Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast reportedly sent Pinkerton private investigators to a YouTube creator’s house last week to retrieve mistakenly sold cards from an unreleased set. In doing so, the massive company upset the creator’s home, allegedly harassed neighbours and spawned a wave of criticism from the tabletop community and beyond.
YouTuber Dan Cannon, also known as oldschoolmtg, first gained notice when he posted a video opening a box of March of the Machine: The Aftermath, leaking the contents of a trading card game set not due to hit retail until May 12th. The video exploded and apparently caught the attention of Wizards of the Coast, as Cannon’s wife answered a knock on the door the following day to find Pinkertons demanding all of the unreleased product.
In a video explainer published April 22nd, Cannon claims the agents threatened jail time, huge fines and other repercussions if he didn’t relinquish the “stolen product”, which reportedly upset his wife to the point of tears. The creator said that he purchased the boxes from an acquaintance who did not realise March of the Machine: The Aftermath was a substantively different MTG product from the recently released March of the Machine set. The Pinkertons took everything, including tokens and packaging, before giving him the number for a Wizards of the Coast employee.
That contact was “very nice, very apologetic”, according to Cannon and assured him Wizards of the Coast does not believe anyone stole the cards. Instead, the company “wanted to know where to plug the hole” that allowed at least 22 reported boxes of unreleased booster packs to find their way to a seller and eventually his hands. The Wizards employee claimed the company would somehow compensate him with different cards at some point but reportedly didn’t offer specifics.
The original video no longer exists on YouTube, as Cannon took it down and warned others against hosting it or any screenshots of the leaked cards - he claims the Wizards contact called it “a copyright infringement thing”. Dicebreaker reached out to Wizards of the Coast and the Pinkerton agency for comment but did not hear back before publication.
Wizards of the Coast has responded to Polygon and io9, the former confirming that the company did hire the Pinkerton agents in order to investigate “the unauthorized distribution and disclosure of embargoed product.” The latter response claimed that “under no circumstances would we instruct any employee or contracted agency to intimidate an individual,” and Wizards “strongly refutes” the events described in Cannon’s videos.
Cannons generally amenable tone was not present in a three-minute followup video uploaded on April 25th. He says the Pinkertons “harassed” his elderly neighbours by knocking on their doors asking about him, claiming they had an appointment with him. He said this constituted a “massive overreach” by Wizards of the Coast in hiring private investigators who would disrupt his community, upset his wife and threaten an individual over trading card game boxes. Dicebreaker reached out to Cannon for comment but has not received a reply.
For the unaware and those largely outside the US, Pinkerton currently exists as a private detective agency and security guard service owned by Swedish security firm Securitas AB. Their website promotes an image of professionalism that leans on a slanted version of historical Pinkertons; their corporate investigation section specifically touts their track record for helping win civil lawsuits and litigation against current and former employees.
Pinkerton’s past is a sordid mixture of union-busting, corporate spycraft and serving as the blueprint for the US Secret Service, which now protects current and former presidents. It was once the largest private policing force in the world and consistently infiltrated strikes, nascent unions and other pro-worker movements to gather information and sow discord on behalf of owners and executives, a torch the contemporary Pinkertons are all too happy to carry. They were also recently the villains of video game Red Dead Redemption 2, a point which eventually led to a lawsuit against developer Rockstar.
Hasbro, owner of Wizards of the Coast, plans to lean heavily on its most lucrative intellectual properties over the next five years, and Magic: The Gathering has become one of its strongest sellers. March of the Machine: The Aftermath has been advertised as a story-forward set that will shape the future of the trading card game, perhaps in a way that better wields MTG’s potential as a brand similar to what Dungeons & Dragons has been doing for years.
Corporate executives will act to protect a brand that Hasbro views as a core asset, especially one that earns nearly $1 billion annually, so hiring Pinkerton agents to quickly squash this leak and collect the evidence makes a brutally pragmatic kind of sense. But the alleged “overreach” and specific choice of Pinkerton appears to position the company squarely against a rising tide of unionisation efforts spreading across the tabletop industry, from Pathfinder RPG maker Paizo to TCG specialists Card Kingdom and TCGPlayer.
According to a recent report from io9, Wizards of the Coast hired Pinkerton agents in 2017 to track down a stolen uncut sheet of cards from the Ixalan set. Sources in the story claim Pinkerton agents conducted interviews and alluded to multiple instances of theft that Wizards of Coast hired the agency to solve.