Tagged: Magic The Gathering

Ed Catto: GAMA – Rolling the Dice, Vegas Style!

When you think of a comic shop or a card store, you might think of the fans who shop there or the folks who run it and how they are so passionate about the things they love. Retail shops like these are always the epicenter for focused geek authenticity.

And when you think of Las Vegas, you might think of gambling, or partying, or glitzy entertainment. Vegas isn’t about deep or thoughtful enthusiasm about your passions, it’s about giving vihttp://www.comicmix.com//?p=109466&preview=truesitors a license to be enjoy the moment, and to be both indulgent and shallow without any guilt.

So it’s incongruous, in many ways, that over 400 of the nation’s card/comic shops attend the GAMA trade show this past week in Las Vegas. For more than 20 years this event has helped connect, educate and motivate hobby stores. The Expo focuses on card games (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Cardfight!! Vanguard, etc.), board games, miniatures and all the related products and services.

Trade publication ICV2 recently reported that the hobby games business is growing at about 10%. Amazingly, this is the 8th year in a row of growth. This growth comes from many different segments. On one hand, Magic: The Gathering grows the business for established fans, and parent company Hasbro seems to be noticing more than ever.

On the younger side, the incredible resurgence of Pokemon proves to be the perfect gateway property for whole industry. The game community does a good job of onboarding and cross promotion.

GAMA estimates there are 3,200 game stores nationwide. And although last week’s GAMA trade shows focused on card games and board games, many of these retailers are hybrid stores and also carry comics.

In fact, there were a lot of the “usual suspects” from the comics world here. It didn’t take long to run across folks like Diamond’s Chris Powell, Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham, or ICV2’s Milton Griepp.

And on the show floor, familiar booths to a comic fan included:

  • Paizo – This publisher was showing off their new Starfinder property and their enthusiasm was contagious. Publisher Eric Mona was on hand, and he also spoke about his writing for Dynamite’s Pathfinder Worldfinder comic, co-starring Red Sonja, John Carter and Tarzan.
  • IDW’s games division was showing off their new board games. I was especially impressed by the gorgeous the cover art to their Planet of the Apes
  • Off World Designs is a geek-culture T-shirt design company and familiar site to many San Diego Comic-Con attendees. Each year they have two booths at that Nerd Prom, who’s formal name is still Comic-Con International, even though nobody ever calls it that.

These retailers are a strategic thoughtful bunch. Since they play strategic gamers and hang around with folks who play strategic games, that makes sense. But card shop owners are, at the heart of it, pretty much like comic shop owners. And as mentioned, they are often one and the same. They are a fun group to spend time with, and you can’t help but be pleased that they could get away for few days and rejuvenate with their peers. They are hard-working entrepreneurs whose DNA is over-stuffed with optimism and persistence.

Ed Catto: Playing Your Cards Right…in Your Local Comic Shop

Two weekends ago, I had a lot of fun at three comic shops. I’ve been to many comic shops in my day, but during these recent visits I did something new. Ostensibly, I made the rounds to Boost My Local Comic Stores (you may have read about #BoostYourLCS in last week’s column), but the real reason I visited them was to experience my first “pre-release party.”

The newest iteration of the long-running Magic: The Gathering was about to be released, so comics and cards stores nationwide hosted a series of pre-release events, as is the custom. Fans get a chance to open a sealed deck of the newest iteration, called Aether Revolt, and then play a series of card games against fellow fans also opening up their new decks.

Magic: The Gathering, as you might know, is a strategy-based card game that’s wrapped in an intricate and fascinating mythology. Aether Revolt is the newest wrinkle to the ongoing story, as the people of a mystical land called Kaladesh are called to revolt against violent oppressors of the Consulate and take back their city of Ghirapur.

Seems like the political climate in the real world, now that I think about it.

Like a movie premiere, these events start at midnight and are filled with excitement and anticipation. I’m sure the wee-hour events were a lot of fun, but I opted for a pre-release party that started at 9 AM Saturday. There were actually lots of options from which to choose. The midnight events went all through the night, and then more were scheduled, and well-attended, all day Saturday and Sunday.

This was a fun crowd to hang with, as these fans are both collectors and strategists. They love the game and love the gamesmanship that comes from a competitive card game. In fact, every player is part of a nationwide network that the parent company, Hasbro, has created, and gets their own DCI number and ID card.

I got mine too!

There was a nice mix of fans. Old and young. Male and female. Super-social and more reserved. Everyone there, except for me – I’m the novice – knew his or her stuff and was ready to compete.

As players choose a small set of cards from a seemingly endless supply of cards, there are strategies for assembling the optimum line-up of cards. And the law of supply and demand has led to an incredibly intricate secondary market. Comics and Cards stores buy and sell cards both locally and nationwide. So beyond the playing of the games, the focused task of acquiring and managing one’s collection can be an enjoyable and profitable experience.

The painting for the art of the Magic mythology is what really impresses me. Magic: The Gathering provides a fantastic outlet for top notch fantasy artists and for fans to enjoy the artwork in an accessible format. It’s all a clever mix of classic fantasy elements mashed up with witty and whimsical characters. And some of the painterly landscapes make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Tolkien novel. Check out a few of the painting of the newest release, Aether Revolt.

Since “Boosting Your Local Comic Store” is where we started, I should also note how much these comic shops benefit from card games like Magic: The Gathering. One retailer told me that card sales have recently accounted for an astonishing portion of his total revenue since he started augmenting his local sales with online sales. That’s pretty incredible, and I’m pretty supportive of anything that helps Geek Culture Retailers.