Woo Brews – Streaming and the Future of Magic

Magic is great. It is incredible how the top players, deckbuilders, and entertainers connect so closely to the community. In other games or sports, you don’t see anything like it.

Now there is live streaming. Over the next few years, we’ll still be reading articles on sites like this one—but alongside a rise in live streaming as an entertainment source. More and more players will become streamers. Streamers will become more and more entertaining. And many of us will watch more and more.

Streaming is happening. We all can see this. But what does it mean for the future?

I will tell you.

Magic: the Gathering Streaming

Lots of people are streaming now and lots of people are going to continue to stream. But why? Isn’t there only room for x streamers? Well, maybe, if your sole goal is to be the most watched and most “profitable,” but there are lots of reasons to stream.

Players stream as part of the testing process for tournament preparation. If you play Magic in front of an even small crowd, you get a lot of ideas and feedback that you wouldn’t normally. Savvy players stream not to maximize viewers but to maximize their feedback during tournament preparation. Streaming makes for more efficient practice time.

Players stream to hang out. We are living in an internet world, more and more. We are living in a world where we have friends in distant lands—sometimes who we have never actually met off-line. Streaming is a way for us players to hang out. So people stream.

Players are going to stream simply because it is good for them. When you play in front of people, you learn etiquette. You learn what you should and shouldn’t say more quickly. You learn what to blame more quickly. This might not get people to start streaming, but it will keep them streaming.

There are lots of reasons to stream. There are a lot of streamers. There will be a lot more streamers. And this streaming force will create drastic change.

The Past – Teach Me Friend!

At the end of 1995, my brother Elliott and I learned to play Magic because of Elliott’s classmate William. A human being referred us.

There is a good chance you learned to play Magic in the same way—a friend taught you. If you have been playing for more than 4 years, this was basically the ONLY way you could learn.

For the vast majority of the existence of Magic: the Gathering, the ONLY way to learn was through a friend’s assistance. It’s not easy to learn on your own—and why would you want to? It takes two to play.

This kept the growth of the game slow for a long time. If you can only learn from a friend, the game spreads like the Zerg creeps—slowly… if not surely.

There are problems with this. No one learns on their own. Also, demographics spread and change slowly. Think about it. If you only learn from a friend, the demographic of the game tends to be pretty insular.

The good thing is that once a Magic player starts playing, that player is probably going to play for their lifetime. They might take stints off the game, but they will be back. After all, they started playing through a friend, so that is how they share time with that person. As long as that (and new) relationship exists, they will have a reason to come back and play.

Us Magic players are in it in the long haul—because we are in it for each other.

The Present – Duels of the Planeswalkers Boom

In 2009, a new way to learn Magic came into existence with the release of Duels of the Planeswalkers. It is an Xbox version of Magic: the Gathering. It is really simple, and makes the game really easy to learn.

All of a sudden, there was a way to learn to play Magic for people who had no friends that played Magic. And it worked! The game exploded. For those of you who have been playing this game since before 2009, you know what I’m talking about. The game has exploded in ways that are hard to quantify.

A great thing about this new learning outlet is that it unleashed the demographic shackles a little bit. Before, you had to learn from your friend—probably someone like you. Now, Xbox users of all kinds were getting into the game, breathing much-needed diversity into the game.

Up until 4 years ago, it was basically learn from a friend only. After that, we had learn from a friend or learn from Duels of the Planeswalkers. But now streaming will change everything.

The Future – the Casual Viewer

With the advent of MTG streaming, I introduce to you the casual viewer. The casual viewer does not play Magic—he or she watches.

At first, they don’t know how to play. They are sucked in by the personality of the streamer(s). But, over time, they learn how to play from watching the stream. Eventually they get the bug to play themselves, and the rest will be history—the explosion caused by streaming.

The casual viewer has the best of all worlds. The casual viewer learned by their lonesome. But they learned through a community of viewers and streamers whom they develop real emotional relationships with. As long as the streamers stream and the community chatters, the casual viewer will become a lifer like the rest of us.

Streaming will make Magic explode…

But it might take the help of Wizards.

Wizards of the Coast Support

Right now, Wizards is hesitant to acknowledge streaming. This is a reasonable stance. There are a few reasons that acknowledging streaming is dangerous.

• Streaming breaks the Magic Online terms of service that say, one player, one hand—is this something Wizards wants to encourage?

• Streaming personalities are volatile. Does Wizards really want to acknowledge crazy streamer Travis Woo when he might take his shirt off and go on a wild rant?

Maybe there is more to this as well, but as far as I can see, these are some of the compelling arguments to sit pat. So right now, Wizards is doing nothing. They aren’t making vicious mistakes, but they aren’t helping out either. I’m not going to say those aren’t legitimate arguments against, but I am going to tell you what is being left on the table.

Streaming offers a revolutionary new way for people to become players and for players to be entertained. People should know about this. There is an EXPLOSION waiting to happen, but it’s hard for it to happen without, at the least, acknowledgement.

If pro streamers are going to exist, Wizards should do something. People will do it anyways, but do we want the new and future ambassadors for the game scraping by? Maybe. I think there is potential for streamers to have legitimate sponsorships beyond merely our beloved card stores, but for now that is just not a possibility.

There is an explosion that will come from streaming. It is an incredible new way to learn and stay in the game. It’s going to happen one way or another. But, I’m betting if Wizards gets involved in some way, it’s going to happen sooner, and it’s going to be bigger.

Either way, something incredible is happening. I can’t wait to see the future!

<3 Travis P.S. Twoosday Brewsday

For those of ya’ll who don’t know what the streaming hubbub is all about and want a first hand look, every Tuesday at 7 p.m. PST I build a new deck on stream and play pick-up games against anyone and everyone who wants to challenge me. The only requirement is you have to play a wild brew!

Come join the fun at twitchtv.com/traviswoo


Questions! Comments! Think there’s something I forgot?!


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