Magic: The Gathering Arena, originally teased last month, has been properly revealed today as a free-to-play digital card game based on—no surprise here—Magic: The Gathering, in development at Wizards of the Coast's new Digital Games Studio. Wizards said it will give Magic fans "the full rules and ongoing content support for new card sets, just like the revered tabletop game," combined with "fast-paced, exciting, and easy-to-follow matches" for players and online viewers alike.
That's been a problem for previous Magic games: They haven't necessarily been bad, but neither have they been able to attract an audience comparable to that of the physical edition. That's a shortcoming Wizards obviously aims to address with the new game, which wouldn't look at all out of place in a lineup with Hearthstone, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, or Gwent.
"What we’re doing with Magic Arena, we’re taking the real gameplay rules of Magic, which is what Magic Online has, but we’ll focus, at least at the start, on our front list play, our current Standard and Draft formats,” vice president of global brand strategy Elaine Chase told VentureBeat. “We’ll make it in a beautiful interface and quick play style that really matches the way people play games today.”
MTG: Arena is built around a new Games Rules Engine capable of "reading" any card added to the game in the future. "That means the shackles are off for our industry-leading designers to build and create cards and in-depth gameplay around new mechanics and unexpected but widly fun concepts, all of which can be adapted for MTG Arena thanks to the new GRE under the hood," Jeffrey Steefel, digital games development vice president at Wizards of the Coast, said at magic.wizards.com.
"Our goal is nothing less than creating one of the premier esports communities, with viewing experiences packed with fun visuals, awesome sound, and cool ways to learn from and interact with our evolving catalog of content."
Steefel promised that the development of MTG Arena will be "more visibly inclusive of our fans than any previous Magic project." To that end, signups for the closed beta are now being taken at playmtgarena.com. The beta will begin with casual Constructed play using the Ixalan deck, but will ultimately grow to support competitive ladder matches and draft events as well. Wizards will also give fans a chance to get their hands on it during live demos of the game at upcoming events, beginning this weekend at HASCON.
We'll have a closer look at what Magic: The Gathering Arena brings to the card table for you tomorrow. Until then, enjoy some screens below.