Magic: The Gathering
has been around for 20 years. Whether you know anything about it or not, even if you don't care one bit, you've heard of it. Chances are, you even know one or two people who play it. Through countless core sets and story blocks, M:tG fans have spent ridiculous amounts of money on the game, and there's a good reason for it, for those interested in it: It's fun.
Buying packs, building decks suited to your personality, your type of strategy, your play style and competing against people to see who's the better strategist is a rush that not much compares to. When you get an idea for a deck and go to buy one more pack (it's never just one more pack) to see what you can pull and you get that one card you need to tie everything together...it's addicting.
The best part about it (play-wise, not money-wise) is that there's a new set of cards every three months. New creature abilities, new spells and new combos make sure the game is always evolving. The problem with Magic
, however, is that the fanbase rarely grows. For the longest time, the only consistent players were those who had been playing for years. That all changed back in 2009 with Duels of the Planeswalkers
When the original Duels
launched in 2009 on the 360, PS3 and PC, it was purchased immediately by long-time fans of the game. Finally, there was a real M:tG video game. Sure, the PC had a few cult classics, but never anything that played like the actual physical card game (not counting Magic Online
). Not only did it give players the chance to play at home when their friends or a tournament weren't available, it gave them a chance to easily introduce their friends. With streamlined, semi-automated gameplay such as auto mana tapping, auto damage calculation, auto drawing and auto card effect resolutions, there never had to be an argument over rules or if someone forgot an ability or a draw step. There were also easy-to-follow tutorials. As more people were introduced to the game by this newbie/casual friendly console game, more interest in the physical game was raised. And there's the brilliance of it all: Wizards found the perfect win/win situation.
Even if the people introduced had no interest in dropping loads of money on the card game, if they liked the game, they could drop $10 on a video game, get tons of deck options and play as much as they wanted. If they liked the idea of an all-foil deck or getting every card in a deck unlocked immediately, they could just drop 99 cents and have just that. For Wizards of the Coast, it's pure profit. If those people ever ended up deciding to get into the physical game for more options or more people to play with, it's even more pure profit.
Naturally, seeing the success of the first Duels of the Planeswalkers
, Wizards set out to do it again. Enter Duels 2012
, when their scheme gets even more brilliant. This time, Wizards set the release a scant month before the 2012 Core Set launched, which is effectively when the previous year's cards get phased out. Yet again, long-time players had more options for playing at home and, yet again, it was a way for new players to be introduced. A new gameplay mode that drastically altered the way the game was played was added to keep things interesting and the game served as a preview of the new cards, yet another way for Wizards to advertise.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
was another home run. Tons of people, both experienced and new, downloaded the game and played the hell out of it. Many of the new players proceeded to delve into the physical game and then proceeded to introduce it to more of their friends, all the while putting more money into the pockets of the intrepid employees of Wizards of the Coast. We're starting to approach Dr. Doom levels of brilliance here, folks. Wizards may not be printing money as fast as Nintendo, but they're certainly not hurting.
Of course it doesn't stop there, though. On Wednesday, June 20 2012, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
hit the digital market with the most brilliant addition yet: an iPad version. Now, not only did players have the option of playing on their game system of choice, they could play anywhere the went. It brings a whole new potential audience into the fold: business people, students who had no interest in games past Angry Birds, parents who didn't have time or extra money to invest in full-scale retail games...The potential audience pool is almost endless, especially considering the free version that offers a quarter of the campaign with four decks to choose from.
was an immediate success and once again, old players have something new to play and use to introduce new players, Wizards has another chance to advertise upcoming cards and even more ways to make money and get buzz going for the new Core Set and there's the added perk of mobility.
At no point during these last three years has Wizards had to worry about losing money. Hell, they've got tons of other games they publish, too. This, however, was (and will continue to be) pure profit. With every new release, they draw in new players. With every new release, they get more money, whether it's only the initial $10, or the hundreds, if not thousands more that will be spent on buying cards. For the first time in many years, the Magic: the Gathering
community is now growing very rapidly is once again very healthy and the folks at Wizards are swimming in their pools of money Scrooge McDuck style.
GG, Wizards of the Coast. You have have found the perfect advertising strategy: Give people a video game that almost fully emulates the real thing, raise interest in people old and new, sit back and watch the cash flow in. It truly is the most brilliant advertising scheme ever conceived.