I saw this post over at the Nerds4LifeBlog, and it got me wondering about something I’ve contemplated over the years.
Why the Hell hasn’t Wizards of the Coast developed a campaign setting (or settings!) based on the implied setting of Magic: The Gathering?
I mean, the stats on the available lore is simply astounding. Over the last 25 years, they’ve put out cards representing more than 9,000 creatures (which includes NPCs), 1,800 enchantments and 1,500 sorceries (spells), and 1,400 magic items. Plus a whole metric crap-ton of other stuff that seems to be just begging to be turned into D&D stuff.
From a business point of view, it would make an enormous amount of sense. The 5th edition of D&D has an enormously good reputation, and is arguably the most popular version of the game since 1st edition AD&D. The fact that there is an enormously larger customer base for Magic: The Gathering than there is for Dungeons & Dragons would seem to point to the idea of drawing players from the one into the other, to grow the mutual customer base.
In fairness, Wizards did take a step in this direction with Zendikar in 2016, but it was a rather lifeless attempt. Clocking in at 38 pages, it has no class or background options, no magic items, and only three new monsters with stats. There’s nothing in the way of maps, discussions of civilized nations, or anything that would actually lend itself towards an ongoing campaign. There are some new race options, which is nice, but the whole thing really comes across like an afterthought, which is reinforced by the fact that it came out as a free pdf, and received very little in the way of marketing.
It’s entirely possible that Zendikar was floated as a sort of trial balloon, to see if a fuller treatment might be worth doing. But if that was the intent, the lack of marketing and support kneecapped the effort from the beginning.
I’d be willing to bet that the majority of players of either 5E or MtG even know it exists.
But I do honestly think there’s an enormous potential to bring in tens of thousands of Magic: The Gathering players into the D&D sphere, possibly drawing D&D players over to Magic, and boosting sales for both accordingly. But it would need a full-fledged effort, with hardcover books, adventure paths, and the whole nine yards, along with a dual marketing campaign to link such a thing with a really big Magic release with appropriate cards and so forth.
To be honest, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet in the 20 years the two games were under the same roof. It looks like found money to me. Perhaps they have some secret internal marketing that tells them it would be a waste? I honestly can’t see how.
It would work the other way, too; fans of D&D settings (myself included) tend to be completists. Imagine the additional sales of Magic cards if there was a set of Greyhawk, or Ravenloft, or Athas cards to be had. I realize that Magic card sales dwarf anything that a legacy D&D setting could generate, but if you’re going to make a new Magic release anyway, would it cost that much to do a drop of research and come out with D&D-appropriate cards? Imagine a Castle Ravenloft land card, or an Iuz creature card. Sales would doubtless increase, and moreso if they did a little research to make them meaningful, at least from a setting background perspective.
I shake my head in bewilderment that this hasn’t happened yet.