I live in Melbourne, Australia. It is the year 2017. When I moved here around ten years ago, there were only three Magic the Gathering retail stores that I knew of within a half-hour train ride from the city. Now there are about fourteen! And then there's the biggest store of all, Magic Online. Lately I've been thinking about what this means; Is it sustainable? What are the advantages and disadvantages? This article is my thoughts on the subject. It is targeted at Melbourne players but there may be ideas to garner for anyone not living here.
ADVANTAGES OF MANY STORES FOR PLAYERS
Greater flexibility in when you can play:When there are multiple stores within a similar area, they will adjust which weeknights they host events as to not clash with each other.
Higher standards of store performance:If a player has a choice between two stores there are many factors which can suade them: cleanliness, friendliness of staff, smoothness of tournaments, prize support, tournament entry, stock availability, positive environment, etc. When stores are competing they are incentivised to improve in all these aspects.
Less travel time for players.
(Assuming all the stores are spread apart from eachother)
More PPTQ's:For me personally, this is the biggest advantage. There's an average of more than one PPTQ per week within a two hour drive of Melbourne. This is amazing for grinders who prioritise PPTQ's over almost everything. Adelaide in comparison only get about four PPTQ's per season.
Huge shout-out to Jimbo Jones and all the Melbourne store organisers for taking the effort to avoid PPTQ date clashes, legends.
A quick aside regarding PPTQ's: Players are often unaware of PPTQ's happening around them. My current system is to check the Wizards website before each season here. Then I'll add each Victorian PPTQ to my google calendar. Only takes ten minutes. There's also draftaholics anonymous, which is a great resource.
DISADVANTAGES FOR PLAYERS
Potential to spread player base too thin:PPTQ's have big enough prizes that players will travel far to play in them. Weekly FNM is a different story. When the city's player base is spread thin, smaller weekly events may only get seven or nine players turn up. If a player has taken the time and effort to come play, then the event doesn't fire, that is very discouraging. If that player had the potential to invest in the game but instead stopped playing because their first two events didn't fire, that hurts the community.
Date saturation:PPTQ's are the most attractive tournaments and there is one almost every Saturday and Sunday. All the grinders are lured to PPTQ's and away from other tournaments. This means that formats like Legacy, Vintage and Highlander can't host weekend tournaments. The same is true for Modern during three out of four PPTQ seasons. With good planning and communication, stores can organise big events before the PPTQ dates are submitted to Wizards but this is difficult, e.g. Eternal Masters at Next Level Games Dandenong, 10th -12th June 2017.
Other cities with large player bases but fewer stores can better support non-PPTQ formats.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STORES IN MELBOURNE?Obviously Melbourne has a relatively large population but I think there's another reason:
Magic the Gathering started in Australia a certain number of years ago. People tend to get into Magic when they have a lot of free time, like when they're at university. Now happens to be the era in which that first generation of grinders have had enough years in the work force to save some money. They're sick of working for others and they're taking a shot at running a Magic store.
MY CONCLUSIONI haven't got the data to tell if all the Melbourne stores are doing well financially but I feel we're slightly over-saturated. Hopefully paper Magic continues to grow and all the stores enjoy success. I suppose the years to come will tell. It's not all bad if some stores need to close. It will just bolster the remaining stores. Greater attendance at events increases player confidence and humans love being a part of big social events.
Melbourne, take it from a player who's been playing non-stop for more than ten years; we got it really good right now. Appreciate it. Get down to your local store and jam some games!