Eight hundred ninety-four. One thousand sixty-four. Eight hundred thirteen. One thousand fifty-six. One thousand twenty-nine. Nine hundred and eight.

Beijing’s metropolitan region is home to approximately 19 million people and is well-known throughout the world as the capital city of China. The city, formerly known as Peking in the western world, is the fourth most-densely populated region of China, behind only Macau (Pop. 500k), Hong Kong (Pop. 7M), and Shanghai (Pop. 23M).

With an attendance of 908 players, Grand Prix Beijing this weekend attracted four thousandths of a percentage point of the total population of the metropolitan area of the city it was held in. Grand Prix Dallas, on the other hand, which attracted 1,043 players, captured one hundredth of a percentage point of the local metropolitan population. Not great, but still 2.5x the result in China.

A few weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast and Tencent announced a partnership to bring Magic the Gathering Arena and future games to the people of China. I have written about Magic the Gathering News nearly every week for more than five years now so I don’t mean this lightly when I say that this announcement could very well make or break Wizards of the Coast’s future as a company and Magic’s future as a game.

This announcement isn’t messing around. I’m not messing around. Tencent is the world’s biggest investment corporation and before now you might have never even heard of it. With a market value of over $500B USD they have in their portfolio the rights to broadcast in the Asia markets a little video game you probably have heard of: League of Legends.

Tencent will be responsible for publishing and broadcasting MTG Arena in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei. This is a part of the world that Magic the Gathering has, traditionally, failed to gain market shares in. With the recent news of lackluster quarterly earnings for Hasbro, folks at the top have to be looking at this partnership as a potential goldmine of profitability.

The games market in Asia is massive. Magic’s failure to grow in that market, with the exception of Japan, is a massive failure. Tencent, for all of its flaws and concerns (you can Google them yourself) is going to bring Magic directly to an enormous market that previously had virtually no access to the game’s entry points.

Ultimately this brings us back around the ongoing question of what is the point of Magic the Gathering Arena? Is it an entry-level product? Is it a replacement for Magic the Gathering Online? Is it going to find a home on the Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuits? While those questions remain valuable for us here in the western market, Tencent has the luxury of bringing the world’s greatest card game to what is essentially a blank canvas of a consumer base.

So what if it doesn’t work out? In the short-term, it’s safe to assume that’s a problem for Tencent who have the responsibility of marketing the game to their customers. If folks in the aforementioned countries don’t get into Magic the Gathering Arena, then Tencent will pay the costs. But in the long-term? That’s a big problem for Wizards of the Coast.

I won’t say that Magic has completely exhausted its audience in the western world but the growth rate has certainly slowed and even shrunk in some places. We’ve discussed, at length, declining North American Grand Prix attendance rates. The long-term success of the game could depend on global market growth, especially around MTG Arena, a product and space around which the company is clearly investing heavily.

Partnering with Tencent is a huge leap forward for Magic the Gathering Arena and for Wizards of the Coast. It represents hundreds of millions of potential new players (many of whom aren’t going to spend their time bitching about the lack of an OS/X client) who can grow the game in a region that perennial comes in last place for interest level in the game.

I’m still not convinced that MTG Arena is going to be a viable eSport for a variety of reasons but it should serve as a successful entry point into the game and world of Magic the Gathering just as its predecessor Duels of the Planeswalkers did. That alone should be enough to substantially grow the market in unprecedented ways.

Eight hundred ninety-four. One thousand sixty-four. Eight hundred thirteen. One thousand fifty-six. One thousand twenty-nine. Nine hundred and eight. Those are the numbers I opened this article with and they are the attendance numbers of the last six Grand Prix held in Beijing, the capital city of China.

Imagine what those numbers could be if people in that part of the world actually cared about this game?

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13

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