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CCG's and Branding

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Willi_B
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A growing trend in CCG's is unfortunate and I think board game designers should be happy it doesn't infect board game design... and, thankfully, I don't think it ever will to the degree it has in CCG's.

For those that may not watch the CCG market, it has been a sadistic trend to try to make CCG's made ONLY (nearly) from the existing properties of other existing properties. Movies, Sports, and Animae are all getting their looks because a certain fanbase already exists.

Now while this makes financial sense from the manufacturer's perspective, this is pure hell for designers trying to break into the market. The best thing you can do is suggest a license (that may or may not be available) when submitting your game that they could obtain.

And, because the tight market that is CCG's, self production is near impossible without serious cash flow (estimates of $100,000 are minimal).

Why so much? Tight market requires heavy advertising. 300 individual interacting components requires more playtesting. The game has to compete in a field and be so good people are ready to re-invest money later.

The huge irony of cost is Magic: the Gathering got made over RoboRally by Wizards because it was cheaper to produce, but now the gluttony of CCG's and competition that requires the publicity make CCG's the highest $$$ non-electronic game to produce!

Beware : you will see the following monsters in your future -

Family Guy : the CCG
Deal Or No Deal : the board game
FIFA : the CCG
Law & Order : the CCG

just guesses... add yours if you like!

VeritasGames
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CCG's and Branding

I don't know about Deal or No Deal, but there has been recently a Wayans Brothers "Playing the Dozens" CCG with a crossover game on cell phones, I think. That's got to be a sign of the coming apocalypse.

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=258619

Has an interesting thread on CCGs.

I'm bring a new CCG to market. It will be customizable. We haven't decided whether it will be really randomized and therefore collectible.

You can bring a CCG to market for under $100,000, I believe, but ONLY if you have access to people with really broad skill sets who are willing to work cheap or totally free.

Neo Productions' game "Final Twilight" is brought to market on a shoestring budget, primarily using Print On Demand technology. And it is in hobby distribution. But it's got a smallish fan following because it's not made via traditional means, because Neo doesn't spend hundreds of dollars per card on art, and because Neo doesn't spend tons on advertising. That said, Neo productions is a tremendous model for a new company to follow to get people to play your game.

We are going a more traditional route: a whole lot of money spent on a license for characters and art, and we are doing offset print runs rather than print on demand.

Neo Productions' model is probably the wiser one these days, to be honest, even though it makes relatively little money.

While I can't discuss details of our contracts, people should feel free to contact us and watch us succeed or fall on our own sword to learn from our experience. The market is REALLY bad right now for CCGs as an FYI. But we think we have a great game, some great art, and a few marketing tricks up our sleeves that I hope will keep us afloat.

Traditional card games are something that retailers are much more open to right now.

Cheers.

jwarrend
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CCG's and Branding

"Deal or No Deal: The Boardgame" does exist, and that's not too big a surprise; any successful TV game show will spin off a mass market board game. I think that for most of the folks here, the mass market is not a realistic possibility, and many of us wouldn't design the kind of games that become mass market successes even if it was, so this may not be a big concern.

But, there certainly is the infusion of licensed material into hobby games. Eagle Games has made a cottage industry of releasing board game versions of popular video games (Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Age of Empires), and Fantasy Flight is getting into the act as well (Doom, Warcraft). Fantasy Flight has also released games based on the works of Tolkien, HP Lovecraft, and George RR Martin, among others. I don't think this is necessarily a bad trend. These games are based on commercial properties, true, but the designers are using them as source material in original games, many of which have been quite excellent. For boardgamers who are fans of the source that is being emulated, it's a win-win, as you get to play a fun game about a subject you're interested in.

I suppose there's a sense in which this is bad in that in a lot of cases, it seems that the publisher acquires the rights to design a game based on the licensed property, and then does the design in-house. So, even if you have a great idea for a game about a popular license, you may not be able to go anywhere with it; in fact, you may face even more of an uphill battle since the publisher may have exclusive rights to the license. At the same time, there are success stories. I'm pretty sure the designers of War of the Ring were unknowns who just designed a game about LotR, and they managed to get it published. So, it can happen. I am working on a game based on Indiana Jones, and we'll have to see at some point, if the game is good enough for publication to be a possibility, whether we can find someone to pick up the game and acquire the rights, or whether we'll have to retheme to something more generic.

I can't think of a lot of examples of the more "shameful" version of licensed games, in which the license isn't organic to the game design but is simply slapped on the box cover and some of the components -- eg "NASCAR Monopoly" or what have you. The only one I can think of is "Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition", but again in this case, it was a brand new game with new mechanics. This game may be an interesting case study for how the hobby market could potentially benefit from licensing. My guess is that the SdJ sold more copies of TtR than the Marklin license will, but I confess to having no idea how popular Marklin's products are. Even so, this more "shameful" trend might not be an entirely bad thing, if it gets some good games some broader exposure, and the hobby grows as a result, but it would be bad if it got to the point where only licensed games could get published. I hope that won't happen, and don't think that it will, but we'll have to watch and see!

