Tobold's Blog
Saturday, December 08, 2018
Gaming as a job

I have a challenging and well-payed day job. Thus for me games are and have always been entertainment for fun and relaxation. The recent announcement from Wizards of the Coast that they want to turn Magic the Gathering into an esport with a $10 million prize pool isn't very attractive to me. I don't need another job. And I consider pursuing a career as a professional athlete in any discipline, electronic or real, to be not a very good idea: If you become an engineer and it turns out that you are not among the world's top performers, you'll still bring home a good salary. If you become an professional athlete and it turns out that you are not among the world's top performers, you will live a life of poverty and hardship. It's a bit like playing the lottery: A small chance of striking it big and a large chance of ending up a loser.

Now the idea behind giving away 10 million bucks in prizes for eSports is not just to attract aspiring professional athletes. You also hope that the top matches end up being seen by a wide audience on platforms like Twitch, and that this in turn attracts a lot more new players to your game, so you make your money back. I can see how that can work with games like Dota, Counterstrike, or Starcraft. These games have visual elements to them which make them interesting to watch, and even a non-player of these games can understand what is going on. But if I look at Magic the Gathering, I am not 100% convinced that it makes for a great spectator sport. Even with the added visual effects of Magic Arena, it remains a card game. If you don't understand the rules of the game, and those rules are rather complicated (much more so than in Hearthstone), it is hard for a spectator to follow what is going on. Some decks relying on combos or control might look extremely boring for most of the match, until the player suddenly wins, with only people who know about that type of deck seeing it coming.

This summer the CEO of Hasbro talked on Jim Cramer's Mad Money about the importance of Twitch and eSports for both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. That caused some confusion, because he wasn't making a distinction, and most people couldn't imagine D&D as an eSports. But as the many YouTube, Twitch, and other channels showing people playing D&D prove, Dungeons & Dragons is a very watchable game. It is a game that plays on two levels, one about story-telling, and another about rules and game mechanics. You don't need to understand the rules to be able to follow the story, so Matt Mercer describing a dragon attack makes for good viewing even for people who don't know the rules at all. Magic the Gathering has always tried to evoke a similar sense of story by having lore and artwork, but pretty much failed to do so. Playing a card with a dragon on it in Magic just doesn't have the story impact of a dragon in D&D.

An even bigger problem for Hasbro might be the increasingly negative attitude of gamers towards heavily monetized games. Valve recently launched their own trading card game, Artifact, on their own Steam platform, and got ripped apart by their own community for the monetization. And Artifact is a *lot* cheaper than Magic the Gathering.

In summary I understand where Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast is trying to go with Magic Arena. But I still think they are making a mistake by focusing so much on the competitive aspects of the game, and neglecting the casual / new player experience. I believe even 10 million dollars can't buy you enough players to make Magic Arena a big success.

Maybe Magic have some insulation from monetisation claims, because they've always been expensive.

And with Arfifact, some part of it is probably that there's an entry fee AS WELL as typical card game monetisation.
Your first paragraph is spot on. Whoever coined the phrase "Choose a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life" forgot to add "but there is a good chance you will be constantly poor and exploited by those who care more about money than about the thing you love".

Have I just grown too old and cynical?
Esports is a bad investment for all parties in my opinion. There are far too many games in too many genres to support the limited amount of viewership available.

For many games the boat has already sailed. If you are not already in the top end of viewership numbers you have a long road ahead of you trying to gain viewership.

I watch Heroes of the Storm streams regularly. It's consistently the top 3rd MOBA on Twitch. During HGC games it doesn't even average HALF of the viewership that League of Legends and Dota get. This is the #3 game in the category.

The competitive scene in HoTS is constantly losing sponsorships (and casters) as organizations pull out every year. The 2018 HGC season was one of the most popular the game has ever had on Twitch and yet Blizzard might not even run a 2019 HGC because of what I can only assume to be money issues. (I don't know the actual reason because Blizzard hasn't communicated with even the Pro Players if there will be a 2019 season)

Magic has one advantage, which is it's long history, but it has to compete against already established Esports in it's genre. Hearthstone being the largest I believe.

I have no doubt Magic would get some viewers, but if I was an investor I wouldn't be putting my money into Esports. I just don't see how I'd ever get a return on my investment.
So like, what's the alternative for Wizards? Not support their esports and just throw in the towel?
The alternative for Wizards is to make their game more attractive for the much larger crowd of more casual players. Right now Magic Arena fails miserably at that, compared to previous versions.
This week they implemented a separate unranked Play queue that matches based on deck strength and MMR for casual games.

They're also running a Kibler-sponsored Timmy event right now that awards pretty generous prizes and encourages building decks with big creatures.

I mean, they're trying, within the limitations of the game. It's not perfect, but it's not 100% esports focused.
The opinion that Arena does not offer anything for casual players (i.e. being bad at play and not paying) is quite wrong.

I did sign up a week ago, got some starter deck and some wildcards. I improved one of the starter decks and just played the daily quests. This earned me some packs and cards and further pre-build decks. Eventually I earned around 15 pre-build starter decks. There was also a promotion for the eSports which included some "tournament quality" Rares.

With the gold I earned by completing the quests (around 10K) I was able to enter two drafts and one of the kibler constructed events. I am far from being a pro, losing a fair share of my games, but as its all one out of one games sometimes luck shines and I land a win.
I think Doinar's experience is pretty typical. Arena has a lot of room to grow but I found it one of the better new player experiences in digital CCGs. Certainly way better than Hearthstone or Artifact. The amount of cards you earn in the first week of play is downright massive and the starter decks contain more than a few tournament-grade cards.

They also gave out a one-time code recently for a handful of pretty good rares and playsets of tournament-quality uncommons.

I think Tobold is too bitter about Duels to give Arena a real chance. It's a shame. I'm having way more fun playing this game than any other digital MTG product. Wizards throwing their full support behind it is a good sign for Arena's long-term longevity.

I’ll play Magic Arena as soon as they introduce a viable “play vs. AI” mode. The removal of such a mode compared to several previous online versions of Magic is unacceptable to me. Playing an inherently slow and complicated card game against real but anonymous humans online just has too many inherent social problems (stalling, rage quitting, trolling) to be enjoyable to me.
Arena's a blast, and in the hundreds of games I've played, I haven't encountered any stalling, there is no toxicity as you can't actually chat with anybody, the emotes are easily muted if you wish, and the cost of the game is zero if you have no wish to buy packs or gems. Best Magic product ever. And in spite of your opinion, the game seems to be thriving. I never wait for a match for longer then 15 seconds.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool