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Subject: What makes a successful CCG type card game? rss

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john m
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I do not mean that as an insult. But can't anyone go to ccg maker and makeup a card game? What is it that separates good ones from bad one? Assuming I mean CCG style or like that though self contained, there's only so many ways you can have nice artwork, magic powers, and hit points. Doesn't have to be a CCG. I just mean that style. Can be just contained, deck builder, I don't know all the combinations.

I just wanted to get thoughts on it. It is just marketing that makes one more successful?
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EuroPeon
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johnnyLikesGames wrote:
I do not mean that as an insult. But can't anyone go to ccg maker and makeup a card game?
My guess is the inverse is equally true and more likely: can't a CCG maker go to anyone and have them make up a CCG?

johnnyLikesGames wrote:
It is just marketing that makes one more successful?
Theme, artwork, marketing, and all the things that go into related hobbies such as pen-and-paper RPGs--sure.

In fact you've successfully highlighted how little a game designer is needed for CCGs, I'm not even sure why you've posted it in this forum. shake
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I'd be tempted to say being first here.

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From what I recall, other than Magic and to some extent WoW, Pokemon and L5R, CCG's aren't sucessfull. Most, if not all, other than thoes two die out after 1 or 2 sets. They are novel at release then interest wanes as players go back to Magic. Decipher CCG's used to be huge in my youth, now Decipher no longer exists as a company. Starwars CCG, Young Jedi, Magi-nation, Tomb Raider, 7 seas, Overpower, Hack Sign, Megaman Battlenet etc. Just some of the games I used to have but are now barely known by the gaming community.

I think players are changing, a while ago it wasn't that big of a deal to drop $120 on a box of cards, half of which you'd never use. Now though players want games, not money sinks, and so the LCG format works better; it's still a card game but nothing is random so you don't have to break the piggy bank just to stay competative, things are ballenced from the get go.

It'd really be no harder than formating the game to be played from the equivelent of duel decks from MtG, and when you release addition packs,they'd come with the same cards, and some for each side.
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Nate Petersen
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It is, seriously, so much more than marketing. Marketing gets you places, granted, and encourages those early sales. It looks cool, sounds cool, and you see ads all over the place. But gameplay is what makes or breaks anything and CCGs are no different.
Magic is the grand-daddy and has the most weight, so it does have marketing to make up for its pitfalls. But, design has steadily gotten better as the years have wore on. Wizards pays attention to the community and attempts to shift according to player sentiment, what they feel is entertaining. In recent years their multiplayer-focused releases (Planchase, Archenemy, Commander) all pander to the community and what they feel is fun. They back mechanics people enjoy playing with. They do what players think is fun and retreat or retool when they misstep. As I said, the marketing muscle only smooths over their bad patches. If it were all marketing and bad patches Magic would die, fast.
As to the titles named above, almost none of them had what were considered, at any time, good systems. Magi-Nation is the exception, to the point that it is still heavily played. Mainstream, no, but it has been supported by an ardent fanbase for years and at a high level, to the point tourny's are still held at conventions, fan sets are regularly released, and the community still hopes to see a new edition. Rage and Spellfire also have active communities, but those pale in comparison to Magi-Nation. The only other item would be VS System, which still has a huge base and ultimately failed due to bad marketing and product design: UDE's mismanagement, and their splitting of the player base combined with a deluge of product release did a lot of damage to the product but not the game.
WoW is maintained through sheer force of will and people looking to snag the promotional coded items.

