Developers look to cash in as collectible card games go digital. Shall we deal you in?
Once strictly limited to heated arguments in the corner of a school cafeteria, collectible card games, or CCGs, have entered the digital gaming market.
With the push towards “free to play” (F2P) microtransaction-based mobile and social games, many companies have taken an interest in digital CCGs because of their ease of development and monetization.
CCGs are games where players purchase randomized “booster packs” of cards with different abilities and interactive features, to build “decks” to compete against other players. The player base is maintained through cyclical releases of new sets of cards that change the game in different ways
The first CCG to find major commercial success was Magic: The Gathering, which continues today as a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS).
A wave of imitators copied Magic’s success, including Japanese exports Pokémon and Konami Corp (ADR) (NYSE:KNM)'s Yu-Gi-Oh! Many others existed as niche projects, but the growth of video games as a competing medium, and the established success of the CCG revenue stream, have resulted in another rush of developers to the genre.
Click on the interactive chart to see price data for HAS and KNM over time.
A CCG may succeed or fail depending on how well it courts the “midcore” demographic. This refers to the balance between making a game tactically deep and rewarding enough to reward your hardcore competitive gamer, but also accessible enough to encourage a more casual gamer.
F2P games generally try to ascribe to the 80:20 rule where 20% of your player base is paying (in this case, hardcore players) and therefore subsidizing the 80% who may not (casual players).
Mobile iOS and Android CCGs such as Rage of Bahamut and Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA)'s War of the Fallen and Ayakashi Ghost Guild rank as some of the highest grossing apps in mobile gaming. They combine addictive gameplay with accessibility, and incentivize the hardcore market with premium priced cards.
As imitators to successful games flood the market, some companies are taking great steps to differentiate their games from the competition. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) and Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) brought the digital CCG battle back to the physical world with their respective Disney: Infinity and Skylanders franchises.
Both games work via figurines with chips embedded in their bases. Players use them to interact with an accompanying video game through proprietary hardware plugged in to a Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation or Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) XBox console.
Different figures affect the video game in different ways, and with both companies leveraging numerous recognizable intellectual properties and artificial rarity, expect the riots at Toys ‘R Us to continue into the foreseeable future.
And Activision is doubling down on the CCG market as it enters Beta for Hearthstone, a digital CCG based on the massively popular Warcraft franchise.
With players growing to accept the F2P business model and a proven revenue stream, CCGs are shaping up to be a genre more developers will embrace in the future.
Do you think CCGs have mainstream staying power? Consider this “power nine” of digital and physical CCG developers and partners.
Click on the interactive chart to see data over time.