Are trading and collectible card games dead? Far from it. Sure, gone are the days when every kid in school was watching Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon and playing their respective card games.
But the card game industry knows how to adapt. In 2014, Blizzard introduced Hearthstone, which now has over 100 million players. However, its reign may come to an end with this new video game.
The Appeal and Popularity of ‘Hearthstone’
Hearthstone was the biggest player in the digital card game industry — and it made sense why. For one, it had its particular set of rules. Opponents cannot cast anything on your turn and there were no lands.
The removal of lands was significant because other games required lands or mana that had to be drawn from the deck. There were occasions wherein you either draw too many or too few, which could cost you the game.
With Hearthstone, players didn’t have to worry about the mana. They always gained additional mana each turn until all the slots are filled. Plus, Hearthstone had a built-in fanbase.
It wasn’t an unknown card game at all. People who played other Blizzard games such as WarCraft 3 and World of Warcraft were anticipating Hearthstone months before its release.
Perhaps more importantly, the game didn’t take itself too seriously. Hearthstone had a charming look and soundtrack that made you want to play multiple times each day.
Defeating the Blizzard Juggernaut
If there was any company that could beat Blizzard in the digital card game industry, it’s Wizards of the Coast. While Hearthstone is the online standard, Wizard’s Magic: The Gathering is the all-out pioneer.
Way back in 1993, Richard Garfield made the first set of cards for Magic: The Gathering. It had creatures, enchantments, artifacts, lands, and sorcery and instant spells. It was unlike any other game before it.
The game has released hundreds of cards each year since then and has over 35 million players. There is no other card game that is as complex and rich in lore as Magic: The Gathering.
And now, Wizards of the Coast has unleased Magic: The Gathering Arena. The game did have an online version in the form of Magic: The Gathering Online — but that looked archaic compared to Hearthstone.
‘Arena’ Has the Money to Compete
There are countless other online card games other than Arena and Hearthstone. But these are the clear leaders for two reasons: money and popularity.
Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro are more than willing to invest in Magic: The Gathering Arena. Why? Magic is the only game other than Monopoly that gave Hasbro revenue gains in 2018.
So imagine this: The physical version of Magic: The Gathering already has more than 35 million players. Even if just ten percent of those try Arena, the game will already have millions of users.
As of 2019, the digital game has around three million players. Plus, Wizards of the Coast allotted a whopping $10 million prize pool for this year — encouraging professional gamers to try it as well.
KeyBanc believes that Arena could have almost 11 million players in the next two years. That still won’t match the Hearthstone player base, but even some Hearthstone players looking for more complexity are already shifting to Arena.