The snag is the "collectible" makes the production of the game difficult. LCGs are like board games in that the design costs are mostly fixed and can be reasonable. Plan on X cards in each release, they're a focused, concentrated bunch of cards that players will play with, and you can count on a certain amount of base sales with each release. With CCGs its a crap shoot on all ends. In order to achieve the "collectible" nature you effectively HAVE to design crap that is inherently inferior, not just different but inferior, to ensure that the chase rares drive sales in a player's hunt for that card. So, you're paying to print cards that will never be used, paying for artwork for a card no one will ever care about, and paying to package, ship, and market that turd. You get two sets in and it gets expensive; you need a large pool to start, so players have options, and then each subsequent set has to be both large enough to support the archetypes of the original release so it all meshes, introduce new elements that make it worthwhile, and do it all in a package that drives a hunt for cards.
Consider, WotC pays $800+ per piece of art. Minimum, for a set, that's $200k for art for the large sets, $120k~ for smaller sets. Even at a fraction of that, you're looking at $15-25k, just in art costs. Cost is cheap per print, but that's in the millions of printings. To do anything at that level is a huge investment in capital.
Drop those costs to a more manageable level, print the 1/3 of the cards that people will actually play with, structure for the pick-up and play crowd as opposed to the impulsive purchaser crowd, and it starts to come out better on the math end of things.
Not to say that the games were good, but a lot of dead CCGs would probably be alive today were they LCG-styled builds. Players enjoy the game, could buy the initial kit, and away they go. Publisher would have a more appropriate expectation of the game's return, expenses would be more in-line with that, and it would be more manageable overall.
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John "Omega" Williams
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There have been few successfull CCGs out there and for the most part the majority have died and often taken the company with them.

Now a days designers look for new avenues and quirks. And many of the newer games have an anime series backing them.

A trend you'll see in some CCGs is the multi-platform nature. The game itself, often an attendant anime, and frequently action figures.

CCGs are are on the downswing for the most part and companies are moving more to the non-CCG format as its proving more attractive to those burned out on the collectible aspect.

What makes a CCG successfull. New ideas, new ways to do things. New ways to use a CCG format.
Dragon Storm and RuinsWorld went the RPG road. Arcadia weaved the medean between those realms. Netrunner had the asemettric format and cyberpunk setting. Pokemon and Didgimon based on recreating anime/console games. etc.
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Joseph K.
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I have to +1 the previous poster Joe here. As a big fan of Decipher and CCGs in general, I'll go even further and say I don't think any CCGs were really that successful other than YuGiOh, Pokemon, and Magic. Looking at what CCGs are sold internationally, those are far and away the top three. More to the original post, a fair question could be to ask "What makes the world's top CCGs successful?"

I'm not an expert, but I would have to say Theme is most important. A game, regardless of how well it works, cant create a groundswell without its theme being easily explainable and readily enjoyable. Who doesn't want to control and army of Crane Clan Samurai, Llanowar Elves, Imperial Class Star Destroyers or Pikachus? Theme is the selling point of a game and with a weak theme you won't even be able to sell the idea to a publisher let alone an customer.

After theme, gameplay should be next. If the game is well thought out, with each expansion well tested and planned, then the game has a place in my deck box. Some games like Star Trek CCG, with its great theme, didn't work because of the busted gameplay.

Finally, the cards must have elegant design. Card games base the whole experience on one side of a small playing card. If the card design doesn't look or feel right then people won't want to play the game. People may try it once or twice (I'm looking at you two, Harry Potter CCG and Lord of the Rings CCG), but without elegant card design that fits the mechanics perfectly a CCG is doomed to failure.

And those are my three things I look for in a CCG. I've played enough of them but let me know if I am missing something.
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Joseph K.
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I have to also reiterate what Omega is saying here. Most new CCGs that sell well internationally are based on a Movie series, TV series, cartoon, and in most cases, Anime or different Anime universes mixed together.

When I was in Japan I tried to visit card shops all over to buy Japanese Magic rares and card sleeves. What I saw in the stores was not people playing Magic, although they all sold Magic. People were all playing the newest, coolest card game based on Anime. As I looked to read the name of the game, it was something definitely in Japan only. I am just guessing, but I think the card game market there is very fad based, and I doubt they are still playing the same game.

Either way, Magic has been around since 1993. It stayed in the market for a long time and there has been a tournament series, the Pro Tour, that's been paying out more than $1,000,000 a year to players since the mid '90s. It's quite improbable for a new card game to become as popular as Magic, but with a great, time-honored theme, solid gameplay, and elegant design it's not impossible.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Japan seems to go through CCG burnout at an exponential rate. CCGs seem to last only as long as the attendant anime does. Bakugan, Spider Riders, Digimon (I have some of the Japan version of that) And alot of interesting twists like Bakugans unfolding ball characters.

