Monday, January 09, 2006

GAME STORE CONFIDENTIAL ~ The game that ate itself

Caution ~ What follows will be considered, by some, to be a rant. While I won't openly disagree, I view opinions like these to be thoughtful, deep and well reasoned. Particularly if they're my opinions. Which they are. Some of you will certainly disagree with me and insist on viewing this as a rant, which I understand. Hopefully you'll see the light before there is no turning back and the planet plunges into despair, ruin and eternal darkness.

You've been warned.

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About 10 years ago I read a book called Out of Control, written by the guy who was the editor of Wired magazine. One of the subjects he covered was nanotechnology, the soon-to-be-real science of making tiny little machines that can do weird stuff like be placed in your bloodstream to hunt down fat cells or disease. Anyway, Kevin, the guy who wrote the book, started in on one of the fears that future nano-technologists will have to contend with; out of control microscopic machines that end up doing more harm than good.

What he revealed was that the scientists figured they would have to give the nano-machines the ability to replicate themselves using whatever materials were at hand in the environment. The problem would be how to keep the little buggers from consuming everything in sight as they go on a wild and unstoppable replication invasion!

For example, let’s say we are tired of eating Pop Tarts and we want steak instead. So we order up a bunch of little nanos that turn anything they come into contact with into a steak. Sounds good eh? Except for the problem of too much steak! What happens if the nanos go berserk and really start turning everything into steak? Trees, dogs, driveways, designer jeans, Angelina Jolie, all of it, it all becomes a t-bone. If the scientists fail to find a way to stop the little buggers, well then, eventually I guess the entire planet would be red meat. Seriously, trillions and billions and jillions of tons of meat. A humungous BBQ with its own gravity field.

I personally think they need to work a few kinks out of the nano-thingie before we start using it for breakfast orders.

In the meantime, the game industry has its own plague of vermin that in many ways reminds me of the nano-threat that turns us all into red meat. That disease is, of course, CCG’s.

Thirteen years ago this coming August, Wizards of the Coast innocently unleashed on the gaming world the industry equivalent of rogue nano-machines. They created and released Magic: The Gathering. What they didn’t foresee was that within the first 15 months after MTG’s release there would be over 80 copy-cat CCG’s. I’m certain they hoped they would have a reason to release multiple expansions to MTG, but what is it up to now? Thirty? Forty? And how many cards? I’m guessing around 10,000, just for Magic alone.

While CCG’s don’t turn environmental materials into meat or Porsches, they do turn money, attention, shelf space, consumer focus, warehouses and ad budgets into CCG bitches.

The suspicious part about CCG’s, other than the inherent evil in them, is how they are all very close to MTG in design and presentation and how quickly most fail and disappear. The back rooms of game stores and distributors around the globe are this moment, stuffed to overflowing with unsold cases of Sim City, Wyvern, Star of the Guardian, Temple of the Gods, Hyborean Gates, X-Files, Lara Croft, and on and on and on, ad naseum. I'm guessing there have been somewhere around 300 failed CCG's, yet for every one we put to rest, two take it's place. The publishers won't stop because instead of trying to design good solid games, they're trying to "catch the next wave of cash."

Think about it, how many dollars has WotC earned on MTG alone? Forget thinking of it in terms of millions, or even hundreds of millions. If ol’ Pete Adkinson and Richard Garfield each walked away from the first 10 years with $100 million and change, then the number has to stand at somewhere between one and two billion bucks.

And Pokemon sold even better. It’s the best-selling CCG since the genre was created. The planetary numbers of Pokemon sales are unbelievably huge.

With Pokemon as an example, is there any doubt now in the evil that is CCG? I think not.

The most damning evidence of all is that when you dissect the nasty little buggers they’re all pretty much the same, with this mutation here and that mutation there. Basically, clones of MTG. There isn't even any attempt to disguise the things, just change, name, draw crappy art, slap on theme and tap(tm).

From the designer to the art to the production to the advertising, the support staff, the web sites, the distributors, the retailers, the printers, the conventions, tournaments and associated after-market efforts, CCG’s eat up the vast majority of all funds and efforts that exist in the board game segment today. And the publishers and distributors have gotten very smart about how not to get stuck with a loss if the game is a stinker… which, by the way, almost all of them are. It’s really simple, once the product gets to the retailer, the retailer owns it. No warranty. No guaranteed sell-through. No advertising credits. Nothing. Nada. If the little bastard tanks the retailer eats the loss while the publisher and middle-men have taken the money and are busily designing new permutations of the same idiotic game.

This, if you hadn’t noticed, leaves the consumer with a box of cards that he overpaid for and nowhere for the game to go. No way to get new players into it, no expansions, no fixes, no prizes or tournaments. Just an empty wallet and bad vision from straining to read the miniscule text that never really explains the card anyway.

