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Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers. Happy Medium or Band-Aid?

/ Nov 12th, 2013 No Comments

Fellow Magic: The Gathering players are fairly versed in all the different outlets and options to enjoy the (now) 20 year old collectible card game. As far as an online presence is concerned, there are two different (official) outlets to enjoy the paper addiction. Magic: The Gathering Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers (DotP). Wizards of the Coast has now released their fourth iteration of Duels of the Planeswalkers for Steam and is presumably going to keep moving forward with the lighter version of Magic. But is a Madden style of annualization the best way to go? Or is this heading into a collision course with the long standing Magic Online crowd?

No matter where it’s played MtG is fun. It’s furiously addicting while also rewarding and punishing at the same time. DotP is a fantastically interesting take into the world of Magic with all the graphical updates and fancy effects to bolster its timeless gameplay. It has its drawbacks in that one can’t really “own” the cards and none of them carry over in any meaningful way. Things like limited deck customization options or having familiar archtypes appear in each game, remind everyone that this is an “on rails” MtG experience. Although the games have gotten better with subsequent releases, it still feels a bit odd to have a standalone card game (with microtransactions) abandoned year over year. Even though the target of the game is to enjoy the pure MtG experience without spending an arm and a leg for cards, there might be a convergence coming soon.

On the other hand, Magic: Online is an established platform with stores, communities and complete support from Wizards of the Coast. It is the legitimate way to play Magic and earn/purchase everything that the game can offer. The biggest detractor here is that despite user interface updates, it still plays and looks like a dated online game. While it may represent nostalgia and is certainly minor in that the strength of the game is all that matters, a place for a complete graphical overhaul has its merits. Especially since it would help to entice potential newcomers to spend money and invest in online Magic. Steps are being made, but the DotP set up is and can be where Magic: Online should be. Adjustments would need to be made, but seem minor in the grand scheme of things.

Sealed Play

Sealed Play

[adsense250itp]Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 has taken an interesting step with a sealed play mode. It allows players to make their own deck with randomly sealed cards as one would in the regular game. Devising which cards go into the deck and how many lands are run, is exciting and touches on the core experience of deck building. There is a limit to how many times this can be done but WotC allows users to purchase additional slots so they can buy rounds of sealed play. This is a significant departure from just being able to buy expansion decks and foils through microtransactions. The mode works great and leaves a message that this can and should be expanded upon. The functionality and possibility of creating a pure Magic experience has never been more apparent than with this mode. Sealed, drafting and general deck building matchups against opponents on the Steam platform has a tremendous upside. The microtransactions would bring some serious revenue.

Unfortunately, this convergence is not necessarily easy. WotC would lose their ability to control and maximize revenue while also suffering considerable loss. Doing a complete overhaul of MtGO would likely result in a logistics nightmare with downtime, delays and server shutdown a near certainty. In spite of all of this, soon enough DotP is going to need more and more core MtG features to sustain itself. It’s getting closer, but a year to year installment might not be the way. Blizzard‘s Hearthstone has a deep and self-contained system that could serve as a catalyst or mutual point to combine all online MtG games. WotC can certainly do it and new features are getting closer to the core experience. So right now it may just be a matter of time.

Mark Gonzales

Mark Gonzales

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Mark is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and part of the editorial team. He always has had an intense love for gaming and of the spoken word. During conversations, he is known to create elaborate anecdotal references to popular 90's phrases with varying levels of success.
Mark Gonzales
Mark Gonzales

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