As for Magic. In part its riding the hype wave, and in part its riding the speculator/secondary market wave still. But slowly its faltering. But it will endure quite a bit longer unless WOTC screws up again and Hasbro closes them down.
 
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Tommy Occhipinti
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I'll answer this question: Why is it I play Magic and not other CCGs or LCGs?

1. Drafting and other limited formats -- in high school and college, building constructed decks to play against friends was fun, but in the era of having more money and net decking and having a husband to play with, I'd much rather sit down and have making the deck I play with be part of the game. It isn't that other games couldn't get on this wagon, but I've yet to encounter another game that lends itself to it, and I'm really not interested in a game where I just play with precons every time.

2. Development -- Magic has dozens of people working full time on making it a balanced, fun game. With the exception of Summoner Wars, the other games I have played in this genre come across as very unpolished. This is a bit of a chicken and egg problem, though, because the reason Magic can afford so many playtesting is because the game is so popular.
 
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karnaz wrote:
it was something definitely in Japan only. I am just guessing, but I think the card game market there is very fad based


Japan is the land of fads - not just CCGs but pretty much any part of life, things get hot becuase a movie star does it and then in a matter of weeks the whole country is doing the same thing.

Successful CCG in the US? Disney tried with one based on the hugely popular Club Penguin, and that didn't fly - the WOW CCG seems dead, Harry Potter and WotC is a good game and died quickly and not sure about the new Redakai CCG launched with a major cartoon to help promote. CCGs don't take marketing, they take huge advertising and promotional budgets - and that means in house designers that work for one of these major corporations.

Not sure there is any market space for a free lance CCG design - unless that you speak Japanese.
 
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One Armed Bandit
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First mover advantage is HUGE in CCGs, because a lot of games are driven by inertia.

The only real successful CCGs are
Magic
Yugioh
Pokemon

To a lesser extent, WoW and L5R are holding on. Technically successful, but not overly. Honestly, I went almost 15 years without hearing that L5R even existed, or seeing any sign of it whatsoever. Went to a new convention, they had a tournament and I was honestly shocked.

Looking at local stores, most only have weekly Magic or YGO, mostly Magic. Some have both. Only one I know of has Pokemon as well. Even then, it's not a tournament, just a league (vs 3 magic and 2 YGO events a week). None of the locals do WoW or L5R.

The nearest store I know of that has an L5R community is a couple hours drive and a ferry ride away. It's "successful" but super niche.

Pokemon mostly holds on through it's cross-marketing with the whole Poke-franchise. In the end it's a kids game, mostly.

YGO sucks kids in with the anime... and then they keep playing due to the considerable investment they've made. The game is heavily dominated by children. You'll see adult players, for sure. 95% of them started playing when they were under 16.

Magic stays relevant through an incredible multi-pronged strategy.
Right off the bat, the design is excellent. Always good, always evolving, always accessible.
The major player recruitment for Magic is existing players... which they have a ton of. I'd say at least half the existing players have successfully recruited at least one new player at some point.
That being said, the thing that keeps people PLAYING magic is the tournament scene, and WotC has done a phenomenal job with that.
Not only the Pro Tour, but the significant level of store support they have for tournaments makes them attractive to both retailers and players. If I was a magic player, I would know that 80% of stores I went into on any given day, sight unseen, would have a Magic tournament running today, tomorrow or the day after. Not counting Friday Night Magic.

Not only that, there's active product support for casual play with Archenemy and Commander, and the disturbingly good tutorial/recruiting tool known as "Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers: the video game".

There are at least 20 BADLY failed CCGs for every moderately successful one. The biggest problem facing them has consistently been that they are nothing more than a "me too!" attempt to piggyback the stupidly profitable random purchase model that Magic started. Spellfire, for instance, was horrible. I swear upon my Dungeon Master's Guide that it got less playtesting than We Didn't Playtest This At All.

There were some games that were really good... but they never got a decent hold on the market. This is where the first mover advantage comes in.
Magic was first. Yugioh managed to make it's market share by targetting kids, who were outside the prime demographic for Magic. Pokemon aimed even younger.

