It had to be done, it was only a matter of time. Wizards of the Coast just announced their Universes Beyond series of brand and franchise crossovers, aimed to expand Magic: the Gathering to other fanbases. Their launch of their poor new logo was relegated to a mere footnote, overshadowed by the Universes Beyond news. In 2020, the Walking Dead Secret Lair crossover became the line’s bestselling product, and now Wizards wants more.
Brand crossovers have been a thing with Magic for quite some time. Years ago, Wizards produced one-time promotional products featuring Transformers and My Little Pony characters, though these were clearly demarcated as casual play only with their silver borders. Silver borders are characterised as non-tournament legal, unlike black borders, but are also generally not allowed in the casual and non-sanctioned Commander format too. Thus these Transformers and My Little Pony cards were not taken as seriously by Magic players – more of a gimmick to bring in some extra green.
But lately, Wizards has been bolder in pushing the boundaries of Magic is and can be. In 2020, Godzilla art and names were featured as alternate versions of actual cards from the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths set. These were still deemed acceptable because they were essentially skins or art variants to a proper Creature from the Magic universe. The Walking Dead Secret Lair did cause some uproar as they were deemed legal in Commander (check out our review), and players found it strange that you could play Daryl or Rick Grimes alongside the Magic Planeswalker Liliana.
But now that Universes Beyond is official, and Warhammer 40k and Lord of the Rings already confirmed as franchises, what are the brands and famous characters can we hope to see in the next 5 years? Firstly it would be smart to target games and/or movies that have a large following, but at the same time Wizards needs to weigh it against licensing costs. It’s also clear that ‘suitability’ for the medieval Magic universe has been flung out the window, since science-themed brands like Warhammer 40k and Transformers have already been earmarked.
5 Likely Universes Beyond Brand Crossovers in the Next 5 Years
1. Warcraft – Fantasy/Medieval
For Azeroth! If there’s any franchise that shines as a perfect fit to Magic, it’s gotta be Warcraft. Both are Fantasy realms, sharing lots of creature classes and spells. They’re also born from the gaming industry, which might make it easier to strike a licensing deal. Warcraft has such a rich and shared history with Magic, both starting in the 90s, and Warcraft went on to worldwide fame with the MMORPG World of Warcraft. At one point it had over 12 million active players on their servers.
There are probably hordes of Magic players who also love Warcraft and would kill to play their favourite Human or Orc hero as a Legendary Creature in Magic. Might it be too similar to what we already have? Possibly, and it’ll be the challenge of the Wizards’ game design team to make it stand out. Regardless of how the cards will turn out, just the prospect of introducing Magic to the millions of Warcraft players is enough to start sharpening the swords.
2. Call of Duty – Modern/Urban Warfare
Many people are going to call blasphemy, but we do think Call of Duty has a decent chance to make it into a Magic product. Let’s take a closer look: huge fanbase? Check. Fellow gaming roots? Also there. From a business standpoint, it makes sense for Wizards to try. Our gut also tells us that gamers are more willing to try out other games, and with Call of Duty built for the men’s market, Magic could be something COD fans will get into.
On the flipside, the biggest hurdle facing Call of Duty is that it’s based in our world – Earth – and that might be too big of a leap of the mind of Magic players to take. Guns and machinery is not as big a problem as some might think. Magic is filled with contraptions, artifacts, vehicles, and even the Dwarfs have rudimentary guns, cannons and explosives since the early days of the game. So “warfare” isn’t so much the problem, but “modern” might be.
If Wizards does manage to pull this off as a test-bed, and there is no backlash from fans, it will be a turning point for future Universes Beyond products. It will signify that anything is possible in the world of Magic, at least to Wizards’ eyes, and more franchises will be ripe for the taking.
3. Pokemon – Younger/Diverse Audience
The other trading card game that is doing much better in brand building is another no-brainer franchise for Wizards to work with. Pokemon has a vastly different audience, and attracts lots of younger teens and balanced between both genders. This would be attractive to Wizards as Magic needs to shake off this male-dominated perception that has been plaguing it for decades (though not without justification).
Pokemon, Pikachu, and the seemingly endless list of monsters will serve as the perfect complement to Magic. While Magic is often sombre, dark, and about life and death, Pokemon can bring a light-hearted side to the game. It’s also this bright sunny disposition that can help bring a more diverse audience to Magic. For too long Magic has been shoehorned into rigid themes, so it would be amazing to get a change of mood for once.
4. Harry Potter – Same Magic Theme That Young and Old Love
This is another no-brainer, simply because Wizards is already on a trial run featuring Wizard schools in their next Standard set Strixhaven. Although it won’t encompass any actual Harry Potter characters, the wizards theme is sure to draw on many references and inspirations for the global phenomenon that is Harry Potter. If Magic fans are receptive, that means Wizards can take the next step and expand into the Harry Potter universe.
It may have started off as a popular book series for children and adults alike, but Harry Potter has gone on to rake in billions through its movies and video games. The intellectual property appears to be more flexible in licensing, as long as creator JK Rowling gets a nice cut, so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be among the top of their list. And since Lord of the Rings is already on board, why not try one of the other biggest movie franchises of all time?
5. Marvel / Star Wars – Anything Disney
Tapping into Star Wars or Marvel is the Big Kahuna, and while it may seem unlikely because the media behemoth Disney owns these properties, we’re still putting it on the list because we hope Hasbro and Wizards can find a way to make a deal. Disney is very protective of their brand copyrights, and already being so cash rich, they’re not going to be easily swayed by dollars and cents. There’s also the argument that Disney will not want characters like Spiderman and Luke Skywalker put into a card game that has consistent themes of violence.
That being said, there have been plenty of Star Wars trading card games over the years, and the tabletop miniatures X-wing is still a thing, so why wouldn’t they license the franchise out to one of the most popular trading card game in the world today? In fact, why stop at these brands? Disney’s Pixar is filled with lots of lovable characters, with fanbases all bigger than Magic. Since My Little Pony has already been featured in Magic before, who’s to say we won’t see Frozen or Toy Story make its way into a Magic card?
Everyone has their favourite hero or franchise outside of Magic. Ultimately our list is based on what we think Wizards will go for from a pragmatic perspective – meaning what would get more people to play Magic?
What would be some of your picks? Would love to hear what people are hoping of, and there are sure to be some surprises!