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Could we finally get a real Hearthstone competitor from Magic: The Gathering?

Wizards of the Coast says it’s rethinking its approach to digital

This Magic: The Gathering art features a character in ornate armor and a flowing blue cape turned toward a wall and pouring what appears to blue paint onto the wall. Swirls of similarly colored magic flow to the right of the figure. Deruchenko Alexander/Wizards of the Coast

Blizzard Entertainment’s digital card game Hearthstone has been an absurdly popular hit — to the tune of over 50 million players as of last April. While this player-friendly title has served as a perfect introduction to card games for many players (including myself), others who have been playing collectible card games for years have wondered: Why didn’t Magic: The Gathering ever get a truly great digital experience?

If publisher Wizards of the Coast is to be believed, that could finally change in the near future. Wizards of the Coast president Chris Cocks published a statement today, claiming that the company will be making “increased investments in our digital teams that will give us the capability and flexibility necessary to fully realize the enormous potential of our games.”

Going into further details, Cocks said Wizards of the Coast will be “reimagining digital versions of Magic and other Wizards games.” The company recently formed a new team known as Digital Game Studios that includes video game industry veterans from Valve, Warner Bros. Interactive, Activision, BioWare and more.

“They’re all thinking about how players might tap mana and prepare spells in the future,” Cocks said, adding, “and I can’t wait for you to see what they’re working on.”

Beyond digital versions of their existing games, Cocks said Wizards is working on taking the characters and worlds the company owns to other games and genres. He provided two examples: a Magic: The Gathering-themed massively multiplayer game, and a Dungeons & Dragons-themed augmented reality game.

“We want to play games like this too, so we hired David Schwartz, an industry veteran with 25 years of experience,” Cocks said. “He is building a publishing team to explore partnerships and collaborations that will bring Magic and D&D to unexpected settings, genres and platforms.”

Beyond new games and digital experiences, Cocks promised that the existing Wizards of the Coasts products will become “more efficient, connected and convenient.” It’s unclear what that means specifically, but he noted that the company has a revamped technology team working on “in-store and online interactions so you will have cohesive and connected experiences with our games.”

Chris Cocks is a relatively new name at Wizards of the Coast. He joined the company in April 2016, replacing previous president Greg Leeds who had been with Wizards of the Coast for eight years. Cocks was previously at Microsoft; both Wizards of the Coast and its parent company, Hasbro, have been increasingly boisterous about shifting properties to digital since Cocks joined.

Previous attempts by Wizards of the Coast to take Magic: The Gathering into a digital format include Magic Online — a “full” version of the game weighed down by a notoriously clunky client and difficult-to-parse user interface — and the Duels of the Planeswalkers series of spin-offs, which are more user-friendly and nicer to look at but generally considered a little shallow compared to what longtime Magic players are looking for.

While it’s still unclear what forms Wizards of the Coast’s new big push into digital will take, or when we’ll find out more details, we’ll continue reporting as soon as we know more.

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