Daybreak Takes Over Publishing For Magic: The Gathering Online
WotC's first digital Magic game went live in 2002.
Daybreak giveth and Daybreak also taketh. Daybreak Games has announced that it has come to an agreement with Wizards of the Coast to publish Magic: The Gathering Online, the long-running digital version of the world's first collectible card game.
MTGO first went live in 2002 and is not to be confused with later online versions of Magic that came later, such as Magic Duels and Magic: The Gathering Arena, both of which are/were free-to-play games published by Wizards of the Coast over the last decade. In 2007, MTGO accounted for 30% to 50% of the Magic business, according to Wizards of the Coast.
There wasn't much more information in the press release announcing the news, so I'll just take up some space to talk about the origins of online collectible card games. MTGO wasn't the first; in fact, it was preceded a full five years earlier, all the way back in 1997, by something called Chron X. That game still has a website today, where you can download the client and play peer-to-peer games ("barely," the site says). You can also download and print pdfs of cards to play a physical version, and there's even a print-and-play card/board game called Chron X: First Century.
In the ensuing years, the company I worked for, Decipher Inc., which made the Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings CCGs, contracted with Worlds Apart Productions to make digital versions of its CCGs. The Trek and Wars versions were just digital tabletops that had limited gameplay functionality -- you could draw cards, shuffle decks, etc., but they didn't have full rules adjudication -- but the LotR game did. Worlds Apart was later acquired by Sony Online Entertainment (a.k.a. Daybreak) and made EverQuest digital CCG Legends of Norrath, as well as a CCG based on Free Realms. Its creators broke off to form Dire Wolf Digital, which developed the online Pokémon TCG and The Elder Scrolls: Legends, and still makes a CCG based on its own IP, Eternal, as well as physical card and board games.
I'm not sure what the point of all that was, other than to show you that yes, digital CCGs existed before Hearthstone. And one of the biggest, and longest-lasting, ones changing hands is still big news, as it gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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