Wizards of the Coast and Tencent have announced today that they are partnering to bring the new Magic: The Gathering Arena digitally to China and other Asian regions. Tencent, a Chinese media conglomerate, will hold exclusive digital rights to publish and broadcast esports events for the quintessential collectible card game in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei.
Wizards of the Coast first launched Magic: The Gathering Arena in a closed beta on December 4, 2017. It will be the first game published by Tencent through this new partnership. It was designed, built and playtested with digital card gamers in mind, though in a way that would not compromise the unique core gameplay.
After the launch of the now archaic Magic: The Gathering Online in June 2002, Wizards ventured into several digital experiments with studio Stainless Games, developing five yearly versions of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers and the free-to-play Magic Duels: Origins. After a lukewarm reception to these games, they decided to set up an in-house developer, Magic Digital Studio, to create the ultimate Magic: The Gathering digital experience.
While it will not retire Magic: The Gathering Online, as per the official FAQ, Arena will "integrate modern online services that will create a dynamic overall experience and also someday integrate with other aspects of your Magic life." As such, it is designed in a way that every element is focused to conjure up an engaging and dynamic experience that is true to tabletop Magic, providing players and viewers alike with fast-paced, exciting and easy-to-follow matches. Arena is focused on new sets, not offering any backward compatibility with previous Magic: The Gathering Online sets or supporting older cards in any way at this time.
According to Wizards of the Coast President Chris Cocks, “Magic: The Gathering is played by millions of passionate fans throughout Asia and continued growth here is a crucial part of our strategy. Tencent is the perfect partner to help bring Magic to more and more gamers throughout the world.” The recent Grand Prix Kyoto 2018 had a total of 2262 players, illustrating the popularity of the game in Asia.
Steven Ma, the Senior Vice President of Tencent's Interactive Entertainment Group, also said that “Magic: The Gathering is a legendary game and has had a huge influence on culture and industry. We are thrilled to bring this amazing experience to players in Asia and look forward to helping expand its global community.” Apart from Arena, the partnership also includes publishing of future games based on the collectible card game on mobile, PC, and console platforms.
Wizards of the Coast also announced last week that their latest expansion set, Dominaria, pre-released on April 21, will also be coming to Arena on a large update scheduled for April 26, which will include economy updates with it. There will also be in-game events, starting out with some “best-of-one” events, but many more are expected. More details will be given on April 25 in the official forums and a special live stream at 12 p.m. PT. Every card of the new expansion set Dominaria will be playable in digital format. The update will also include other visual improvements and a new battlefield skin. Arena so far is limited to a "constructed" mode only, but there are plans for "draft" modes in future events.
An experimental event will also be launched exclusively in New Zealand, where booster packs and pre-release packs will include an in-game code that New Zealand residents can redeem for in-game items in Magic: The Gathering Arena. Whether players from other countries will soon be able to redeem codes from their booster packs and pre-release packs is still uncertain, but it would seem there are at least plans for an attempt to integrate tabletop Magic with Arena, hopefully making for more friendly digital practices.