Wizards of the Coast announced today, Magic: The Gathering Arena, a free-to-play digital card games based on the collectible card game of a similar name. Arena has been developed by Wizards of the Coast's new Digital Games Studio, an in-house team seeking to provide the real MTG experience. Arena will sport the full MTG ruleset and ongoing support for new cards, just like the original tabletop edition. Arena will launch on PC only, but Wizards is planning "to expand to other platforms when it's ready."
"We assembled some of the best game designers in the industry who are working to build a digital platform as flexible and expansive as Magic itself. But to make sure we really get it right, we need input from the Magic community, so fans should sign up for the Closed Beta and share your feedback with us," said Wizards of the Coast president Chris Cocks.
The idea is Arena will keep pace with the tabletop version of Magic, receiving card sets at the same time, with every card in the same standard format. Wizards has thrown a bit of audio visual razzle dazzle to the act of playing, so the game remains fun to watch on streaming platforms. Otherwise, Arena will include online play, ranked matchmaking, and draft events.
If you're asking yourself, "Isn't there already a digital version of the Magic: The Gathering card game?" the answer is a resounding "Yes". Wizards of the Coast launched Magic: The Gathering Online way back in 2002, which is a version of the game played online through your internet browser. Magic Online is actually a large part of Wizards' Magic revenue at this point.
Arena is a replacement for another game though. Back in 2012, Wizards of the Coast released Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers, a card game based on MTG, albeit with a different ruleset. The game was available on Steam, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, the Amazon Appstore, and the Apple App Store. Wizards and developer Stainless Games kept Duels of the Planeswalkers flush in new releases until late 2014, which marked the release of the Garruk's Revenge expansion. This year's release of the Amonkhet card set marked the final in-game card launch for Magic Duels.
Arena stands as one of two Magic: The Gathering games coming to players soon. There is also a planned massively multiplayer online game coming from Neverwinter and Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios.
"Magic Duels is still downloadable and playable, but our digital teams are focused on the next generation of Magic digital gaming. We're proud of what Duels accomplished, and we'll be using what we learned from that game to make even better Magic experiences in the future," said Wizards of the Coast vice president of digital Jeffrey Steefel back in June.
"We have also partnered with Cryptic Studios-creators of games like City of Heroes and Neverwinter-to produce a Magic: The Gathering massively multiplayer online game. The partnership is new, so we can't tell you when you'll be able to start roaming the Multiverse, but that day is coming!"
Players can sign up for the upcoming Closed Beta on the official website. Those who play Duels of the Planeswalkers or Magic Online have priority access to the beta. In addition, tabletop Magic player can get in on the priority access by participating in the Ixalan prerelease in stores.