Introducing the New Wizards Play Network
By Nelson Brown, WPN Communinity Manager
When the Wizards Play Network launched ten years ago, there were about 2,000 members.
One also did oil changes. Another mostly sold lumber. And we were grateful for them.
We knew retail was the demand driver. Not just places to buy. Places to play. Competitive gaming spaces, community hubs—Magic needed a social infrastructure. The WPN would build it with any materials available.
It worked. Today there are almost 6,000 WPN members serving more players than any other point in Magic history. Last June Dominaria shattered the record for best-attended season of all time. Guilds of Ravnica beat that record in September. It worked.
But as the breadth of in-store play grew, so did the breadth of stores providing it. There's a store running 100-player FNMs. There's also a store running FNM in what can only be described as a tundra. How can our current level paradigm—Core, Advanced, Advanced Plus—possibly serve them both adequately?
Quality grew, too.
With more stores came more competition, and that competition refined the in-store experience over time. A store in Seattle has a glass chandelier in its game room. A store in rural Canada serves players 200 miles from the next nearest WPN location. How can our current metrics possibly measure the value they deliver to those fans?
They can't. But that's about to change.
Introducing the New Wizards Play Network
Since the WPN debuted ten years ago, in-store Magic has quadrupled in size. And we want to be able to say the same thing in another decade.
To help us get there, we're introducing a new WPN—one that scales to serve every community, one that measures quality as well as quantity.
Welcome to the new Wizards Play Network.
In: Scaling Support, WPN Premium
If the WPN has outgrown the four-level system, how long until it outgrows one with five levels? We need a paradigm that scales. We're doing that in two ways.
First, no more levels. Beginning in June, we'll replace our level system with one that rewards stores with far greater precision.
Remember that 100-player FNM? They're going to get promotional support in a volume capable of serving a player base of that scale. Overall, distribution of prize support will correlate more closely with the health of your community. More on that shortly.
Second, we're proud to introduce WPN Premium.
As in-store Magic grew to new heights over the last decade, a new class of game store emerged—the bar-raisers, the benchmark-setters, the standard-bearers. That's WPN Premium.
WPN Premium is a public recognition of the best stores in the world, and a way for Wizards to support them in a way that equals their contribution to the Magic community. We've already chosen the first wave, and you can apply to become one right now.
Premium stores will get the same benefits as all WPN members, plus exclusive events, priority and recognition in our Store & Event Locator, upgraded marketing materials—including a Magic lighted sign for the inaugural class—and more.
(Don't worry—later inductees will have a chance to pick this up, too, while supplies last.)
They'll also get priority assistance from a dedicated WPN Development rep—a multinational team with decades of combined experience in retail, that will listen to Premium members, strive to understand their business, and share best practices derived from top-performing stores all over the world.
We believe Premium status is within reach of any WPN location. But the bar is high—at the moment, less than 5% of stores are WPN Premium. If you believe you offer an experience that ranks among the best, apply. You can get more specifics (requirements, etc.) here.
Which brings us to:
Out: Measuring Quantity Only.
In: Measuring Quantity and Quality.
We want the player experience to be world-class. And by that, we mean the whole experience.
Not just playing Magic. Shopping for it. Learning it. Hearing about it in the first place. From comparing the green Planeswalker Deck and the black one to picking up your first full booster box—the best stores make all of this fun, and their players reward them with loyalty when they do.
WPN Premium is one way of measuring that experience and rewarding WPN members accordingly. The new WPN will also introduce another: new metrics.
Starting in June, you've got just two targets: Tickets and Engaged Players. The first is meant to measure quantity, the second is meant to measure quality. Let's take a look.
Tickets represent the total number of entries across all your events. Any format. Commander, Modern, Ranked, Casual—everything counts. And it counts the same player multiple times. A player joins your midnight Prelease, that's a ticket. They come back for the 5pm on Saturday, that's another.
Engaged Players are the best indicator of the quality of experience you offer. It's our phrase for a player who joins six events, in either Standard, Draft, or Sealed, per year—so, once every two months.
With the institution of these new metrics (and the sunsetting of the old ones, like total events and biggest event) it'll be the stores that offer the best experience that get the best rewards.
Each week, starting today, you'll see your numbers in the weekly WPN update. You'll also see the prize support you can expect based on those numbers.
And what will that prize support look like?
Out: Individual Promo Cards.
In: Promo Cards Inside Packs of 4.
To be clear: we'll still do promo cards. But they'll be in packs of four, giving players more cards, more variety, and better curation—all without sacrificing the uniqueness players expect from things like FNM and Open House promos. And one in four of the packs will have all-foil contents.
Here's the breakdown of the first run, for Core Set 2020:
Slot one is a promo-stamped rare or mythic rare from the most recent set. Could be any rare or mythic rare.
Slot two is a promo-stamped rare or mythic rare from a short, curated list. These will be from Standard-legal sets, and they'll be hand-selected by Magic’s design studio. (These lists will be public.) You'll also see a curveball here and there—one such curveball will come with M20. We'll show you when card previews start. You'll like it.
Slot three is a promo-stamped alternate art basic land.
Slot four is the promo slot. With each Standard-legal set there will be a selection of special, season-specific cards, just like FNM promos (although, for the first season, there will be five cards, up from the usual three). Most of the time, you can expect to see the alternate frame cards you're accustomed to. But again, here and there, we'll throw a curveball.
(Buy-a-Box promos will remain stand-alone cards. They'll be based on the new metrics, too, and so will products like Signature Spellbook. Prerelease allocations will remain as they are.)
From a store's perspective, these packs simplify everything—both how you'll receive them and how you'll give them out.
How do you receive them? It's based on the health of your community, as measured by Tickets and Engaged Players—not which events you schedule. For that reason, they massively simplify scheduling. Since quantities are based on your numbers, there's no reason to restrict scheduling to a specific time frame.
Which means, starting with Core Set 2020, you can schedule and edit your events (even Prerelease) all the way up to the day of the event.
And what about giving them out? Simpler than ever. They're discretionary. (Q: "How do we give them out?" A: "However will grow your community.") They're event-agnostic. (Q: "Which events are these for?" A: "Whatever events are driving your business.") You get the idea.
That's just a few of the many ways we're simplifying things in the new WPN. It's all aimed at a simple goal: better experience for the retailer, better experience for the player.
We've come a long way since oil changes and lumber. The WPN quadrupled tabletop Magic in ten years. We want to keep that growth going for another ten.