-Jeff

FastLearner
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CCG's and Branding

In the boardgame world there's an actual separation between the hobby market and the mass market, and the separation really shows in licensing.

Beyond the classics (Scrabble, etc.), the mass market is almost exclusively licensed products, from Spongebob Squarepants to SNL. This is likely because the marketers in those companies know that they can sell X00,000 copies with a license, and to function on the scale they do, they need that kind of revenue, and fear that they can't without the license.

In the hobby market, though, the scale is so much smaller that the cost of licensing keeps many companies from even trying, besides the fact that they don't really "need" to, anyway.

CCGs, as I see it, have to print a ton of cards (and a whole 'nother ton of packaging) in order to overcome the popularity hump and become established in a broad enough way to encourage tournaments, etc., which pushes them towards the mass market's licensing needs. The number of small CCGs that have utterly failed is freakin' huge, so I certainly can't blame them.

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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FastLearner wrote:

besides the fact that they don't really "need" to, anyway.

If I understood what you are implying here, then I question this. Almost every game on the top 16 of the Comics and Games Retailer CCG list has one of the following going for it:

a) it has a license and/or is affiliated with a homegrown television show

b) it has a brand affiliation with a long-standing well-known RPG license

c) it is created by a company with a vast amount of money who used a large bankroll to get people to buy the game in spite of its lack of license

d) it was one of the first CCGs on the market and has continued to create new releases to stay on the market

About the only CCG in the last couple of years that I can think of that didn't have one of these advantages and which sold well (at least for a while) was AEG's Warlord game. I think even Warlord has had declining sales. Hekatomb falls in category "c" above, and it's sales have been acceptable, but not spectacular. Hekatomb's sales are much lower than other successful WotC products.

Retailers are VERY loathe to try a new CCG unless it is both licensed and returnable. They want next to no risk. I spent days at the GAMA Trade Show pitching our game to people and asking around. I can promise you that if we weren't offering full returnability on the first box of boosters and first box of starters with each set AND if we didn't have a license, then almost none of the retailers would have paid any attention to us. The CCG market is very tight right now.

These limitation are NOT necessarily true if you are producing a traditional card game. Both fans and retailers are much more willing to invest in those right now.

Quote:
which pushes them towards the mass market's licensing needs

While I occasionally use the term "mass market" myself, most CCGs aren't in the mass market. The vast majority of them are primarily available in specialty hobby chains (which is where their primary player base shops for these games most frequently). Decipher had some huge licenses and got into more traditional book store and mass market channels, but Decipher has suffered a lot over the last couple of years. Upper Deck, Sony, and Hasbro are the only ones who regularly penetrate Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, etc. with entire product lines. Other people occasionally get into the mass market, but rarely stay there. A few more (like Nightmare Before Christmas) have branched into video store sales as much or more than specialty hobby game stores.

The mass market is hell on wheels. The big chain stores want you to produce at massive levels and may, if you are a new publisher, demand returnability on 100% of everything they buy.

The other reason people get licenses is art costs. Let's say you spend only $50.00 per piece of full color art. That's pretty low in some circles for full color art from a known artist. Now, let's say that you release 300 card sets and plan on releasing four sets in two years. You just spent $60,000.00 on just art alone. That's insane for all but the best selling CCGs. If you get a license, you pay the licensing fee, but then have a ton of art (or TV stills) that you can leverage.

CCGs are a tricky thing unless you are designing solely for kids and have a TV show. You still have to design a good game then, but you don't have to design a complex game. Most CCGs aimed at adults have to be complex and strategically rich or the adults will move on to another game and sink your CCG.

We have a number of things going for us that most start ups don't, and I still feel that even with a license producing a CCG right now is going to be very, very tough. I can't even imagine how tough it would be without a license. We probably would be fighting just to get noticed by distribution.

FastLearner
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CCG's and Branding

VeritasGames wrote:
FastLearner wrote:

besides the fact that they don't really "need" to, anyway.

If I understood what you are implying here, then I question this. Almost every game on the top 16 of the Comics and Games Retailer CCG list has one of the following going for it:

No, you misunderstood me. I was referring to boardgames in that sentence. In fact, the first three paragraphs are exclusively about boardgames. I am saying that hobby market boardgame companies can do fine (albeit not great) without licenses. I only discuss CCGs in the last paragraph.

Quote:
Quote:
which pushes them towards the mass market's licensing needs

While I occasionally use the term "mass market" myself, most CCGs aren't in the mass market. The vast majority of them are primarily available in specialty hobby chains (which is where their primary player base shops for these games most frequently).

