Tuesday, 07 July 2020 02:30

The summer of 1997: When Magic invaded MTV

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The summer of 1997: When Magic invaded MTV MTV

In the mid-to-late 1990s, Magic: The Gathering was gaining steam fast as one of the top games not only in the US, but around the world. Adding in Magic to, well, anything was soon seen as a way to appeal to Gen Xers and older soon-to-be-dubbed Millennials. It was cheaper than promotions over video games or sports, could be filmed relatively anywhere, was largely independent, and perhaps most of all, spoke to a market that had always been hard to market to. 

ESPN figured this out and broadcast some high-stakes tournaments out on ESPN 2. MTV didn’t have this problem as much demographic-wise. However, because of music videos being really hard to to equate into ratings because of their shortness and because most other content was reality shows such as The Real World, MTV needed to help fill up some promotion time. And also by chance, Wizards of the Coast rather wanted to expand the Magic: The Gathering collectible card game to new markets as well.  This time, however, they were aiming for the "cool kids" (so to speak).

The result was one of the most 90s thing ever filmed:


Yup, those are pro Magic players playing a sleeveless match outside by the beach with shirtless onlookers. Yes, that's a thing that happened.  There's video proof of it.

A number of other videos were also made in part due to MTV having really had long bumpers between shows back then such as this one:

And this one:

Oh, and this one as well:

They actually got a bunch of the best Magic players at the time such as Mike Long and Mark Justice to come out and make these videos in the summer of 1997.

Essentially the clips, part of the Motel California bumper fillers for MTV, only played during that summer to provide filler between programs and ads, while also functioning as ads for the Magic: The Gathering card game themselves. It really should have been the perfect combination for both WotC and MTV.

While the end statistics aren’t known, they didn’t seem to do a very good job in bringing in enough new players to Magic (or enough new viewers to MTV, for that matter) to warrant more segments or ads. Magic: The Gathering went back to it's bread-and-butter base and MTV moved onto more reality shows, request shows, and other things vaguely having to do with music.

However it doesn’t take away the fact that during one glorious summer MTV really tried to put Magic on the same pedestal as Beavis and Butthead and The Real World.