Magic: The Gathering Needs A Standalone App For Its Stories
Magic: The Gathering isn’t just about cards. That’s obviously a big part of it, given that it’s one of the most popular trading card games in the world, but there’re also a lot of stories written by talented authors published to its website that build up its multiverse.
Each set’s story is essentially split into five chapters that are spread out and shared to the official MTG website in the run-up to launch, and then further categorised by year, setting, and the Planeswalkers involved. It’s a robust system, but it means you can only read these stories via the website, which doesn’t track progress or come with any built-in quality of life or accessibility features. Given that MTG has some of the best fantasy stories out there right now, it’s a shame that it’s so hard to get stuck in and enjoy them.
I left the website open on my phone overnight so I wouldn’t lose my spot. The chapters are pretty hefty and, as is often the case when reading, you don’t always finish them in one sitting. That’s why bookmarks exist, digitally and physically. The next day, I opened the website back up and it had reset to the top of the page. I couldn’t be arsed to figure out where I was, skim-reading everything again to get my spot back, so I ended up abandoning the story for months. I realised that the only way to safely read Magic was to do it in one sitting or to awkwardly make notes of where I was, either by taking screenshots or jotting it down. That’s hardly an intuitive way to track progress, and a massive barrier to newcomers.
The biggest reading app out there, Kindle, keeps what page you’re on when you close the app, something that is vital to the experience. It also lets you customise font size, alter how you read (scrolling or page-by-page), juggle your progress on multiple books, highlight key words, and make notes. This is all pretty handy, given that I’ll often highlight parts of books that I want to dig deeper into outside of my reading, typically something historical or mythological (or, in Magic’s case, anything that happened in its 30-year history). And when I’m reading, I usually have a giant font on smaller pages that I flip through, since I find phone screens far too small for reading books and I don’t fancy forking out for a tablet. The only option on the MTG website is to zoom in, which tends to cut the text off at the margins. It’s far from ideal.
The precedent is already there. One brand and publisher having its own reader’s app might seem excessive, but Marvel has been doing it for years with Unlimited, a home for all its comics. Sure, you can buy them separately to keep in your Comixology library (like Kindle, owned by Amazon), which houses everything from DC to Vertigo to indie reads, but if you’d rather read all your Marvel comics in one place, the option is there. It also encourages exploration, as once you’re done with a series, you’ll be recommended similar runs, or you can enter your favourite characters and get a bunch of similar suggestions.
Having this option for Magic players who haven’t religiously read the stories, entering their favourite cards to find out more about the people on them, would make it much easier than scrolling through a Planeswalker tab on the website.
I’m not giving up on Magic yet. You can download PDF files and read the stories via third-party eReader apps that do save your progress and have a lot of similar functionality to Kindle, but again, this is too many needless extra steps. It’s how I’m managing right now, but being able to dig through an archive of all of Magic’s stories, even being able to buy and dig into the older novels, such as Jeff Grub’s The Brothers’ War or the original Kamigawa novels, would make its world even more accessible. Given how big MTG is, I’m shocked that it’s not pushing to do just that.
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