Again, a misunderstanding. What I am saying is that because of the large investment needed, a CCG is more akin to a mass market boardgame in its need for licensing. Not that is is a mass market item, but that the way mass market boardgames need licenses because the investment is so large, the same is true of CCGs, even though they're mostly in the hobby market.

We're pretty much in synch on CCGs. I think you just misread my post.

-- Matthew

VeritasGames
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I apologize for any confusion that I interjected into the thread.

Cheers.

Willi_B
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CCG's and Branding

Once again, interesting comments all.

While I didn't have time to check out Veritas new design's details, I THANK YOU for the game design link at the site... makes me like your company already! I'll definitely look at your stuff when it hits the market. By the way, Hecatomb is no more.

The real problem with me about licensing right now is that one is seldom having a great idea that would be a fit for a brand and then obtaining that brand.... it's more along the line of "CARS" is a great movie, let's make a CCG!

The greatest inspirations seldom come from a "let's pound out a game while the metal is hot!" However, there are professionals out there who can apply their creativity and skill very adeptly and come out with a quality product... I just don't think that's enough anymore (unless, as previously stated, one has a commercial, er, um, cartoon on TV... how does Yu-Gi-Oh! get away without a disclaimer?).

One thing I thought would be of tremendous help to designers of CCG's (namely me) is some way of getting financial information of other CCG's... how they fared, what their costs were, etc. Just some way of potentially analyzing similar games and seeing if their producers were merely incredibly dim.

I saw the decline in CCG market coming for a while, but have been recently optimistic... I am watching two games very closely right now because they are going to tell a lot about creative marketing.

Perplex City is a game of puzzles that doesn't play a game with it's cards... it is more of a prize hunt that uses the cards to give clues... with a $200,000 cash prize to the one that puts the whole mystery together first. Using the internet, it is very innovative and I am interested to see how well it moves forward.

The other is a roll of the dice called The Spoils TCG. This game proposes to make all of it's money on tournaments and GIVE cards to tournament players for FREE. Interesting experiment, but I don't see it flying. Retailers will have to give space for tourneys to get the free cards, but unless they are charging more than normal for tourneys I don't see many retailers signing on.... I mean, outside of foils, there is seemingly little secondary market. IF* I read correctly, there has to be 2 tourneys run per week to continue full support to retailers.

Then again, with retailers becoming the next dinosaur swallowed by the internet, maybe this can provide a lifeline as well. What I don't like is that some people in the company own retail stores... from an ethics perspective.

Lastly, I started this thread because I have watched this market from it's inception and, while working on my design, witnessed several bad games destroy my future, as yet unrealized, publication. I saw Spellfire and the early crapola kill several companies. Then I saw the "hey, money is all it takes!" approach a la Ophidian 2350 (calls out: Fleer? Fleer? Anyone know where Fleer went to? They used to have a company!). No offense, but an initiative system does not a unique game make... at least not unique enough. Now I am seeing the "all it takes is an Animae!". I just wish someone would realize that Garfield made the best 3 games in this field, even if they aren't all the best sellers.

I think a smart person with money would think of picking up the rights to continue Netrunner now that the competition is less vast instead of plugging into the next thing with big eyes and a small mouth. Heck, use the Netrunner system... at least it's unique!

And can we please have a CCG that isn't fight related? Pick a character or characters and fight. I fight you. I assemble a team and fight your assembled team. WOW.... zzzzz......zzzzz... zzzzz. Been there 10,000 times, done that 10,000 times.

Next to come:

Cars the CCG
Cars the Board game
Cars the................... (you get the point)

Anyone got $2,000,000 US for the next paradigm in gaming?

phpbbadmin
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CCG's and Branding

Will someone go start a site called CCGDF.COM so these threads will go away? =) I was almost temtped to move this, and future CCG topics to the Off Topic forums. Yes, I used to play CCGs just like most everyone else, but they really aren't on topic for this site, especially in large doses.

-Darke

VeritasGames
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To all administrators who posted in this thread, I've started another thread in General requesting details about what is and is not off topic.

I personally think that this thread is off topic, not for BGDF, but for the topic of "game design", in that it is more about licensing and publishing than it is about actual design of mechanics. That said, Darke's post implied not that this needed to be moved to a publishing forum, but that CCGs were altogether off topic for BGDF.

The other thread I've started asks for specifics about what is and is not off topic. The administrators should post a definitive reply to that question as discussion about card games (not just CCGs) is not uncommon here at all at BGDF, and if games without physical boards or tiles are off topic, then everyone should know.

zaiga
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VeritasGames wrote:
The other thread I've started asks for specifics about what is and is not off topic. The administrators should post a definitive reply to that question as discussion about card games (not just CCGs) is not uncommon here at all at BGDF, and if games without physical boards or tiles are off topic, then everyone should know.

