Video game news can be weird, particularly when it comes from channels which aren't usually monitored by enthusiasts, or even the games media. That's certainly the case with this interesting nugget regarding the future of Magic which was actually revealed as part of a Hasbro investor presentation last year. Normally, these sorts of things are incredibly boring, but this particular presentation held some interesting tidbits, namely, the long-term strategy for the future of digital Magic.

The powers that be at Hasbro (and Wizards of the Coast) seem to be in an interesting situation right now. They're giants of the collectable card game world, but it seems like these days Hearthstone [Free] is everything that Magic wished their digital offerings were. The game is streamed 24/7 by people with countless fans, the presentation of the game lends itself to being an easy spectator eSport, and it is playable on all the major platforms for free.

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Comparatively, while the paper version of Magic may be doing better than ever before, its digital offerings are weirdly split between two products which at best are kinda-sorta OK. Magic Duels [Free] is their free to play side which is largely targeted towards players new to the game, but judging by reactions of hardcore Magic players, many of the restrictions the game has keeps them from getting invested. Meanwhile, Magic Online exists in a constant state of jank and inexplicably is only available for the PC.

It seems like the new player path is something along the lines of, download Magic Duels, play for a bit, learn the game, decide it's pretty cool and you want to get more involved. At this point, you walk away from your entire collection in Magic Duels and start over either buying paper cards or digital product in Magic Online. It's an awkward transition, particularly when you're effectively telling players, "OK, so all that stuff you spent potentially months unlocking? You can't bring it with you." I (and seasoned Magic players) understand how the whole ecosystem works, so it makes sense to us, but in a world where the key metric everyone is striving for is player retention, it's supremely messy.

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That's where what they're calling "Magic Digital Next" comes in. Per Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, here's the plan:

Right now we have digital offerings at both ends of the knowledge and engagement spectrum. Magic Online is for the highest level players and we have Duels as an entry experience. The greatest opportunity for Magic is to create a new digital experience leveraging contemporary technology to create a seamless digital experience that meets all the players needs from new players to pro players. This is what we are investing in and we have a team in place to deliver the first new Magic Digital Next product in the next few years.

My only concern is if Magic Digital Next isn't going to be delivered for another "few years" yet, how much more steam is Hearthstone going to build up by then? You're already seeing Magic pro players like Brian Kibler switching gears to Hearthstone, and it feels somewhat inevitable that that trend is going to continue because playing Hearthstone at a professional level is largely just easier from a logistical / travel standpoint than doing the same with Magic.

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Either way, it's cool that Wizards (or, in this case, Hasbro) is at least acknowledging that this is a problem and is actively working towards a solution. Every time I've met with the Magic team, my first question always is something along the lines of "Why isn't Magic Online on tablets yet?" I would be absolutely shocked if Magic Digital Next wasn't totally cross-platform, but, well, Wizards hasn't had a great history of doing things that make a whole lot of sense in the digital space.

As a life-long lover of Magic the Gathering, I hope this is a turning point.

[via Purple Pawn]

  • cabuckn

    Any idea if they are going to do this all in house or go third party? (Development wise)

  • Wizard_Mike

    I'm not going to get my hopes up just yet. It sounds like Magic Digital Next is what Magic Duels should have been. They really missed the mark with Magic Duels, and that has done a lot to kill my confidence that they will finally deliver the experience that we are craving for on mobile.

  • WP

    I've always felt like WotC is just too afraid of cannibalizing their physical card product to go all in on digital to the point that we'll never get what is truly needed to appease their current fanbase. I always get excited about the release of each new digital iteration they release, and always ultimately feel letdown. But regardless of what they release next, as usual they'll be a "few years" late with whatever attempt they come up with.

    • MoogleStiltzkin

      exactly. they want to eat their cake and keep it too... this is their situation for handling their physical card game and digital. they refuse to update with the modern virtual medium by adding a bunch of limitations and restrictions which there is none in hearthstone. And people are investing time and money into hearthstone as such. I don't mind the slower magic the gathering pace, but their driving fans away to where their welcome >->; ...

      Also will we ever have another good card game like shandalar? all the planeswalker duels games had been a pale in comparison since then, in terms of fun and content compared to that outdated graphics game :{ it's a real shame.

      • Jonathan McClain

        110% better prize pools for both MTGO and Duels (Digital Next), the wave of pay to win games needs to come to an end. Duels was way too much of a pay to win game, at least Duels 2015 on android was cheap you could buy all the available cards for around 90-100 bucks, now on Duels 2016 with Kaladesh you're looking at 500 dollars easy as you need tens of thousand of coins to buy the whole collection of cards.

        Better rewards, period hands down, that will create a stampede of new players and it will retain them as well.

        The MTGO economy could use some revamping as well, there needs to be more ways players can earn TIX, it feels too much like a money dump, personally I think TIX should be eliminated all together and then an increase in the price of the Collection redemption possibly as much as a 300% increase which puts it at around $75. That I think would increase the amount of traffic on MTGO drastically.

