Twenty Years Ago

Posted in Arcana on January 23, 2013

By Monty Ashley

Did you know that Magic turns twenty years old this year? It's true! Back in 1993, Wizards of the Coast first unleashed Magic on the world.

But that didn't happen until the summer. If you were to go back exactly twenty years from today and arrive at January 23, 1993, you'd find a very different world. There wasn't a World Wide Web yet, and the Internet mostly consisted of FTP sites and Usenet newsgroups. Wizards of the Coast was a small publisher of RPG supplements.

It was in this primitive world that the first hints of Magic: The Gathering made it out into the world. In the newsgroup, someone asked Peter Adkison:

Peter, could you please post a brief history of your company?
I'm curious from both a casual standpoint, and from a game
writer wanta be viewpoint.

Peter Adkison responded with a long history of the company, going back to 1981. You can read the whole thing here, but here's the part that's historically significant: Peter Adkison (the founder of Wizards of the Coast) describing how he met Richard Garfield (the inventor of Magic: The Gathering) and how Magic and the concept of Trading Card Games were invented:

Also at about this time magical event #4 happened (although we didn't realize its import at the time). As a result of one of my posts on, I received a letter from a guy named Mike Davis about this game that a friend of his, Richard Garfield, had designed. The name of the game was Robo Rally and, to tell the truth, it sounded kinda stupid from the description. I politely told him that we were a roleplaying company and were only mildly interested in "getting into board games some day." He was fortunately persistent and I eventually agreed to take a look at the game and meet them since they were both flying out to the west coast to see Richard's parents. Well, the game was simply brilliant, and I was immediately impressed by their intellect and immagination, which surpassed my own on both counts. We told them we'd like to publish it the following summer after we got on our feet (the projected release date for TPO had been pushed back to winer of 1991 by this time). To jump ahead in the story, we never have published this game because of the tremendous expense of putting it out, although we're working on perhaps doing it as a joint venture with another company that shall remain nameless at this time.

At this meeting I mentioned that there was going to be a convention (DragonFlight 1991) the following weekend and they should come up to Seattle to attend. Mike had to go back to Atlanta, but Richard said he'd come up. Then Richard, probably wanting to show off, asked me if I'd like him to design a game during the next week (!), and if so, to describe to him a game concept and he'd do it. Well, I had always thought it would be really cool to have a fantasy oriented card game that was quick to play, easy to carry (playing cards *only*), fairly easy to learn, that could be marketed through the convention circuit. I had noticed that people spend a lot of time at conventions hanging out in lobbies, standing in lines, etc., and I think having a game like this could sell very well in that market. He said, "Okay."

Next week Richard came to DragonFlight and while we were in a vacant parking garage accross from Seattle Center (Ken was with us and we had parked there so Ken could run in to some building and pick up something), Richard described to me a game that he'd come up with that fit those specks--and went way beyond. And this game was the single most awesome gaming idea I had heard of since 1978, when I heard of roleplaying. I started whooping and hollaring and yelling, primarily because I knew at that moment that we had an idea that would add a whole new dimension to gaming, and if executed properly, would make us millions. This wasn't just a new game, it was a new gaming *form.* (Btw, if we can raise the capital, this game will be coming out this summer. Wish I could tell you more, but you know how it is...)

-Peter Adkison,, January 23, 1993

When Peter wrote this, he knew Magic was going to be big. He might not have known how big, but this is how he ended his history-so-far of Wizards of the Coast:

Of course I'm very anxious to see how this card game goes. We've just about got the business plan for it finished so I'll soon be able to start trying to raise financing for it. If that comes along quickly, this summer is going to be a very exciting one for the gaming industry, and the 1993 GenCon will probably be one of the funnest gaming conventions of my life if we can premier it there like we're currently planning on doing.

-Peter Adkison,, January 23, 1993

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