Wizards of the Coast made the rare disclosure that they sold $200 million in Magic last year. That's twice their revenue from 2008 and also explains a lot of our success recently.
That $200 million dollar amount is interesting. It's roughly the amount Games Workshop took in for 2011. So all of GW, Fantasy, 40K, Lord of the Rings and their nifty paint and tools, equals one brand: Magic.
As a store owner, I can't help think of the differences between these two. The small amount of space Magic takes up compared to the acres for Games Workshop. The bulky, nearly immovable terrain tables and cabinets and shelves of terrain needed for miniature games compared to the folding tables for Magic. Magic feels ethereal, wistful, likely to flit off at any moment like a fairy, while miniature gaming feels stolid, stable, and unlikely to go anywhere soon.
Sounds a lot like our customer base too. The problem with Magic is it remains a commodity, perpetually available at deep discounts (an area where charging sales tax kills us), while miniature gaming tends to develop a more stable community. In an experiment a couple weeks ago, we sold our Magic Dark Ascension cases (not boxes, cases) at a price approaching Internet discounters. The result was our best gross sales day ever, and a struggle for more supply, as quite a few people supported us with case purchases rather than buy online. I would like to call the Internet the "shadow" market, but clearly, when it comes to Magic case buying, we're the shadow and they're the market. We're working to build our Magic community, but there's always that shadow over our efforts.
Like Wizards of the Coast, we saw our sales rise dramatically over the past three years because of Magic, but the rise is scary because of where it's coming from. If we saw a rise in 40K, we would be more content and willing to invest more into that community. However, a rise in commodity games, CCGs, is just bonus. It's shifting sands. Sure, there's community, but the money feels like some extra cash we shaved from the Internet sellers. So yes, we plan to expand our store and actually cater to the RPG community even further, but it's with an understanding that we're one bum set of Magic (and Yugioh) away from seeing it all fall apart. We're in a perpetual three month wait and see cycle.
Anyway, I was going to write a post on looking at the positive, at finding why stores succeed instead of giving excuses for why they fail. The moral of this story is diversification. Enjoy the boom, expect the bust, diversify into other games. The biggest threat of a boom, is neglecting your other customers or other departments. GW can tell you stories about how their sales people's skills atrophied during the Lord of the Rings miniatures boom when the movies were out. That's a real danger. Or maybe you start doing the math and realize that D&D makes about 10% of what Magic does, so you start wondering how much more money you could make if you replaced those crusty book shelves with more gaming tables for the Magic crowd. Money warps your brain. Don't let that happen.
Finally, some perspective. Hasbro is publicly traded, so we can do more math to determine that Magic is around 5% of their revenue. It's money, but it's no big deal. We don't know the numbers for Dungeons & Dragons, but I assure you, it's likely to be a rounding error when you dump it into the Hasbro spreadsheet. If they do ten times more Magic than D&D, like we do, then D&D would be .5% of their revenue. So if Hasbro is paying any attention at all to that brand, they're looking at how it can be something that it's not now, like a video game franchise. The danger from Hasbro, therefore, is not monkeying with the brand, it's losing it in the math.