Yesterday, June 17, Wizards of the Coast released an article which provided new details into the upcoming postseason. Among those details was the prize pool for Magic’s largest and most important tournament of the season, World Championship XXVII, and it was significantly lower than originally promised. Prize pools were slashed across all of Magic’s competitive events, purportedly over concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic would negatively affect profits. Instead, Wizards reported their best-selling year on record in 2020. In spite of this excellent economic performance, yesterday’s announcement stated that the prize pool for the World Championship in October will be $250,000- a 75% reduction from when the tournament was originally announced.
In August of 2019, Wizards published a lengthy announcement via Magic.gg introducing the Rivals League and laying out the structure of the tournament scene through 2021. Also in this article were the details of an increasing prize pool across the board, including the ’20-’21 World Championship which was to have a $1 million pool. In December, the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China, and the virus spread across the world over just a few months- greatly slowing the global economy as countries issued quarantine mandates and many people lost jobs or fell ill.
Given the circumstances, it’s certainly understandable that Wizards of the Coast would be concerned and feel the need to make cuts. However, the way in which this cut was made, in addition to WotC’s expectation-shattering profits, has created a range of responses across the Magic social media scene from anger and calls for a boycott to resigned disappointment. World Championship XXVII is slated for mid October- a mere four months from the time of writing- and the players in the MPL and Rivals League have been competing for their shot in this championship for a year. Some players have already qualified, and others will have to fight through a grueling series of postseason tournaments to secure their place in the coming months.
Although the slashing of the prize pool has not come as much of a surprise to the MPL and Rivals League members given the reductions in prize pools across the board, there are still many who see it as unjust. It’s certainly not a great look for Wizards to be cutting tournament rewards so soon after announcing their best-selling year of all time, and many players and fans feel that Wizards should honor their original commitment.
All of this comes just over a month after Wizards made another highly unpopular announcement announcing the discontinuation of the MPL and Rivals League, along with the elimination of pro player salaries and other benefits. There’s no question that professional Magic is going to look a lot different going forward than it has in the last few years, although we will have to wait for further information from Wizards as to what their plan actually is. Pro players and their fans can only hope that the return to paper play also brings a renaissance for in-person events, incentivizing Wizards to give the tournament scene more support. In the meantime, players continue to vent their frustrations, and Wizards’ profits continue to rise though we do not know what’s going on behind the scenes.