At this point, even though there's still growth, it's safe to assume that the CCG market is "full", and that to gain market share, you have to directly cannibalize it from someone else. Good luck with Magic players. The newer ones are too savvy to blindly jump into something new.
And the older ones? We were burned too many times by the CCG craze. Most of them now refuse to even acknowledge the existence of other games. A lot of them (like me) got out of CCGs entirely.

It's funny though. Looking back, I find that near universally, the best games were made by pre-Hasbro WotC.

Jyhad/Vtes was an exceptional game, and still gets played. I was at a store just last year that regularly had 20 people come out for tournaments and still sold packs.
People here on BGG are actively trying to resurrect Netrunner.
Even Battletech was a good game, with novel and engaging mechanics.

The only other games that have stood out to me as great CCGs were L5R and Deadlands. Everything else was just so much noise.

In Summary: You need to steal players from Magic to succeed... and good luck with that, because there's a lot of effort, from a dozen different directions, going in to keeping current players.
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Matt Riddle
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Lotta words in here to say the answer is "be Magic"
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Matt Loomis
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palmerkun wrote:
That being said, the thing that keeps people PLAYING magic is the tournament scene, and WotC has done a phenomenal job with that.
Not only the Pro Tour, but the significant level of store support they have for tournaments makes them attractive to both retailers and players. If I was a magic player, I would know that 80% of stores I went into on any given day, sight unseen, would have a Magic tournament running today, tomorrow or the day after. Not counting Friday Night Magic.


This is probably the most important thing for any attempt at a CCG. It's a playerbase. Magic continues to exist because there are hundreds of thousands of players. You know that you can find a tournament, or a game, or product very easily just based on numbers. This has been built over years and years, and rarely faltered. Magic could have easily died just like every other CCG out there during the time of Fallen Empires (and almost did) but they managed to pull through.

You'll note that other games in the past have realized this, attempted to emulate the large playerbase with big money tournaments, but generally run out of money before it they can really take hold. Big money tournaments attract people to play your game, and therefore buy your product, but as soon as you need to drop that prize money from what it started with, experienced players start selling their collections while they still can.
 
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Sam Mercer
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johnnyLikesGames wrote:
I do not mean that as an insult. But can't anyone go to ccg maker and makeup a card game? What is it that separates good ones from bad one? Assuming I mean CCG style or like that though self contained, there's only so many ways you can have nice artwork, magic powers, and hit points. Doesn't have to be a CCG. I just mean that style. Can be just contained, deck builder, I don't know all the combinations.

I just wanted to get thoughts on it. It is just marketing that makes one more successful?


So John this is what I think.

First of all CCG = Collectable Card Game.

Game = Play
Card = Card
Collectable = Continuous Payment


A CCG is a game which uses cards in which the POINT of it (as defined by its genre) is to get people to buy your product continuously. There would never be a "free" CCG, or even a Pay once: Free cards for life CCG or a different purchase format: imagine a pay per month CCG? That would make sense right? Pay per year?

All of this leads to the fact that CCG's exist to make the cash. That's mostly it. If it's "elegant" and "fun" and "creative" (which it may well be) the only reason to ask people to continuously buy the product over and over is for their money. This is not what others may think but this is most definitely what I think.

Case in point "Most CCGs exist as part of a bigger franchise", I haven't checked but I can almost assure you of a Transformers CCG and any number of Sports Related CCGs - much in the way where they take an already successful franchise and create pencil cases with the imagery on, the same applies to collectible cards. Oh hey, let's make it a game too.

Personally I think that CCG's exist so well because of, as you say, marketing. My IRL job is a Marketing Coordinator btw and as such I can tell you if you want to sell such a recurring product like that, you need to give people a community to enjoy (in which case: people do it "for their friends" and "for the community" more than the product itself, see WoW, Facebook) and you need to market the heck out of it.

