'Magic: The Gathering' Making a Play for eSports with Digital Release

Magic: The Gathering Arena - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Wizards of the Coast
The longtime best-selling card game is finally moving online, with an aim to some day have people watching it in arenas.

Twenty five years after it first hit stores, Magic: The Gathering has grown into a global phenomenon among tabletop card game players. Now, there's a new way to play.

Announcing the news online, game developer Jeffrey Steefel introduced the first digital version of the fan-favorite strategy game.

"The first and best strategy card game with the most vibrant global community deserves an outstanding digital presence. I’m proud to introduce Magic: The Gathering Arena," said Steefel.

The new version of Magic will be a digital reimagining of the classic strategy card game. "First and foremost, MTG Arena is going to be an amazing place to play the game you love with all the depth, rules, and nuances fans love, plus the striking and easy-to-understand visuals that make watching online exciting," Steefel said.

The push to digital is also aimed at cultivating a culture of spectator sportsmanship for the game. "We want Kenji Egashira’s [professional gamer] MTG Arena stream to one day get as many viewers as the Pro Tour does today," explains Steefel. "We want players to eagerly anticipate MTG Arena draft nights with their friends around the world."

"To realize that vision, we're creating the game with three important goals in mind," he continued. "We want to create the deepest, richest digital card game on the market. At the start of Closed Beta, we will launch with the same or greater number of cards than our competitors release in a year. By the time we go into full launch, MTG Arena will feature the full card set in Standard — more cards than other digital TCGs have created in their entire lifespan, with 1,000 new cards added every year. That means deeper gameplay, more options, and more room to explore."

Engaging spectators for the new digital game is a paramount concern. "We want to create a version of Magic that's as much fun to watch as it is to play," Steefel said. "Viewing MTG Arena on Twitch or other platforms will be a fast-paced, exciting, and easy to understand experience for fans across the globe. Our goal is nothing less than creating one of the premier eSports viewing experiences with fun visuals, awesome sound, and cool ways to learn from and interact with our evolving catalogue of content. We want to create a game that can evolve."

That evolution, Sheefel insists, should involve the fans. "There are two primary ways you can be involved with the development of MTG Arena: join the Closed Beta and play it at one of several events over the coming months. First, you can sign up for the Closed Beta at MTG-Arena.com. 

Magic Online will continue to release new cards, updates and ongoing tournaments as it rolls out.