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Subject: How long can CCGs last? rss

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Max
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Magic the Gathering has been going since 1993 or 1995. That's 15 years and counting. Will they run out of ideas for the game eventually, since they need to keep coming out with new stuff every few months? How long can a CCG last, without becoming stale and yet keeping the elements that made it successful?

And will CCGs still be viable in 10 years from now?
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They're a viable cash-cow for any company for so long as there are idiots who keep buying them.
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Eric Jome
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maxmaven wrote:
How long can a CCG last, without becoming stale and yet keeping the elements that made it successful?


Indefinitely.

Magic is an extremely simplistic concept as a game - it has nothing to which it is beholden. There's no story. There's no setting. And because they've settled on a pattern of making most older cards obsolete every couple of years (rotating them out of the agreed on play format) they can just keep printing minor variations on older themes over and over. Magic is a blank page - how many different pictures can you paint on a blank page?

By contrast, several other games struggle on even for years and years on the back of fans devoted to the subject matter. Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and Shadowfist are good examples here. They often don't bother making older cards obsolete, but just duplicate existing concepts in new domains - frex, whole new clans of vampires are added with completely new disciplines. This makes for an impossibly difficult position for new players, but these games don't care. They are fan games for long time fans. Sales are small or regional or institutionalized and they've got a very stable base, even if it is small.

Another variation is storyline games like Legend of the Five Rings. They can happily print things over again with insignificant tweaks because they follow a planned obsolescence, but the motive force is not custom, but following a story arc. Like writing yet another Star Wars or Star Trek novel or movie, you can just turn out the same sort of thing over and over and much of what attracts fans - the style of the world - stays intact over time.

Yet another idea is that a CCG is essentially just a mechanical system. You can pick up almost any theme or subject and just crank out a game. Even if you don't plan to keep it rolling for years, you can just pick up another license for the latest hot topic - Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh, Harry Potter, etc, etc, etc. This means that you can keep the genre going indefinitely even if any given element of it might fall by the wayside as you go.

Lastly, there is the infectious combination of gambling on the sealed pack of cards with the entirely minor cost of a single booster, an impulse buy. This is an addictive, enjoyable system that will keep people coming back or participating in the genre forever. The very mechanics of CCGs are greatly preceded by sports cards or lotteries or any number of other games with a hidden random purchased component.
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Thomas Staudt
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As some posts already stated, I think a game that has a relatively open setting can probably go on for decades.

With a good system and capable designers there's almost limitless things you can do. There's so many mechanics that can be used, but you got to have something to map it on. Magic for example can invent a new plane / setting with every other set which keeps things from getting stale.

Examples I have that come from miniatures, not CCGs, but illustrate the point:

Positive: Heroscape - Battle of all time. What a concept! Take History, Fantasy, Marvel, D&D, there's no limit

Negative: Star Wars Miniatures - there's a limit to what you can do. After 10 sets you have to bring the 8th Darth Vader and as long as there's no new movies, all the new stuff you can bring is more and more obscure Expanded Universe characters that only the die-hard fans have ever heard about.
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Brian M
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Quote:
Will they run out of ideas for the game eventually, since they need to keep coming out with new stuff every few months?

Didn't they run out of ideas a few sets in? Now everything is just same thing rehashed in different ways.
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David Spitzley
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StormKnight wrote:
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Will they run out of ideas for the game eventually, since they need to keep coming out with new stuff every few months?

Didn't they run out of ideas a few sets in? Now everything is just same thing rehashed in different ways.


