Thursday, January 3, 2013

Future-Proofing: Magic the Gathering

Today we begin a new year.  As with any new year, people make resolutions and about half of them are already broken.  As we near the conclusion of this series on Future-Proofing, last time I described my succession plan and how it hinges on just one thing.  It also happens to be the one thing I, nor any of us, can control, what the future of MTGO actually is.  So let’s look at MTGO and its future.

Five years ago, MTGO accounts numbered between 1,000 and 2,000 users on at any given time.  This is a particularly small number when compared to the number of actual players.  But we can dismiss this as MTGO at the time, could only host 2,000 users maximum and there were a large amount of bots slowing things down.  In computer terms, the architecture was not scalable, meaning there was an upper limit.

In 2008, times were fairly good; the Great Recession didn’t hit and WotC was actively reworking their architecture to allow many more simultaneous users.  While it was annoying at the time, it is fine now, with 4,000 to 5,000 active users on at any given time.  While this is an increase of up to 500%, that MTGO is scalable means there is no limit to growth.  Things slow down, just add a server.  Lag gets to be an issue, just open up another Internet pipe.

So the capacity is not going to be a problem in the foreseeable future.  What about the health of the card game itself?  While people moan about four sets being released annually, people do purchase the new sets, and draft these sets.  This is a good thing for Magic.  It is also good that players can leave and return at any time, and with just some minor retraining, can jump straight into a draft and be competitive.  Old cards from Tempest, Ice Age, etc, are still playable as the core game mechanics are the same.  A fifteen year old deck can still play against any Standard deck today. 

Another thing has changed: people are accustomed to online transactions and digital objects.  Ten years ago, this was a controversial topic of discussion.  These days, only nit-pickers complain that they could lose their investments in digital items. 

People are also realizing the value of online entertainment.  A movie provides only two (2) hours of entertainment.  A dinner at a restaurant only an hour.  A draft can take three (3) hours and if played well, can provide even more.  You even get to keep the cards!

So what is the bottom line?  As the lines between physical and online Magic blur, as more cross-promotions are done, as more and more people get into the game, and when this economy improves, the number of players will increase.  Seeing 10,000 simultaneous users in five years should not be unexpected.  25,000 should be what WotC is going after.  And what does that mean for us?  Much more business!

1 comment:

  1. or much more competition as the bot:human ratio keeps growing