Simple Math Showing Simple Truth

The changes to next season’s premier play have been announced, and lo and behold! – after a few hours it becomes obvious that they haven’t been thought through at all. It turns out that in some situations it is to a player’s advantage to concede in a GP final rather than try and win that tournament; and it is even a possible scenario that two players might fight for the right to concede first. Also, in some cases it seems preferrable to miss Top 8 at a PT rather than make it.

As with so many other policies, but also as with the quality of coverage of PTs and GPs (where the team, after over a decade, still hasn’t found a way to publish standings soon and correctly), one can only wonder if the people whose job it is to care for those things are blatantly incompetent or willfully neglectible. (Note that the people actually doing the work are not necessarily the ones with the responsibility of caring; it is entirely possible – and, actually, very likely – that the first kind of people are understaffed and hampered by poor logistics and unrealistic deadlines, because the second kind of people – let’s call them executives – simply don’t give a fuck about quality in these areas.)

However, this is not what I want to focus on in this entry, although it is certainly related. Instead, let us take a look at an issue which is a feature, not a bug:

You see, there was a 4th Pro Tour added to the schedule with much fanfare – but actually, what really happened is that this 4th tour had been cancelled a few years ago, and will now only be brought back because several of the most prominent pro players announced that, under the current schedule, they considered it impossible to keep playing professionally.

To put this into context: Since the very beginning of the Tour (at the latest since 1996) there had been at least four PTs per year (not counting the World Championships, which effectively also were PTs). That number soon grew to five, and there was also the Masters series added (an additional level of play even above the tour, committed to enable the professional player lifestyle). When the Masters series was cancelled after 2003, a SIXTH Pro Tour was added to make up for the loss, together with the first incarnation of the Pro level system. Then, in 2006 the number of PTs was reduced to four again, and in 2008 to three (but World still was effectively another PT). 2012, though, the World Championships were replaced by the World Magic Cup and the Magic Players Championship, reducing the overall number of PT-like events to 3 (and, while they were at it, reducing the number of competitors per event as well), and thus finally becoming so low that even the most committed pro players no longer felt able to continue with their profession.

Now, remember that whenever WotC felt they had to defend their policies over the course of the last few years, they would point out that tournament attendance was at an all-time high, and so were sales. Obviously, this begs the question: Why, then, is the number of prefessional tournaments not at an all-time high? Why was it instead at an all-time LOW last year?

The answer is obvious: As I remarked again and again, WotC no longer care for professional play. I am even convinced they regard the image of Magic as a mental sport as actively counterproductive to their current, succesful marketing strategy (because a mental sport implies you need skill to excel at it, but they want people to grind and buy their successes instead). They are fully committed to Grand Prixs, which are more and more branded as events rather than competition, but they’d love to see the Pro Tour gone completely, if it wasn’t for the publicity disaster triggered by aiming at that too obviously (after all, prominent pro players are “key influencers” – a very revealing term from their very insightful employment ad they put up just a few minutes ago). I actually don’t see how this could get any more obvious than through this gross mismatch between Magic’s success lately and the lack of commitment to pro play.

So, the “addition” of a 4th PT was nothing more than bringing the pro tour circuit back to the bare minimum (if it all) necessary to sustain itself. This must be understood when we finally get to that part of the announcement which caught my eye first: The “added” PTQs per region and year. These are the numbers (2013/2014):

United States, Canada, Puerto Rico: 285/372
Europe: 216/264
Asia Pacific: 54/68
Mexico, Ceantral and South America: 42/52
Japan: 39/44

Do you see it?

Well, since the 4th PT is back, this means there are now four PTQ seasons instead of three, which in turn means that the number of qualifying players (via PTQ) per region and PT does in fact not, as is actually pointed out in the article, grow with the added PTQs. Let’s just take a look at the number of PTQs per region for each season:

US+: 95/93
Europe: 72/66
Asia: 18/17
Latin: 14/13
Japan: 13/11

So, this makes clear that the number of qualifying players per season is actually decreasing – but not nearly evenly! This is how the relative losses of PT slots per regions are distributed:

US+: 2,2%
Europe: 9,6%
Asia: 5,6%
Latin: 7,1%
Japan: 15,4%

Now, if you were one of the people honestly believing that the induction of mythic rares would NOT lead to competitive constructed play becoming more expensive (employing wishful thinking over reason), then you might also want to argue the conclusion I have come to after analyzing these numbers (people never learn, do they?):

Let us just look at the facts: North America is getting away nearly unharmed. All other regions take considerably stronger hits, and not at all equal – to be precise, the stronger professional play in a region is, the fewer slots it gets!

Let that sink in for a moment, and suppress your childishly-naive “but they’d never do that!” reflexes. There can be no doubt that these numbers are deliberate. There can be no doubt that OP is aware of the uneven cutting of PT slots per region.

The simple truth is that WotC realized they still need to care about the opinions of certain pro player “key influencers”, but they also realized that nearly all of those were from the US (also, 60% of their customers hail from that region). Because of that, it is still important to them that US pro players are satisified with the setup of premier play, but they don’t give a rat’s ass about the rest of the world. There is a token commitment to the worldwide pro circuit, but nothing more. Thus, they deliberately diminish the chances of the US pro players’ strongest competition.

See, a truly silly conspiracy theory is that large companies actually care about honesty and fairness over profit margins. Don’t believe in the conspiracy. Accept reality.

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