Monday, August 12, 2013

Removing Magic's Barriers - New Player Drafts

Wizards of the Coast has recently been ramping up their efforts to attract new players. It's the right move, obviously; the more people who are using your product, the more money your company makes. So how does Wizards get people to start playing Magic Online, where people spend literally hundreds of dollars a month playing games? Well, you have to find a way to make the game accessible, both financially and as far as the gameplay. Magic is an insanely complex game; simplifying it for new players is vital.

This week's blog posts will discuss what Wizards has done to try to remove the barriers to entry for the game. Today's post will focus on New Player drafts.

In order to play the official Magic The Gathering: Online, a player has to pay $10 to set up an online account. This account gives you access to the online world of MTG, which includes the opportunity to enter drafts, purchase packs of cards, trade with other players, and develop your own collection, from which you can play recreationally with your friends, or with players around the world.

New players receive a starter kit, a sort of "welcome gift," which includes some cards from the current core set (Magic releases a new core set every year, and new expansion sets every few months) and some tickets, which can be used to enter events.

Previously, the welcome gift 2 regular Event Tickets and 4 New Player Tickets. An Event Ticket costs $1 to purchase from the Wizards online store, and is used for entry into all MTGO events. New Player Tickets are only available via the starter kit, and are used to enter special New Player events. A New Player draft costs 1 New Player Ticket at 1 Event Ticket. These are phantom events, which means that the cards drafted in these events do not go into your online card collection. Additionally, while a normal event would have several prizes of 1-8 Magic 2014 (M14) packs depending on the format, a New Player event offers only a single M14 pack to the winner of an event, and no prize to the other three participants. Still, the chance to play in the drafts and possibly get a little reward out of it was enough to draw me in; I ended up buying three different accounts so that I could get the New Player draft opportunities.

Well, things have changed...quite a bit actually. Now, each player who creates a new account gets 5 normal Event Tickets and 20 New Player Tickets. This means that a new user can play five drafts at no additional cost, and can pay one dollar per draft for up to fifteen additional drafts. This gives a new player the chance to get a LOT of playtime for a fairly reasonable price; if the player elected to play through all 20 New Player drafts, he or she would spend $25 between the cost of creating a new account ($10) and the additional tickets ($15).

Won't you take me to...VALUE TOWN!

Seriously. This new setup has two distinctly exciting aspects. First, to the player, you're getting a chance for a full draft experience five times from those first ten dollars spent on the new account. Five drafts should be enough for most players to find out if they like the idea. The second part is a little more sneaky, and a creative business move. This method creates multiple nudges for the user to make a purchase from the in-game store. If you win one of the New Player drafts, you get an M14 pack. If you want to play in a real draft, you need a total of three packs as well as two Event Tickets, all readily available for purchase from the store. Plus, if you liked the experience but you're not sure if you're ready for the real thing, you can always just buy a few more Event Tickets and use up some of your 20 New Player tickets to get into more drafts. Either way, you're pulling people towards making purchases from the store, and that removes one of the bigger barriers to entry for the system: that nervous feeling you get when you're spending money. It's a good value, so what's a couple more dollars? And boom, they've got you.

Let me be clear on this, though: I have no problem with Wizards' move here. First, as I said, I was already buying new accounts to get the draft time, so this just makes it way more reasonably priced for me to do so. Second, I think Magic would appeal to a larger audience of people if they just found ways to get past some of these barriers (hence this feature on the blog). And I really do want Magic to become more mainstream; my end goal is to eventually own and run a game store, and that's obviously easier if more people are playing Magic.

What do you think of the new system? Love it? Hate it? Don't care? Let me know in the comments.

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