Magic: the Gathering

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The Future of Magic: The Gathering in Brazil

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Wizards announcing it will no longer translate Magic: The Gathering products to Portuguese is the first sign that Brazil still has a lot to lose in this game... And we might lose.

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переведено Romeu

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рассмотрено Tabata Marques

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Before we start, there is a brief rant I would like to make: this was the article I had to start over the most times in the four years I have been creating content about this game.

Like almost the entire Magic community in Brazil, I didn't take kindly to the news that Wizards would be cutting the game's Portuguese translation after Modern Horizons 3link outside website. We cannot say this change was not expected since last year, but knowing about the odds doesn't make it any less bitter.

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I started playing Magic when I was 15, in 2008, around the release of Shards of Alara (known here as Fragmentos de Alara). I have been participating and following this game for 15 years, and as I started watching tournaments and other major events in other regions, the more evident it became there was a much greater barrier for us than for countries in the global north, both financially and in terms of opportunities.

Still, we managed to prevail and leave our mark on the scene. Carlos Romão, Willy Edel and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa are three of the most recognized names in the history of the competitive scene, all three are Brazilian, two of them became world champions. There is hope, visibility and the feeling that, despite the difficulties, Brazil can be present in competitive Magic.

The years passed, this game became much more popular, stores appeared in various corners of the country and, for the first time since my first contact with it, I felt Magic was ceasing to be a sub-niche and becoming something bigger, and there was the foundation for building a strong community.

Magic has brought many things into my life, good and bad. The most important of them is precisely what I'm doing now: the possibility of creating content and sharing my vision with the world. In some way, this game has influenced countless decisions in my life, and creating content expands your perception of several details which you often overlook as a player - One of these, essential to this subject, is the way in which the relationship between colonized and colonizers and their intrinsic nature in capitalism operates in this environment.

Brazil is a country with continental proportions where, despite the progress the digital media has brought, we still live from the perspective that possibilities exist or no longer exist depending on the region where you are. The same logic applies when we elaborate on relations between the global north and south: again, being Latin in Magic and residing in South America means, consequently, needing to triple your efforts and invest much more to obtain the same results.

So it's clear that the community felt represented when Wizards opened an office in Brazil, it's clear that we felt we were growing and gaining visibility, and it's clear that we felt "part of it" when we saw figures from our popular culture playing Magic in a promo ad, that was ours - Ours for us, ours for the world.

In February 2023, six months after the launch of the above advertisement, Wizards of the Coast closed its office and its official channels with Latin Americalink outside website. The bad omen was there, it was just a matter of time.

In these months, the feeling I had back in 2012 has returned: we need to try much harder to catch up with others, both in the competitive scene and in content creation. Our voice felt less important, the walls around us felt higher - Magic, which is taking ever greater strides in becoming an inclusive game, felt like it didn't want to include us.

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This week's announcement just confirmed what was already there, and it generates deep frustration in the Brazilian community. Without this language, the game, gradually more complex with each new release, becomes inaccessible for a massive portion of our people: according to the British Council, only 5% of Brazilians know English and only 1% are fluent in the language .

As a player and content creator with good knowledge of English, this change doesn't impact me directly, but it sends a clear message of not being worthy of Wizards/Hasbro's time and investment, and the signs about the future are even worse: from now on, the Brazilian Magic community only has to lose.

With this grief out of my way, I need to assume my role as communicator and assess the situation from an abstract, collective and logical point of view in a difficult time for Magic in Brazil.

This is a key moment to reevaluate our relationship with the game and/or with TCGs, and carry out this analysis should not be built around hate, but rather the values we consider important to our community and Wizards of the Coast's most recent decision.

Again, Magic is a product to be sold

How many times did I need to use that phrase in an article?

Whenever we address questionable business decisions and other issues surrounding Magic: The Gathering, it's impossible to look logically at the decisions Hasbro/Wizards make when we refuse to understand the primary concept of any game and the companies' motivation behind creating them: they are products to be sold.

Because it is a hobby where the core is fun and enjoyment, Magic players have a tendency to romanticize and create beautiful stories around it, and become deeply frustrated whenever they are reminded of its commercial nature.

For some years now, this nature has been revolving around a predatory market strategy with a recurring product overload month after month. The wheels of consumption are turning faster than ever, product fatigue is a real debate, and there is no sign the company will change its marketing behavior in the coming years.

While the community may look at the game with passion, a company - or at least the party who calls the shots - will always look at it with numbers in mind: profits, expenses, applications, investments. As Wizards' own announcement makes clear, the reason for losing the Portuguese (and, surprisingly, Chinese) localization is that the revenue generated by these segments does not correspond to the necessary production costs.