Lee, I moved the other thread to the Admin forum, so that we (the admins) can discuss it there. We'll let everyone know what our stance is on this issue in a few days, I'm sure.

Cheers!

doho123
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Well, as I've "argued" with Darke on a few occasions over his (seeming) hatred of CCGs, I don't feel that they are off-topic. At their heart, they are still just card (or miniature) games with all of the usual traps that any other game can fall into. What seems to be the issue is the way CCGs are marketed/sold, and not the actual gameplay itself.

Ultimately, it's Darke's website, and he can do what he wants with it; but I see no reason as to restrict talk about designing the game of a CCG, or even publication issues, like it's an evil stepsister or something.

Ofcourse, this probably shouldn't even be in this thread now....

larienna
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In the beginning, there was collectible cards. I currently have the star wars return of the jedi complete collection which contained many pictures of the movie. Now besides looking a them, they are somewhat useless.

Then MTG arrived with a CCG concept. Now instead of making collectible cards with pictures of the licensed theme, they made a game out of it to make sure the people can play with them instead of just collecting them. So from this point of view, the CCG has a "plus" compared to classic collectible cards.

Now the problem is that the CCG itself is viewed as a derived product and not as a game. They try to make a game out of a license instead of making a game and then applying a license. Consequence the game rules are bad.

Decipher is a company that only create CCG from game license. The reason might be to reduce cost on art work, like somebody else said. I have played at least 3 CCG from decipher and I can say one thing, they all sucks.

So you ask yourself, if their games are that bad, how come they can still sell cards. The reason is that when decipher make a card game, the product they sell is not the game, it's the license. So buying card from decipher would mean that you buy them for the artwork and collectibleness rather than the game.

When you play a CCG, you can sometime see the difference between game that started as a game, and a game that started as a license. I always compare Yu-Gi-Oh with Duel Masters; If you take a look at these games you can clearly see the difference here. Yu-Gi-Oh which was based on a manga has really bad rules. But kids buy card because they want to collect the monsters as seen on TV. And since it's a CCG well they can also play with them. While duel masters, from a designer point of view, has really good game rules. They made a anime series to attract the kid to their game, but it did not surpass yu-gi-oh's popularity.

Finally I don't think that CCG should be removed from this forum since we are speaking about the design aspect of the game in a CCG. We are not talking about new expansions and CCG that are going to get out. Or what is the best combo you can make with this card.

VeritasGames
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zaiga wrote:

Lee, I moved the other thread to the Admin forum, so that we (the admins) can discuss it there. We'll let everyone know what our stance is on this issue in a few days, I'm sure.

Thanks very much.

VeritasGames
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Larienna wrote:
They try to make a game out of a license instead of making a game and then applying a license. Consequence the game rules are bad.

For our game, Powerstorm, we picked a genre, we designed a game, we built a 500 card alpha test environment of our own homemade characters. Once we had that tested, we got a license. So, for us, the license was wholly secondary to whether or not we liked the game. I built a game that I and my friends liked to play and then we found the art.

Licenses are interesting when it comes to game design. At one level, you feel much more of an obligation to get the characters "right", to make them simulate the characters you are licensing. If you make up characters, nobody can say whether or not you got the character just right. I think this is not unique to CCGs, but is also a phenomenon that affects licensed miniatures games, and licensed RPGs.

From a marketing standpoint, licenses have a built in audience. So, as a startup company, we felt that a license was required to get us into distribution at any appreciable level. We also were concerned about art costs.

A license is a huge, huge risk. While art costs are cheaper in the long run with a license, if you buy custom art for one set and the set fails, you only owe for one set of custom art. A license, however, has guarantees that are due even if you fail to release a single expansion set.

Some games, like Decipher's Star Wars, sold well as a licensed game, and then they lost the license and released a substantially similar game (Wars) with unlicensed characters and the game tanked.

Top Cow has some of the best art in the comic industry. We are proud to be doing business with the folks at Top Cow. But we are convinced from talking to our own playtesters that a bigger license (Marvel or DC) would, almost by definition, drive sales more. Such a license also would have bankrupted us as a startup even if it weren't held exclusively by Upper Deck. So, the combination of factors brought us to desire a license, to need a license, and to get the license.

I think other CCG manufacturers are in the same boat.

CCGs have one thing in common with RPGs. Both attract players, the great bulk of which, stop playing a game frequently if it doesn't have new support products. Sure, I know a handful of players who dust off a CCG from the 90s or an RPG from the 80s. But the vast majority will abandon such a game if it doesn't have new product support all the time.

Board games, in contrast, are things people are more willing to pull out and play even if there isn't a new fangled version of it coming out.

