By Elspeth's Command
17, Feb, 23

MTG Arena Could Be Getting Commander And NFTs

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Article at a Glance

Since launching in 2018, MTG Arena has slowly evolved into the competent digital client players know and love today. While the pace of updates has left something to be desired, MTG Arena has nevertheless come a long way. Thankfully for Arena players, in 2022, Wizards of the Coast appeared to renew their focus on the digital client. Implementing new quality-of-life and gameplay features alongside plenty of new cards, Arena was finally hitting its stride. Throughout 2023, things were set to get even better thanks to new supplemental sets and a refactored new player experience. As if that wasn’t enough already, Hasbro’s CEO has recently revealed that even more features may be coming to Arena throughout 2023. This potentially includes the highly requested arrival of the Commander format on MTG Arena.

Commander Is Finally Coming to Arena?!

Atraxa, Praetors' Voice
Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice | Commander 2016

Since the earliest days of MTG Arena’s existence, the platform’s players have been vehemently requesting the implantation of Commander. These calls for the format have only grown louder following Commander’s explosion in popularity throughout recent years. Having grown to become the most popular format on paper, MTG Arena players have been feeling seriously left out. Due to Commander’s incredible popularity, there has always been the hope that it would arrive on Arena at some point. Wizards, however, was hesitant to confirm any official plans, despite the similar Brawl and Historic Brawl formats already existing. Recently, however, it appears that Wizards may have changed their tune as the demand for Commander has finally been acknowledged. 

During the company’s recent earnings call, Hasbro highlighted how MTG is the star of the show. Raking in $263 million within Q4, the MTG brand achieved its target of becoming a billion-dollar brand throughout 2022. Alongside hitting this momentous milestone, Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks revealed to investors what’s in store for the future. While the focus was predominantly on paper MTG, Arena players did see some love, too, with Cocks detailing immense changes in the works. 

“We continue to invest in figuring out new ways in which we can express magic digitally. If you think about the success of Magic over the last five years, the success really has been driving what we call a segmentation strategy where we are offering bespoke products to new segments of consumers that we either are undeserving or not serving at all before.

And, you know, there are formats like Commander, which is a four-player version of the game that’s highly social. I’m enthused as I know Cynthia and the team are of figuring out how we can get a true multiplayer experience beyond two players, for magic digitally.”

Chris Cocks

While Cocks didn’t give any concrete details about plans, it certainly appears that Commander is on Wizards’ radar for Arena. Unfortunately, given how little Cocks said, there’s no telling how these plans may manifest throughout 2023 and beyond. It is possible, for instance, Wizards is merely targeting a multiplayer variant of the Arena-exclusive Historic Brawl format. Alternatively, Wizards may go all in on Commander on Arena, implanting purchasable preconstructed Commander decks alongside Commander-exclusive cards. Considering MTG Arena only features a fraction of all MTG cards ever released, Commander may never be one-to-one with paper. Not without a slew of Commander anthology sets, at least.

The Players, New Possibilities

Priest of Possibility
Priest of Possibility | Alchemy: Dominaria

Alongside addressing the potential of Commander finally arriving on MTG Arena, Chris Cocks also detailed Arena’s avenues for growth. As we highlighted late last year, MTG Arena is finally coming to Steam in 2023. This is obviously a massive boon for Arena, as it introduces the game to a vast audience of potential players. Previously, Wizards had refrained from giving any timeline for when players can look forward to this new platform release. When speaking to investors, however, Cocks stated, “I think we’re targeting Q3,” for Arena’s Steam release. 

Considering we’re only in February, this means that Arena’s launch on steam is still several months away. This might seem strange, considering that Arena utilizes the Unity engine, which should allow ports to be made fairly expediently. Explaining this oddity, Cocks revealed Arena’s launch on Steam was more than just a simple port. “The reason for the timeline to get to Q3 is we’re reinventing what the new player experience is.” According to Cocks, this will create “an easier onboarding and a more fun way to learn how to play.” Unfortunately for curious players, this is all Cocks had to say on the matter, so there’s no indication of what may be changed. While it’s possible Wizards may only overhaul the five-color challenge, we’ll be hoping for a fully-fledged campaign experience. 

Sadly, during the earnings call, Cocks didn’t only share the good news about MTG Arena. As alongside an update on the Steam launch, Cocks reaffirmed MTG Arena’s console launch plans. Originally intended to release sometime during 2023, unfortunately, the console launch of MTG Arena has now been pushed back. A reason for this delay was not stated, however, now it is expected MTG Arena will launch on consoles during “2024 and beyond.” 

“Over the midterm, we continue to evaluate consoles, particularly Xbox and PlayStation platforms. We think that’ll be an interesting opportunity for us, but likely in 2024 and beyond.”

Chris Cocks 

Contentious Collectibles 

Alms Collector
Alms Collector | The ’90s Binder Experience Secret Lair

Last but not least, during the investor presentation, Chris Cocks also briefly touched upon the topic of digital collectibles. In recent years, WotC and Hasbro have been pushing the collectability of paper MTG, so it’s no surprise this topic came up. Stating that Hasbro is “still intrigued by digital collectibility,” Cocks miraculously refrained from mentioning the tumultuous topic of NFTs. In fact, Cocks seemed to state Wizards would be keeping well away from them. “You know, I don’t think you’ll fund us going after the passing of the minute.” 

That being said, while NFTs might be off the table for now, it does appear that digital collectibles will be coming to MTG Arena in the future. “We do think digital collectibility is going to be a thing, and it’s going to stick,” Cocks confirmed. “So, we continue to invest R&D about what the right approach is for that, whether doing it ourselves or doing it through a partner.” With Cocks keeping Hasbro’s cards close to their chests, it’s unclear how collectibles could be implemented into MTG Arena. There’s also no timeline for when these collectible changes may be pushed onto the platform, so, unfortunately, for now, we’ll just have to wait with bated breath. 

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