It's contradictory for a game seeking to become more inclusive, but there is no “emotion” or “consideration” in this choice, there are numbers. And the countries which consume this product in Portuguese demonstrated results below the company's expectations - And it must be said, Magic is a sub-niche of entertainment in Brazil.

Can we allege the various logistical problems with distributors which already existed when I started playing and persist to this day? Yes. Can we allege the company's lack of support to attract new players? Also! But the reality is that our currency is much more devalued compared to countries whose languages remain in production: Italy and Germany generate revenue in Euro and Portugal has actually preferred cards in English due to translation errors and/or too literal translations for them.

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Magic (and Dungeons & Dragons) will no longer be produced in Portuguese, the Brazilian community is the most affected by this, as we don't have the same ease of learning the English language as other countries in the North have, and the Brazilian Real is a devalued currency, the price of a Booster pack or a Commander deck demands many more working hours here than in European countries.

Could this be supported by carrying out the game's regional production to our national industry, as Pokémon TCG has done with Panini for years and made the product more accessible for us? Yes. But this is not the market model Wizards proposed, they decided they can remove the localization for our language because it will barely hinder their sales in our region (there are many reservations for D&D on this, but let's keep this article about Magic).

And who loses most from this change? Beginners, of course!

The Entry Barrier has grown, and this is just the tip of future problems

The main debate surrounding this decision is how, without access to products in Portuguese, Magic becomes much more difficult to introduce new players, and without them and the departure of a portion due to the ever-increasing price tags in our region and/or the decision of some non not supporting the company due to its changes, the game could once again stagnate in the country and have severe difficulties in adding “new blood” despite attempts to attract audiences from other franchises with the Universes Beyond series!

Language is a huge barrier in a country where 95% of its people don't know how to read and/or speak English, and Magic is becoming noticeably more complex, with cards filled with increasingly larger texts, as well as convoluted and unintuitive mechanics launched with each expansion, and the current introductory product for tabletop play are the pre-constructed Commander decks - a pack of 100 cards with at least 60 of them having different illustrations, texts and functions!

How can we bring a new audience to the game when the gateway to tabletop Magic is so restrictive? Recommending Magic Arena and making them miss out on the experience of playing with their friends at a local store, further harming the economy which revolves around the game in our country? Or take the absurd elitist attitude of saying they should take an English course to play with us?!

Neither of these options is logical or reasonable to present Magic as an inviting game for beginners; It is like saying “this game is for everyone, as long as you know English!”. We can't do this in an era where inclusion and diversity are essential for promoting brands and products around the world, and for a game that has translated its products into Portuguese since 1995, it's a huge step backwards in favor of a little more profit.

The difficulty in bringing new people to Magic might eventually lead to a series of other problems for the game in Brazil.

We still have a lot to lose, and we might lose

The logic is simple: if fewer people have access to the product, the less revenue we will generate. The less revenue we generate, the less incentive Wizards/Hasbro has to make products and events available in Brazil. With fewer products, fewer people have access to them, and the cycle repeats.

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Like every market relationship, the implicit solution is to consume more products to gain recognition that it is worth investing in our region. It's already difficult to do this with the current segments in Portuguese because Magic is an expensive hobby and some products have become even more expensive (the prices of Commander Masterslink outside website precon decks reached more than half of a minimum wage), so as you reduce the potential buyers, the tendency for product turnover in this market is lower.

Without turnover, stores order less new releases from distributors because, after all, the bill arrives at some point. With fewer orders, distributors will have less interest in bringing the products to our country, and less WotC will consider it's worth investing in distributing their products in Brazil.

It wouldn't be surprising if we lose the Portuguese localization for Magic Arena in a few years, or if they stop sending “premium” category products (Horizons, Masters, Universes Beyond, among others) as they do not compensate for the logistical costs as their sales are extremely low - In the worst-case and unlikely scenario, we could lose full access to the product through distributors and return to the dark period in which we were at the mercy of questionable import methods.

Other possibilities, such as losing our support for competitive play and losing space in RCs and, consequently, in the Pro Tour and World Championship, are other possibilities which don't worry most players, but would serve as a huge reason for players invested in competitive Magic to quit the game.

Magic will not end in Brazil

Wizards, today, counts on Magic's potential to sell itself to an extremely loyal audience, and they know several products will continue to sell in Brazil in English since the majority of long-time players can interpret and read the language, or at least understand the "in-game English", in addition to counting on the collaborative potential that a “social game” has, where people explain cards and skills to others to make the experience enjoyable for everyone.