Having played on and off since Unlimited, I have to disagree. They've come up with mechanically distinctive creature types (Slivers, Shapechangers) and keyword effects (madness, morph), which tend to make the game feel much different over time. There's also the attraction of the different worlds, which adds narrative hooks to the whole thing. I love that they went back to the Ice Age setting a decade after it was first released, that they keep following up on Urza and Mishra, etc. Playing Magic is sort of like having a Mythology of the Month Club subscription.
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As long as you don't clothespin them to the spokes of your bicycle, they can last forever.
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Hunter Shelburne
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Magic incorporates a good idea on the designers part, and thats Planeswalkers. Essentially, they can incorporate any kind of world and theme they want and its cool because they can planeswalk there. Kamigawa spirits and ninjas? Go for it. Mirrodins world of liquid metal and robots? Why not. Makes it where it doesn't really feel stale to the players. Not sure if its indefinite, but Magic definitely has the most ability to keep going, despite it also being the oldest CCG. I think that just gives it a firmer foothold rather than a detriment.
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Seth Owen
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I think the market for collectible games is large, but finite, in that the format appeals strongly to certain gamer types (competitive mostly) who are numerous enough to support a maximum of 3-4 active collectible games at a time.

More than that can't survive because a competitive collectible requires such an investment in time and money that most individual players are only into one or two at a time. Players need to have a large enough pool of like-minded players to support a large community of gamers playing the same small handful of games.

The way things have shaken out, Magic: The Gathering always occupies one of the available slots. After that there's a brutal competition for the other couple or so that can survive. This is why even some pretty good games such as Dreamblade weren't able to make it as a Collectible Game. By usual boardgame standards it was successful. It has a pretty respectable number of plays recorded on BGG for example. But it was a failure as a collectible game and fell by the wayside.

I think there's a chance that collectible game can capture a niche outside of the usual competitve-collectible crowd. The best example of this is probably Axis & Allies Miniatures and Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures: War at Sea which has a big following among World War II enthusiasts and wargamers who don't otherwise buy collectible games. Even Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures has moved way from the competitive collectible format rather than swim against that tide. I think games like A&A minis and D&D minis can last a long time, but with the exception of M:TG ,I don't think the typical collectible game has any longevity at all.
 
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Stephen Sekela
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Interesting discussion.

Even though I am not really in to CCGs myself, my boy is. Wonder if he'll still be playing Yu-Gi-Oh 10 years from now... I got in to CCGs briefly with Galactic Empires, but the thrill wore off after a couple years...

Also, I wonder how Fantasy Flight's "Living Card Game" format will affect the market for card games (I'm just getting in to A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, but waiting to get my hands on a Core Set once they get back in stores...). Will/have any other publishers pick up this model?

Another aspect to this is CCGs that have developed pre-built decks that can stand alone - e.g. Middle-earth. I've enjoyed playing that several times over the years, and look forward to the occassional play in the years to come with the pre-built decks. In this case, even though it's a (discontinued) CCG, I enjoy playing it for the storyline and am not the least bit interested in the "collectable" aspect.

At any rate, judging by the large number of players I see at my FLGSs, I'd think that CCGs (be it "Magic" and/or others) will be around for a while. Guess time will tell!
 
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Ryan Gatti
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maxmaven wrote:
How long can a CCG last, without becoming stale and yet keeping the elements that made it successful?

And will CCGs still be viable in 10 years from now?

Soon after Magic the Gathering first came out, I'd have said it would have a lifespan of 2-3 years before something new replaced it (especially after Fallen Empires...). I'd have been wrong.

As a genre, I would have expected the fanatical obsession that drives the CCG industry to fade within 5 years. Again, I'd have been wrong.

As it stands, it could go on forever. Or it could suddenly die off sooner than anyone expects (like video games in the early 1980s or rap music following MC Hammer). And even if it did, it could experience a rebirth that was far stronger than the original incarnation (like video games and rap music).
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Ryan Dicorato
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Dspitzle wrote:
StormKnight wrote:
Quote:
Will they run out of ideas for the game eventually, since they need to keep coming out with new stuff every few months?

Didn't they run out of ideas a few sets in? Now everything is just same thing rehashed in different ways.


Having played on and off since Unlimited, I have to disagree. They've come up with mechanically distinctive creature types (Slivers, Shapechangers) and keyword effects (madness, morph), which tend to make the game feel much different over time. There's also the attraction of the different worlds, which adds narrative hooks to the whole thing. I love that they went back to the Ice Age setting a decade after it was first released, that they keep following up on Urza and Mishra, etc. Playing Magic is sort of like having a Mythology of the Month Club subscription.


