The Merchant’s Anvil — Ravensburger’s ‘Disney Lorcana TCG’

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The Merchant’s Anvil is a monthly column by Paul Alexander Butler, owner of Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, Maryland and co-owner of Gaming Days (parent company of Free RPG Day), that focuses on helping retailers craft sales strategies and identify trends in the games market. In this article, Butler looks at the retail potential of Ravenburger’s  upcoming Disney Lorcana TCG.  

It’s not often that I find myself driven to write about a single game or announcement, but seeing as how this column is ostensibly about seizing opportunities in the retail space, I want to talk a bit about Ravensburger’s recent announcement of the Disney Lorcana Trading Card Game (see “Ravensburger Announces ‘Disney Lorcana’”).

I’ve been at this game retail thing for a while now; longer than many, less than some. And, I can easily say that almost every announcement of a new trading card game I’ve met with a decidedly bored “huh, another trading card game.” Or at best, “that might be a bit different.” Disney Lorcana might be the first time I saw a new TCG announced that really stopped me in my tracks. A real “whoa.”

Yet, if you let the Internet tell the story, it’s all “Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Battle Planeswalkers” or “Donald Duck to go Ten Rounds with Pikachu!”Framing this release as a direct competitor to Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon TCG isn’t going to get you anywhere. I know this game isn’t set to release until autumn of 2023, so this whole conversation may seem a bit premature, but it’s an equation that I’ve seen time and time again; card game players are not a finite resource.

The team behind Lorcana has expressly stated they’re aiming for a family-friendly, less competitive game, one that’s more casual in its approach. You’re not going to get Magic players to play Disney cards in an attempt to scratch a similar itch.

I’m reminded of when Keyforge was first announced (see “Richard Garfield’s ‘KeyForge’ Puts a New Spin on ‘Unique’“), and so many of my peers were adamant that Magic players weren’t going to be interested in the game. My response was “Why are you trying to sell this game to Magic players?” To me, the perfect audience for Keyforge should have been casual kitchen-table gamers, LCG fans, and lapsed Magic players. That’s exactly who I targeted in my store with this product. And for the record, I sold a LOT of Keyforge, still have an active community in my store, and I’m overjoyed it’s coming back. Trying to resurrect a collectible game is a hard business, but as a friend recently said, “I wouldn’t bet against Christian Petersen.” But I digress.

Some of my closest friends in the retail tier have pushed back on the less competitive nature of Lorcana, believing that drive to win is what really energizes a fanbase, and energizes them to buy. While that may be true, I think Lorcana represents a very different kind of opportunity. It will, of course, all come down to the game design and how accessible it is (and frankly, if it’s any good at all). But Ravensburger has a pretty good track record with the Disney licenses, as Villainous consistently being in my year-end best sellers list since 2019.

I want to make something really clear here, I’m not personally a Disney fan. Sometimes, I’m almost the opposite. So, none of this enthusiasm is coming from a place of deep reverence for these IPs. But going all the way back to my days managing record stores, I’ve made a career out of selling collectibles to fans, many of whom base part of their identities on the love of their chosen passions. This is relevant because we haven’t even talked about how ravenous Disney collectors can be, which is also a broad pool of collectors. If you think Pokemon Trainers are obsessive about trying to “catch’em all,” I have news for you, my sweet summer child.

Social media exploded when the first Lorcana cards were revealed at Disney’s D23 Expo. A great many folks in my social circles were begging attendees of the show to try to score the promo card set for them. As of the writing of this article, there are multiple sold listings of the six-card promo pack that went in the neighborhood of $1,800, and these are all cards that are being reprinted in the first set next year. So, take that for what it’s worth.

I’ve lost count of the number of times my fellow retailers have asked me to help them pick winners, help them choose the hot games that are gonna really move numbers. We haven’t seen any Lorcana gameplay yet, so I’m not exactly saying go all in just yet, but I’d keep your eye on this title.

All of which is to say this: The potential pool of Lorcana players shouldn’t be thought of as pulling exclusively from extant Magic or Pokemon TCG players. Every new game release comes with an opportunity to expand your customer base, especially when we’re interacting with very popular licenses in unexpected ways.

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.