This is a true point: Magic has always sold by itself to its loyal audience, regardless of language. There was a period between 2016 and 2018 where Brazilians were buying a lot of Kaladesh and Aether Revolt cards in Russian because “it was what we had”, there were periods when dealers and retailers traveled to another country to get their materials because ours was delayed by weeks or even months - None of this stopped us from continuing to consume the game and participate in events.

These are the majority in the singles and non-precon sealed products sales, and they will continue in the game despite the company responsible for it no longer supporting their native language, and almost no other problem might truly affect them, except if the company takes away all regional support for casual and competitive events in Brazil, one of Magic's main drivers in our country since 1996.

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Today, Commander, known for its casual and relaxed gameplay, is the most played format in the world, and it will remain where it is - It seems very difficult that the precious bonds created through the gathering are broken so easily by a language barrier - but it is the big events and the dream of participating in them that drive a significant portion of Magic's economy in Brazil. Whether it's the dream of winning a Regional Championship and participating in a Pro Tour, or even going for the huge Gathering celebration at a Command Fest.

Players like to cultivate and share these dreams and aspirations, and Brazilians are naturally festive people. We cultivate communities, good or bad, easily, and we tend to enjoy interacting with other people and sharing our passions around a common topic. Withdrawing local and national support from events would be the closest this game would come to an end in Brazil, as it would permanently halt the reasons to play it - For practical purposes, tabletop Magic could be considered dead.

Our Gathering is bigger than that. Perhaps, a good portion would just not play Magic anymore and enjoy other hobbies with their friends.

It's time to reevaluate our relationship with Magic

As I mentioned at the start of the article, there is no better time than now to reevaluate our relationship with Magic: The Gathering.

Wizards/Hasbro looked at us and decided we weren't worth their inclusion and localization investment after nearly 29 years of support. For practical purposes, they excluded many future players from our region, making it impossible for them to learn about the game. Possibly, they sealed the fate of a future world champion who will never have their moment of glory.

So, it's time to look at Magic and Wizards/Hasbro and consider whether they're worth our time and money. This is a personal analysis and, preferably, done through logic rather than emotions to understand how much the company's recent decisions affect you and your values.

If you want to continue playing in english, go ahead. I believe many others will do the same, and you will continue participating in events, having fun at Commander tables, or even winning tournaments, regardless of the language your cards are in.

On the other hand, if you consider this company's stance unrespectful and no longer want to play Magic, look for another hobby and/or TCG who provides more support for Brazil and enjoy it. Pokémon, for example, is published in Portuguese, and its internal production makes it much more accessible while having a great competitive support.

There is no “right or wrong” in how to approach our relationship with Wizards and Magic going forward. It's a question of values and considering how beneficial it is for each person to continue playing and following the news surrounding this brand.

In the end, when the dust settles, I just hope we don't end up harboring hatred towards each other for the way we decided to maintain or end this long-term relationship.

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Conclusion

The last time I wrote about this topic, my conclusion was optimistic: “Magic has survived nearly two decades without community management, and as long as we support local stores, we can continue to cultivate healthy communities.”

Well, Brazil has never experienced a lack of Magic localization in almost three decades. There is no precedent for what happens from now on, and the community is certainly taking a huge hit in its potential for growth and inclusion of new players.

It seems exaggerated to say this is the end of Magic in Brazil. It's not, not because of a lack of audience. At least, that doesn't sound like the biggest concern for the game's future at the moment.

I am concerned about the lack of long-term support and its potential to take the game to even more inaccessible levels, the lack of support for local stores at a difficult time when they have become our only voice in the face of the lack of integrated communication and the uncertainty in whether our country will continue to have representation in major competitive events through RCs.

I'm concerned about Hasbro's mistakes in turning Wizards into a gold mine and trying to get the most out of its products to the point of causing consumer fatigue, and how this affects our community both localization and financial aspects, motivating fewer players to consume the products, consequently making us lose more space and have less product availability.

I'm worried about the signs of how our region always requires much more effort to achieve simple things inside and outside this game, how this situation is reflected in the feeling of being worthless to the world when compared to the global north.

It worries me how, many centuries later, it still feels like we haven't freed ourselves from the shackles and pre-established rules in geopolitical relationships between the colonized and the colonizers.

Ultimately, it concerns me how Magic: The Gathering, a game aiming to become so inclusive, has decided not to include us.

Thanks for reading.