MTG: Arena was announced last week at PAX West as part of their MTG: Next program which is the transition to digital games from our beloved card game. The game looks beautiful and although visually it is very similar to Blizzard’s Hearthstone, the game play is still MTG.
With the announcement of the Closed Beta registration on their website, which you can find there if you want to sign-up, https://magic.wizards.com/en/mtgarena. They have mentioned that they will cater the Closed Beta more towards the players who frequent Friday Night Magic than others but maybe one of you stand a chance to play in the Closed Beta.
So what does this mean? For one, Wizards of the Coast is heading towards E-sports following the boom of digital card games like Hearthstone, Gwent, Shadowverse, and other if not similar games online. They have mentioned that MTG: Arena will still compose of the formats that are prevalent in Table Top MTG like Standard and Draft but will most probably be played in a Ladder method like most other digital card games. For now, MTG: Arena will only compose of the recent Standard cards which most probably mean Ixalan which will be releasing at the end of September and most probably Amonkhet which will make up the Standard sets for next rotation.
They do mention that older cards and older formats like Modern and Legacy are in their plan but will take some time to be implemented into the game. Following the other digital card game models, I do expect that the game will be Free to Play friendly but Booster packs and other in-game purchases are available and optional. Whichever it is, I am still excited to have a go at it and play Standard from the comfort of my home.
Still, I ponder on the outcome of another Wizards of the Coasts product which is the Magic the Gathering Online (“MTGO”). MTGO has been the digital card game for MTG which has almost all the cards and formats mirroring the Table Top MTG. In my opinion, although MTG: Arena is the right direction Wizards of the Coast is taking, in a way, it is cannibalizing its own product, the MTGO.
If MTG: Arena is going to be better, not only visually but also in the Free to Play prospect, the MTGO players will most probably jump ship to MTG: Arena. There could be a separation where MTGO will be the door to Pro Tour and other benefits which are alike to the Table Top MTG, while MTG: Arena is another E-Sport on its own.
The other thought that I contemplate is the impact it has on Table Top MTG. The allure of Table Top MTG unlike MTGO is the concrete product to hold in your hands and the human interaction between people. The other problem that MTGO has is that the prices of the products online is at the exact same price as the products of Table Top MTG. In the case where MTG: Arena has the prospects of being Free to Play and also being able to collect the same cards as Table Top MTG, then MTG: Arena would be the better game to invest the time and money into.
Furthermore, the most of the newer generations often than not prefer digital games, playing from the comfort of their home. Digital Games, online or otherwise has always been more popular than Table Top games. Therefore with MTG: Arena, is it the herald for the end of Table Top MTG and MTGO? Maybe, but there are ways for Wizards of the Coast still retain the interest of players for Table Top Mtg.
One of the ways that could be done is by releasing a set like Ixalan way earlier for Table Top MTG than MTG: Arena. This way, to be able to play the latest set, players have to buy and play with the Table Top MTG first and only later be able to play in MTG: Arena. Still, it would mean double investment, where a player is investing in Table Top MTG would also have to invest in MTG: Arena and this could be a turn off to certain players.
I for one would still be playing the Table Top MTG as I prefer the human interaction between players and also the joy of seeing my opponent’s face squirm as I beat him with a Dinosaur riding a Pirate ship. All in all, MTG: Arena would be a great addition to Wizards of the Coasts products and would be a another ladder I would be climbing once it is released.
But until then, keep slinging those spells.