Don't forget to mention the whole new permanent type of Planeswalkers, which completely changes the way the game is played.

Magic seems to never run out of ideas. They have a great team of designers and developers. Each set is worked on to perfection. Of course some cards slip through that are really broken (Tarmogoyf for example), but for the most part the game is very balanced with each set.

Plus, with Oracle, they can rewrite the rules from the ground up and make it so each card is still playable with the new ruleset. For those not familiar with Oracle, it's their online version of cards and what the card does under the current ruleset.

But the best thing about Magic is it's multiple formats of play. Draft, sealed, constructed is the basics, but those can even be broken down into sub categories.

Cube drafting is a big hit. Google Evan Erwin's cube and you'll get a very good idea what that is about. Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) is a new(ish) format that's really taking off. Google that.

The game is fun casually as well as competitively. Each set is made with that in mind. There are a lot of cards that people consider unplayable that will fit perfectly into someone's casual deck (usually EDH).

CCGs are kept very much alive by the players. And Magic is not lacking in player base.
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Graham Lockwood
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....I had one last as long as 43 minutes once.
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Well Magic has survived a while though sales are finally starting to dwindle in recent years. Probably not too much longer before it starts to fade out, too. I won't miss the collectible games since I'm happily enjoying one of FFG's great LCGs instead...but it was a fun genre while it lasted.
 
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Aaron Riggan
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As far as CCG's as a platform, I think the concept (even after almost 20 years with MtG...) still has a lot of untapped potential (no pun intended whistle )
WotC, love 'em or hate 'em, has consistently over the years revamped and changed the way their system runs. The rules are constantly being updated, new powers, abilities and creature types are entering the realm. Plus, they listen very closely to their fanbase, figure out what they enjoy about the game, what they don't like, and what works. They then market and shape the game based on the fans expectations.
They've also done an excellent job at keeping storyline in the game: although its not readily apparent in mainline play, there are backstories to each and every new block and each block is, therefore, written with this story in mind. This directly influences play mechanics as well, since they write each new block with cards to specifically synergize with one another.

While MtG has been slowly dwindling, Blizzard Entertainment has been slowly pushing forward with their World of Warcraft CCG. This follows very closely the model of MtG: a near-infinite universe with which to expand, simple mechanics with a lot of room to grow, endless variety of playstyles and a good, epic feel to the game which grows as the battle plays out.
They've further expanded this ideal in two ways: by allowing many of the booster packs to include codes to obtain items in the digital realm (usually new pets or mounts within the World of Warcraft PC game), and through the introduction of the Raid deck. The raid deck introduces Co-Op CCG play (bet you'd never think you'd hear those two together )
One player plays a sort of DM role with the larger deck and its associated boss, the players all team up and try to take it out. They even include special "raid rewards": a sealed pack of nice items that you're not supposed to open until you defeat the raid. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from buying the raid deck and tearing into the goodies, but I personally would enjoy more the satisfaction of earning my new weapons.

I think this system, however, would do so much better if not for a few factors:
First: the World of Warcraft association. By simply attaching the name to the game, you now have to deal with two completely separate niches; digital gamer and card-gamer. These two do not necessarily overlap.
You may have to deal with product prejudice: some may see WoW on a game and groan at just how much merchandise there is associated with the name. In some ways the game suffers from over-marketing.
The game also started hitting shelves right when MtG was hitting a second wind and starting to regain steam. And you just don't compete with a product that strong with that much momentum behind it.

I don't think CCG's (or any collectable game) are on the way out. While I personally don't spend my money on them (as I have none to spend), the appeal is still there: have a game that's fluid, dynamic and infinitely variable. Now that's a concept I can sink my teeth into!
 
