I love Magic: The Gathering. If you’re here reading this, or on some other Magic website, chances are pretty good that you love the game as well. I’ve been writing about the game since 1999, when The Dojo was the greatest of all fansites, and have been pretty lucky to be able to make this hobby of mine into a full time job, with stops at Starcitygames and Scrye Magazine along the way. I’ve held the content manager position at Puremtgo.com for eight years and here at LegitMTG.com for the past year. I get to wake up, go over some great content, play some Magic and live a wonderful happy life.
Everything is not rainbows and unicorns though. For the past two years I have been too sick to travel. I get violently ill whenever I go further than a half a mile away from my house. It does not matter how I travel. I could be walking, behind the wheel of a car, riding a bike, it does not matter, something triggers and I start to feel awful. This has for the foreseeable future, ended my paper Magic playing days. I think the last event I played in was a Friday Night Magic at my LGS (Hard Knox Games in Elizabethtown, KY) two years ago. I sold my paper collection, expanded my MTGO collection (Thanks MTGOTraders.com!) and started to grind out Qualifier Points for the MOCS. While version 3 was not the greatest and had its flaws, it did allow me to play Magic, and that was the only thing that mattered to me at the time.
Things quickly went to crap. While I am often on MTGO due to my work at Pure (normally every day for a few hours, just to field questions or play a few games.) the switchover to version 4 almost ended my digital playing. I did not want to make the switch. Trading is awful, the program is buggy and the card size caused a lot of eye strain, which surprisingly enough also triggered me getting sick. Wide Betas were miserable for me because I just could not complete events, and if I could not do that was I really playing Magic? I got some help from Wizards of the Coast, changed some settings and thankfully I still get to play Magic Online. It’s not the best, but I have to make the best out of a poor situation.
I’ve played less and less MTGO since the switchover to version 4. I’ve also spent considerably less money than I normally would, which is not awful, my bank account is pretty thrilled with that, but I miss drafting and playing in Daily Events. While version 4 is fairly early in its life cycle I no longer feel confident enough in the program to make any purchases within the client.
I used to stream daily. I had built up a fairly good number of follows on my twitch channel, but I had to stop. The memory leak of the client became too much. I would white screen frequently. It stopped being a good viewing experience, and became more hassle than what it was worth. I’m not the only streamer that feels this way. At the time of this writing, on twitch there are twenty nine games that have more viewers than Magic. I understand League of Legends, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft and Dota 2 having more streamers. Those are great games. What I find problematic is Clash of the Clans has more viewers than Magic. Minecraft, Madden 15 and NBA 2k15 (the last two games are basically the same game year after year with a roster update!) have more viewers than Magic. A three time Grand Prix winner is streaming right now, and he only has 52 viewers. Heck one of the Magic streamers right now is actually playing Hearthstone!
In a time where esports and streaming content has been swept up by other games, version 4 has wrecked that community. Want proof? How about a tweet from a former Community Cup member who was invited because of the tireless work they put in on streaming.
I’m at the point where I’m boycotting mtgo, it’s still extremely awful and I’m not going to stream or play it until it gets better
— Jan van der Vegt (@DasDzy) December 28, 2014
This is not a good look for the game! Of course when a Hall of Fame member has to end a stream early because of bug that’s not a great look either. Let’s see what happened to LSV.
Second time I had to cut a stream short due to horrendous MTGO bugs (this time it was Ponder shuffling away lethal Tendrils after I hit No).
— Luis Scott-Vargas (@lsv) December 28, 2014
So streamers quit streaming, which is unfortunate, but with large events over the weekends there is plenty of video coverage of Magic. However, if you offer you game online you want to put your best foot forward right? If your best foot is a Hall of Famer ending the stream wouldn’t you just be better shooting that foot?
I’m not going to complain for all of this article, I do have some things that I would like to see from Wizards of the Coast in regards to MTGO.
1. Implement social media features from the client.
Blizzard (the makers of World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, just in case you did not know.) is testing a new feature with the next patch of Warlords of Draenor. It’s a little unusual but something that I would use often while playing. They are going to be testing a tweet while you play function. Clear a dungeon? Cool go tell your followers about it! Get epic loot? Sweet, hit the twitter button! Kill a pet that you have been camping for three hours without getting the tame? Take a screenshot of the stupid tallstrider and send it out to be mocked. To me Blizzard is working to making the game a bit more social and this is an idea that MTGO could take advantage of. Open up a sweet chase foil? Gloat about it via screenshot before you make your second pick! Make a really cool play that changed the game? Awesome take a Vine sized clip of it and see if it goes viral! Really want to stream? How cool would it be if you could just click a button and start streaming? I know the last one is a bit much, but with the lack of clans and lack of general chat in MTGO anything to make a social game a bit more social, even if you’re just sharing with your online friends has to help right?
