TCGPlayer has acquired Channel Fireball, marrying two of the biggest online names in Magic: The Gathering
Consolidation is *checks notes* good for customers? That can’t be right.
TCGPlayer, one of the largest storefronts in the Magic: The Gathering secondary market, has announced plans to acquire point-of-sale provider and content creator ChannelFireball for an undisclosed sum. The move, which should be finalised within a couple of weeks, will consolidate two huge names in the trading card game’s ecosystem.
Both TCGPlayer and ChannelFireball’s respective presidents released statements today, July 11th, detailing the upcoming acquisition. They claimed the impending merger would not interrupt service on either website and that they intend to keep the individual experience of using either of their services as intact as possible.
“Joining forces with TCGplayer enhances our ability to serve our shared community, joining a team with a shared vision, culture, and complementary strengths. I’m confident that together, we’ll be well positioned to deepen our commitment to local game stores, expand our platform’s reach, and create a larger and more diversified company that will revolutionize the TCG world,” said CFB Group president Jon Saso.
ChannelFireball rose to popularity among the MTG community for hosting community events and providing expert coverage of the professional Pro Tour scene, along with criticism, opinions and deck tech from a number of well-known card game experts, including co-founder Louis Scott-Vargas. In 2020, the company acquired BinderPOS and pivoted the majority of its resources to operating as a marketplace in coordination with hobby shops and other retailers. This happened at the same time that similar websites dramatically scaled back their editorial presences within the space, such as Star City Games in January.
TCGPlayer remains a leader in selling trading card singles beyond just Magic: The Gathering - the US-based company claims a significant stake in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, Yu-Gi-Oh! and newcomer Flesh and Blood. The press release states that the acquisition of CFB Group’s existing resources and structure will allow TCGPlayer to expand into other collectibles, such as comic books and sports cards, as well as provide board games and a broader range of card products to hobby shops.
“"Together with ChannelFireball and BinderPOS, we will deepen the connection between collectors and retailers via online and physical store channels, accelerating a strategy that has been front and center to us since our founding,"said Chedy Hampson, founder and CEO of TCGplayer. "As a combined entity, we will also merge the industry's best content with the world's largest marketplace for TCGs. By bringing together our world-class expertise, infrastructure and scale in this way, we expect to deliver value to our community in new and exciting ways."
We’re so excited to announce our agreement to acquire @ChannelFireball and BinderPOS — adding on the industry’s best content for our hobbyist community along with a comprehensive POS solution for our retail partners. Read more: https://t.co/bFJco3Dcwv pic.twitter.com/pyd5trvJvv— TCGplayer (@TCGplayer) July 11, 2022
While this might seem like an exciting move for two of the largest names in the trading card game space, players should always be wary of consolidation - especially in a market environment where very few competitors already exist. TCGPlayer is a large seller of cards that has the ability to take a hit on individual prices in the name of convenience. Alternatives do exists - namely Card Kingdom and eBay, but every storefront TCGPlayer consumes is one less port its customers can turn to if the company makes changes they don’t agree with. Higher cuts from LGS direct sales? Surprise staff layoffs, crunch and reduced contribution to employee healthcare plans? What does it matter when there’s nowhere else for its customer base to go?
One person seemingly optimistic by this move is Scott-Vargas. On Twitter, he directly answered some fans who expressed scepticism that a merger of this size was good news by saying it will result in more resources for his content creation team - who make weekly articles, podcasts, videos, etc. He specifically mentioned Star City Games “axing” their own writers and described the media landscape as “grim”.
He’s not wrong - editorial branches of companies often feel the squeeze of shareholders and executives looking to trim fat from the bottom line. This can lead to layoffs, huge and sudden paradigm shifts to follow smokey SEO gambits (hello, 2016’s pivot to video mantra) or, failing that, complete dissolutions. ChannelFireball is willing to put their future in TCGPlayer’s hands. As to whether the once-leading voice of MTG will keep its well known branding, Scott-Vargas answered the question on Twitter simply with a crossed-fingers emoji.