Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Magic: The Judgemental Eye

So right now Wen and I are msning each other, and I'm here typing in gmail about this topic. Is it debatable? Will this become a 9+comment post? Probably not, but I'll still post it.

So, there's that PS3 game "Eye of Judgement", coming out or it's out already or whatever. It's unique because it uses a special deck of real physical cards, a special placemat, a Sony EyeToy, and the PS3. Eye of Judgement is a new CCG (Collectible Card Game), might be similar to Triple Triad, where there's a 3x3 grid and you place your cards down. Your cards are special, they have some sort of special encoding on them... anyway, so you put them down on the mat, and the sony Eye Toy interprets the card and puts something on the screen.

So for example, player 1 plays a Treefolk, and then lo' and behold, on the tv screen, a treefolk appears. Player 2 plays a dragon, and then a dragon appears on the screen. Player 1 "declares an attack and taps the Treefolk", and then you see the screen and the treefolk is fighting the dragon! Player 2 casts a fireball and vamoosh, fireball on the screen.

So that's pretty cool. So from there, Wen asked me, "am I interesting in the game?" Well, I am interested on seeing how it works, but I probably won't buy it. I'm not in the market to start a new CCG, and I can't imagine it (or anything else for that matter) being better than Magic. So Wen followed up with: "If this system works with Magic instead of this new CCG, would you get it?"

Wow. Now that's interesting. Then there were 3 sub-questions; 1) existing cards work with it, 2a) you have to buy new cards and they're the same price as regular cards, and 2b) You have to buy new cards but they are significantly more expensive. Long story short, 1) yes, 2a) yes, and 2b) - I might get the game eventually, but for drafting, we'll stilll use regular cards, but if I'm feeling spiffy or curious or are having some epic something something, then I might go out and buy specifically some cards for this game.

But that's not really what this blog update is about. Next Wen said "Wow, Sony should've totally gone with Magic, instead of some new random CCG". So at first I agreed; Magic is known all over and it's awesome, while a new CCG is totally brand new so it's subject to... failing. But then, other questions rose, which this blog update is really about. For now, we'll assume the fact is close to 2a), you have to buy new cards, and they're priced approximately the same, maybe a tiny bit more. And we'll assume everything is feasible; with Eye of Judgement, they probably have to program 200 card animations and 6 effects for each (attacking, being attacked, dying, etc); with Magic, they'll have to program many more cards and many more effects... but alas, I digress.

So the question is, if Sony made Eye of Judgement: Magic the Gathering instead of Eye of Judgement: umm, Eye of Judgement, would it be more profitable?

Let's see... with EOJ, a new CCG, your target audience is those who like CCGs, newcomers to CCGs, and PS3 users. You are competing against existing CCGs (Magic, Pokemon, Yugioh, etc) and other PS3 games.

with Magic, your target audience is the same, except there's a few exceptions. Those who already hate Magic, will not flock to this product. Those who have been considering playing Magic for a few years but haven't gotten to it yet, I don't think it sways their decision either. I mean, if a consumer hasn't started playing Magic yet, this new product wouldn't really influence them to get it more, would it?

Then there's the weird paradox; those who already play Magic. That said, your competition is still PS3 games, and other existing CCGs, and to a lesser extent, even regular Magic and Magic online is competition. To some people, Magic EoJ is the same game as regular Magic, except you have to buy pre-requisite hardware and more expensive cards.

So I guess it kinda goes back to the question Wen asked me in the beginning; if you were an existing Magic user, will you buy this new product? I probably would, but a lot of people probably wouldn't. And then there's the paradox, where if the product was the new EoJ rather than the Magic version, there would be a few people from "a lot of people probably wouldn't" that would purchase the new game, because it's a new game and not Magic.

But then Wen threw me a kicker that I forgot about: Internet play. Yes, EoJ will feature online play, so you can have your physical deck of cards, your friend in China will have her physical deck of cards, and you two can battle it out.

This makes it much more attractive for regular magic users, but how'bout magic online? Well, a major gripe about magic online is that you have to pay for your cards which you don't even have physically, which is really weird. So now there's this, a nicer alternative to playing online. I think this would be a strong selling point to get regular Magic users and Magic Online users to play the game.

So it's actually a pretty cool idea... the merging of table-top games with videogames, and then being able to translate it to work over the internet, something that table-top games cannot do by themselves.

It's almost time for discussion. So, would it have been better if they just did Magic, or if they did a new CCG? But then (curveball! - new topic) if they use Magic, who gets how much money? Who gets how much money with this EoJ CCG?

And this is where we start the discussion.

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Blogger transcendent said...

Wow. I think you covered most of the possibilities in that post.

I think the main problem with Sony's strategy is that EoJ is pretty niche, so it'll only attract those people who already play some kind of CCG (most likely Magic).

I do realize, however, that Magic is an order of magnitude more difficult to implement using this technology, and this topic is complex enough to generate its own separate discussion.

Perhaps Sony believes that EoJ player base can grow enough that it will generate significant revenue. I mean, who doesn't want to make the kind of money that WotC makes? But this is an overly optimistic goal given how many new CCGs on the market fail to achieve critical mass, and given the small install base of the PS3.

I my opinion, Eye of Judgment will amount to nothing more than a cool tech demo.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Yup, I also think that this would've been a great opportunity for Magic to have made it onto the PS3. From what I know, Magic Online version 3 has been pushed back, and the initial hopes for its grand entrance have been somewhat dashed. Although much harder to implement, I'd rather play Magic Online this way than the current way. Though, I still probably wouldn't go and by a PS3 just for that game. :P

5:43 PM  
Blogger Ambrose said...

Well, as mentioned, for "Magic:EoJ" to work, you will need a lot more work than they've already done. At the very least, they need to implement the most up to date core set (10th now, is it) and at least the Time Spiral block. That's probably something like 1000 unique cards that you need to do animation for, some 5 times the amount of work for EoJ (assuming it has like 200 cards).

Anything less, and I don't think you'll attract many Magic fans. Who'd want to play people online with only 10th edition cards?

So instantly the costs of production has already gone up a couple folds. Then comes the profit sharing and royalties. First Sony probably needs to pony up a chunk of cash to WotC to use the Magic name. Sony and WotC can then probably work something out on splitting profits from selling the boosters and the game, say 50/50. However, for this to be more profitable to Sony, they need to probably generate something like 10 times more revenue than they expect from EoJ (much higher cost + royalties + profit sharing). Sure, a case can be made that if successful this can push PS3 console sales, but how many Magic players will drop some 500-600 bucks so that they can start collecting more Magic cards for online purposes?

Overall it seems too risky for Sony to try this considering the miserable state the PS3 is in right now.

11:30 PM  
Blogger Isaque said...

What demographic are we looking at when we say "MTG player"?
Would they already own PS3s? Would they be in position to buy a PS3? Would they BOTHER to buy a PS3 for one game.

Would YOU have bought a PS3? Probably not... I mean you couldn't even be bothered buy a PS2. lol.

8:33 PM  

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