I still hate you Seawing.
2. Create an in client board for Player Run Events.
Wizards of the Coast dropped the ball with the site redesign. It’s actually dropped the ball in regards to its site on more than one occasion. Believe it or not the mothership used to have a vibrant forum community. Then they redesigned it and lost a lot of users, then redesigned it again and lost some more. The forums were very useful though. People could vent, get questions answered and find out what Player Run Events were being held. Player Run Events are pretty sweet. Want to play Tribal Wars? Great there is a tournament for that?! What about Standard Pauper? There is an event for that as well! Commander PREs happen, and earlier today a Vintage Player Run Event fired off. If you can dream it there might be a PRE for it.
How many of you know that this happen on a regular basis on the client? If it were not for my work at PureMTGO.com I personally would have no idea. Heck PREs introduced me to Alex Ullman and the Pauper format.
While Wizards of the Coast do not directly see profit from PREs I consider them to be the entry level tournaments of MTGO. If they were to make it easier to find out when these happen they could benefit in the long run. Say you’re interested in Modern, but do not have the confidence to go to queues. You’ve also wanted to play in an event but without the risk. You could jump into Overdriven! and see how your deck matches up. Maybe you keep doing well in that event and decide it’s a good time to see more of the metagame. People buy tickets get into events. This is because they saw an interesting format that was tournament supported, learned about it, built up confidence and decided to play. Is that so bad? If one were able to easily find out when the events were in client that could be a boon.
3. League play.
We were promised Leagues last year, and they eventually got pushed back to 2015. They are in testing in Beta right now, and from what I have heard, they have accumulated quite the impressive bug list. I often times get the feeling that releasing version 4 was a mandate from a higher up. I cannot be convinced that people who matter decided that such a flawed client was ready to go live. It happened though and we as players have suffered for it. Leagues have to be as close to flawless as possible before they get pushed out of beta and on to the regular servers. Leagues are great value though and they offer a fast paced tournament environment without actually being a tournament. For those of you who missed out on leagues before they were taken away from us imagine an Arena on Hearthstone (with the exception that the first five matches a week counted and everything else was for tiebreaker matters.) you pick your deck (or in Sealed leagues, build it) enter the league and get matched up. Maybe you only have time for two matches, that’s fine you can pick it up later in the week. It is a flexible competitive outlet.
We’re getting leagues hopefully sometime this year, and that’s great. What I want out of it though is a rich play environment. I want to be able to play in a Commander league. I want to play in an old sealed format league. My suggestion for an older format league setting would be to rotate blocks on a monthly basis. This would help drive down the costs of some of the more expensive cards on MTGO (seriously I saw someone on Twitter talking about having to sell a piece of the paper Power 9 in order to buy a playset of Wasteland on MTGO) and allow players who missed out on some of the older formats a chance to pick them up. Invasion block limited was amazing. So was Rise of the Eldrazi. While I do love some Masques block limited I understand why many people disagree with me. I feel as if Leagues have to be more than just Standard and Limited. There needs to be some variety there!
4. Fix Collection Management and Trading.
Trading has been one of the most bug filled things in my experience with the client. I bought a Commander deck from MTGOTraders.com on Friday. It took me the better part of ten minutes to actually get the deck on to my account. Why did it take so long, especially with the 400 card trade limit?
The trade crashed multiple times. This tied up an employee of the site. This kept me from getting my purchase, which in turn kept another player from getting an order. What it actually means is while we waited on the buggy trades to magically not crash the client we were not playing Magic. Playing Magic should be the goal to the client, and there should not be a subgame involved unless Shahrazad is cast.
Of course that is not the only issue with Collection Management. Often times I hear about players missing cards from decks. They have no idea what they are missing, because the card is not highlighted or marked as missing. It causes a feel bad moment, and we’re playing a game, we should not have those feel bad moments in regards to the client and basic thing like your collection!
Thankfully I have never experienced the feel bad that Sam Black did:
Literally just accidentally opened 104 packs of khans on mtgo while trying to add it to a trade binder — Sam Black (@SamuelHBlack) December 30, 2014
I do believe that Customer Service was able to help Sam out here, but what is wrong with your client when you have an issue putting something in the trade binder?
5. Duel Commander Rules
This one is purely selfish. Duel Commander is great and people should be able to play it. It has a different banned list from Commander, you start with 30 life, and the command zone plays differently. It has a following and people have been asking for it. Also it’s incredibly fun!
6. Tiny Leaders Support
Again a bit more of a selfish thing, but another Commander variant cannot be bad right? This one has a Casting Cost Matters feel to it, 50 card deck, 25 life nothing more expensive than 3 in the deck. It also has another banned list, and a ten card sideboard. This one may be a bit harder to bring to MTGO, but it’s an alternate format that is gaining a ton of steam.
