Throughout 2022, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro released many MTG products. Initially, you might expect this to be a good thing, as players are getting more of their hobby to enjoy. In reality, however, the number of MTG product releases throughout 2022 has been a deeply controversial issue. We even named and shamed it as the most contentious topic of 2022 in our recent end-of-year list. Due to the controversy that it has caused, many MTG players fervently request Wizards to slow down the blistering pace of releases. For a while, it seemed like Wizards was listening. However, that glimmer of hope may not be as promising as players had initially thought.
A Glimmer of Hope
Following the frequent complaints by the MTG community, recently, it appeared that Wizards of the Coast was finally listening. By delaying the upcoming Phyrexia: All Will Be One set, Wizards aimed to give players a smidgen more breathing room. While this week-long delay isn’t perfect, with Dominaria Remastered and Phyrexia: All Will Be One releasing within a month of one another, it’s the best that Wizards could do. Weekly MTG Host Blake Rasmussen explained as such during a recent Livestream.
“2023 releases are pretty locked in. There’s only so much we can tweak. But we do have a few knobs we can turn, so what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna push back, Phyrexia All Will Be One’s release date by a week. […] So again, we’re pushing it back a little bit to try to give a little bit more. You know, there wasn’t much more we could push it, given how close we are, but I think the team here felt that giving a little bit more time was important.”Blake Rasmussen – Wizards of the Coast
At the time of this announcement, we noted that, while this delay isn’t a perfect solution, it is a step in the right direction. Subsequently, it appeared that Wizards was finally paying attention to players’ requests, even if it negatively affected profits. Some players even suggested that Wizards had major changes in store for future years, with 2023 merely being placeholder fixes. Subsequently, as you might expect, MTG players were unusually optimistic about what the future might hold. Disappointingly, however, these hopes for the future would soon be dashed by additional statements from Rasmussen.
Speaking in a later Livestream, Blake Rasmussen directly addressed the requests for Wizards to slow down their rampant releases. Unfortunately, despite the promising recent delay, Rasmussen gave an answer that players really didn’t want to hear. Stating that “the short answer is not really,” it appeared that MTG’s chockablock release calendar was here to stay. Rather than Wizards changing tactics to appease disgruntled players, Rasmussen instead encouraged players to adopt a new mindset. “My advice is to engage with the parts of Magic that you find fun and that you want to engage with, and not that you feel that you must engage with.”
Less Is More
Despite the emphatic statement from Rasmussen, the discussion around this controversial topic hasn’t slowed down. During the merciful holiday break, if anything, this discussion has only gotten louder as players look back upon a year filled with 22 product releases and 70 Secret Lair drops. Subsequently, the controversial topic once again made its way to Wizards of the Coast staff. Being asked to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, via their Blogatog blog, Tumblr user Winterwarp highlighted the product fatigue problem.
In their question, Winterwarp stated that “paying attention to what’s coming out can become exhausting and overwhelming with the amount of products which have been getting released.” Beyond reiterating this common complaint, Winterwarp went on to state that the suggestion to ‘only engage with the products that most excite you’ doesn’t work. Instead, Winterwarp claimed that keeping up with MTG releases is an all-or-nothing game, as “not paying attention can lead to products you would’ve loved going under your radar.”
Responding to this claim, Mark Rosewater explained why Wizards releases so many products throughout the year. In essence, Wizards isn’t aiming to greedily capitalize on players who feel obligated to buy every card and set. Instead, Wizards is merely looking to best cater to the game’s expanded audience as possible. Having grown a lot in its nearly 30-year history, MTG supports a variety of different players who each want different things. Subsequently, Wizards is merely doing their best to give each of these players something they’re interested in.
“Here’s the challenge. There are a lot of different Magic players that want very different things. We want to produce what makes Magic special for each player in enough volume that they stay invested. That’s what’s going on, we’re trying to make sure our proverbial buffet always has the food that excites each individual diner.
Putting out less food means that we’re depriving some diners of the food that makes them most excited to come to the buffet. We do that long enough, and they stop coming.
A good example of this is while people suggest we offer less products, which products go away is under great debate. Everybody wants the thing they love to stay, and the things they enjoy less to go away, but which is which varies from person to person.”Mark Rosewater – Wizards of the Coast
Full Steam Ahead
Along with continuing to produce the existing product catalog, Rosewater stated, “we’re always trying to attract new diners.” After all, “new lifeblood is fundamental to any game, but especially one with Magic’s longevity.” While experiments aren’t always been successful, new products, such as Universes Beyond, are steadily growing in popularity. Subsequently, despite the initial pushback that products may receive, it appears that change isn’t always a bad thing. Whether players like it or not, Rosewater stated that change is indeed coming, as “Magic is at another flux point.”
“What I think is going on is Magic is at another flux point (and it’s had many over the years). It’s adapting to player desires and changing in new ways. When that happens, both the audience and R&D have to adapt as well. Maybe we have to change how we communicate new products. Maybe there needs to be a lighter track for those that want a sense of what’s coming without the depth that we normally provide. I agree that old systems might not make sense in the new world, but I don’t think it’s a reason to reject the new world. It’s a reason to figure out how to adapt.”Mark Rosewater – Wizards of the Coast
Thankfully, while it hits several of the same notes, Rosewater’s conclusion isn’t identical to Rasmussen’s suggested change in mindset. Instead, Rosewater acknowledged that while Wizards won’t be slowing down, part of the problem is theirs to solve. After all, it should be up to Wizards to effectively market their products without forcing players to rely on incredibly handy third-party release calendars. Commenting on Rosewater’s statement, many MTG players agreed that Wizards’ communication sorely needs to improve in one way or another.
“I agree that better communication could help alleviate a lot of the issue. And also consistency/predictability with broad release schedules, so people can have stability and a sense of expectation regarding what sorts of things will be coming out every spring or fall or whatever”Winterwarp
“Communication (branding) would be key to sorting this out. Forever ago MTG had a rating system of Starter, Advanced, and Expert, something like that needs to come back again. Or you need to be better about making a product more for the people who it’s marketed toward. Like if there’s a Commander line of products anyone who doesn’t play commander should be able to safely ignore anything related to it.”Loeffert
“For the record, I do think some better communication on products on the main site could help. To me, if a product isn’t announced on the main site, it basically doesn’t exist… If something like Game Night was made recently, I can assure you I didn’t hear of it, because the main site didn’t tell me about it.”Aliceshiki123
Ultimately, while there may be hope on the horizon, MTG is still in a state of turbulent flux. Unfortunately, as Winterwarp pointed out in a later comment, players “don’t see an end to the transitioning period.” Subsequently, while players may want to hope for the future, it’s unclear how, or when fixes may be finally implemented. For MTG Arena players, thankfully, the new Player Inbox feature provides a direct line of communication. Sadly, no like-for-like system exists in paper currently, causing continued confusion. At least now, the problem has been adequately identified. It may only be a matter of time before things improve.