This puts more game design and development pressure on the CCG designer (and the RPG designer) to constantly create add-ons for his products if he wants people to regularly play the game. At the same time, in the current market environment, there's a little resistance from players about spending money on yet another CCG. So, while you need to create new products to pay for a license and to avoid having players abandon your game, there's the paradox that many players want to play CCGs but don't want to spend a ton of money on them.

Willi_B mentioned "The Spoils" trading card game. They were my neighbors at the GAMA Trade Show. You aren't hearing a lot of hype around them, because they are kind of secretive. They had a cool booth and presentation, but it said a whole lot of nothing. They were keeping a tight lid on things. I think that is changing now. As they become more open about what they are doing you will hear more about them. They are doing a really interesting type of marketing -- direct marketing straight to top Magic players. Scott of Tenacious Games knows a lot of the top Magic players and he's getting them on board with his game.

Upper Deck did the same thing on a less personal level, by offering tournament invites to all the top pro tour CCG players in the world.

Shellhead
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For anybody who is still working on a CCG design, your potential customers are extremely wary of trying a new CCG these days.

"I can't afford to get into another collectible card game right now."

I have been hearing that from card-playing friends for over a decade now, and I think that it goes straight to the heart of the problem. Most CCGs are designed to be expensive for the collector and the competitive player, so cost-conscious gamers are reluctant to get into another CCG in addition to whatever they are already playing and/or collecting.

Even when a gamer is interested in trying another CCG, he is taking the risk that nobody else in the area will buy into the game, leaving him with a colorful card collection and nobody to play those cards with. It has happened to me several times now. Even when I hear a game is really good, I hesitate, because of the cost and the probably lack of opponents.

Today, even some of the successful games are struggling. Call of Cthulhu was supposedly a really good game, but Fantasy Flight has decided to stop selling it as a CCG and just publishing fixed sets of playable decks. Shadowfist enjoyed a decade of modest popularity (and high popularity in California), but they recently announced that future sets will only be sold directly from their website and not in stores.

If I were working on a CCG right now, I would change course and make it a non-collectible standalone game with plans for expansion sets that are also non-collectible.

Willi_B
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Again, good comments one and all. Veritas - thanks for the inside info... the site seemed equally dodgy for your boothmates.

DARKE - I really, really hope you don't change the site to exclude CCG's. Game design and marketing ideas are helpful regardless of source... for that same reason I wouldn't mind a post about lawn darts. I really was trying to find the right thread when I started this post before posting it... and it was a topic in game design. I think we all learn from any game and find inspiration in the silliest of things. CCG's aren't evil... they're just marketed that way (haha)!

I think that you are filling a void with this site and it could grow to something larger if you let it. Exclusion isn't the answer.... inclusion is. I've received great advise from CCG'ers and CCG designers about board games and they are game designers as well. Having their ideas here can only help others on the site.

Again, I was thrilled to find this site and enjoy checking it out as often as I can.

phpbbadmin
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Quote:

Will someone go start a site called CCGDF.COM so these threads will go away? =) I was almost temtped to move this, and future CCG topics to the Off Topic forums. Yes, I used to play CCGs just like most everyone else, but they really aren't on topic for this site, especially in large doses.

-Darke

As I stated, I really *do* wish there was a CCG designers site somewhere that we could refer people to and thus limit our bandwidth on these sorts of questions. There are sites for RPGs, Wargames, Video Games, but nothing for CCGs. My greatest fear is to have someone with a lot of valuable information wave off the site because of too many threads about CCGs. My official stance is that yes, these threads are tolerated. Officially the only thing that is not permitted is video game discussion.
-Michael

Willi_B
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Don't know what it takes hit-wise to get some ads or if you even want that on your site... but that would help with the bandwidth issue if feasible.

I like the site and am relatively new to it.

When I design a game, I try not to say: this is a board game about....

I try to fit the genre around the game, i.e. what works best. I know Upper Deck is approaching this in a similar manner according to a conversation with Jeff Donais last year.

I see designers as part artist, part scientist. Artists explore their palettes.

I would love to see this site explore expanding to a game designers forum with no limitation, because the inputs and perspectives have been good from what I have read.

FastLearner
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It's not a bandwidth issue, it's a focus issue. We could also talk about videogame design here without a bandwidth problem, but if half the threads were about refresh rates and AI algorithms and programming on the latest console then the site would be considerably less useful for people designing boardgames.

CCG design, like videogame design, certainly overlaps boardgame design, but it also has its own special set of issues. If there were a huge number of threads about rarities and tournament setup and balancing 500 cards and such then the site would be less useful for people designing boardgames. As such Michael said -- with a smiley, for those who missed it -- he wishes there was a site devoted to CCG design to help ensure the topic didn't take over this site.

