On Monday, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would “no longer be giving Magic product manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, or MSRP’s.” The change comes at a time when Wizards has been building more direct sales partnerships with companies like Amazon, WalMart, and Target, to sell product directly to American consumers online.

According to the announcement, the change was made in order to “streamline our communications around new products” and noted that “MSRPs are not favored in many parts of the world.” The FTC clarifies that MSRP is suggested and, “A dealer can set the price at the MSRP or at a different price, as long as the dealer comes to that decision on its own.” MSRP is not a straightforward concept in economics and it has been argued that its usage can prevent anti-competitive practices by dealers but can also hurt the growth of competitive markets.

When asked to elaborate on the communications issues, DailyMTG Editor-in-Chief Blake Rasmussen helped clarify, “The shift in MSRP is part of an effort to align our domestic and international business…We saw confusion when we marked something ‘North America only’ where swaths of international players would think the product itself was being sold in North America only. This happened once when we announced a new product on Weekly MTG, for example.”

In September, Wizards of the Coast announced that they were entering into partnerships that would allow for, “A direct relationship with Amazon in the United States to give players who order their product through that channel a better experience. (In many parts of the globe, Magic has already been available directly from Amazon and other online retailers). To that end, Magic will also be available directly online from Walmart and Target in the United States as well.”

At that time there was growing concern among the owners and operators of local game stores that they would not be able to continue to compete with large online retailers. The announcement today about the removal of MSRP seems to continue the trend of streamlining global distribution but also creating more competition between local stores and online retailers.

Evan Erwin, the marketing manager for CoolStuffInc explained to us that, “The decrease in pricing transparency could allow WotC/Hasbro to dictate the price sold to different markets with little to no public fallout (i.e. MSRP increases). The hobby market/distributors could potentially buy direct for price X while Amazon/Walmart/Big Box can potentially get price Y. And often times Y is much less than X. And that could lead to big problems for small shops that can’t afford to take the kind of hits (and get product at the kind of prices) that the big boys can.”

The absence of transparency in the pricing process is one of the biggest concerns for Magic consumers, especially competitive players who are already battling against rising costs of Grand Prix tournaments and secondary market sales. Erwin continued, “Note that the price at the distributor level has been rising but the MSRP stayed the same. This means that retailers have been eating the loss in the middle, and customers none the wiser.”

When asked about the concerns that the change will make the process less transparent giving an advantage to Amazon, Wizards of the Coast commented that, “Retailers are able to price Magic products to meet consumer demand.”

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

This article has been updated with a more accurate quote from CoolStuffInc marketing manager Evan Erwin. This article has also been updated with statements from Wizards of the Coast.

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