The seller tells us about a time that people under 20 cannot know. A stone’s throw from the shop, on Place Jussieu, in Paris, every day, in all weathers, players came to exchange… cards Magic. Sibylline for the uninitiated who understood nothing of its rules, Magic had a colossal success among fantasy lovers, those before the great democratization of the genre. The game celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and is still on sale in this Parisian store, even if the “decks” and “boosters” now take up less space.
A couple in their forties with a gothic pop look – t-shirts with a zombie Yoshi for him, Morticia’s dress with pink lace for her – enter the shop and head… towards the Pokémon cards. “Them, they could have had the profile of the players of Magic smiles the seller. Two teenagers, a brother and his sister, around 13 years old, enter in turn and ask, in a clear and precise voice, to buy “ten Dominaria Uni boosters”. The seller is hardly surprised.
Epidemic in the Yvelines…
The ancient card game would therefore continue to appeal beyond the old geeks? “There is a whole new generation of kids who are bitten, explains Cédric, from the shop The Fools of the King, in Versailles. The transmission can be from father or mother to children, but not only. In a village near here, it only took one or two adults from the leisure center to infect a whole host of kids who caught the fever Magic. »
At the game publisher, we also welcome this new wave of players. “Whether their curiosity is piqued by the intricate yet rewarding style of play, the stunning artwork, the rich story of 30 years of storytelling, or simply the collectible aspect of Magicanyone can find one or more ways to enjoy the game and share that passion with friends and family,” said Leslie Michelet, Marketing and Influence Manager for Wizards of the Coast.
“The game has matured”
Magic has the reputation of being an expensive and complex hobby. And the players keep the image of a rather closed community, very competitive, even frankly painful… “We are aware of it, sighs Romane, player Magic 45 years old and who founded a club in Isère. I knew the time when it was cool not to mix, the players of Magic enjoyed meeting up with each other, and overplayed the misanthropic and sexist side! Today, the hobby and the community are more welcoming. In my opinion, it also goes with the fact that fans of role-playing games, card games or fantasy are less discriminated against in society. It actually works both ways. »
At the Versailles store, Cédric also noticed that the gaming community had changed. “The painful ultra-competitive players, we made sure that they don’t come anymore… It’s still a game, so there’s one who wins, and one who loses. But today, competitive players no longer have fun crushing others. The game has matured…” And above all, there is room for non-competitors.
From collection to heritage
“As the game is old now, there is a really interesting Collection dimension, notes Rémi, who had given up Magic for twenty years and returns. We can follow the releases of cards and buy those of universe that we like. Or complete an older collection. There, the output of The fratricidal war excites me a lot because it talks about old players like me, it’s a cult episode in the history of Magic. This game is a heritage. I have cards but I hardly play. »
If the “real” players of Magic roll their eyes when told about this kind of collectors, Cédric notes that more and more players “refuse to spend hundreds of euros on Magic. It is a game which has the reputation of being a pay-to-win, the one who has spent the most can line up the best cards, and will therefore win… Players have circumvented this by inventing game systems, such as EDH or Papeur, which do not favor players who spend the most money. »
The game publisher has also encouraged this change, even if it means getting angry with old players. “Tournament prize money has melted away,” notes Cédric. Before, you could make a living by playing Magic. And then the Covid finished finishing all that. On the other hand, sanitary confinements have made it possible to develop online gambling.
“I think the visible increase in conversations about our game comes from multiple factors, analyzes Leslie Michelet, of Wizards of the Coast. Of these, I consider the output of Magic: The Gathering Arena, a free-to-play version of the game available on PC and Mobile, as well as the succession of confinements during the COVID-19 pandemic were the most influential. »
Pop Culture is Magic
Thus, as for many other cultural sectors, the pandemic and the confinements have paradoxically made it possible to diversify and widen the community. Magic. To this phenomenon must be added the keen marketing sense of Wizards of the Coast, which has been publishing Magic cards in the colors of other pop culture franchises for several years now. There have been Stranger Things, The Walking Dead then Dungeons & Dragons, Fortnite and recently a collection designed by rapper Post Malone!
“These partnerships with big names in pop culture demonstrate that Magic has a ready-made place within it, enthuses Leslie Michelet. Our fans aren’t just fans of Magicand the fans of these franchises are also or can also become players of Magic… We understood that there were a lot of similarities in the interests of these communities and being fans of these franchises ourselves, there is nothing more exciting than to participate in the creation of a crossover. »
One community to rule them all
The marketing dimension of the process does not escape Magic players who nevertheless appreciate these special series quite unanimously. “We don’t necessarily take these cards to play them but for the Collection aspect, explains Romane. It’s nice that there are bridges between the different passions. The players of Magic are very attached to the narrative arcs from Magicbut we all watched Stranger Things and read the Lord of the Ringsso… “
Back in the Parisian store where the young players of Magic correctly advise the cards created in a universe Lord of the Rings : “It’s uncle’s thing with Gandalf, there…” The couple of “old” Pokémon collectors engage in conversation: “What has always slowed us down is the game system which seems complex, but it is true that the cards are beautiful. It would be fun to have a Magic Pokémon deck one day! »