This past weekend was an exciting time. Some of the best players in the world gathered for an event watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers. I’m of course talking about the Overwatch World Cup. Now you might be thinking about Pro Tour Ixalan that happened last week as well, but it wasn’t quite there. While Magic is certainly near and dear to me, it’s hard to suggest viewers tune in and trying to grow viewership a massive amount.
We can pretend all we want that other games aren’t competition, but we know they are, and I think I have some suggestions to help improve coverage. While I’m no expert, I hope this can lead to some discussion to help our beloved game.
There’s no action or excitement
This is not an easy one to tackle. Magic inherently can be kind of boring to watch. When you consider how chess-like or poker-like the game is, it’s easy to understand how some games take time to unfurl. We’ve seen some exciting matches for sure, and some of the best minds battle; but, on the whole, some games play out in a way that makes some of the hard core fans tune out for a bit.
This is something we have to accept as part of the game and not try to change. Trying to change how the game is played out ends up fundamentally changing the game and making it something else entirely. RNG is nice, but having card game rely on a bunch of random events gets boring after awhile. Instead, we will have to look at changing events around the game.
Major Event Button
When I logged onto Overwatch during the weekend, I saw something that caused me to stop, think, and then click on something.
This was a simple, yet effective, way to get a player who was logging in to check out what was going on. It led directly to the Overwatch page which had the Twitch video embedded for players to watch. Of course, this would have to lead to a revamp of the MTG website as it stands, but I think we can all agree that’s only for the benefit of all of us involved.
I think with Arena, Wizards has made it pretty clear they would like there to be some connection for players playing the online client and the physical version as well. Creating a link in program to watch events during the weekend, like a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour, could help attract more viewers. In the digital age, people are often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and options available to them, so it’s easy to get caught up watching something else or even forget there’s an event going on. This is an option that doesn’t intrude or bombard a consumer with the link.
If Wizards wants all the versions of Magic to interconnect, one of the smaller things to add to coverage is a player’s MTGO or Arena username underneath their name. During the Pro Tour, Piotr Glogowski had a fantastic day one start of the Pro Tour at 8-0 which culminated Day Two with a Top 8 berth. If you paid attention to the last MOCS, then you might recognize Piotr’s name from that event. You may also recognize him, if you play Magic Online, by his handle, ‘kanister’, and I think that’s a market we are missing.
Part of this allure is loading up the program and getting to play against the marketed players. Unlike some of the other kinds of online games, it’s perfectly possible to queue in a League and get a chance to play against some big name players. This is an exciting proposition and one that seems quite easy to market. When players sign up for a Grand Prix or a Pro Tour they can also fill out a small section if they have an online handle. Since it’s purely voluntary, players don’t have to; but, for me, I would love to have that opportunity to have that little addition.
Downtime can be useful for showing splash pages for how teams are doing or individual players or discussing new cards, sets, strategies, or design. However, there is a fine line between having too much during downtime and not enough. For this, I would really like to recommend replays with commentary. One of the wonders of having all this technology is being able to go over plays with more time and detail. While there isn’t the fast paced and exciting plays to mull over like in other eSports we are talking about some high level play with some of the world’s best. Some writers have articles and videos dedicated to games or certain plays and I can’t imagine it would be something that would lose interest of the viewership. With every round, there’s something new to potentially look at or revisit. A commentator discussing how they’d love to revisit a play could lead a viewer looking forward to the break. Magic is a game worth breaking down, but there’s not enough time during matches.
This is really where a lot of this is leading to. Magic is not a game of excitement as it is, and slow play not being enforced is a huge detriment to its watchability. There needs to be clearer and more defined lines on slow play. While it is something that is certainly not easy to discern and can vary from game to game, I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor to have harder boundaries.
I think for judges this can be especially hard. When you see the same players at every event, it can feel as though you’re picking on a player specifically, or a player might feel like a judge is out to get them. This is why it’s so important to have clearer boundaries on what constitutes slow play. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have the correct answers. While I have my own thoughts on what should and shouldn’t be slow play, I think it’s more important to have a judge and/or community discussion to help fix the problem. We, as a community, need to encourage everyone to play faster and implore the judges to help with this. There’s a lot of fine lines to tiptoe over, but I’m confident we can figure it out.
Online Client Slow Play
MTGO’s current slow play policy is atrocious. You get a full ten minutes of inaction before you’re removed. There’s nothing to police turns or punish repeat offenders. I am hoping, at a minimum, Arena has a slow play timer so players can get used to what constitutes a slower turn and when they are taking too long. This can help build a routine with players that could transfer well to playing the game in paper.
This is a super minor gripe but something that could potentially have a lot of impact. Coverage can look boring at times; and, while we’ve made some large strides, there’s still some room to grow. Besides something like brighter colors, it would be nice to see a little emote of the team's jerseys next to their name when showing a slide of standings or during feature matches. Having the name of the team is great, for sure, but I think such a small thing as adding a little mock up of their jersey makes viewing nice to follow along to and easy to identify teams at all times.
Magic has a lot of great art, and having the window to show cards is very nice; but, it feels like there’s some more room to explore. While I don’t have all the answers, I hope we can work toward improving what we have!