I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m a geek. By most accounts, if you’re reading this blog, so are you. I have various geek related purchases in my life that wasn’t cards or DVD’s. I’ve bought objects such as a Rorschach figurine, a Boba Fett bobble-head, and Magic art prints from the artists when they come to Seattle and hang them on my home office wall (I’ll put up a pic sometime). But not all the time does my love for Magic make it easy to buy things. Sure, you can pick up Magic playmats (Some which look really cool) and deck boxes and sleeves and binders, but these are all related to gaming in general. I’m not talking about video games either (I still love the MicroProse version and still play it), I’m talking the other merchandise that geeks normally buy.
Wizards and RYZ Wear just finished up a contest to design a shoe. Not bad, I thought to myself and I played around with designing a shoe it with the Mark Tedin Textless Fireball art and it looked pretty cool but I didn’t enter it. The winner was decided by fan vote and that’s what the pair of shoes are up there designed by Extremeicon. Would I buy a pair of shows like that? I was pre-ordering them until I saw the price: $99. Either buy a pair of shoes, or buy a box of M10 (plus, I wear a 13, so they didn’t have my size. I know, I’m a freak)? Then on MTGSalvation, someone posted that in select pre-releases there would be Jones Soda giveaways with the labels as the Planeswalkers. EDIT: They’re Selling them for a limited time only! How awesome is that? Mouth-watering. What do these two things have in common? They’re both the type of marketing that Wizards needs to do more of: stuff people would want.
There’s a reason that there’s such a backlash for renaming “into play” to “battlefield,” it goes over the top for making the game too fanciful, too nerdy. While uninformed people who walk buy while I’m playing it ask if I’m “Playing the Pokemon,” you can’t seem like you’re all high and mighty and they’ve offended you. The Ferret said it best:
If terms like “Battlefield” and “Exile” irritate you with their cutesiness, well, I guess you have a point. I mean, of course when you’re showing the girls your angel cards with the big boobs and the flaming swords, they’re thinking, “I’d totally think he was butch if only that place he was putting the droopy-hatted wizard card was called ‘in play.’”
Dude, you’re playing a game where the very packs have pictures of dragons, demons, and snakes on them. If you’re really embarrassed by the power-tripping of nascent adolescents, I hate to tell you, but you lost this one already.
Being a geek on the internet and your friends/playing circle is not the same as being a geek in real life. How often do you talk about cards with a friend while someone who doesn’t play them stands buy and listens? Notice how they roll their eyes and make fun of you? Now change the subject to a recent movie and how it didn’t compare to the comic book. Same thing? Yes, people who don’t understand your favorite geek topic will make fun of you. That’s the population at whole, or anyone who think they’re less of a geek than you. And generally internet trolls.
But good news everyone: there are tons of geeks. There are sports geeks who play fantasy football and car geeks who can tell you everything about hot rods to military geeks who can tell you which battle the US could’ve lost and would’ve lost the war and Twilight geeks who go to Twilight Prom. Sometimes when a geeks love is exposed and mocked, that’s when they hide and don’t want to talk about or promote what they’re passionate about.
So, where does that put marketing for Wizards? Playing Magic is a geek time activity and they want to show their love of the game but sometimes players just don’t want to have “Magic: the Gathering” plastered across their chest on a shirt when they walk out in public away from the tournament crowds. This is why the shoes and the bottles are really cool: it’s the subtle mention of Magic without being too geeky for the public.
Yes, marketing says that you have to get your name out there and market your brand (See the College Humor tag on the photo? There it is, on the lower right hand side), but there’s plenty of things you can do create interest in the brand. People looking at the shoes and wonder where the symbols come from and ask the wearer. People seeing the art on the Jones Soda and want to know where it came from and do a Google/Bing (equal opportunity employer) search to see where this great art comes from.
But it clearly possibilities doesn’t end there. A couple of Pro Tours ago players dressed up in suits to make playing cards more professional so why not market ties with art on them or even a simple black tie with the five color orbs like on the back of magic cards or even the mana logos themselves (some companies would frown upon Black’s skull logo on a tie during a business meeting however). How about a bumper sticker that says “In my day, we played with Interrupts and liked it!” or Magic brand condoms that says “T: Target player gains ‘Protection from STDs’ until end of turn.” Well, maybe not the last one.
Just don’t make the mistake that Microsoft did with Pepsi. The Halo Mountain Dew incident might seem like what Wizards is doing with Jones, but it’s not trying to market the soft drink as “gaming fuel.” There wasn’t anything different to the drink except what they did with the packaging. There was no extra caffeine, nothing that made you fingers move faster or reflexes better. All it was trying to do was capture a market and re-label it. This can be seen with Pepsi Max; I tasted it the other day and it is Diet Pepsi, only for men. It’s a ploy that makes you look evil for even trying it. The difference between that and Jones Soda is they put the art on it and said, “Magic Rocks.” That’s all you need to do, even Penny Arcade agrees with me.
There’s a bunch of marketing that Wizards can do that makes the brand look fun and exciting without trying to make it seem like being too much of a geek. Wizards, listen; you already have a nice base crowd and you’re always trying to get new players, I understand that. Look at the shoes and the Jones Soda. Both of those things “said” Magic without shoving it in your face. You’ve got two of the best things going for you: a loyal fan base who are geeks, and all this wonderful art that isn’t seen outside of the cards. Use this to your advantage. The gaming accessories that you market are great with the art, but there’s so much more out there you can do with it. I love the Planeswalker book of Alara, I would love to have a big table book with art of past sets. Stickers/patches that could be put on bags or binders. How about a Windows 7 theme using Mana logos as Icons and a background that changes for new art.
Sure, I may be the guy that The Ferret is talking about. I’m playing a game that I love with Dragons and Angels so I shouldn’t complain how Wizards wants to market their game. As long as their are players playing the game, it’s better for the long run. But if I speak out, I can tell Wizards that I’m willing to hand them money, just waiting for the right product. With these two promotions, the marketing team is a step in the right direction.