Richard Garfield, the creator of the game, was a doctoral candidate at University of Pennsylvania when he first started to design the game. During his free time he worked with local volunteer playtesters to help refine the game. He had been brought on as an adjunct professor at Whitman College in 1993 when Peter Adkison (then CEO of Wizards of the Coast games company) first met with Garfield to discuss Garfield's new game RoboRally. Adkison saw the game as very promising, but decided that Wizards of the Coast lacked the resources to produce it at that point. He did like Garfield's ideas and mentioned that he was looking for a portable game that could be played in the downtime that frequently occurs at gaming conventions. Garfield returned and presented the general outline of the concept of a Trading Card Game. Adkison immediately saw the potential of this idea and agreed to produce it. Magic: The Gathering underwent a general release on August 5, 1993.
While the game was simply called Magic through most of playtesting, when the game had to be officially named, a lawyer informed them that Magic was too generic to be trademarked. Mana Clash was instead chosen to be the name used in the first solicitation of the game. Still, everybody involved with the game continued to refer to it as Magic. After further consultation with the lawyer it was decided to rename the game to Magic: The Gathering, thus enabling the name to be trademarked.
A patent was granted to Wizards of the Coast in 1997 for "a novel method of game play and game components that in one embodiment are in the form of trading cards" that includes claims covering games whose rules include many of Magic's elements in combination, including concepts such as changing orientation of a game component to indicate use (referred to in the Magic and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle rules as "tapping") and constructing a deck by selecting cards from a larger pool. The patent has aroused criticism from some observers, who believe some of its claims to be invalid. In 2003, the patent was an element of a larger legal dispute between Wizards of the Coast and Nintendo, regarding trade secrets related to Nintendo's Pokémon Trading Card Game. The legal action was settled out of court, and its terms were not disclosed.
The success of the initial edition prompted a reissue later in 1993, along with expansions to the game. Arabian Nights was released as the first expansion in December 1993. New expansions and revisions of the base game ("Core Sets") have since been released on a regular basis, amounting to four releases a year. While the essence of the game has always stayed the same, the rules of Magic have undergone three major revisions with the release of the Revised Edition in 1994, Classic Edition in 1999, and Magic 2010 in July 2009. With the release of the Eighth Edition in 2003, Magic also received a major visual redesign.
In 1996, Wizards of the Coast established the "Pro Tour", a circuit of tournaments where players can compete for sizeable cash prizes over the course of a single weekend-long tournament. In 2009 the top prize at a single tournament was US$40,000. Sanctioned through The DCI, the tournaments added an element of prestige to the game by virtue of the cash payouts and media coverage from within the community.
While unofficial methods of online play existed previously, Magic Online ("MTGO" or "Modo"), an official online version of the game, was released in 2002. A new, updated version of Magic Online was released in April 2008.
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