If someone was to discuss designing a video boardgame like Civ 4 or something, and the game design aspects thereof, it would be a useful thread for boardgame designers as well. If someone was to discuss battle mechanics in a CCG then it would be a useful thread for boardgame designers as well. Darke's very valid concern -- and it is his site, so setting the topics should certainly be his perogative -- is that CCG discussion that is of no use to boardgame designers could overwhelm the focus of the site.

If anyone goes back and reads Darke's actual post they might notice that he didn't say he was even considering banning the discussion of CCGs, nor that they were much of an issue unless there were large doses of discussion focused exclusively on them. No one in charge here has suggested that CCG discussion would be disallowed, only people reacting to Darke's concern. Folks really need to relax.

So far CCG talk has not overwhelmed the forums, nor do I think it's likely, but I'll tell you, if I was a fledgling boardgame designer new to the site and the talk here had turned to CCG design above everything else, I'd sure wonder if I'd found the right place.

So, my personal request: Just appreciate the concern and the owner's right to direct the discussion on the site and then move on and discuss design issues. There's no point in discussing something -- "banning" CCG discussion -- that isn't even under consideration.

-- Matthew

phpbbadmin
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Willi_B wrote:
Don't know what it takes hit-wise to get some ads or if you even want that on your site... but that would help with the bandwidth issue if feasible.

First, thank you FastLearner for that post. I agree 100% with everything you said.

Next, I hope I can be truthful about this statement: Never, ever, ever will I post ads to help pay for the site. I *may* consider ads in the future from sites that are from active members, but I will never spam the members of this community with non relevant ads to help pay for the site. I have always either paid for the site myself or relied upon donations, of which they're have been plenty.

By bandwidth I didn't mean actual bytes transfered, but rather the number of posts about a particular topic. Please forgive me for using a misnomer. We currently enjoy an unlimited bandwith / storage plan with our ISP.

And lastly, believe it or not, it is *necessary* to limit the types of discussion on communities such as this one. Think of it as pruning rather than restricting or censoring. Believe me, if the moderators here had not taken a very active role in what this community was about, then it would have failed very early in it's infancy. It takes a great deal of work and discretion, I might add, to know when to step in and, more importantly, when not to interfere. Our policy has always been a hands off policy whenever possible. I'm sure if you ask anyone who's been around long they will agree with this statement.

But to clarify, we do not have any plans to restrict the discussion of CCGs. As I said, video game talk is really the only topic not considered acceptable, and even then we're happy to point the person to the right resources to help them with their problem/issue.

Nuff said? Hope so!
-Darke

Chad_Ellis
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VeritasGames wrote:
Willi_B mentioned "The Spoils" trading card game. They were my neighbors at the GAMA Trade Show. You aren't hearing a lot of hype around them, because they are kind of secretive. They had a cool booth and presentation, but it said a whole lot of nothing. They were keeping a tight lid on things. I think that is changing now. As they become more open about what they are doing you will hear more about them. They are doing a really interesting type of marketing -- direct marketing straight to top Magic players. Scott of Tenacious Games knows a lot of the top Magic players and he's getting them on board with his game.

Interesting. I used to be one of the top Magic players and I'm curious how a new CCG would really attract them. Most top Magic players love Magic and will only take up another CCG seriously if it offers them a lot of money. These guys are talking about $60K in tournament prizes during the release period and hinting at more to come, but they're competing with millions of dollars each on the pro tours of MtG and Vs. A lot of serious Vs. players don't even bother with 10K tournaments.

Meanwhile, Spoils *looks* like it's trying to emphasize the worst aspects of CCGs -- namely, that in order to get enough cards to play the game seriously you have to spend tons of money. They're going to have these money tournaments during a period in which the cards are barely out there at all and say, "The only way to get enough cards to compete for the big money is to play. There are over a thousand free Open Beta tournaments out there." Even if a tournament is free you've still got to invest the time and money to get to it, and if there's really going to be big-money constructed tournaments derived from card pools from sealed decks or the equivalent you're going to have an absurd situation.

Meanwhile, Jon Finkel's face is all over the banner but he's apparently had a minor role in the game itself, with two guys who are NOT (AFAIK) major figures in the TCG world. Josh Lytle I've at least heard of, but I don't know if he's even qualified for the Pro Tour, let alone someone I would say, "Yeah, if he's built a CCG and says it's the best it's got to be worth a try."

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Upper Deck did the same thing on a less personal level, by offering tournament invites to all the top pro tour CCG players in the world.

