Friday, 08 January 2021 08:00

Remembering 'Magic: The Gathering - Armageddon': MTG's short-lived coin-op arcade game

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How cool would it have been to walk into your local video arcade and see that the newest arcade game just waiting to eat up your quarters was none other than Magic: The Gathering - Armageddon, the latest release from video game maker Acclaim?

While a few people actually got to have this experience when the game briefly came out in 1997, most people hardly even knew the game existed.

In the video below, we explore the Magic: The Gathering - Armageddon coin-op arcade game and explain why you've probably never have seen it before.

Video transcript:

<INTRO>

Imagine this:  It’s 1997 and you walk into your local coin-op arcade at your mall, putt-putt place, or whatever and you see a new arcade cabinet featuring none other than your favorite collectible card game: Magic: The Gathering.

Unfortunately, your imagination is pretty much the only place where that can ever happen.  Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you the tale of Magic: The Gathering – Armageddon.

<PKG>

Created in 1997 by Acclaim, the ill-fated coin-op arcade game, Magic: The Gathering – Armageddon, was one of only a handful of cabinets created by the company’s short-lived coin-op division along with NBA Jam Extreme and Batman Forever.

Not to be confused with Acclaim’s console game, Magic: The Gathering – Battlemage, in Armageddon, players choose one of the Magic: The Gathering CCG’s five colors  disciplines: Red (fire magic, mountain creatures) White (healing/curative magic, knights/soldiers), Blue (water elements/creatures, counter magic) Green (elves, forest creatures) and Black (death magic, undead creatures).  Throughout the game, players can move around the playfield, occupying one of five spots, all the while fighting against another wizard on an epic battlefield. Like with the card game, each player can summon creatures into combat, but are also able to directly attack an opposing wizard.  They can also use their magical energy for defensive purposes.

The game is played using only a couple of buttons and a trackball.  Targeting is done via the trackball and spells cast and creatures summoned with the action buttons.  The longer a button is held, the stronger the spell or creature, so there is a strategic trade off between speed and power.

While that might sound simple, it apparently wasn’t as the game was considered fairly challenging by the few who actually got to pop a few quarters into it in the wild.  It also wasn’t exactly well liked, according to a 2015 VentureBeat article by Stephen Kleckner who says the game was so poorly received that it got banished to a back storage room at the Golfland Sunnyvale arcade in California’s Bay Area.

And finding the game was even more challenging than the game itself as, due to Acclaim shuttering its coin-up division shortly after making the first few prototypes of Magic: The Gathering – Armageddon and the overall negative feedback the company received from those who did get to give the game a go, the game never went into full production.

Despite a small advertising campaign and having the official Magic: The Gathering branding, the game is largely unknown as it never got a full release and game sightings from back in the day only show the game as being available for play in the San Jose and Sunnyvale areas of northern California, at the Wizards of the Coast headquarters in Renton, Washington, one at the Tomorrowland arcade at Walt Disney World, and a cabinet that somehow wound up in Sweden.

<TAG>

And that pretty much sums up what we could dig up on the ultra-rare Magic: The Gathering – Armageddon arcade game.  Information was scarce and actual footage of the game even more so.

If you ever run across this coin-op game while you’re out and about, do take the time to pop a couple of quarters in and give it a go.  Who knows if you’ve ever see it again.

For Magic Untapped, I’m Barry White.  Thanks for watching.

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