Magic Digital Next is on everyone’s mind these days and for good reason. Magic fans have been waiting since the day Magic Online came out, more or less, to know what the future of digital versions of Magic the Gathering will be like. But, Magic Digital Next, or MDN for short, seems to be so much more than just a new platform or an upgrade to the existing platforms for playing Magic online.

Our story begins just over a month ago in mid-January when relatively new Wizards of the Coast President Chris Cocks posted an update to Wizards website titled “Making Moves.” At that time, Cocks announced “adjustments to and increased investments in our digital games team that will give us the capability and flexibility necessary to fully realize the enormous potential of our games.” He then broke things down further into three different ideas.

First up is the modernization of digital versions of Magic and other Wizards games. For the record, other Wizards games includes Dungeons and Dragons, Duel Masters, and the entire Avalon Hill brand of board games which includes plenty of titles I think you’ll recognize such as Acquire, Axis & Allies, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Diplomacy, Guillotine, Risk, and of course Richard Garfield’s first game for Wizards of the Coast: Robo Rally. But of course, for Magic fans the only games that matter are Duels of the Planeswalkers and Magic the Gathering Online.

Next in the announcement was the topic of bringing the Wizards IP to “other games and experiences.” Here’s where they start getting into ideas a bit outside the box such as a Magic the Gathering MMORPG. There are plenty of game genres out there which can be used to grow Magic’s brand (as well as Dungeons and Dragons). Magic Puzzle Quest was a modest start but there are plenty of more opportunities and it sounds like part of MDN will be exploring those. I’m looking forwards to an MTG version of Clash Royale myself.

The last topic that Cocks discussed was making your “Wizards experiences more efficient, connected, and convenient.” This should be the topic that actually interests the Magic community the most. Think about a few of the existing Wizards products for the Magic community. Gatherer. Planeswalker Points. The DCI Reporter. The WPN network. I’m willing to bet that just reading the names of those products made you think of a half-dozen improvements you would make to each system, if not more.

So, Magic Digital Next is the future of playing digital versions of existing games from Magic to Risk, playing new digital games with the Wizards properties like Magic the Gathering Clash Royale or Dungeons and Dragons Candy Crush, and improving the existing community digital products like the card database and the tournament management system.

So, how did the community respond? Well it seems the announcements left a little too much to the imagination, especially when it comes to the future of Magic Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers. It’s no secret that the community often compares Magic Online to competing product Hearthstone created by developer Blizzard. This comparison hit a fever pitch late last year when Digital Trends reported on a SuperData report about the monthly earnings of various card games.

Needless to say, many of the more vocal members of the community began expressing concern that the logical course of action would be to create a new Magic Online that could properly compete with Hearthstone, resulting in a sunset for the current version of Magic Online and everyone’s decade+ of investment into that platform. Wizards of the Coast brand manager Elaine Chase attempted to quash these unsubstantiated rumors.

While that wasn’t quite enough for some members of the community, I think it’s safe to say our digital collections are not going anywhere for a very long time. Nothing in the statement by Chris Cocks gave the implication that Magic Online is going anywhere. Elaine Chase clarified that there are no plans to get rid of it. Now we can all move on with our lives.

The next two pieces of information came out more recently in the form of Hasbro’s quarterly earnings investor call and their recent presentation for investors at Toy Fair.

Shortly after the Toy Fair presentation, Wizards posted their own announcement on the topic. Jeffrey Steefel, author of this announcement, was first identified in Chris Cocks’s announcement from January. Steefel is an industry veteran who is heading up part of the Magic Digital Next initiative, specifically the reimagining of digital versions of Wizards games.

The recent announcement mostly clarifies some of the original announcement. Most importantly it highlights their intention to improve and expand the way Magic is played digitally. This is a departure from the original terminology of ‘reimagining’ the experience altogether, which could be misunderstood to imply a new platform to replace MTGO.

So, unfortunately, we don’t really know a whole lot more. There is still plenty of space for the imagination to run wild. Perhaps there are incredible things in store for us. Imagine planeswalkers appear in non-traditional games like a MOBA or an MMO. What about some of your favorite mobile genres? Or, and this might be too futuristic, but what about being able to comment on the cards in Gatherer?

I had to get one jab in, right?

P.S. You all have no idea how much I’m looking forward to that tournament locator!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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