Upperdeck eliminated the barrier to entry for serious CCG players and basically said, "Here's this new game with Pro Tour prizes being offered and you can skip the qualifying process and get in when no one has more experience than you." That's a world of difference from talking with people and "getting them on board". :)

VeritasGames
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Chad, I can't really speak to how the Spoils is going to turn out. I thought it was incredibly odd to be next to a couple of guys at GTS who were being entirely secretive about their product. Heck, I just got my license two weeks before the event, so I was there only with my gift of gab and some art samples eager to talk to people about the overal goals and play style of my game. I personally don't see how telling people very little or nothing about your game is a marketing strategy, but that's just me.

As for our company, we haven't fully decided, but I think our sales package for Powerstorm is going to be very different from anything on the market. We will have fixed starter decks (not so unusual) and the we have boosters. Our boosters, however, are packaged so that every box as a whole has one copy of every card. So if you buy a box then you get one of everything. But if a store owner mixes the boosters, you can still buy by the booster and not know exactly what you are getting so that you can play drafts. We think it's going to cap the upper limit on the money we will make, but we think it's going to attract people who like actually playing CCGs, but refuse to give somebody $300.00+ per set to get one of everything.

Players we have talked to thus far said that they are much more likely to buy a full box of a game if they can get one of everything than they are to invest whole hog in a totally randomized collectible card game system.

I think that, right now, launching a new CCG that is randomized with lots of chase cards is VERY risky unless you have a helluva license and/or a ton of cash.

We may be stupid to be contemplating it, but I think the model is very different and may attract players with lighter wallets who still like building their own custom decks for organized play events.

Chad_Ellis
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VeritasGames wrote:
Chad, I can't really speak to how the Spoils is going to turn out. I thought it was incredibly odd to be next to a couple of guys at GTS who were being entirely secretive about their product. Heck, I just got my license two weeks before the event, so I was there only with my gift of gab and some art samples eager to talk to people about the overal goals and play style of my game. I personally don't see how telling people very little or nothing about your game is a marketing strategy, but that's just me.

From perusing their website and communication it looks like they are hoping to build a lot of suspense and buzz leading up to the launch. The problem is that other than announcing that they're giving away a bunch of cards and a modest (by CCG tournament standards) amount of money, they aren't giving the buzz much to feed on. It would be one thing if Finkel and a handful of other heavyweights were the design team, but...well, they aren't.

I have a lot of respect for the folks at Kings Games and they are supporting this to some extent...but if I had to be money on whether this game will exist in any meaningful way two years from now, I'd bet against.

Quote:
As for our company, we haven't fully decided, but I think our sales package for Powerstorm is going to be very different from anything on the market. We will have fixed starter decks (not so unusual) and the we have boosters. Our boosters, however, are packaged so that every box as a whole has one copy of every card. So if you buy a box then you get one of everything. But if a store owner mixes the boosters, you can still buy by the booster and not know exactly what you are getting so that you can play drafts.

I think that's a good approach. It does have the downside that dealers can game the system and identify "bad" packs if the game does really well, but problems that only exist when the game is doing really well are less urgent than those that exist at launch! :)

Collectability is all but dead, IMO...and if you want to sell a game that even looks collectible you really need to make it clear to people that you understand why CCGs are evil and that your game at least mitigates against that evil to some extent.

Quote:
We think it's going to cap the upper limit on the money we will make, but we think it's going to attract people who like actually playing CCGs, but refuse to give somebody $300.00+ per set to get one of everything.

Battleground has won a lot of fans based on our refusal to try to force money out of customers. I think you're much better off having a low entry barrier and giving people some reassurance that you're not out to screw them.

Quote:
Players we have talked to thus far said that they are much more likely to buy a full box of a game if they can get one of everything than they are to invest whole hog in a totally randomized collectible card game system.

Of course. What so many CCG makers forget is that the world is very different than when Magic launched. Back then, even the people making the CCG thought that people wouldn't spend that much on it -- part of the point of rarity was that it provided game balance for broken cards! :)

Nowadays, everyone knows that "collectible" means "hundreds of dollars before you're even close to playing this game seriously". Moreover, 99% of people who would want to play a collectible game already play one -- so they aren't desperate to find a new one. Anything you can do to signal that your game can be played with a modest investment and that your total investment will be kept under control helps.

Quote:
I think that, right now, launching a new CCG that is randomized with lots of chase cards is VERY risky unless you have a helluva license and/or a ton of cash.

I'd go stronger. I'd say it's stupid/lost money and only upgrades to very risky when you have the license and money.

Quote:
We may be stupid to be contemplating it, but I think the model is very different and may attract players with lighter wallets who still like building their own custom decks for organized play events.

Best of luck!

VeritasGames
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
I'd go stronger. I'd say it's stupid/lost money and only upgrades to very risky when you have the license and money.

Here's something to ponder. City of Heroes CCG did sell in OK amounts in some parts of the nations. I don't know how the second release will do, but the first scored in the top 16 CCGs in Comics and Games Retailer magazine. Distributors I talked to said the game sold OK for them. This, without almost any advertising (at least I saw almost none).