Marketing extends from "Advertising" as we all know as the standard line of attack,(I believe MtG is one of the only non-child or joke related traditional game that is advertised on television? At least it is here in the UK) all the way from word of mouth (you need minimum of two people to play, ideally different people regularly?) to incentive (With our new product: there is a chance you can Win Prize!) to collection (Buy these other products to get the most out of this product - see "5 part" beauty creams, vacuum cleaners only working with their own make of bag, phones using "specialist proprietary" charger connections and what not) etc etc etc.

I have a big problem with MtG, even though I was a fan at one point, as I am sure you can tell.

Let me give you an example:

If you have ever been involved in MtG, just do this quick exercise form me, tally up (just very roughly) how much you (including drafts , pre release tourneys, boosters, display files you have been involved in buying/playing) have spent on MtG throughout your life.

You got that figure? Mine is at least £120 and probably closer to £200. Now imagine if I wanted you to buy a boardgame or a cardgame for the same price. I don't believe any way that one can truly justify that the "elegance and mechanics of the MtG cards" makes up for that figure compared to some other BEAUTIFUL games in the world.

/rant


Tl;dr for me at least, to make a certain type of game that in its most distilled form of delivery is no different from a set of Disney branded air fresheners, you need a very good marketing team and little else.



Rawr.

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Drew Dallas
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I think alot of people here have a curious definition of successful. Just because a CCG dies doesn't mean it was unsuccessful. The Decipher Star Wars CCG was hugely successful and regularly was in the top 3 ccg for years and yet some here don't count it as successful. WoW which is in the top 5 Current Collectible games is 'unsuccessful'



I'd wager that most board game makers would give up a body part to have their board game be as "unsuccessful" as many of the CCGs throughout the years. Many dead CCGs have active and fairly large fanbases and through the fans efforts hold tournaments and even still have world championship matches.

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Matt Loomis
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I agree that the overall point of a CCG, or any company really, is to make money. I wouldn't argue that it's "too much money" or anything along those lines because you decide how you are going to invest your money for the amount of enjoyment that you'll receive. I've played about a dozen CCG's for any length of time in the last 15 years, and played at least 5 of those at a very high competitive tournament level. For the amount of time that I spent playing and enjoying those games, measured in sheer hours, I don't think there is any other product out there that could give me the same experience or the same cost per hour of enjoyment. In addition to that, I built life-long relationships with people all over the US and multiple different countries and traveled all across North America just because of a card game.

In my youth, I don't think there would have been a better experience that I could have had while still being a gamer, and certainly not for a few thousand dollars a year in cost, at least 75% of which I ended up making back in prize money and selling collections before quitting.
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Cogentesque wrote:
Mine is at least £120 and probably closer to £200. Now imagine if I wanted you to buy a boardgame or a cardgame for the same price. I don't believe any way that one can truly justify that the "elegance and mechanics of the MtG cards" makes up for that figure compared to some other BEAUTIFUL games in the world.


Mine is about $2000 and there are many people I know who have spent much more. I think that the enjoyment I have gotten out of Magic has been well worth that lifetime price. If you don't believe that this can truly be argued, here is one thing you could try.

Buy all five Intro Decks (Pre-Constructed 60 card decks + one 15 card booster pack) for the newest set at a total cost of $40. Play a two-player game or two. Now play a four-player game or two. Now open up the five 15 card booster packs that came with the Intro Decks. Customize your deck. Now play again a few more times. After you do this tell me if you didn't have a freaking ball.

Forty dollars, you keep the cards forever. No need to buy any more to have fun with friends, although it's pretty much accepted that the more booster packs you buy the more fun you will have if not simply in customization then also in opening up random packages a la Christmas morning. Quite the experience, and well worth every penny.

P.S. Full Disclosure: If I could count the hours I've played Magic and compare them to the hours I've played ALL other games, it would probably be about 50/50. But I would have to subtract World of Warcraft as time lost to the void....
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Darksbane wrote:
I'd wager that most board game makers would give up a body part to have their board game be as "unsuccessful" as many of the CCGs throughout the years. Many dead CCGs have active and fairly large fanbases and through the fans efforts hold tournaments and even still have world championship matches.


