Magic the Gathering takes center stage in a heavy handed moment of high drama surrounding an accidental leak of Magic the Gathering cards from the upcoming set March of the Machine: The Aftermath. On April 20, the popular YouTube channel oldschoolmtg posted a video featuring the opening of a collector’s box of the new card set, due out this May. Within hours, the video was taken down due to copyright violations. However, the real story behind this incident is much deeper than a simple copyright issue.
It turns out that the cards featured in the video were obtained from an acquaintance who had purchased them legally. The problem arose when the Wizards of the Coast distributor mistakenly shipped the wrong product, leading to a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications. This mistake ultimately led to the involvement of none other than the infamous Pinkertons, a private detective agency known for their history of union-busting and anti-competitive practices.
At some point on April 20, YouTube channel oldschoolmtg published a video showing the opening of a box of collector booster packs from March of the Machine: The Aftermath — just one of 22 boxes it said were purchased from an acquaintance. Little has been revealed about the set so far, which is not expected to arrive in stores until May 12. As a result, the video was quickly downloaded and used as fuel for reaction videos all over the internet.
Later, on April 22, oldschoolmtg published another video explaining what had happened.
According to reports, the Pinkertons arrived at the home of the presenter, accompanied by contact information for someone at Wizards of the Coast. They claimed that the cards were stolen property and threatened legal action against the presenter. Needless to say, this caused quite a stir, with the presenter’s wife being left in tears by the sudden arrival of armed men at her doorstep.
Despite assurances from Wizards of the Coast that there was no malicious intent and that the matter would be resolved amicably, the Pinkertons still managed to seize almost two dozen boxes of cards during their visit. This move has sparked outrage within the tabletop gaming community, who already hold a grudge against Wizards of the Coast for their attempts to repeal the Open Gaming License 1.0a. Many feel that this latest move only serves to reinforce their distrust of the company.
So why did Wizards of the Coast resort to such extreme measures? It’s hard to say, but Wizards of the Coast has already demonstrated a willingness to shove the normal rules of behavior under the carpet to get their way. This is evidence by their recent debacle this January over Dungeons and Dragons and the core rules, the open license for which WotC attempted to retroactively revoke despite there being no precedent for such revocation in any legal system on the planet. In the end the gaming community won, and there was a massive backlash which may have indirectly resulted in tumbling Hasbro stock valuation and a surge in the popularity of WotC’s competitor’s products, most specifically Paizo’s Pathfinder games.
This brings us back to the incident with oldschoolmtg and the Pinkertons. While Wizards of the Coast may have had good intentions in trying to protect their intellectual property, the use of such extreme measures has only served to alienate them further from their customer base. Many players feel that the company is becoming increasingly dictatorial and controlling, rather than working collaboratively with the community that helped make their brand successful.
Ultimately, the future of the relationship between Wizards of the Coast and the Magic: The Gathering community remains uncertain. Some players have called for boycotts of official products, while others remain loyal to the brand despite its flaws. What is clear, however, is that the actions of the Pinkertons and Wizards of the Coast have struck a nerve within the community, and that the status quo may soon be changing. Whether that change will be for the better remains to be seen.