The discussion involving Magic Online seems to revolve around whether it can survive against Apprentice, or whether Apprentice can survive against Magic Online. The internet Magic community seems to think this will come down to which product will be supported by the Magic community, and both sides have their arguments explaining why the product they support will win.
I don’t believe the content of the product will have anything to do with the success of Apprentice or Magic Online. Since Magic first became popular, Wizards of the Coast has always dealt with any competition in the same way: Sic the lawyers on them. An accusation of copyright infringement was an easy way to force fledgling companies with little assets to fold their competitive card games. The other method of dealing with the competition was to just buy them out. Why would anyone suggest that wouldn’t happen here? It would certainly be difficult to do, but Wizards would shut it down.
Within a year of the release of Magic Online, if Wizards determines that Apprentice is cutting into the profits, they will either buy Apprentice… Or just shut it down using some legal manoeuvre. The argument over which product is better is thus moot.
My concern is the Magic Online vs. Magic Offline. Will tournament players continue to show up for offline tournaments if the online tournament structure offers comparable prize support? If Magic Online is essentially Magic: the Gathering on the Internet, will tournament players stop playing offline?
I am not a tournament player. In fact, as anyone who has ever read any of my articles knows, I am a casual player and proud of it. I play Magic for the camaraderie. I play for the chance to get out of the house and enjoy myself. I have never touched Apprentice, and will not likely get involved in Magic Online if it involves an investment of over $75.00 per year to be competitive. Any amount of money that I would spend for Magic Online would result in that number of dollars not being spent on Magic Offline.
My interest is in the welfare of Offline Magic. If the tournament player stops playing in offline tournaments, then it seems likely that player will not buy cardboard Magic cards. If most tournament players stop buying cardboard, cardboard sales will drastically fall. Wizards will not support a product if it becomes a loser. Should cardboard sales drop off significantly, will Wizards continue to print cards? If they stop printing cards, offline Magic will become stagnant with a never-changing card base. I don’t want this to happen.
In the end, it comes down to the tournament players. They spend the money and will decide if Magic, online or offline, survives. So what draws players to the tournaments? Is it the drive to be the best? The camaraderie? The money?
The recent comments from Kyle Murray in Scott Johns‘ article on Brainburst suggest that prize support for Magic Online will not be comparable to the current offline tournaments. This would suggest that if you are attending tournaments for the money, or camaraderie, you will continue to attend offline tournaments. If everyone else is playing offline tournaments, then those who simply want to be the best will stay with offline tournaments.
Considering this, why would Wizards create a game that will not draw the tournament players – the reason Magic performs so well?
I simply don’t believe that Wizards will not do whatever they can to draw the tournament player to online Magic. The profit margins are so much better for their company than the costs of producing cardboard. This would lead me to believe that while prize support may start small, it will be comparable – and soon! – to offline tournaments.
If I were a tournament player, if it was possible, I would go online and never look back. No expensive plane tickets, hotel rooms, or restaurants. Think of all the extra e-cards (sorry, Mr. Fox – I don’t have any e-boosters to offer to you) you could buy! No more cheating or slow play (I’m making an assumption about the software here). You could theoretically enter a Pro Tour qualifier at every available moment.
However, I am not a tournament player – and I want to hear from the tournament players on this. Do you see yourself leaving offline play, assuming Magic Online is as good as the proponents say it is?