What that game had going for it was a license and a company with a reputation (AEG) behind it. Not much in the way of tournament prizes.

In fact, City of Heroes CCG is more fan-supported (player locator, comprehensive rules, etc.) than any CCG I've seen in recent years.

So it's clear that you can launch a licensed CCG without blowing a lot of cash, but I'm unclear that anyone other than a company with a strong reputation and past hits can get fans to jump on board this way.

Of course their sales model plus their rules are interesting -- kinda like Pirates of the Spanish Main -- where you can buy one "battlepack" and play out of the pack to learn the game. That's a pretty impressive notion to let people try the game. I think that this is something that non-CCG publishers can learn from: that having a cheap entry cost to "sample" the game is a very nice idea.

One thing I am sort of puzzled by, though. The Ogre Cave Audio Report asked this question: why don't more people buy a pair of CCG starter decks and just treat them like a non-collectible two player game? My vote: they would except that most starter decks are terrible, and people are psychologically afraid of getting sucked into a bigger expense if they like the game.

Quote:

Best of luck!

And to you too. I hope the YMG crowd brings home an Origins award. If you do, I'll buy you and Rob a drink at GenCon. Take care, Chad.

w0rf
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As someone who has volunteered his time to work on a fairly successful CCG, Redemption, I find the discussion to be interesting.

Now admittedly, I don't know where they fall on the CGR list. It's possible they're not even on the radar. But in some ways, it has stayed small by breaking these rules, and in other ways it has stayed alive by breaking these rules.

For starters, it's not a licensed product, unless you consider the Bible to be a license. That has the built-in advantage of having familiar thematic material, and the inherent disadvantage of playing rather decidedly to a niche market. Two rules that it breaks outright is that it does not have an RPG license and it is not the product of big spending. It is established (11 years and counting), which I guess would mean that it fits the last criterion.

At one point, CCGs were everywhere, I'm sure many of you remember. Lots of people tying to cash in on Magic, really. But like so many other pheonmena that flood the market after one breakthrough product, there's just not enough revenue to sustain that much product. So the overwhelming majority of card games are on the ash heap. Probably the only reason even Redemption survived was that the creator decided to move his marketing plan from the mass market to the Christian retail market. But I ran a couple tournaments at Origins last week, and looking around at the card gaming room (granted, Decipher and WotC were not present), I saw the Pokemon nationals, the L5R area, the Warlord area, and that's about it. We were one of a couple other "niche" tournaments going on besides these, but Origins has been more of a courtesy tournament and not a big deal for Redemption.

But I guess my thoughts aren't really about Redemption, other than to say that there have been smaller, non-licensed games that have ridden out the storm and survived. What interested me was the games that I saw when I was checking out the exhibitors last week. With many big CCG companies AWOL this year, the two biggest card booths besides Pokemon that I saw were the Trikings booth and the TableStar booth.

Trikings did Anachronism, the CCG hybrid sponsored by The History Channel. The packs in Aanchronism are not randomized, but they do have a collectible aspect in that certain historical figures may be of greater interest to various people. Also, the card art imo is gorgeous. TableStar is releasing a brand new card system called HeroCard. Again, the cards are not randomized, but come as a character with a complete set of support cards. These characters can duel, or be played with a number of different board games designed to utilize the HeroCard dueling system. What caught my eye was that the four games on display were very different in their layout, but the characters could be played within their own game or imported into any of the other games. It was totally modular.

My point is that two of the best examples I saw for new card games (yes, Anachronism is at least a year old now) were card games that were NOT collectible, at least, not in the old-skool nature of Magic, Pokemon, Redemption, Star Trek, etc. Following the partial collapse of the CCG market, new entries seem (based on my limited exposure) to be falling into a pattern similar to board games: pre-built card games that are highly modular/portable designed for value pricing, for the hobby gamer; and mass-market crap licensed CCGs that last all of six months. What concerns me about that is that the Redemption designer was pushing hard for the Narnia license, which I think ended up going to WotC, who have just been sitting on the license. So now I fear that such a card game will never come out, or if it does, it will be another rehashed POS instead of what might have been a well-designed game with replay value.

Willi_B
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Another thing:

Everything is a battle game. Me vs. you, my character vs. your character, my team vs. your team.

A statement I think is true: Someone could buy the rights to Netrunner and the game engine therein and re-release it to profit. That was a great game that got lost in the shuffle of a million CCG releases. Jyhad, now Vampire: The Eternal Struggle has had a small rebirth, 3rd edition is scheduled for September.

And now, they all bland together a bit. Maybe the market wouldn't be slumping so much if there were different types out there (of course I am biased because that's what I am trying to sell right now... ;) ).

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