Episode #8 – The Worlds Collide Conundrum

As I slaved away incoherently rambling, as one such as myself does, in an effort to finish up last week’s episode before my own self-imposed deadline, the KeyForge community was rife with unrest and turmoil.  The equivalent of a nuclear device was detonated throughout the United States of KeyForge, and it’s target of all places, was…Target??? Yes, you read that correctly. The nationwide super retailer, which rarely if ever even has a few Age of Ascension decks available for purchase if you can find them tucked in between the multitudes of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh offerings that are always heavily stocked, had set the entire KeyForge universe on fire.  And all it took was a spark, a seemingly innocent and insignificant post on Reddit…

For those of you who have no idea what I am referring to, which seems nearly impossible if you are reading this article on the most dedicated KeyForge site in existence, a random Reddit user posted their most recent findings on a trip to everyone’s favorite mega-retailer, Target.  The problem was that this particular user had a picture of a 2-player starter set sitting in the front seat of their car…from Worlds Collide!!!  The newest expansion from the game we all know and love, which includes two brand-new houses and a plethora of new card effects and abilities, was set to release in the 4th quarter of 2019.  This was common knowledge, and much speculation had been thrown around assuming that the month of November would hold the release date, which would coincide with the launch of the game last year.  Yet, here we were, with a fresh October afoot, and a rogue starter set in the hands of someone who had no idea what they currently had.

Immediately the thought was that this could possibly be some type of FFG stunt, a unique way to provide some new spoilers in a unique card game atmosphere, as the owner of this treasure claimed to have no idea that the new set wasn’t out yet, had conveniently thrown away the purchase receipt, and unable to offer any scans of the packaging.  Something was definitely amiss, but nonetheless, it sent KeyForge enthusiasts flocking to their local Targets to check out things for themselves, myself included. And as Target after Target was scoured with patrons such as myself coming up empty-handed, it appeared that this might just be a one-off instance, furthering the conspiracy theory just a little bit more.  But then, another player from the same area as the first purchaser was able to acquire five starter sets themself, and from here it appeared that the floodgates had opened. By the day’s end, the code had essentially been cracked as the DPCI number that Target was using to catalog the upcoming release of Worlds Collide just so happened to be the same one being used for a board game already in their system, but the damage had ostensibly been done.

Hello and welcome to yet another episode of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I’m your host, the insanely insoluble Raspberry Eyes, and in this edition, we are going to dissect the pros and cons of this massive bungle and how it affects the month leading up to the latest KeyForge expansion release.  While I will be talking about the tremendous amounts of spoilers that have been uncovered over the past few days and how they will impact the future of the game, I will not be talking about specific cards at this point in time.  Instead, I am going to be discussing what an odd event such as this does to the integrity of a growing game franchise and what this means for future releases. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it! 

First and foremost, while there were undoubtedly many mistakes made through the various distribution channels that allowed for such a major blunder to transpire, I wouldn’t truly blame any one individual or entity for what happened, at least not initially anyways.  When news of this fiasco originally hit my ears, I fully understood how something like this could happen. Without an extensive knowledge of the behind-the-scenes workings of a massive retailer such as Target, I would assume that the vast majority of those who work in “the back” don’t have aspirations of staying in that particular profession as a life-long career choice, so even if notices were left to not stock a certain item until a certain date, those are definitely going to get ignored from time to time.  Even with major release items that coincide with particular days such as movies, video games, and once upon a time even music (remember when people bought those shiny discs called CDs?), from time to time you could find one of those items out for purchase a few days early. But rarely will you find them available a full month in advance, which was so far ahead of schedule that FFG has yet to officially announce when Worlds Collide will actually release!

This brings us to the first of many cogs in the wheel of chaos that was created this past week, and that is the initial distribution of the starter sets themselves.  Now, I’m not naive and I know that FFG has had these ready to go for some time now, even if their upcoming products page is listing them as being “on the boat”, but why exactly did a major retailer such as Target need these that far in advance?  Casual game fans may pick up the starter on a whim and hopefully get hooked into the KeyForge community from that entry point product, but they definitely didn’t need to have those available for any type of launch. The local game shops and places that are going to hold tournaments and support the game are the only places that need product available prior to a release date, so this first misstep seemed like it was bound for nothing but disaster when one really examines the purpose of Target obtaining this item as early as they did.

