Magic: The Gathering Arena will be a major part of the esports scene in 2019, as parent company Hasbro and developer Wizards of the Coast teamed up during The Game Awards broadcast to announce Magic esports. Wizards of the Coast also announced that the company would be introducing a $10 million prize pool for 2019 alone across both Magic: The Gathering Arena and the tabletop version of the card game.
Magic: The Gathering Arena isn't the first online adaptation of the world's most popular trading card game, but it appears to be the most palpable iteration thus far. A combination of the game's aesthetics, easy-to-follow gameplay and faithful recreation of Magic: The Gathering's entire Standard format has revitalized the property's online presence while also fuelling a resurgence in interest in Magic's paper tournaments as well. As more Magic: The Gathering pro players transition to Arena, its becoming clear that Wizards of the Coast has finally found a way to translate the immense success of paper Magic into a significant online presence as well.
Magic esports is a game-changer in the same vein of Magic: The Gathering Arena. Magic esports will consist of a ten tournament series called Mythic Championships alongside partner-run events, and will include $5 million in prizes dedicated to Magic: The Gathering Arena and $5 million for traditional tabletop Magic. The fledgling esports program will begin in a big way with a $1 Million Invitational Mythic Championship that will take place at PAX East 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Magic esports will also bring about major changes for a professional scene that had started to lag significantly behind competitors. Wizards of the Coast will introduce the Magic Pro League, which will include the 32 top ranked Magic: The Gathering players. Players who are in the Magic Pro League will be automatically qualified for each of the Mythic Championships, and, perhaps most significantly, will receive pro contracts that might make Magic: The Gathering a legitimate full-time job for the first time in its 25 year history. The pro contracts will be for $75,000 USD in 2019, an enormous leap from the support pro players have received in the past.
Some details - like how other plays can qualify for Mythic Championships - will be revealed later in 2019, and the full scope of Magic esports has yet to be fully demonstrated. What's obvious, though, is that this is Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast making a significant investment into the future of Magic: The Gathering. With esports a greater presence in global culture now more than ever, and with other online card games making their presence known, now seems like one of the last chances Wizards had to act before risking bleeding players to potentially more lucrative properties. Magic: The Gathering Arena seems poised to make a run at one of the most important online games in 2019, and we'll see how the player base reacts - and if it expands significantly - as the year carries on.