Hascon

Today Hascon 2017 starts, the convention of Hasbro, one of the world’s largest toy and board game makers. Obviously gamers have little interest in the latest news on My Little Pony or Monopoly, but as Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast, who previously bought TSR, Hasbro controls two of the biggest names in tabletop gaming: Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. But the one reason I am interested in Hascon is the promised reveal of “Magic Digital Next”, the next generation platform for playing Magic the Gathering electronically.

Right now Magic Digital Next doesn’t have a lot of goodwill from the community. Too much went wrong or was badly handled with the previous incarnations like Magic the Gathering Online or Magic Duels. Personally I am still quite angry that Hasbro dropped Magic Duels like a hot potato in June. They should have waited with that until Magic Digital Next is actually available, not 3 months before we get to see the first playable alpha version at a convention. I am also unhappy that they didn’t even make the slightest effort to bring Magic Duels in a state where it would still be viable to play until Magic Digital Next is released. Instead they left it as it was after they added the Amonkhet expansion, so the computer is only ever playing decks around that expansion instead of using decks from all previous expansions. And more than half of the daily quests are still for online multiplayer only, which is a problem when players leave an abandoned game and the remaining players can’t find matches any more.

Then there is of course the issue of “virtual property”. Previous versions of electronic Magic sold you virtual boosters of cards. If you are forced to switch to a new product, you lose your virtual card collection of the previous versions and have to start over. Legally of course you never really owned those electronic Magic cards. But players don’t feel like that, especially with platforms like MtGO where cards can be traded with other players for real money. I liked Magic Duels because it altered the rules of how many rare and legendary cards you can use, which made building up a full collection much more affordable. I doubt the next version will have that feature.

I am still on the fence about Magic Digital Next (I assume they’ll announce another name for it this weekend). I left MtGO long ago because it was too PvP-centric for me, which resulted in an environment full of card sharks, scams, and toxic players. I mostly used the PvE part of Magic Duels, which for me was probably the best incarnation of Magic on a tablet. So my appreciation of Magic Digital Next will mostly depend on whether it supports more than a token AI and PvE play. These days far too many game developers have become extremely lazy, and beyond a tutorial make their games mostly PvP, basically using their customers as content for other customers. As they never solved even the basic problems of that approach for virtual cardgames, like stalling or quitting at the first sign of trouble, I wouldn’t be interested in a PvP version of electronic Magic the Gathering.

[EDIT: The new name is Magic the Gathering Arena, more info here.]