The next error that was made was an obvious one and falls squarely on the shoulders of Target and its employees.  Initially one would look at the young workers who usually keep a retail establishment such as Target running on a day-to-day basis, but that would only make sense if this was an isolated incident.  As it turns out, while not completely widespread, at least not at first, someone had given this particular item a duplicate DPCI number that was identical to a different Richard Garfield game, but they also were not very clear on when to release this particular game in stores.  I know that if I were an employee stocking shelves, and I saw a box of brand-new board games waiting to be shelved, I wouldn’t have hesitated to get these out on the floor. In fact, aside from those who know what KeyForge is, seeing a 2-player starter set would make you assume that it is a board game of some kind and not the unique card game that it is.  This is evident as anyone who acquired a starter set of Worlds Collide out in the wild found them hidden in the board game section of the store, and not with the other card games such as Pokemon and Magic.  And while I do herald the fact that Target is focusing on stocking the starter sets as opposed to single decks, which is opposite of what they did with the Age of Ascension release, if this was a mislabeling problem that just so happened to coincide with product being made available far too early, well, then what happened early Sunday morning was a bit of a head-scratcher…

I personally slept in a bit, but upon waking up and checking Facebook and a few Discord channels, it appeared that the Target DPCI had updated.  You see, I, like many other KeyForge enthusiasts eager to get their hands on some new product, had been scouring my local Targets throughout the week.  I happen to have a job that has me traveling between the locations of both stores in my area, so swinging in daily to just take a peek at the board game section was no problem.  I thought that maybe the stores in my area had been holding on to the starter sets for a Sunday release, so I was ready to go out and check after looking into the DPCI numbers. This is when I found that a price had been listed for the original number, which was new, and someone on Facebook had said you can just go to Target’s website and order them straight from the source.  I was skeptical, to say the least, but I navigated my way there, typed in KeyForge, and the starter set popped up straight away! Somehow Target had realized their error, fixed it in their system, and without a release date set, they went ahead and started selling the starters outright, both in stores and through their online presence.

I immediately added five sets to my cart, and with a combination of discounts and a lonely gift card, I was able to get them with 2-day shipping for just shy of $100!  And this brings me to the last part of the equation in this debacle, the consumers such as myself. Now, I don’t feel bad about purchasing the starter sets and will continue to purchase more for various events from local game shops.  I still have my two display boxes pre-ordered along with a prime box and some other supplies as well, with no intentions of canceling those purchases because of the starter situation. I do have to wonder a little bit though as to what part I played into this unscheduled pre-release sneak preview event.  Should I have resisted the urge to make the purchase and just hold off like so many others will need to around the world until Worlds Collide is officially released, taking solace in the fact that I at least get to see spoiler upon spoiler and get acquainted with the cards for an entire month before any pre-release events take place?

I know that I am not alone in my online purchases because as of typing these last two paragraphs on Sunday night, Target’s website is now listing the 2-player starter sets as being temporarily out-of-stock, which means they made a solid amount of sales throughout the day if I can extrapolate the data I came across on players making similar purchase to my own.  I am also not holding my breath yet on actually receiving the starters until they are marked as shipped either, but I still feel great about being able to get those new cards into my hands and possibly even get a few games in with them before pre-release dates start to pop up in November, and I am not quite sure how this will affect local game shops and their bottom line on the newest expansion, but that is exactly where I want the remainder of this article to venture into as we look into what the ultimate ramifications of this botched release means for the game of KeyForge as a whole.

First, it makes total sense to look at our beloved local game shops and how this debacle will affect the inevitable release of Worlds Collide that is inching ever closer.  For me, I think that the few individuals that will now be purchasing less of the latest expansion because they were able to get their hands on a few starter sets a month early are so infinitesimal that come release day local game shops won’t even notice.  Will there be a better understanding of how certain cards and combos interact with each other at pre-release events? Absolutely, especially considering that almost every new card in the set has been spoiled up to this point, but those spoilers are readily available for everyone who has internet access, so there shouldn’t be a huge discrepancy in skill level between those who found decks early and those who did not.  This is mainly due to the fact that with this particular game, those early released decks are not legal to play and will not scan into the KeyForge app until the official release date. This is huge considering that those decks will not be ready for online play for some time, even if those kind-hearted souls who make TCO run had all of the Worlds Collide mechanics up and running, so there is no advantage aside from possibly being a bit more comfortable and familiar with the new cards being in hand if you were able to play with a group of others who had new decks as well.

