OPINION: Magic: The Gathering NFTs Are Bad, But May Be Necessary

As you may have read from sources earlier this week, Hasbro, the company that owns Magic: The Gathering's design and development teams at Wizards of the Coast, seems to be considering the idea of putting the game on the map where NFTs are concerned. Is this better than the alternative? Read on, and consider the pros and cons for yourself.

As a disclaimer, I don't mess around with the concept of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. I think the entire idea is rather icky and should have never caught on, especially when the world is headed on a downward spiral to intense heat, floods, and a global climate catastrophe beyond repair. However, I can't help but wonder if Hasbro's inevitable approach towards putting Magic on the NFT map is a necessary evil for the game itself.

A large pile of sorted, albeit unopened, packs of Magic: The Gathering cards. Source: MIT
A large pile of sorted, albeit unopened, packs of Magic: The Gathering cards. Source: MIT

Recently, a couple of Magic artists put up two of their art pieces from the game on the NFT market. They shortly thereafter pulled those tokens from said market, claiming the need to wait for a final word from Hasbro about the subject. The art was simple to any player of the game – it was just two versions of Island – but it has deeper ramifications for the game and for the environment that this occurred at all.

Anyone who knows about NFTs knows that the crypto-art is bad, perhaps even terrible, for the environment. But the thing to consider is that Magic: The Gathering is also quite bad for the environment as a whole. Every year, Wizards of the Coast prints four premier sets and all manner of supplemental products. That is to say nothing of the print-to-demand Secret Lair items. At the same time, Wizards of the Coast is already releasing most of these sets on Magic: Arena, their newest online client for the game. There has also been an initiative for Wizards to push for a cleaner footprint, so obviously if Hasbro wants this for the game, something will have to give. Will that be paper Magic, or the NFT opportunity? Does it matter?

In the end, it is up to Hasbro to do the right thing. If NFTs are less impactful against the environment than printing paper cards, perhaps they should fully commit to Arena and forgo printing Magic: The Gathering cards altogether. But if paper Magic is less impactful, they should turn away from creating any amount of NFTs completely, and bar their artists from capitalizing on this idea. There are thousands upon thousands of pieces of art in this game, and if every artist decided to take this opportunity to make NFTs, the data mined would be a far worse problem than it already is, to be sure.

What do you think? Should Hasbro embrace NFTs and stop printing paper Magic? Or should they stay the course and move past the idea of non-fungible tokens? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.
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