Netflix has found its Game of Thrones-like fantasy franchise.
The streaming giant is teaming with Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast for the first-ever Magic: The Gathering TV series. Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, fresh off Avengers: Endgame, will executive produce the series. Henry Gilroy (Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Jose Molina (The Tick, Agent Carter) will serve as lead writers and co-exec producers on the anime series. An episode order and length of each installment has yet to be determined as Netflix, the creative team and Magic: The Gathering parent company Wizards of the Coast — who will produce — will let the storytelling drive those decisions.
The Russo brothers, who have been fans and players of what is considered a nearly $1 billion franchise trading card game, will oversee the creation of an all-new storyline and expand on the stories of M:TG‘s famed Planeswalkers — the franchise’s magic-wielding heroes and villains — as they contend with stakes larger than any one world can hold.
Octopie will oversee production on the series, with the Russos’ AGBO president Todd Makurath, Eric Calderon and Dave Newberg producing. AGBO president of production Mike Larocca and Isaac Krauss are also exec producing. Yoriaki Mochizuki will serve as supervising director and co-exec producer. Animation on the series will be done by Bardel Entertainment (Teen Titans Go).
Sources say the big-picture goal for Netflix and Hasbro-owned Wizards of the Coast will be to expand the series into a larger franchise featuring multiple series — a la the streamer’s former Marvel suite of since-canceled shows. The deal is the first time Magic: The Gathering will be adapted for the screen after Fox planned to adapt the strategy-based card game for the big screen in 2014. (That project, which had Game of Thrones grad Bryan Cogman attached to pen the script and X-Men‘s Simon Helberg on board to exec produce, never got off the ground.)
Launched in 1993, the Magic franchise counts a massive 38 million fans, with cards published in 11 languages and players in more than 70 countries. Hasbro acquired M:TG parent company Wizards of the Coast in 1999 for $325 million. As of 2017, Wizards comprised 7 percent of Hasbro’s $12 billion market cap, with the latter valued at an estimated $840 million (according to the former’s 10-K SEC filing). In the past few years, Wizards and Hasbro have made a play for eSports and launched a new comic book miniseries, among other endeavors.
“More fans are enjoying Magic now than at any time in its 25-year history, thanks to the enduring popularity of the tabletop game and our latest release War of the Spark, as well as the incredible success of our new digital game, Magic: The Gathering Arena,” said Wizards of the Coast president Chris Cocks. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with Joe and Anthony Russo to bring Magic: The Gathering’s rich and diverse cast of characters and worlds to Netflix in a way that will delight our many fans and those new to the franchise.”
M:TG is the latest animated series join a growing slate of programming in the genre for Netflix. The streamer’s continued push in the space also includes the global anime series Devilman: Crybaby, Aggretsuko and Ultraman, plus the critical darling adult animated comedies BoJack Horseman, Big Mouth and Disenchantment.
“Magic is a beloved global franchise with a massively engaged fan base that has only continued to grow over the last 25 years,” said John Derderian, head of anime programming at Netflix. “There’s no one better suited to bring this story to audiences around the world than Joe and Anthony Russo, whose talent for genre storytelling is unmatched, as demonstrated by their central role in creating some of the biggest box office hits of all time.”
M:TG gives Netflix its own fantasy series as streamers and premium outlets alike jockey to launch the next global hit in the space after Game of Thrones wrapped its run on HBO last month. Amazon, for its part, has a live-action Lord of the Rings in the works in what sources say was a deal worth $250 million for rights alone. Meanwhile, HBO is prepping multiple Game of Thrones prequels.
The M:TG series comes as franchises continue to be attractive across the TV landscape as everyone from broadcast to cable and streamers look to snap up high-profile IP and lure eyeballs in a competitive landscape featuring nearly 500 scripted originals. Netflix, after ending its Marvel deal, has remained aggressive in its attempt to build out new franchises, inking deals with the likes of Mark Millar and the Roald Dahl Co., the latter of which the streamer spent $1 billion on rights to build a kids franchise.