments can be an absolute nightmare.
To mitigate this problem, Wizards have been doing their damnedest to offer diagrams that explain the contents of packs. As The Professor highlights, however, these spreadsheets are far from the perfect solution. If anything, for many players, they’re evidence of just how bad the problem has become. Ultimately, due to the number of different products and constant changes they’re subject to, The Professor highlighted how even he struggles to keep up. “My literal job is reviewing Magic: the Gathering products, and I can no longer say with certainty what is in Magic: the Gathering products. Good luck, average and casual and new players.”
As if the plight of product fatigue wasn’t bad enough, The Professor went on to criticize how “we do not know what anything costs, or is even supposed to cost.” Without a concrete MSRP to base expectations around, MTG players are constantly left guessing at the true cost of products. After all, there’s no telling how much third parties are marking up their products. While this is partly a separate issue, The Professor underscored how it nevertheless worsened the issue of product fatigue.
“I do think not having clear pricing information contributes to consumer product fatigue, in that it’s yet another thing we don’t know and are confused about, and have to constantly struggle to figure out. […] How can I determine if a product is for me if I do not know what is in it, or what it is supposed to cost.”
The Professor | Tolarian Community College
Considering the problem of product fatigue has been a constant source of complaints for the past few years, unsurprisingly, across social media, MTG players quickly agreed with The Professor’s criticism. Reddit user u/TotakekeSlider, for instance, proved their point, highlighting how difficult MTG is to follow as a new player.
“As a new player coming over from the Pokémon TCG, I have no idea what any of these product lines are and how they differentiate from each other at a glance. Pokémon has 4 sets a year (with a one size fits all booster pack), and usually a couple of smaller special sets with some collector’s items like tins or starter decks tossed in here and there. That’s it. Besides the Commander decks, I don’t really understand where I would begin if I wanted to try buying anything here. I’ll just stick to buying Commander pre-cons since that’s all I really play. If there’s anything cool that I wanna check out, and buy singles for anything else.”
While new players getting unnecessarily confused and pushed away from Magic is obviously a significant problem for the game’s growth, new players aren’t the only concern. For many veteran and enfranchised players, Wizards is simply going a step too far. Subsequently, many players are cutting down on how many MTG products they purchase or bowing out of the game entirely.
“I find it confusing and I have played for over 20 years. The release cadence used to be a set every quarter and every player cares about every set. Now it’s literally nonstop and it’s on me to figure out which set and formats are supported and how I access each set on which physical or digital platform. I’m over it.”
As much as many players were calling it quits over Wizards’ aggressive content strategy, some players can’t resist MTG’s pull. Despite its flaws, Magic: the Gathering is a game that so many people absolutely adore, making turning away incredibly difficult. This point was highlighted by u/RatedM477 on Reddit, who stated that no matter how hard they try, they just can’t quit.
“Yeah, it’s tough, even as someone that only got into the game a few years ago. I keep trying to scale back and stop buying so much, but then they keep putting stuff out that piques my interest for one reason or another, often because they include reprints of older cards that are good that I never had the chance to get.
I was kinda breathing a sigh of relief that at least there’s not a notable premium set this year that I’d be interested in, and then they announced Commander Masters. So, yeah. I’m personally in a place of feeling burnt out mentally but also still too ‘addicted’ to the game to stop buying so much stuff.”
Unfortunately for frustrated and overwhelmed MTG players, Wizards of the Coast isn’t planning to slow down product releases any time soon. This is despite Hasbro’s CEO, Chris Cocks, stating, “we’re taking some of the feedback to heart,” around MTG’s overwhelming release schedule. Rather than actually reducing the number of set releases, however, Cocks instead only promised a more consistently spaced-out release calendar. “We had some supply chain issues last year, which forced us to compress our release schedules, particularly in October. […] We’re gonna be spacing those [releases] out on a more even basis.” Ultimately, while this is an improvement, it’s hardly a fix to the major problem at hand.
Thankfully, for Wizards, at least, some players have been willing to accept the new normal and only focus on specific MTG releases. Even with this growing number of appeased players, however, Wizards still has a major communication issue. Thanks to the crowded calendar, players are being inundated with new announcements more than ever. While these are required for retailers to assess hype and demand for products, they nevertheless create confounding confusion that exacerbates product fatigue. Thanks to this requirement from retailers, properly communicating MTG releases to mitigate confusion isn’t an easy feat. Nevertheless, Wizards can certainly do better, and we certainly hope they will in the future. Whether or not that will actually happen, however, we’ll just have to wait and see.
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