Magic moves online

By JOSEPH R. THOMPSON  |  May 10, 2006

. . . And who they are
So, just who is buying the physical Magic: The Gathering cards? Both York and Kane agree it’s a pretty broad range. “Anywhere from six-ish to fifties,” says Kane. “There’s a lot of ‘adults,’ certainly they’re not all kids by any means.” And Kane’s noticed it’s not just men and boys. “I’ve noticed with Magic that there are mothers that will come in and pick out cards with their kids and things like that,” says Kane. “One of the nice things about a business like this is seeing the bonding that goes on while they’re picking cards and it’s kind of neat because there are adults that come in with their kids to buy magic cards and you know that they’re playing the game which is great.”

While Kane was speaking, 12-year-old Austin Shields came in with his father to buy three packs of Magic cards. “I play with my friends at school,” says Shields, who has been playing for three years. He estimated his collection to be around 1000 cards. Although he found the idea of playing online interesting, he doesn’t do it. Shield says he like to play with his friends not because they can talk about Magic, but because “we can talk about other things too.”

There’s also the issue of money. While young players who are new to the game and are more likely to be willing to pay for virtual cards are an important market for Magic Online, this is the demographic that most likely won’t have the money or credit cards to do so. Shields spends about $10 per shopping trip, when he can, buying three packs of cards using money he earns by doing chores. The online core set cost an initial investment of $23, plus he would have to purchase the digital versions of cards he already owns.

As Shields and his dad left the store, Kane pointed out another reason why people like to buy cards in person. “The thing that still works with this is you can come in and buy the pack and ‘oh wow,’“ says Kane. “It’s that excitement of finding the card yourself as opposed to going and picking it out yourself.”

Back in Westbrook at Weekend Anime, the Friday night draft game was just about to begin, more people were pouring into the store and Ryan York was busy selling booster packs. “For the most part, once people know the basic rules, it’s about socializing,” He says. “The closest to a demographic you could say is ‘geeks.’” But he quickly retracted that, saying many players wouldn’t identify themselves as geeks. According to York, the card game’s inclusiveness is an important factor why there is such a broad range of people who play. It allows people from all economic backgrounds the opportunity to escape into a game while creating a community – a community of real people rather than online personas. “A lot of the kids here come from impoverished background or are high school dropouts,” says York. “It gets them to think and one thing about any gaming environment is that there are people actively looking to socialize.”

Email the author
Joseph R. Thompson: listener83@maine.rr.com

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Where to buy Magic cards
Don’s Sports Cards Center | 578 Brighton Ave, Portland | 207.772.0625 | http://home.maine.rr.com/dons/

The Keep | 124 Maine Street, Brunswick | 207.729.9255 | www.thekeeponline.com

Weekend Anime | 4 Westbrook Common, Westbrook | 207.591.7070 | www.weekendanime.com

Where to play Magic games
Weekend Anime | 4 Westbrook Common, Westbrook | 207.591.7070 | www.weekendanime.com

Crossroad Games | 152 US Rte 1, Scarborough | 207.883.2700 | 15 Fort Hill Rd, Standish | 207.642.2612 | www.crossroadgames.com

Magic terms
ANTE: A bet, usually of a card, placed at the beginning of a game or tournament, which the winner gets to keep.

DRAFT: When each player in a game opens a set number of packs and takes one card and then passes them around, taking cards from other people’s packs. This continues until all players have constructed a deck for game play.

FOIL OR BOOSTER PACK: A pack of 15 random cards wrapped in foil that sell for an average of $3.50 per pack. These include 11 common cards, 3 uncommon cards and 1 rare.

THEME OR STARTER DECK: A pre-constructed deck ready for game play of about 40 cards; this deck includes a variety of lands, spells, and creatures.

Find out more on the game at www.wizards.com/magic