Buying Your First Magic Players
When you open the doors to your LGS for the first time, you’re probably filled with all sorts of emotions and anxieties. Excitement for the possibilities. Fear of failure. Curiosity about what will happen next. It’s the same experience when running your first Magic tournament as well.
Your looking forward to meeting your future players and customers, the ones who will make your business successful and worthwhile. And the few who will ultimately become your friends.
But finding those initial customers and players can be your business’s first major hurdle. You need a powerful strategy to get those people, your people, through the doors.
So what should you do?
Take a page from the internet playbook and go to the traffic store.
The Pay For Play Strategy
The play space in your LGS lies dormant for the most part. At the beginning it takes a lot of time before players start filling your seats and playing in your events. Getting players into your tournaments can be a slow process if you only rely on word of mouth.
The trouble is growing a player base takes time. Your reputation as a competent tournament organizer needs to spread along with the knowledge that you run quality events. A common mistake many LGS and tournament organizers make is trying to profit from each and every event.
This isn’t a bad goal to have but it has natural consequences. The higher the price of entry to an event, the bigger the barrier to more people playing. One strategy to build attendance is to buy your players.
Accept a short term loss in order to create long term gain.
In the case of weekly events like FNM, plan for one day out the week to be a free tournament and offer a small amount of store credit as a prize. Besides attracting a more casual player to your store due to the lower stakes, a free event creates goodwill. Giving players what they want can be a powerful tactic to build your local community.
In a lot of ways the Magic community is like an iceberg. The players that show up to your store each week to play are the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is considerably larger number of Magic players who only play at home with friends. Tapping into the whole of the iceberg is the goal here.
This is a great way to jumpstart a new format for your store as well. A common problem with adding a new format to an already established schedule is the issue of the tournament “not firing” due to poor attendance.
Take a format like Modern for example. If you just add a weekly Modern event to your schedule next month there is a good chance that it will flop. Unless you know for sure that your local community already has a thriving player base that loves the format, your event is going to have difficulty getting off the ground.
It can become a self fulfilling prophecy. If your first couple Modern tournaments don’t fire, the tournament will gain a reputation for not happening. This will further discourage players from coming out to your shop to play and thus, making it even less likely to fire the next week.
Don’t let this happen to your store. When testing the waters with a new format, make the first few events are low cost or even free. Accept a small loss up front to build the confidence in your players that Modern (or whatever format) is a supported one. Be sure to make them special in some way so your players won’t expect you to lose money all the time and you will have a recipe for building whatever kind of tournament schedule you like.
You will be able to launch any format with the confidence that it will build into a new batch of customers for your store.
Paying for players is also a viable way to build larger tournaments like PPTQ’s. By making your first big event too sweet to miss, either by making the prize pool extra deep or the admission exceptionally low, you give yourself the opportunity to show players that you can run well organized and fun tournaments on a larger scale.
Accept a few initial losses at the beginning as a cost to building the player base. Once your events have the reputation to draw larger numbers, your future events will become more successful. Your business will profit as well.
For more inspiration on building a successful game store check out the Manaverse Podcast. On the show, I talk to some the best entrepreneurs in the game business to tease out the systems and strategies they use to build an awesome game store.