Battle for Zendikar – Pre-Release Woes *Updated*

GamesLabVsWotCMore controversy it seems for Wizards of the Coast with their Magic: The Gathering line of products.  Games Laboratory, one of the largest and most popular gaming venues in Melbourne took to posting their frustration on Reddit after not achieving an amicable resolution with Wizards of the Coast.  The store claims to have had their pre-release packs cut by 15% at the 11th hour with little to no apology and awkward excuses.  The problem appears to be larger than Australia though, with other stores and players around the world reporting similar shortage issues, not just with pre-release packs but with ‘Fat Packs’ as well.  The question still stands though, did WotC do the right thing?  Was it handled professionally?  While they might be stuck between a rock and a hard place have they done everything they can to ensure everyone gets a fair deal?

Firstly, let’s take a look at the original Reddit Post and the beginning of this very public complaint.  For those who don’t have the time or interest to read through the lengthy (and growing) post I’ve cut and paste the most relevant portions verbatim.

Post by Reddit User GamesLaboratory

Hi all!

I know BFZ sob stories from stores are usually super boring, but this one, I feel, is a bit special. Tune out now if you’re sick of drama, otherwise grab some popcorn and settle in.

As some background, Games Laboratory is one of the biggest stores in the Southern Hemisphere – we hosted the world’s first RPTQ, are run by an ex-L4 Judge, and just closed preregistration at over 650 players.

We were shorted on our Fat Packs like most places – our allocation was 75% of our KTK and THS orders, while many stores had their allocations increased. If you’re a WotC person, refer to incident #150901-000072 in your whizz-bang new CRM system.

tl:dr Rumours abound about Fat Pack shortages, biggest store in AU waits 48h for a response to inquiry, questions why they are chasing said information rather than WotC providing it.

Sure, fine, whatever. I have it in writing from the APAC Office that I’m getting 1008 Prerelease Packs. Should be a great weekend.

5:15pm Tuesday – three days before Prerelease. We get a call from Mitchell Thompson, the brand new sales guy at Wizards. “We’re cutting your allocation by 144”. As I’m sure you, gentle reader, can guess, I’m pretty mad.

Why? I ask – “Yeah, um, the numbers were unclear” What does that mean? – “There is no extra stock” Who is getting my stock? – “No-one, there is no stock”

After several minutes of this guy telling me he understood, he finally admits he made a mistake.

I’ve since discovered a few things;

  • Other stores in Australia were asked if “it was ok to give back some of their allocation”. I wasn’t asked – I was told
  • These other stores were delighted to discover today that they got their full allocation, with thanks and the explanation, “we managed to take all we needed from one place”. From Games Lab.
  • My stock did go somewhere. At least two stores were overlooked, and they couldn’t possibly go without. So Mitchell lied to me.
  • This was Tuesday night. So, my stock hadn’t left the warehouse – WotC Australia have transitioned to a new logistics company, and it’s taken anywhere up to TWO WEEKS for us to receive stock recently.

Incident #150922-001201 details my concerns about the way the reduction was handled, about the shipping time, and several other things – including an olive branch WotC could extend to somewhat ameliorate the situation. Mitchell’s manager responded only to that last part – and only to say “No”.

Finally, Incident #150923-000292 is the note I sent to Greg Leeds, Helene Bergeot, and press@wizards.com

Sure, I’m having a whinge, and yes, WotC will continue to bully stores like mine. But that doesn’t mean I have to submit silently, or say “Please sir, can I have another?”.

We’re going to smash this weekend like it’s 1999, set records and make history. If we get any stock.

Thanks for reading.

 

A post was also made on the Games Laboratory website dated Tuesday September 22nd.

Preregistration Update – Reduced Allocation by WotC, get in now!!So. In their infinite wisdom Wizards
of the Coast have decided to further reduce our prerelease pack allocation just 3 days out.We are very, uh, unhappy, about this, to say the least.
We don’t want to turn anyone away and we’re doing everything we can to avoid doing so by sourcing more somehow.
James is currently investigating.The current reality though is that our new allocation isn’t much more than our current preregistration numbers, if there’s anyone who hasn’t done it yet please, please, do it now, and let your friends know as well so they don’t miss out.This entry was posted in General News on September 22, 2015 by Fabian.

 

We contacted Game Laboratory and were received by James Mackay, owner of Games Laboratory.  He confirmed with us that it was indeed him who had made the posts on Reddit.  He went on to explain that the store had received it’s pre-release packs today (Thursday the 24th of September) and would be running events this weekend, I assume with less packs than intended.

He pointed out that the Fat Pack allocation by Wizards of the Coast is based on what they call “Historic Purchasing Details”, which only looks at your last pre-release figures, in this case Origins.  James explained that he was told by WotC that they (WotC) were required to put their order in nine months in advance, which essentially means that the Battle for Zendikar production order was based off Origins sales data and not something more relevant like Khans of Tarkir.

We pitched James a few more questions, relevant to the topic at hand but have yet to hear a reply. If and when we get a response we’ll be sure to update this article to include that conversation.

It appears that Games Laboratory weren’t the only ones to suffer from Battle for Zendikar pre-release shortages, the following comments can also be found in the Reddit Post.

Comment by Reddit User Ithryn

I own GG Gold Coast, and we had our allocation cut from 240+ to 0. Got the phone call same day as you.

 

Comment by Reddit User Ithryn

This comment is quite late to the party, but i feel your pain. My store on the Gold Coast had our allocation cut to 0. From 240+ to 0. And told ‘oh well, too bad.’Any and all confidence i had in their systems is completly eroded.

 

Comment by Reddit User GamesLaboratory

Saw your post on Facebook – that is the worst. If anything good is to come from this situation, hopefully some of my stuff ends up on your doorstep today.