So, I don’t see any downfall for local game shops at all in the aftermath of this spoiler bomb.  Players who love the game will still flock to pre-release events and still shell out their hard-earned cash to play in sealed or chainbound events.  If anything, from what I have seen through the spoilers and especially the anomalies that are presenting themselves in some of the decks, this unscheduled pre-release event might have caused an increase in interest for the new set to be legal.  Only time will tell on that, but if any repercussions are felt after this shockwave happening, a few players may opt to put down the 2-player starter set in favor of another deck or two, which overall isn’t going to cripple a local game shop that has a good following of KeyForge supporters.

I briefly alluded to this a few sentences ago, but one group of individuals that can greatly benefit from this outpouring of card details is the opensource crew who took over The Crucible Online after the release of Age of Ascension.  While they have had a heads up on getting some of the new effects into the game, I’m sure getting a head start on some of the anomaly abilities is going to be huge for the efforts in getting TCO ready for Worlds Collide decks, and is going to adversely affect everyone who does any deck-testing online immensely.  We all know how long it took for AoA to find its way to online play, and I believe the last set floundered a bit because of that fact.  I personally didn’t do much of any playing with my AoA decks outside of a sealed tournament or two for about 2 months after that set released, and by the time it was playable, the announcement of Worlds Collide had been made and everyone was gearing up for the next release.  With a head start of nearly a month, I’m sure that team can get things going and probably done for Worlds Collide implementation very near the official release date, and I couldn’t be more excited for that!  This will undoubtedly be a huge positive for the online players community, which is very important to KeyForge as a whole right now as it is the main way for many players around the world to partake in KeyForge activities on a consistent basis.

One party who might be a little hurt (emotionally, but not so much physically) by the leaked product at Target might be the fine folks at Fantasy Flight Games themselves.  While I haven’t heard an official announcement from FFG regarding the situation itself, and we may never hear one and FFG may just deny that the occurrence ever happened, aside from being able to spoil cards for the next month as a build up to the official release, I don’t think they are really missing out on anything, aside from having a little bit of their thunder stolen in the process.  I think FFG will recover nicely from this and take some steps down the line to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, but they are still selling decks one way or another and I’m sure they will survive the fallout.

One company that might take a hit, albeit a small one, is obviously going to be the retail giant Target itself.  As I have already stated and many others on the web have posted similarly, there was absolutely no reason for those stores to have this particular product that far in advance of a release date, so it would not surprise me in the least if those stores won’t receive future product until well after release date for future releases.  If you are an enthusiast such as myself, you are either ordering product directly through an online retailer or your local game shop, or you plan on purchasing decks in person when you visit those game shops to either play in sealed events or just because you know they will have the new stuff on release day. If you are a person who is purchasing KeyForge decks at a Target or other major retailer, it is because you don’t know about the game and are picking it up to give it a try (which is why Target stocking the starters this time around is genius on their behalf), or you happen to be a player who is picking up something else and spy a deck hanging near the checkout lanes.  No one is rushing out to Target on launch date to pick up the new set, and you can take that to the bank!

So, overall, I think that Target is the only group mentioned above that may have hurt themselves slightly with this whole situation, and even that is probably going to be minute, especially considering that they must be doing very well in both physical and online sales this past week with those starter sets.  Oddly enough, I see this early release as nothing but a benefit for the entire community, well, at least for those of us here stateside, as those poor souls in other parts of the world don’t even have the option to check their local Targets for new product, considering they most likely don’t have Targets in there area at all.  Even worse, while some players are selling off a few of the new decks prior to release, for any players overseas looking to get a new deck before that official release date drops, the month of November is so close that they might just be better off waiting at this point. I feel for all of you folks who will surely have to wait a few more weeks for Worlds Collide, especially as I haven’t had confirmation on my starter sets being shipped out quite yet, but that fabled release date is getting closer and closer, and I personally couldn’t be more excited for this new offering, spoiled cards or not!

That is going to do it for this go around in another episode of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes.  Thanks for continuing to read this nonsense, as while meeting a weekly deadline can add an unnecessary stressor to an already difficult few days, I have found it quite therapeutic to spout off on all things KeyForge over the past two months.  Even if just one or two kind souls out there are reading this, I thank you for your patronage and support in these endeavors, as its always a bit more fun to ramble if someone is out there paying attention! Next week I will be diverting from my usual incoherence as I will be providing a recap of my first ever experience playing in a 3-deck sealed survival tournament, so hopefully that turns out to be fun in every aspect that it can.  And with that, I’m Raspberry Eyes, signing off and reminding you all to ramble on!

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