        WOTC could mitigate the cost by adding ad space, like a banner on the home screen, like everyone else on the internet, ad revenue could then be reinvested into MTGO and better the experience for players.

      • MoogleStiltzkin

        actually i don't bemoan others if they can purchase boosters to get cards. how this compares to hearths booster packs i guess is up for debate. what interests me more as a f2p player is what barriers we face. duels is not magic online... that to me is a big barrier... hearthstone has no such barrier :[

      • Brendan Abel

        Getting rid of redemption (or making it very expensive) would tank a lot of the standard prices on MTGO. You'd probably get a situation where the best 2-3 mythics from a set make up almost all the value and the rest of the rares are with almost nothing, kind of how modern cards are. Please god I hope they don't add banner ads. There are exactly zero games I've played that have been improved by advertisements, especially lore and flavor heavy handed like magic

  • speetz

    Really wish magic would get with it already; I love hearthstone and it's mechanics and lore, but am a long time magic fan and have friends who play the irl game. Hell, damn near copy the HS system for magic rules and aesthetic, with a different progression system. Everyone would love it, I assume. Hopefully this will encompass all their digital stuff for a new and definitive digital magic experience.

    • thanos syro

      stick to your hs & save us from your "suggestions" for mtg

  • Themagicjesus

    Every Magic game released recently has been awful. Duels of the Planeswalkers especially

  • LLamaPie

    Please please please just make MTGO for mobile with an updated interface.

  • Jean Meiring Marais

    I'll settle just to be able to manage decklists whilst offline and online from my mobile phone.

    • Lunkz

      taking pictures of your decks and adding it to an app would be nice way...

  • Jesse Low

    "Why isn't magic online on a tablet yet?" he asked them. Because they're a toy games company. They're completely clueless when it comes to developing an app which is why mtgo is awful. They have to use all their revenue to come up with the next set of cards that everyone runs out and buys three months from now. No money left for mtgo and it shows. I left mtgo years ago after being fed up with the bugs/ui and said "I'll come back when they outsource it to Blizzard or anyone else who can develop a game properly." Well Blizzard came up with their own game and I left for it. Is it as complex as good of a game as MTG? Probably not. But it doesn't matter because of how good the interface is, how easy and convenient it is to play. You can pull it up on your phone from anywhere. And it's just more fun. Mtg can get tedious. MTGO is the worst.

    • BlindBraille

      Don't be intentionally dense. You want to give a fan boy rant? That's super for you but if you gate Mtg then gtfo of a thread about improving the community. You "left" Mtgo? Lol how old are you? You know it's a paper based card game right? If my 10 year old can make an app that makes fart noises a "toy" company (wtf?) like wotc can hire a programmer at 15 bucks an hour to pump out an app in less than a week. It's astonishing how little people know about what goes in to making a digital app. It's not magic, (no pun intended) a 10 minute YouTube video can give you the basics and there is literally no excuse why a company worth 325 million (in 1999)a company actually owned by hasbro - a company that already has a digital presence with various apps- doesn't have an app already. Just, seriously, think before you type.

  • BlindBraille

    I've been playing magic since release maybe 20 years or so. I've lost more cards than most people will ever own and have played most iterations of digital magic games. On the Xbox I've played since the first Magic released and unlocked - over and over - all the cards and decks. Duels is the latest in a long line of wonky glitches and poor programming. But I love the game and continue to do so. Magic online is (or was) the worst attempt at a cohesive digital experience. With no way to use my paper cards (obvioisly) online the cost of rebuilding some over my decks is ridiculous. I'm not going to rebuild my sliver deck for the cost of a new 4k TV. Of course you can't give any player every card, it would crash the monetary ecosystem, but magic duels is at least making an attempt and while I've only spent a couple bucks on magic duels (I think I was short 500g for a full unlock) I would be much more likely to try to jump in digitally now that I have a few decent decks built.

  • Kenny N Anita Garrett

    I don't get why wotc can't make a magic online game that has access to all the cards(standard or modern), but pay a monthly charge like world of Warcraft to play 15.00 a month or something like that

    • Kenny N Anita Garrett

      And make it available on OV, android and ios

    • Brendan Abel

      Kind of defeats the purpose of a collectible card game. Why even have different rarities at that point

  • Carl Foster

    I've enjoyed playing magic duals, but felt it had something missing. Instead of a weekly quest, a weekly competition would be good. Even if its swiss style to make it fairer. Is there any way of incorporating into the next digital game? Also an optional silver border expansion would be fun.

  • Rocky Lee

    magic duels started out as a game featuring pre-constructed decks, then they turned it into full deck construction free to play model. i dont mind spending $20 on those products, but if i want an entire smick collection, i have to spend money on boxes of boosters, not gonna happen gl.