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Matt Thrower
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Not directly answering your question, but you might find this of interest to the discussion:
http://fortressat.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=arti...:magic-the-savaging&catid=51:reviews&Itemid=100105
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Ryan Kinney
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As long as kids are easily duped into liking Pokemon and nerds are easily duped into believing that "rare" cards will be worth something one day, CCGs will have an audience. I doubt if gameplay is at all a concern with most CCGs, they'll just keep putting out insanely broken cards that will go straight to eBay.
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To me they’re like Rap music and can’t end soon enough. I’ve avoided them, but my boy hasn’t. I'd have given both a maximum of 5 years.
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gbaker59 wrote:

To me they’re like Rap music and can’t end soon enough. I’ve avoided them, but my boy hasn’t. I'd have given both a maximum of 5 years.


What're you going to do with the boy after 5 years?
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gbaker59 wrote:

To me they’re like Rap music and can’t end soon enough. I’ve avoided them, but my boy hasn’t. I'd have given both a maximum of 5 years.


Damn kids and their mana and rap music noise! Get off my lawn!
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wytefang wrote:
Well Magic has survived a while though sales are finally starting to dwindle in recent years. Probably not too much longer before it starts to fade out, too. I won't miss the collectible games since I'm happily enjoying one of FFG's great LCGs instead...but it was a fun genre while it lasted.


If anything, their problem is not the game, but the fact that other forms of entertainment are providing a better bang for their buck, while Magic keeps getting more expensive. And yet, Zendikar still had pretty healthy sales .
 
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SJBenoist wrote:
Cardshark1029 wrote:
...
While MtG has been slowly dwindling, ...


How do you know their sales are dwindling?

I've looked all over for sales data and can't find a thing since 2007. Please share your source


This is interesting to me also. I would have said it maybe in 08, but for some reason I'm getting the opposite reaction from the areas I play in. Alot of the people playing now are new players that played back in the older sets (Ice Age, Revised) and are now coming back into the fold. Of course this is a state specific thing, but I know tournaments around here have been packed and I am seeing lots of new players.
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StormKnight wrote:
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Will they run out of ideas for the game eventually, since they need to keep coming out with new stuff every few months?

Didn't they run out of ideas a few sets in? Now everything is just same thing rehashed in different ways.


Rehashed, but to a newer audience. Therefore it doesn't feel rehashed to them. In other words; if you havent' seen it then its new to you.

With a handful of very rare exceptions (professional players and those who work in the industry) Magic's current customer base are not the same group of people who were playing five, ten, or fifteen years ago. That's one of the aspects of Magic that has allowed it to be as successful as it has been; Magic tends to pick up new customers just as quickly as they lose old ones.

 
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dbeman wrote:

With a handful of very rare exceptions (professional players and those who work in the industry) Magic's current customer base are not the same group of people who were playing five, ten, or fifteen years ago. That's one of the aspects of Magic that has allowed it to be as successful as it has been; Magic tends to pick up new customers just as quickly as they lose old ones.


That's funny. About the half the guys I play Magic with on a regular casual basis have been playing the game for over 10 years. And none of them are professional players or work in the hobby games industry (although a couple are aspiring game designers). Now, I'd admit that's only a small sampling of around 20 players.
 
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Seth Owen
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sirkerry wrote:
dbeman wrote:

With a handful of very rare exceptions (professional players and those who work in the industry) Magic's current customer base are not the same group of people who were playing five, ten, or fifteen years ago. That's one of the aspects of Magic that has allowed it to be as successful as it has been; Magic tends to pick up new customers just as quickly as they lose old ones.


That's funny. About the half the guys I play Magic with on a regular casual basis have been playing the game for over 10 years. And none of them are professional players or work in the hobby games industry (although a couple are aspiring game designers). Now, I'd admit that's only a small sampling of around 20 players.


I'd be surprised if that were the case as well. I don;t play myself, but you can hardly miss the M:TG players if you spend any time around a comic/game store and there seem to be a reasonable number of older players (20s and 30s) as well as many younger players. I suspect that some of the drop off among older players is guys who find other life demands such as jobs and family siphoning off the available time rather than their interest so they can't hang out at the game store any more but they still play casually among their friends.

 
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