 

Comment by Reddit User Ithryn

As a store owner i can’t say i’d be confidant with them in the future.

 

We contacted Good Games Gold Coast and while they were unable to offer us any official comment, nor confirm that the posts above were made by them on Reddit, they could confirm that they had been told by WotC on Tuesday that their order for Battle for Zendikar Pre-Release packs was not going to be fulfilled.  At all.  Fortunately the Good Games chain managed to pull together a few spare packs from other stores ensuring that the Gold Coast venue will still be hosting pre-release events this weekend.

It appears this problem is bigger than just Australia though with other users making comment in the same thread suggesting a much larger problem. Please bear in mind though that we were unable to confirm the validity of the following comments.

Comment by Reddit User DoubleSpoiler

US store here. We can’t get anything. We are advanced plus. What Wizards told me was your store level does not matter, aside from how many you’re allowed to get, and all fat packs are first come first serve.

 

Comment by Reddit User Xirious

Exact same situation in South Africa. Very sad indeed 🙁

 

Australian Tabletop Gaming Network reached out to Wizards of the Coast for some clarification but received the formal reply of ‘Hasbro has no comment to make on this right now’. Hopefully though that changes as, perhaps more than any of the other recent controversies, this one really needs some explanation. It’s clear something has gone horribly wrong at either a purchasing or manufacturing level.

We’ve also heard from other stores that they have had no issue with their Battle for Zendikar Pre-Release order which begs the question why some stores are having issues, in some cases very extreme ones, and others are not.

What are your thoughts on the matter?  Have you heard of any complications at your local gaming store?
We will continue to update this article as any further developments come to light and/or the parties involved get back to us with (further) comment.

*UPDATE Friday 25.09.2015*

James Mackay from Games Laboratory got back to me with a written interview and gives us some more insight into events and his reaction and thoughts on the situation –

ATGN> Thanks for taking the time to speak with us James, I know you must be very busy, especially with the Battle for Zendikar pre-release coming up this weekend.  Ironically that’s exactly what we’d like to speak to you about.  Wednesday night you posted a fairly damning post on Reddit explaining the treatment of your store Games Laboratory in Melbourne by Wizards of the Coast.  Reading the post one definitely gets a sense of frustration in the tone. Is that what led to the post, a need to vent or was it more a case of transparency with your customer base?

James> It was a little of both – yes, I was and am still frustrated at the appalling manner in which this was handled but I’m also not interested in bearing any of the responsibility for this error. WotC made me a promise, then reneged on it.

ATGN> In your post you make mention that ‘Mitchell Thompson’ the new kid on the block at Wizards of the Coast contacted you via telephone and told you about the cuts to your allocation before apologizing and admitting he had ‘made a mistake’ after you pushed the issue.  Could you give us a summary of how you felt as a customer at this stage?  Do you feel it’s a case of Mitchell letting you down personally or WotC / Hasbro letting you down?  How would you have preferred or expected the situation to have been resolved?

James> He didn’t apologise, he simply agreed with everything I said and told me he understood and there was nothing he could do. My expectation of handling a situation like this goes quite differently – if I had miscounted the stock arriving in the system and oversold it, my call to the customer would have lead with the apology and admission of guilt, and then tried to discuss various ways we could solve the situation for the customer. If I incurred a material cost – for example, reshipping or upgrading an order – that is something I would wear. It’s just good customer service – in a scenario where the customer can go anywhere for their product. As a customer of WotC, I don’t have that luxury.

ATGN> In your post you mention that your initial order for 1008 pre-release packs was cut by 144, down to 864.  How big of an impact does that make on Game Laboratory?  Will you be turning customers away? Is this likely to cost the company potential profit?

James> WotC have a system for allocating these packs – they give you a number (in my case 828) based on their projected attendance. They also permit you to take a “growth allocation” – in my case it was 90. This is the first time WotC have tried to make me stick to their system – previously I’ve asked for and received the number I wanted. I maintained that I was going to need more than 918, and had my allocation increase approved in writing to 1008. Mitchell then unceremoniously cut that to 864 three days out from the event. Yeah, this is going to cost us money and it’s going to hurt the perception our customers have of our ability to provide what they need – hence my desire to get ahead of the message and let the players know that I was handed this problem, and I had done my best to avoid it.

ATGN> It’s interesting to see that some stores such as yourselves and Good Games Gold Coast have been directly affected by product shortages, yet other stores have not.  In your Reddit post you mentioned doing a little digging and discovered a few things.  Any insights you could offer us as to why some stores have been affected and others have not?

James> Some of it makes sense – Regional stores have a longer shipping lead time, and their orders were dispatched before this egregious error was discovered. Lots of it makes no sense – stores in Sydney, that agreed to have their allocation cut magically received a full allocation. Canberra stores also got their full allocation – hilariously enough, one of them contacted me to say, “We got it all, and it’s probably more than we need.”

ATGN>  We’ve seen some rumblings online of similar problems with pre-release packs and Fat Packs all across the globe.  Do you think the problem lies in manufacturing, distribution or did the MtG marketing team just hype this product up larger than production could handle?

James> I don’t know. There have been other stories of Hasbro not making enough Transformer toys to meet demand – perhaps this is their new approach to sales?

ATGN> Lastly, going forward how is this incident going to impact your relationship with WotC / Hasbro?  What plans will you make going into the next pre-release?

James> Well, it’s going to be very hard to believe anything they tell me – and as for planning, it’s incredibly difficult to build a firm foundation on constantly shifting ground, but that’s the situation we’re in. We’ll do our best to give our customers what they want – hopefully our business partners will too.

~ Toby

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