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12, Jun, 24

MTG Players Push Back Against ‘Predatory’ Microtransactions

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Yesterday, Modern Horizons 3 officially launched on MTG Arena at long last. Offering an incredible Draft environment and no shortage of exciting cards, it’s safe to say this release was highly anticipated. Unfortunately, as fun as it may be, this massive set is already causing some problems on MTG Arena.

Much like on paper, Modern Horizons 3 is so powerful that it’s bound to warp multiple formats. Thanks to the limited pre-banned cards, both Timeless and Historic are in for a major shakeup. While this will cause some problems, this inevitable issue isn’t the most pressing problem facing Modern Horizons 3.

The Horrible Horizon Hideaway

Psychic-Frogs-Horizon-Hideaway-Example

Since the Mastery Pass for Outlaws of Thunder Junction is ongoing, Modern Horizons 3 is trying something new. Moving up the formula, Wizards of the Coast has created the Psychic Frog’s Horizon Hideaway to offer redeemable in-game rewards. Much like the Mastery Pass, earning progress in the Horizon Hideway is completely free from playing games and completing quests.

On the surface, the Horizon Hideway may seem like a great boon for MTG Arena players. In this prize wall-esque system, players can claim packs, cards, avatars, sleeves, and even a Draft token! Outside of getting gems and gold, the Horizon Hideaway has everything a Mastery Pass offers and more… right?

Unfortunately, while everything may seem hunky dory on the surface, the Horizon Hideaway has a major problem; it’s not free. Unlike the normal MTG Arena Mastery Pass, there’s not even a free tier only offering partial rewards. Instead, if you want anything from Psychic Frog’s Horizon Hideaway you have to fork over 2,800 gems.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Arena economy, 2,800 gems are worth about $14 at the best exchange rate. Sadly, you can’t simply buy the exact amount of gems you need on Arena, as you must buy bundles instead. Thanks to this system, the cheapest way to access the Horizon Hideaway store is via the $19.99 3,400 gem bundle.

Admittedly, this isn’t a new problem on MTG Arena, as products are often deliberately priced around bundles. In comparison, a normal Mastery Pass will cost 3,200, also requiring a $20 purchase. The major difference here, however, is that XP still does something even if you don’t drop any money.

Predatory Behavior

Much like gold and XP on MTG Arena, the new Horizon Hideaway tickets are earned through gameplay. Even if you haven’t unlocked the Hideaway, the tickets are still offered as a tantalizing reward for playing the game. While this may seem harmless, it has led some players such as u/Mysterious-Lion-3577 to claim Horizon Hideaway is “Psychologically manipulative and predatory.”

Highlighting the Horizon Hideaway’s problems, Mysterious-Lion-3577 noted how it does everything wrong. On top of the issues already discussed, the ticket distribution system is designed to be egregiously tempting. While this won’t affect everyone, Mysterious-Lion-3577 claims this is “a perfect design to rob the psychologically vulnerable of their money.” 

“You earn the second currency by just finishing your daily quests and stuff, but you can’t spend it without unlocking the new shop. This means you always earn stuff you can’t spend. Every few minutes you get a reminder that you have that currency and you can’t spend it.”

Mysterious-Lion-3577

Worryingly, on social media, most MTG players weren’t exactly surprised by this business model. Reddit user u/Panzick, for instance, noted this is pretty par for the course given the trend of creating serialized cards. Similarly, many players depressingly remarked that this is simply the way much of the gaming world works now.

Unsurprisingly, given all the criticism, some users are suggesting that players vote with their wallets and boycott the Horizon Hideaway. While many players may be willing to do this, the entire MTG Arena audience is unlikely to be swayed. Sadly, the tactics that Wizards of the Coast are using here really work, especially on a free-to-play mobile game.

This could mean that the Horizon Hideaway becomes the norm going forward. If loads of MTG players part with their cash and subsequently play more, it’s a win-win for Wizards. Ultimately, it’s too early to tell right now whether or not the Horizon Hideaway is a success right now. We’ll only know the true impact of this experiment when, or if, it ever appears again.

Is Horizon Hideaway Even Bad?

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As we’ve explained, the Horizon Hideaway obviously has some pretty major problems that make it unappetizing to many players. That being said, it’s worth looking into whether the Horizon Hideaway is actually worth the cost of admission or not. While you do have to play a fair bit of MTG each day, there are some rather compelling rewards on offer.

If you earn enough tickets, you can claim eight packs, ten mythic cards, a Draft token, seven sleeves, five avatars, and 50 art styles. For 2,800 gems, or even 3,400 gems for that matter, this isn’t actually a bad deal. On their own, the packs and Draft token are worth 3,100 gems and the mythic cards are technically worth $40!

When you factor in the cosmetics alongside these gameplay rewards, the Horizon Hideaway seemingly offers an insane amount of content. To get this content, however, you do have to play a great deal of MTG, and time isn’t an infinite resource. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to this problem.

Once you know how many tickets you’ve earned throughout the event, you can properly evaluate the potential purchase. If you’ve got enough to get your $20s worth, then by all means, but don’t feel pressured to do so. Sadly, ignoring pressure is easier said than done, as you can only purchase the Horizon Hideaway until July 30th.

Ultimately, the Horizon Hideaway is a mess, but one that we hope returns. Yes, it has a lot of problems right now, but there’s no reason Wizards can’t implement fixes. Ideally, a Horizon Hideaway for the Final Fantasy or Marvel sets could be genuinely great alongside the main Mastery Pass.

Read More: Unannounced Errata Removes MTG Creature Type From Existence

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