Citing a second wave of the novel coronavirus and feedback from the recent Core Set 2021 prerelease, Wizards of the Coast is temporarily suspending sanctioned in-store play.
The suspension effects the U.S. and Latin America markets and will be in place at minimum through the Zendikar Rising prerelease, which is expected to occur in September (though the actual date is yet unknown).
"We'd love to provide a timeline for the return of in-store play, but this would be too vulnerable to disruption," states the company in the official announcement. "After all, in-store play was reinstated on June 1 and, by the end of the month, the situation was drastically different—so different that we felt it best to suspend in-store play again."
WotC further says the company is continuing to monitor the situation and will make monthly updates beginning in September.
"On the second Wednesday (Pacific time) of every month, we will publish an update on whether we've decided to continue the suspension or lift it for the following month," they state.
A number of store owners and event organizers are praising WotC's decision to suspend in-store play due to COVID-19 concerns.
"This is not desirable, but it is necessary," comments Matthew Vercant, owner of Just Games in Rochester, NY. "Thank you for putting community safety ahead of profits."
Jesus Sanchez, owner of Seikatsu - Anime & Gaming Lounge in Loredo, Tex., agrees.
"This was the right thing to do," he says. "Cases are five times worse than when it started in my town. There’s also city guidelines not allowing groups of 6+ to gather. We were choosing no matter what not to open, was worried that it would directly hurt my store’s metrics if sanctioned in-store play would be allowed again, making us fall behind."
Once in-store sanctioned play does return, it will likely not be the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.