The WOTC Head Designer Mark Rosewater is on Tumblr and mentioned the fact that MTGO is not available on Macs (although I have Windows 7 on mine so I can use it if I really wanted), and this reminded me of a more fundamental question - so I asked it:
"Why can't I play Magic in more social ways digitally? Paper MTG is the market leader, but all digital versions a generational step behind competitors. I too have a Mac, Family & iPhone and basic Magic available during my down-time would be perfect. The question is - why no FaceBook playable sociable MTG based on precon sample decks? The same as LGS get to give out free, but as free to play iPhone/FaceBook app. It's the next logical step after Duels in acquisitions. Is there a Digital 7 yr plan?"
I realise this is a little mixed up due to the character limit so I figured I'd vent here to avoid submitting further embarrassing questions.
Why can't I play Magic in more social ways digitally?
I have Go, Ascension, various drawing and word games on my phone. I can play them against friends as live. We take it in turns as and when we have a sec. It's fun as the games are more frequent than I can manage face-to-face. We'd love to play MTG like this (it's the main game in our social circles) - we'd love it so much we would pay money. Plug in daily MTG and MTG related adverts for new sets and events into the app and you have an acquisition & retention strategy that makes Duels of the Planeswalkers look like nothing.
Paper MTG is the market leader, but all digital versions a generational step behind competitors.
Forget the fact that MTGO looks a bit dated and only works on one platform. The interface itself is very dated and based on past assumptions about interface design that have been superseded (see Interface Culture by Steven Johnson - which is itself now out of date...), but more importantly it has a massive barrier to entry. It's not free to sign-up. It contains no tutorials to my knowledge (personally I'd put them on YouTube so the Tutorials act as an advert for the product). An experienced MTG paper player is easily put off and confused by the way it unfolds. It took me several attempts to make a deck and to jump into even the beginner rooms.
Compare this to a new player experience for League of Legends, or Happy Wars. I have no doubt the product suits the existing players (so much so that they will struggle to drag people onto the new client even though it's technically better), but I love MTG and have no desire to play.
Duels is great - it's what got me playing - but it's also one of my biggest concerns. It's a lovely sealed style environment - playing set restricted card pools against each other is what I love most in paper - but each year it gets dumped and you start again. Also the cards (older versions anyway) were so badly explained in terms of their real world legality that when I transitioned to paper I bought things that were not 'standard legal' and thus had to scrap a lot of ideas once I made it to FNM. Now I Tournament Organise at a small store the main question from Duels players is where they can buy that deck they love. And we have to break their hearts. Stick Duels to standard base decks, with Modern as the unlocks or bought decks and this problem vanishes and you get new players that PREFER Modern coming in. Bonus!
I too have a Mac, Family & iPhone and basic Magic available during my down-time would be perfect.
Why are we playing bad iPhone & FaceBook games and not Magic?
I know GP winners who play terrible, grindy card games on their phones - those ones where the cards are just a means to an end with no real mechanics or structure. They have pretty art and the more time you put in the better you are due to the time based advancement mechanics. The thing is they are available on our phones and iPads and we can play them with our friends asychnronously. MTG didn't even keep their iPhone card gatherer application up to date and deleted it within a few months. This was a YEAR ago. I can't build decks on my phone officially. I have to use 3rd party apps (some of which WOTC tried to remove or change when theirs came out) to look up prices or store collections.
Playdek have been brought in to do a D&D game. Their Ascension game is the most use thing on my phone next to texting. Something basic like that would be fine - something free and accessible to those who watch Day9 on the ProTour and want to figure out the basics.
The question is - why no FaceBook playable sociable MTG based on precon sample decks? The same as LGS get to give out free, but as free to play iPhone/FaceBook app. It's the next logical step after Duels in acquisitions.
If I had an MTG app on FaceBook I could go ahead and delete most of the other games. All it would need to be is the preconstructed single colour basic decks that we get given to hand to new players. They ask how to play, we break out two of these decks and they get to take them home. Do that digitally. Allow us to play our friends using it and record our win losses. Allow us to combine these to make 2 colour 60 card decks and there are 20 different decks to be played - 25 if you can double colours up. That is more than enough content to keep people interested and again - you link to Duels from this (The Next Step...) and DailyMTG and Twitch Coverage and so on. To me this would be a nightmare to program, but FaceBook isn't going anywhere (and you could probably do it on the actual MTG site using Forum ID as a log in too for those that fear it) so it'd be worth the investment.
Is there a Digital 7 yr plan?
Mark talks about the 7 year plan for paper Magic. I don't think digital has one. Tablet DOTP is a nice step, but it should be Tablet MTGO & iPhone links (build decks on phone - play on tablet or Computer). I realise this is all things that would take a lot of investment, but I can't see how it wouldn't be worth it in the long run.
Complexity creep is frequently cited as the number 1 thing most likely to 'kill Magic', I think that the new wave of Digital products outclassing MTG from every angle is more probable and by the end of this year the blue ocean of digital TCGs will be a hotly fought arena. I do hope paper Magic survives.