Addressing concerns about WPN stores in Europe

Posted in News on May 20, 2016

By Dan Barrett

Based in London, UK, Dan is responsible Magic’s community across Europe. He loves cats, running, and attacking for 2.

Hi Magic fans, Dan from Wizards here. I'm one of your Community Managers for Magic, looking after our players across Europe.

We've seen quite a few concerns raised recently about Wizards Play Network (WPN) stores in Europe, so I would like to give you some more information about what's going on.

It's important for you to know Wizards is committed to the Magic community in Europe. We want as many people as possible—the WPN stresses inclusivity—to have access to the best Magic play experiences possible. Inclusivity is both an important goal with the WPN and for Wizards of the Coast as a whole.

An important part of this is supporting in-store play through the WPN, which, regardless of where in the world we look, is the best way to ensure the long-term health of Magic.

How is Magic doing in Europe right now?

Never better. The number of stores, events, and players are at a record high. This follows seven years of continued growth, and is a trend we see continuing. In the UK, for example, we have supported in-store play through the WPN since 2010, and since then the number of players has increased by over 400%.

You mention the WPN, what is that?

The Wizards Play Network (WPN) is a promotional program that helps stores grow strong player communities by providing members with tools, branded play events, promotions, and ongoing support and coaching from the WPN Retail Support team.

How is the WPN organized in Europe?

The WPN is a program with global aims and strategies, which are applied locally by in-market specialists. The European WPN team (with more than fifteen people throughout Europe) personally visits hundreds of stores each year and knows first-hand the unique challenges each country faces. It's certainly not a "one size fits all" philosophy: we know a store in Japan, a store in Europe, and one in the USA will look and function quite different from one another. For example, we don't place restrictions on a store's WPN status based on the amount of physical play space available. The quality of experience offered to players around the world should be high, and that is what we aim for, but we understand that each market is different in how they offer that experience.

Is the WPN for every store?

We offer our WPN program to all retail stores, but recognize that it’s not for everyone—some stores voluntarily elect not to be a member of the WPN, and some are unable to meet our membership standards and criteria. Such criteria includes having a physical retail location, a suitable play space for all players (either in the store or nearby), and running a certain number of events. For example, at Core level (the second of four levels in WPN), stores are required to run 24 events over a rolling 12 month period, which averages out to 2 events per month.

Our goal is to help stores offer a range of great play experiences in an environment that competes with other forms of free-time entertainment. We don't believe Magic players should have to tolerate store or play venues that are dirty, unsafe, or inaccessible, so we make no apology for not accepting or promoting these.

Are a significant number of stores in Europe no longer members of the WPN?

Occasionally some stores feel they are no longer able to offer the level of experience expected of a member of the WPN. However, we see this as an absolute last resort, and will provide the store owner with as much coaching and support as we can to help address their issues before retiring the store.

Just as often, if not more often, stores choose to voluntarily cancel their membership with the WPN for reasons that are unrelated to our requirements. This includes a number of stores that are part of the current conversation.

In fact, throughout Europe the number of stores in the WPN has actually increased.

What about cities where rents are very high?

The numbers don't support the view that it's not possible for stores to thrive in major European cities. For example, there are more than 45 WPN locations in Madrid and almost 30 in Paris. Similar cities on other continents (e.g. New York City or Tokyo) are also able to maintain a number of stores in the WPN in similar environments. Such locations may have more challenges, and stores may not always be in the very center of the city. However, we want to see more stores opening, especially in underserved areas, and have seen that the more success existing stores have, the more opportunities this creates for entrepreneurs to open new locations.

Are events allowed to be run outside of stores?

We allow stores to run events in off-site locations, so long as they are clean, safe, open to all members of the public (regardless of age), in compliance with all local laws and codes, offer a great player experience, and are approved in advance by Wizards.

We want to make it clear, however, that suitable play space does not mean the same thing in Europe as it does in the United States. We understand the challenges some European retailers face, and we work with them on those issues. The amount of play space and holding events only onsite are not restrictions we place on stores in the WPN. Many stores around the world operate in smaller spaces and hold events offsite, and that's something we often encourage.

For more on running larger events outside your store’s location, please check out these links below.

What about clubs/groups?

Magic clubs and groups are free to operate independently and run unsanctioned events. However, we encourage these communities to reach out to their local WPN location to ask about event partnership. Many find that by working together, they can deliver a better experience for an increasing number of Magic players.

We hope this has given you some insight into how we help stores succeed through the WPN, and answered any concerns you may have had about WPN stores in Europe. As always, we encourage stores to speak to our team about any issues they are having or questions they'd like to ask. We are committed to helping them as best we can. Our door is always open.

If you're a player concerned about your local store, please ask them to speak to us. Our policy is not to speak publicly about any specific store or situation, but we're here to help, and waiting for their call.

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