I like the "friends, monsters, and asses" model for distinguishing D&D, Magic, and Pokemon. There's more thought there than it sounds at first. I am still surprised though that given the corporate operating environment, even with some sound reasoning on the differences between the games, that this never happened. I can see why the team working on Magic might not want it, but I am pretty sure there are a ton of Magic players who would buy up a detailed setting book on some aspect of a Magic world or plane even if they had never played D&D.
Supporting this view:
- Warhammer 40,000 is a game where one player takes on another player in a miniatures battle. Tournaments are intensely competitive at regional and national levels and sometimes even at the FLGS level. A few years ago the first RPG's set in the 40K universe appeared (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Only War, etc.) and are in the top 10 RPG lists all the time. There have been computer and videogames that have been very popular as well like Dawn of War and Space Marine. There have been 40K CCG's. They sell a ton of novels for it too. Podcasts that are dedicated to 40K tournament play still mention these books, videogames and RPG's as if they are an assumed thing that every 40K player knows about. The key thing here is that 40K is a lifestyle choice for some people - it's a place they live in like a dedicated Star Wars or Star Trek fan and they will pick up and play almost anything related to the universe.
- Warhammer Fantasy has had a similar path and success if not quite as much as the 40K version.
- Battletech in the 80's and 90's was in a similar place: Starting out as a boardgame it expanded into miniatures, RPG's, novels, a CCG, computer and videogames, and eventually a cartoon series and a toy line.
Both of these represent a universe that began with a one-on-one competitive play game but over time people grew more and more interested in the setting and demanded more. I suspect Magic fans have a similar view - they would love to know more about the setting and have a way to jump into it for another view.
In this case, somehow, it seems that the creative types won out over the business types and fan demands - and that has to be rare nowadays. If it was up to me I'd go completely in the other direction - "of course we're going to make a role-playing game!" I wouldn't call it D&D and I don;t know how closely l would link them in the marketing other than maybe "From the makers of Dungeons & Dragons". You could even structure it as one of those year-long crossover events and tie the whole thing together - card sets for magic, a setting/campaign book with some adventures for the RPG that give a unique way to experience the setting apart form the card game, , maybe a videogame, and some novels. They do this kind of thing all the time in each game - why not try crossing over as an experiment and see how it goes? Magic die-hards will go nuts, RPG'ers have a new interesting setting to try out, and it would bring a sense of excitement to both and maybe bring some new people into each game.
Put another way, at around this same time it made sense to WOTC to go out and pay Lucasfilm for the RPG license for Star Wars. Now that was never their top seller but it moved some books even though it was not mechanically the same as D&D. There are a lot of MtG fans out there actively playing the game every day so they have friends, have an interest in Magic, and are used to playing face to face tabletop games, and there is no external licensing fee involved here! How is this not a recipe for success?
Well, I had a little more to say there than I realized when I started this post. Probably because I have some magic players in my own house who have asked this same question several times and I never had a good official answer for them and because I thought it made a lot of sense myself as stated above. Maybe someday this will happen and we can all judge the real-world results.