Wizards of the Coast announced today that after months of preparation and beta testing involving some 60,000 players, the company will take its franchise collectible card game, Magic The Gathering, online.  Magic: The Gathering, which was invented by Richard Garfield in 1993, is the original CCG with an estimated 7 million players around the world.  Now WOTC is hoping that Magic can cast its spell online, and will be able to compete with popular online games like Everquest, which have become huge cash cows.  WOTC has a Starter game for Magic Online which has a MSRP of $14.99 and which will be available at computer game retailers and hobby stores.  The Starter includes a certificate players can use for a ready-to-play online theme deck, a rulebook, and the Magic Online manual.  Additional cards are offered online in the form of 15-card booster packs ($3.29) and 60-card theme and tournament decks ($9.99).  The online game includes some 1500 digital Magic cards, and players who collect a complete set will have the option to redeem their online cards for physical Magic cards.


The Magic Online site includes game rooms for every level of player, plus practice rooms and online tutorials for new players, online trading rooms, a collection tracker feature that works for both online and regular Magic cards, deck analysis and deck-building tools, plus leagues, tournaments, player rankings and prizes.


For traditional game retailers the advent of Magic Online presents potential pitfalls and possibly some opportunities.  Online gaming is unlikely to supplant the well-entrenched traditional form of the game and it could expose new players to the thrills of playing the game, but it could also dilute the audience and lure tech-savvy gamers to the online game, where the player's money goes directly to WOTC without any benefit to hobby retailers.