Monday, July 12, 2004

Magic The Gathering - Cool Game or Cash Cow?

Around 1994 I became interested in a game called Magic: The Gathering. As everyone knows, or almost everyone in gaming circles, MTG became a huge hit and single cards from early print runs sold for hundreds of pounds. If only I had bought shedloads of those first runs. I remember seeing displays in the game shops and wondering what this strange new game was. Doh! Anyway from 1994 to 1999 I collected folders full of cards and played the game quite seriously, entering a few tournaments and pre-releases. Soon though the player base in my area dwindled and the cards seemed to be getting stale. A new expansion every 3 months became very expensive as well. So my gaming opportunities and the depth of my pocket became considerably smaller.

Now my paper cards gather dust in my folders and a new phenomon has appeared. The internet! Now this may have been unlucky or lucky depending on how you look at it. Surfing quietly minding my own business I happened upon the old Wizards of the Coast website that I had bookmarked. Ah well, I’ll have a look and see if anything has changed much. Seems the same nothing changed.....hang on, what’s this link..... magic online. Like the sucker I am I thought I’ll just have a look and see what this is all about. That was six months or so ago. Now I have a collection of about 550 digital cards, yes digital cards!! The online game has a lot going for it. Players to play against 24/7, drafts, leagues and tournaments too. The graphic interface is superb and the software handles all the rules, counters and score keeping. On the downside they have had problems with the servers crashing and plenty of bugs with new releases. The digital equivalent of paper comes out about a month after the paper release. Also the digital cards cost the same as paper. And you are only leasing the right to use the images, you don’t actually own the cards!!

Why am I still playing, quite simply because MTG is a good game and the convenience of being able to play when I want is great. I have played hundreds of games in the casual player rooms and have only had two bad experiences. They went straight on my blocked list. Oh yes, you can block players if they are whiners, whingers, bad sports or cheats. Then you never see them again in the playing rooms, chat rooms or anywhere. They’ve gone for good. Likewise if you have a good game with someone, interesting cards, nice chat in-game or such you can add them to your buddy list and you get a dialogue box up when you log on to tell which of your buddies is logged at the time.

I will write more about my MTGO experiences if anything of note occurs. Hopefully when Fifth Dawn, the new expansion that is released this week, hits the servers they will stay up and running. We wait with baited breath.

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