This is very accurate, and actually an interesting phenomenon that is unique to collectable games. When a collectable game goes out of print, players see it as a bad thing. When board games go out of print, it's generally expected. In both cases the price of the game can rise or fall, all based on the existing playerbase when the game "dies".
 
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That's a very fair point Matt. I do agree with you here completely. If it's WORTH that to you - then that's super. I must keep in mind though that in your example we appreciate the "play and enjoyment per hour" and also the "community it offers" - these facts are therefore what you really pay for - not the latest set of monthly released expensive bits of cardboard. In which case you buy into the community more than the game.

As an aside: the next three (current block?) of MtG expansions are codenamed "Hook", "Line", and "Sinker"



shanniganz wrote:
I agree that the overall point of a CCG, or any company really, is to make money. I wouldn't argue that it's "too much money" or anything along those lines because you decide how you are going to invest your money for the amount of enjoyment that you'll receive. I've played about a dozen CCG's for any length of time in the last 15 years, and played at least 5 of those at a very high competitive tournament level. For the amount of time that I spent playing and enjoying those games, measured in sheer hours, I don't think there is any other product out there that could give me the same experience or the same cost per hour of enjoyment. In addition to that, I built life-long relationships with people all over the US and multiple different countries and traveled all across North America just because of a card game.

In my youth, I don't think there would have been a better experience that I could have had while still being a gamer, and certainly not for a few thousand dollars a year in cost, at least 75% of which I ended up making back in prize money and selling collections before quitting.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Going back to the OP...

johnnyLikesGames wrote:

...
What is it that separates good ones from bad one?
...
I just wanted to get thoughts on it. It is just marketing that makes one more successful?



Here's a few thoughts:

The successful CCGs hits their target market at the right pricepoint;
and,
The successful CCGs hits the target market(s) with a lot of "disposable income" (or at least ... large allowances)


Combine that with solid game design and visibility (aka Tournaments, Conventions, local game store support).

 
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Darksbane wrote:
I think alot of people here have a curious definition of successful. Just because a CCG dies doesn't mean it was unsuccessful. The Decipher Star Wars CCG was hugely successful and regularly was in the top 3 ccg for years and yet some here don't count it as successful. WoW which is in the top 5 Current Collectible games is 'unsuccessful'

I'd wager that most board game makers would give up a body part to have their board game be as "unsuccessful" as many of the CCGs throughout the years. Many dead CCGs have active and fairly large fanbases and through the fans efforts hold tournaments and even still have world championship matches.



The issue is that that upfront costs are so high. CCGs are a go big or go home strategy, requiring a huge investment that few hobby game manufacturers can support.

FFG's Lord of the Rings has a great selling point (beyond the terrific art and big name license) - it is playable solo. They are likely on to something big there as it reduces the need to build a fanbase to ensure players can get games.
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David Boeren
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Yeah, I have to agree that there are some strange definitions of "successful" in this thread. A game that collected several hundred dollars from its players over several years before it folded is considered a failure? That makes no sense.

Magic is Magic, and in a category of its own. It got there first and hogged all the market before there was competition. Now even though it's got outdated mechanics it's essentially unseatable because nobody else can get up the momentum to knock it off its throne unless they make some major mistakes and kill their own game or there's a big enough economic backlash against all forms of collectability in general.

Personally, if a game (CCG or otherwise) makes a profit, then it was in a sense successful. If it also has decent ratings/reputation and hangs around for at least a couple of years, that's further argument that it was successful. People don't look back fondly on crappy games, and a number of dead CCGs do have a following even now, like Vampire:TES.

Some have gotten a second list as LCGs, which seems to be working out well for Fantasy Flight, they recently launched LOTR and are planning on putting out their Star Wars game. Probably other "failed" CCGs or upcoming "destined-to-fail" CCGs could be more successful in this format too.
 
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Drew Dallas
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T Worthington wrote:


The issue is that that upfront costs are so high. CCGs are a go big or go home strategy, requiring a huge investment that few hobby game manufacturers can support.


What makes the upfront costs so much more for a ccg than it would be for a comparable board or card game?
 
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James Sitz
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1. Generate fans.
2. Keep those fans happy.
3. Repeat.
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