Wizards of the Coast: reaching new heights through digital games

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Magic: The Gathering has had a much longer life than anyone expected. I’m sure if you asked anyone who was there in the beginning, they would laugh. But now we’re almost to Magic’s 30th anniversary and it’s still going strong. I, for one, wish I could travel back about 25 years and punch myself before I sold my cards. C’est la vie!

So, how did Magic survive this long? Other than being a well-designed and intriguing game, Wizards of the Coast changed with the times. They were early adopters of using video gaming to expand their audience. Magic: the Gathering, released in 1997 by Microprose, comes to mind. The video game let you explore a digital world and collect cards to build your ultimate deck. Magic: the Gathering Online debuted in 2002 and is still running today.

We’ve seen many more Magic properties since then. Magic: the Gathering Arena is the latest digital version of the card game, and it seems to be going gangbusters. At the GamesBeat Summit 2022, Cynthia Williams, President of Wizards of the Coast, sat down with GamesBeat’s Rachel Kaser to talk about reaching new players through their online presence.

“Magic: the Gathering Arena has different modes of play than Magic: the gathering paper does, and yet it’s inviting new players into the party,” said Williams. “You’re still seeing existing physical players use it to deepen their engagement. So I don’t think it has to be the exact same experience as you have when you’re playing physically.”

Bringing players together

Digital initiatives in Magic and Dungeons & Dragons (also owned by Wizards) have helped the company reach new heights. According to a report by Hasbro from February of this year: “Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming segment revenue increased 42% and operating profit increased 30% for the full-year 2021.” A large portion of this growth is due to digital games.

“I think people will have preferences, and that’s okay, but you need to meet people where they are,” Williams continues. “You may prefer to go into a hobby shop and play physically. Someone else may prefer to play digitally. Perhaps they’re in a situation where they can’t leave their home. There’s someone they’re caring for. I can promise you, they need escape and they need a connection. And the digital world will help them connect with someone. We’ve certainly seen instances throughout the pandemic of it being critical to people’s mental health, to be able to connect with another human when they weren’t able to go to a hobby shop.”

It’s a pretty cool time to be a fan. Where will Wizards of the Coast go next? For more on this topic, and many others, check out the GamesBeat Summit 22.

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