Rolling for Initiative — ‘Murders at Karlov Manor’ Prereleases and MetaZoo’s Collapse

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Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne comments on the lackluster performance of Murders at Karlov Manor and the fall of MetaZoo.

Magic: The Gathering – Murders at Karlov Manor prereleases were held on February 2, 2024, and the set officially released last Friday to overwhelming acclaim?  On second thought, maybe to only middling acclaim.  Putting it charitably, I would rank the set’s reception as, “Well, that’s interesting.”  Most stores I’ve heard from have reported sales and prerelease event attendance way below average.  Maybe it is set fatigue, as Ravnica Remastered released less than a month ago.

I’ve seen box prices going online for only about $10 to $15 above cost; booster box sales at most brick-and-mortar stores are nearly extinct.  Pre-Set Boosters, we could reliably expect presales of 6 to 12 booster boxes. After the introduction of Set Boosters, we reasonably expected to sell 1 to 4 boxes of Collector Boosters, a case of Set Boosters and one or maybe two boxes of Draft Boosters.  With Lost Caverns of Ixalan, we presold two boxes of Set Boosters, with pre-sales of zero on everything else.  That figure dropped to zero with Murders at Karlov Manor.

I cannot really blame customers, given the prevalence of Play Booster box prices at $15 or so over cost. Keystoning a Play Booster box puts the price at over $200.  Currently, I can easily find booster boxes at $118 on eBay.

I’m glad that Wizards of the Coast got rid of MSRP for Magic: The Gathering as our store would rather set its own price on Magic products.  If there was an MSRP and keystone price, or some price allowing stores to make a reasonable profit, reached a point higher than MSRP, explaining that to customers could prove problematic.  Setting an MSRP allows discounters to show how much the customer saves by purchasing from them.

The only way I see to have a reasonably useful MSRP is if the company accompanies it with an enforced MAPP.  Generally, most companies with a MAPP find it very hard to enforce them as doing so requires they to constantly monitor the internet for violations.  The only company (of which I know) that actively maintains and monitors a MAPP is Games Workshop.  Other companies have said they have a MAPP on their products, but I’m not sure how actively they enforce it.  If you are a company that has and enforces MAPP, please let me know as I would be interested in learning what your policy is and how you enforce it.

MetaZoo abruptly shutting up shop (see “Closes Up Shop“) caught most of the industry, their customers, and me by surprise.  From what I have heard, the company had not shipped any preordered product since sometime last fall.  The Hello Kitty set was originally promoted as a premium product with an MSRP of $150 (see “Hello Kitty Crossover Set“), and sold on the company’s website over Black Friday weekend for $30, an 80% discount. Hello Kitty cards and boxes still sell briskly on eBay at least through this past weekend, with several items selling each day, so apparently players and collectors still want it.  I doubt we will ever see the release of the Secure Contain Protect Hobby Box though (see “Metazoo TCG: Secure Contain Protect Hobby Box Incoming“).  Rather an ignominious end for a game that, at its peak, funded its Kickstarter campaign in 15 seconds, and sold-out releases immediately with booster boxes commanding premiums of $100 or more.

Comments?  Send them to castleperilousgames@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.

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