Hi everyone. Late last year I recapped some of the progress we made in 2015 and promised to come back to talk about what's to come in 2016, so here I am! We accomplished a lot in 2015, but we know there is a lot left to do, and 2016 looks like it is shaping up even better. On to some of the things we're focused on this year.
Sealed Leagues return! On-demand Limited play on (truly) your own schedule makes its way back to Magic Online. Chris, Lee, and others have talked about Sealed Leagues quite a bit, and as you read this, Sealed Leagues will be live to the public, so I won't spend too much time on them here, but I wanted to mention that we've got some great tweaks to the Sealed League format coming very soon that will be reminiscent of Leagues from years ago. Leagues have been a rousing success so far, and we will continue adjust them based on your feedback, so please let us know what you think. There are lots of ways to get feedback to the Magic Online product team: you can email us directly here, or through our game support group here, or on Twitter; I can be found there @mtgworth, and Lee and Chris are @mtg_lee and @CKiritz, respectively. We also actively read /r/MagicTCG on Reddit and many other Magic-related websites. I can't promise a personal response to everything, but we do try our best to at least make sure everything gets read.
One of the things Magic Online does well is tap into the vast back catalog of content that Magic has generated over the past 22-plus years. In that vein, 2016 will continue to see additional iterations on our Cube offerings, more festival-type events, and further progress into the Year of Modern Flashbacks. We had excellent response and feedback to our first attempt at the Pro Tour Gauntlet after Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, and there is additional design space there that I suspect will get explored later this year. That's a lot of options, and we'd love to hear more from you all about what types of "gauntlets" you'd like to see in the future.
Late last year, we made some changes to events and introduced Play Points, and we will continue to refine things in those areas throughout this year. In particular, we made some changes to the Magic Online Championship Series and are watching that very closely. We really like the fact that Play Points are reducing the friction players can experience when trying to join or rejoin events, so this is an area in which we may have an opportunity to further integrate Play Points into the system and increase their utility even more in the future.
On the more technical side, we continue to focus on quality card set releases and (just as importantly) how quickly we can react to other system issues that crop up. Our processes continue to improve behind the scenes, and those improvements can manifest in myriad ways. Some examples: quickly fixing a Draft-format-breaking bug like Devouring Greed, better monitoring so we can head-off issues before they are even felt by players, and beginning to eliminate some of the "normal" Wednesday downtime windows. The battle to improve performance and stability is constant, but there has been excellent progress on this in the past year or so, and it will remain a focus of ours.
We will be shipping a .NET upgrade later this year as well as a bigger effort aimed at stability and performance that should be especially noticeable by people with machines on the lower end of our suggested machine specifications and should help solve things like cases of windows loading slowly/not at all and black screens, and provide a bit of relief on intermittent network issues. Currently, players running Windows XP and some Vista users can still use Magic Online even if they are below minimum specifications. After this upgrade, those players will not be able to play Magic Online without upgrading their Windows software. More info on this to come.
We will continue to build upon improvements already shipped on the UI/UX front, continuing work on smarter zone controls, a rewrite of how madness works to make that more intuitive, and more. We are also taking a hard look at our promo card plan and how we use those, which cards we choose, and how best to get the cards into circulation that need to be there.
So overall in 2016, and just in the next few months, I'm excited for the return of Sealed Leagues and the upcoming Magic Online Championship here in Seattle. After that, Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon look fantastic, and from the small amount I've seen of it so far, this fall's block looks just as good. One of our main goals this year is a general, overall improvement in the quality of life for our customers. Better, more timely offerings, at higher quality, delivered in a way that makes sense to contemporary gamers. If we are delivering on that, great. If we're not, as I mentioned earlier, we love to hear from our players and can be reached through any of the methods listed earlier in the article. Until next time, here's hoping your Sealed Leagues pools all have six on-color rares.
Executive Producer, Magic Online