7. More Communication.
The bug blog is a great start, but I feel like we are in the dark in regards to a lot of what goes on with MTGO. This is a client that inexplicably went offline during New Years. It is 2015 and the Y2K bug hit MTGO? Really?
A banner week for Hasbro’s Dev teams. #MTGO has a Y2K15 bug emergency patched and now WER is down ON FRIDAY NIGHT
What would you like to see on MTGO? Let us know in the comment section!
With those seven ideas out of the way, I wanted to talk about something else that I have seen a lot of on Twitter and other social media sites.
— Mishra’s Photoshop (@MishrasFotoshop) December 28, 2014
Before I start, I want to again state that I am an employee of PureMTGO.com and MTGOTraders.com. I was not pressured in any way to present my findings and research in any certain light, I do however, want to avoid a conflict of interest.
Boycotts are a very powerful tool for consumers to use if they want to see change. What makes them successful? Why were the United Farm Workers able to get rights for Farmers in the sixties but Wal-Mart is able to quash any union drives? According to Brayden King of Northwestern University there are five factors to a successful boycott. In short those factors are high media attention, decline in sales revenue, a decline in corporate reputation, and how media attentions interact with the latter two. (media and sales and media and reputation.)
The study (from 2009) showed that media attention was a very large factor in a successful boycott, but against the grain it showed a “statistical indifference” towards a loss of sales revenue. The study found that a decline in reputation was more likely to get changes when coupled with media attention.
Let’s take a look at the first three factors in regards to MTGO.
1. Media Attention.
As you know Wizards of the Coast is a subsidiary of Hasbro. Hasbro has had a few boycotts, most recently in 2012 over Nerf guns. This boycott (and the Ouija board boycott) has not really picked up much steam. A quick Google search showed off a few results in media coverage. Unless it is something that is going to harm people is the media really going to pick up on a boycott of a computer program? A toy recall, sure that’s going to make the news, but a program not being up to par, I do not think that is going to run on anything.
2. Decline of Sales.
I know that I have spent a lot of money on MTGO. I also know that what I spent was not even a drop in the bucket to the overall sea of money that Wizards brings in on Magic. People love drafting, and the ability to pick up a draft at 4am is an awfully strong selling point. I feel as if Hasbro views Magic Online as the same product category as paper Magic. Magic is doing very well for Hasbro and I think the effects of an organized spending freeze would not be felt by the company. Drafters gotta draft and paper Magic gotta Magic? As long as Magic in the whole is putting up strong numbers would it even matter?
3. Decline of Reputation.
Outside of defending the IP in the case of the Nerf guns Hasbro has a very good reputation. I believe something severe would have to happen for that reputation to be hit. Gross negligence in a toy would certainly hurt the company (the lead paint fiasco from years ago would be a good example.) but would a voluntary download hurt the company? With a Magic movie in the works and more mainstream acceptance of the game (thanks to Duals of the Planeswalker) Magic could not be riding a bigger high overall. MTGO feels like a very tiny portion of that.
In the end I believe that MTGO is just a small portion of the grander scheme and has been ignored by the most higher ups of Hasbro. It’s not a very good program, but it’s not going to garner media attention. It does allow us to play Magic, but because of the success of paper Magic, Hasbro and WotC can afford to suck up the sales decline. Because Hasbro has a great reputation they can sit back and drag MTGO along while not doing long lasting damage to themselves.
Of course this is just based on a study. Could a boycott work on MTGO? I do not believe it could. An organized boycott with support of streamers, pros and the secondary market on MTGO could work, but why would a site like MTGOTraders.com or Cardhoarder want to partake in that? Technically I am boycotting MTGO because I do not feel confident in the client. I am just one person, but sites like MTGOTraders.com or Cardhoarder spend a ton of money. If they stopped spending money with Wizards I think they would feel it, but the two sites have so much invested that I feel like they would be unlikely to support the boycott, as they have the highest opportunity cost. I think it would take 1000 players like me to match what MTGOTraders.com brings in.
Even though I do not give WotC money at the moment I still use the client, because I want to play Magic. MTGO allows me to do that for all of its flaws.
I am running out of steam, and do not want to ramble. I feel as if I fairly talked about the unlikely success of an organized boycott, but I want to hear what you all think of it, let me know in the comments!
A little over 3000 words in and I want to end this, I’ll leave you all with some tweets, and hope you have enjoyed this discussion!
— Sam Cr (@TheCravenOne) January 2, 2015
I really want to play more Magic but playing on Magic Online is just so frustrating. 2 hours in 8-man = 20 minutes game time total :/
— Matej Zatlkaj (@Big_Z_MTG) January 4, 2015
— Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) January 4, 2015
I do believe that Wizards of the Coast will eventually seize upon the great things that MTGO should be capable of.
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