Xbox limitations led to annual Magic: The Gathering games

Magic: The Gathering's "Duels of the Planeswalkers" series has turned into an annualized game for the CCG, which developer Stainless Games attributes to Microsoft's policies and costs of updating.

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Magic: The Gathering hit the Xbox 360 and PC with Duels of the Planeswalkers, only to be followed a year later by DotP 2012 on multiple platforms, and now the upcoming DotP 2013. So why is a customizable card game, which is based around adding parts, getting annualized as full, separate games? According to developer Stainless Games, it has a lot to do with Microsoft's policies on Xbox Live Arcade games.

"What we wanted to do originally was, as we're living in the modern digital download era, make a game and just carry on releasing DLC for it, and go on forever," production director Ben Gunstone told Eurogamer. "That proved in the real-world to be very difficult, within the constraints of Xbox, mainly."

The game may be available across PlayStation 3 and the 2013 version will hit mobile devices, but that first step on Xbox 360 set the tone for the rest of the series. "It's to do with title update limitations," he said. "You can get around it, and we did get around it, but it became such a complicated affair. If you ever updated the original Duels game it essentially deletes itself and re-downloads itself. Submissions aren't free and if you keep on doing them it becomes a sliding scale... the tail doesn't make so much money towards the end."

That made refreshing the game with title updates or DLC unreasonable, so the game started offering a fresh take yearly. And Gunstone isn't entirely hard on Microsoft, saying they enjoy a "close relationship" with them and that their high barriers for certification "makes for a better game in the end." Plus, he points out, "800 Points is a relatively trivial amount of money these days. To charge that once a year is not a big ask."

Fresh launches every year do grant the benefit of fresh sales, so publisher Wizards of the Coast may have opted for that idea with or without Microsoft's hurdles. But as we look forward to the next generation, Microsoft may want to consider loosening its restrictions to make constant updates -- a particularly important factor in free-to-play games -- a more viable option for developers.

Editor-In-Chief

From The Chatty

  • reply
    May 24, 2012 11:30 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Xbox limitations led to annual Magic: The Gathering games.

    Magic: The Gathering's "Duels of the Planeswalkers" series has turned into an annualized game for the CCG, which developer Stainless Games attributes to Microsoft's policies and costs of updating.

    • reply
      May 24, 2012 11:48 AM

      Translation: We can make more money doing it this way.

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        May 24, 2012 11:56 AM

        I can only assume you have no idea how Magic works

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          May 24, 2012 11:59 AM

          If everyone understood how it worked, it wouldn't exactly be magic then, would it?

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          May 24, 2012 12:00 PM

          I can only assume you have no idea how DoP works.

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            May 24, 2012 12:42 PM

            opposite of the business model that made Magic and MTGO massively successful? contrary to the name of the game's genre?

            I mean, Magic has been doing microtransactions forever and games are just now getting out of the habit of big expansions and such in favor of smaller and cheaper DLC and microtransactions because it's so much more lucrative. It's obvious that they'd rather an MTGO model on consoles and tablets.

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        May 24, 2012 12:28 PM

        Naw. They'd make *way* more money with a constant stream of updates and microtransactions.

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          May 24, 2012 12:46 PM

          If it's *way* more and they've effectively gotten around it like they mention in the article, why not keep doing it that way? Or abandon the 360 altogether and only develop for platforms that'll let them (although I see this is already happening with this version being brought to iOS).
          It just really stinks to fracture the playerbase more and more every year. Even if there was some kind of "compatibility pack" that people with DotP or DotP2012 could download to let them play across versions, that'd be nice.

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            May 24, 2012 1:53 PM

            The article explained why.

            And ultimately these games are for new and casual Magic players, so having them just spend another $10 a year later is negligible vs the work of making every version cross compatible. If this were real Magic or MTGO they'd spend more than that for 3 packs

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      May 24, 2012 12:35 PM

      I don't really have a problem with their model from a financial perspective; I've always felt they provide solid value for the price. What does bother me is how long it takes for them to implement basic features that are common place in paper magic. It seems like one new feature is introduced every year.

      For example, tapping your own mana so you can cast the spells you want (DotP 2013), or being able to cut your deck back down to 60 cards (DotP 2012). I wish more effort was put into this.

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      May 24, 2012 12:39 PM

      I think MS has some work to do for the next generation because I seem to read more and more articles about developers trying new ways to get games into our hands on the 360 and it seem like MS is more of a barrier to creativity than anything.

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        May 24, 2012 12:44 PM

        does the PS3 handle this type of thing much better? The business models for games have shifted pretty drastically just in the last few years, even more so since these consoles came out.

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          May 24, 2012 1:17 PM

          Sony is much more open about this type of thing, most of the complaints I hear about seem to be about MS. They are really strict about how companies release content on their systems. I really hope they plan to change their policies for the next xbox.

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            May 24, 2012 1:49 PM

            so there are F2P and microtransaction based PS3 exclusives now or no?

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      May 24, 2012 1:24 PM

      What I am curious about is how Habro Game night and Pinball FX 2 can do what seemingly Magic wanted to do without issue. XBLA may not be the most flexible platform out there, but there are examples that the platform can support different game structures.

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      May 24, 2012 3:02 PM

      soo.....why not make separate versions, one for the Xbox, and one for the rest of us that can be updated properly.

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        May 24, 2012 3:05 PM

        because "rest of us" = only PS3 users since if you're on PC and want a better/more full featured MTG experience then you're meant to use MTGO and pay way more