Last November Wizards made some waves through the community and the wider gaming community by announcing a new partnership with Twitch, the popular streaming platform for video games. This made Twitch the exclusive partner for Magic coverage, pushing out YouTube. At the time the idea was that this would lead to an increase in the number of events that would be made available for streaming including international events like the upcoming Japanese Nationals.

But, with the latest news from the world of Hearthstone, it’s difficult not to ask what Twitch has done for us lately. In case you missed it, Twitch recently added new filtering features allowing fans to find a variety of different Hearthstone (and Overwatch) casters. You can look by hero class, player rank, or game mode to name a few. This is all on top of the interactive deck features that were added earlier this year which give Hearthstone’s top streamers the ability to display their decklist on their overlay among other bells and whistles.

Twitch is making it easier to find the best Hearthstone and Overwatch streams

So the obvious question as a Magic fan is, when is Twitch going to do something for us? Sure, it’s arguable that some of the coverage improvements we’ve seen this year, especially the stellar production of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, is due in part to Twitch’s direct involvement in promoting Magic. But that isn’t a tangible day-to-day benefit in the same vein as the features being provided to Hearthstone.

Now, the obvious answer is, “No, why are you even bothering to write about this topic?” There are plenty of reasons for this but two stand out the most. First, Magic isn’t a top game on Twitch or even remotely close to helping to build an audience and generate revenue for Twitch like Hearthstone. Second, Magic Online is a technical… something (is disaster too strong a word?) and that very likely exists as a hard roadblock for these kinds of features.

The question with these things is often one along the lines of, “If you build it, will they come?” Baseball is (apparently) exciting enough that if you build a field in the middle of nowhere because of some hallucinations, people will line up to buy tickets to watch it. Magic, well, it isn’t quite there yet. But, is that because Magic isn’t entertaining or because the experience of watching it is a hindrance? It’s probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

What’s a Magic fan to do? If Magic can’t get these bells and whistles until the game grows more, but the game can’t grow more without bells and whistles because it’s fundamentally unwatchable, how does Wizards break out of this catch-22? Enter Magic: Arena.

What we know about Magic: Arena is that it’s a replacement for Duels of the Planeswalkers, it’s the first major product under the new Magic Digital Next umbrella/program/whatever, it’s currently in Alpha testing, Beta testing begins this fall, and a playable demo will be available at HasCon in a few weeks.

But will it be watchable on Twitch? Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage is great, but you don’t maximize the Twitch partnership with events that take place weekly. You need to get Twitch to do something for your constant streaming content. Twitch can’t do anything to help Magic Online. But if Arena is designed with Twitch streaming in mind, the sky is the limit.

And here we come to the part where you start to panic and sell your Magic Online collection. No, no, don’t do that. Magic Online’s value will always be in the ability to simulate the paper tournament experience, which is very valuable for people who want to, you know, train and practice for the Pro Tour circuit. Magic: Arena, in theory at least, will not replace Magic Online.

If we’re lucky though, Magic: Arena will bring entertaining, streamable, competitive Magic in some form to Twitch in a way that Magic Online never will. That is how you can grow your audience and that would be maximizing the value of the Twitch partnership for both sides of the deal.

To be completely honest, if Magic: Arena is not designed in a way that makes it easy to stream, easy to watch, and allows for Twitch to shower casters with the kind of bells and whistles they’ve given Hearthstone, I would be deeply concerned for the direction and goals of the Magic Digital Next initiative. Let’s hope they get it right.

Rich Stein thinks there’s a viable future in Magic as an e-sport because it’s a highly successful competitive “sport” but has a long way to go on the “e-” side of things. Then again it probably has a long way to go on the “sport” side of things as well, but we’re working on it.

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