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Magic: The Gathering Video Games Through History

Created in 1993, Magic: The Gathering garnered a whirlwind of recognition as the crème de la crème of trading card games. Never letting up, Wizards of the Coast has taken the franchise to the digital format several times – the first in 1997 on the PC – and has explored the fictional realm of novels and comics.

Varying from fantastic to atrocious, the video games have been on a teeter-totter as developers try and tackle the source material. The most beloved entries in the genre often are those that stay true to the card game and give the fans a new avenue to play with their friends. With that said, we explore Magic: The Gathering’s rich, yet somewhat still-in-its-infancy video-game history.

The year is 1997. Wizards of the Coast decided to license out the card game to two publishers: Micropose and Acclaim. The end result was two terrible games and one that delivered upon expectations of the fans.

The first publisher in question, which created a game that didn’t stand out like a sore thumb, was Micropose’s aptly titled Magic: The Gathering. Introducing three game modes (single-player campaign, tournament and a duel mode) and bringing forth a multiplayer add-on, the title went on to be popular enough to spawn two expansions and win over fans.

Unfortunately for Acclaim, the other publisher in question, it had to compete against Micropose for the best Magic: The Gathering video game and lost out - having two shots at accomplishing such a feat, Acclaim published Magic: The Gathering – BattleMage and Magic: The Gathering – Armageddon both to universal criticism. BattleMage was set within the real-time strategy genre while Armageddon was created for the arcades. Both failed (Armageddon didn’t receive many cabinets) to compare against the likes of Micropose’s release.

As an import only, Sega created their version of Magic: The Gathering for the Dreamcast in 2001 that mixed up the gameplay that couldn’t be replicated in real life by Magic players. Adored for its simplicity, the Dreamcast iteration is often beloved by certain sects of Magic fans still to this day.

The next step in the progression of the series was Magic: The Gathering Online, a PC title that released in 2002 and still operates today. Widely the most profitable video game of the license, this online-oriented title served up exactly what its audience wanted and they continue to come back for more with online tournaments and championships to be won.

Before moving onto the Xbox Live Arcade, Magic: The Gathering had its formula changed up with Magic: The Gathering – Battlegrounds, released by Atari on the original Xbox and PC. Allowing players to control their avatars and throw spells at one another, it was a break from the norm, even if it wasn’t praised from all forms of the industry.

Lastly, and most importantly, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers found its release on the Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 to be a critical and commercial success. Normally ranking among the most played XBLA titles on the service, Duels of the Planeswalkers has already received two expansions (downloadable content) that has brought forth new decks, ladders matches, challenges and, of course, updates to fix glitches.

The future is bright for the card game through the digital medium. Sony Online Entertainment has partnered up with Wizards of the Coast to release Magic: The Gathering Tactics for the PC later this year and there is also a PC launch for Duels of the Planeswalkers set sometime in the future. It is no wonder that the popularity continues to rise for the 17-year-old franchise.

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GameZone Staff
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