A shallow thinker might stop me right here and say something dumb, like;

“Ah DW, but what you failed to mention is that CCG’s are a force within themselves. They may have roots in popular gaming, but they owe little or nothing to the board gamer. Why, one might even suggest that CCG’s have added to the ranks of board gamers. They are givers and creators of new gamers and fresh t-bone steaks to gnaw on, they are not the insipid little money suckers that you claim.”

To which I would reply:

“Well Maud ‘Dib, apparently you need to sprinkle more mélange on your Pop Tarts. Out of all the possible futures that the inception of CCG’s could have created for gaming, none could have been more dead-ended and destructive than the path that was taken… the path of Mutually Assured Crapola. It is good you stuck with vocational classes, as thinking is not your strong suite.”

The facts are CCG’s succeeded because of retailers. Specifically, Brick & Mortar retailers. Seeing as how there was no real WWW at that time, my point is obvious. What an unwitting WotC and it’s partners in evil did was create a monster using an established network of gamers and gaming outlets and the gamers who resided there and then infected us all with it’s devious and wantonly destructive virus. Then they piled on, they added less playability, more expansions, more titles, fewer cards for the dollar, less tight design and shorter life spans… which they tied to really dumb and offensive properties like Zatch Bell and Monster Rancher.

If I had been consulted I’d have shown them the proper path, the one that leads to wealth and gaming goodness for all, not just a select few who drive new BMW’s and Hummers. The industry now, in 2006, is nearing the end of the “snake that ate itself” phenomena. On a weekly basis more and more new CCG’s are announced. It’s close to frantic, the numbers are unreal. Who the hell is buying these things? What the crap is a Hecatomb and why on Earth would anyone pay $3.99 for ten little cards with retarded looking manga-thingies on it and text that is at once childish as well as utterly confusing?

The CCG machine has now devolved into a short-lived and ever-hungry monster that is dependent upon grabbing as many bucks as possible and then moving on to the next game, the next expansion, the next crop of 8-13 year olds… or their mental equivalent in adults.

Here’s a sample of recent and upcoming CCG’s and CCG expansions, from just three issues of a popular distributor product catalog:

Hecatomb ~ 6-sided clear cards and foul creatures from WotC. Plays like MTG

Pokemon, exDelta Species ~ more degenerate looking crap. Plays like MTG

Call of Cthulhu CCG, Forgotten Cities ~ Not as good as the old CoC game. Plays like MTG only with a story line.

Full Metal Alchemist, Artificial Human ~ Striking in it’s complete lack of originality. Art that makes non-artificial humans feel strangely irritated. Plays a lot like MTG.

War Cry CCG, Hand of Fate ~ MTG-like clone set in the world of Warhammer. Art that may or may not be good, sort of like shrinking the “Last Supper” down to postage stamp size.

Marvel CCG, X-Men ~ Back from the Over Power grave. More stupidity and insane grimaces from the art-vampires at Marvel. Similar to MTG in play.

Avatar CCG, Master of the Element ~ innovation-deficient design that has players utilizing the four elements in play. Based on a Nickelodeon children’s infomercial. Appears to poorly mimic MTG.

MTG, Guildpact ~ the 367th expansion for the original CCG. Designed with restrictions and banned cards pre-determined so players can start bitching and arguing before they buy any of the cards. Plays the least like MTG of all of these new releases.

Neopets CCG, Travels in Neopia ~ the CCG equivalent of offering candy to little girls, vapid art, wretched names for everything. Something smells funny here. Plays a lot like MTG.

High Stakes Drifter ~ WizKids/Upper Deck’s attempt to cash in on the History Channel. Uses “Dollars” instead of mana, has chips that act as instants. Plays a lot like MTG but with more players and more confusion.

City of Heroes CCG ~ AEG’s newest hit-and-run, based on an online community. More mindless super-hero idiocy that plays a lot like MTG.

Warhammer 40K CCG, Dark Millenium ~ a two player battle pack that offers up more unfocused art in dark shades and stilted flavor text. Its saving grace is it plays a lot like MTG.

Vampire: TES, Legacies of Blood ~ another expansion for this completely unplayable CCG. Immature theme, metrosexual art. Not enough MTG design elements for this game to be considered a game.

Xiaolin Showdown CCG ~ my first look at this one had me hugging the toilet puking up $60 worth of Cuervo 1800 from last night’s party at the Country-Western saloon. Totally devoid of anything that could even be considered art and woefully disguised as a Chinese-Western theme that is supposed to make sense. Has many elements of MTG in its design.

Yu-Gi-Oh! ~ Expansions come at a rate of one every several days. Too numerous too mention. Plays like MTG but has a horrible theme, putrid art and a name that makes me cringe to read, write or think about, much less to say.

Universal Fighting System CCG ~ the GURPS of CCG’s. A CCG system, similar to MTG, that you can’t actually play unless you buy the “hot property” expansion, such as Street Fighter (whoa, what originality), Soul Caliber (uh, okay) or the Penny Arcade web comic. Huh? A CCG where you play a dweeb from a web comic? Crap art. From the description it appears to play a lot like MTG.

Raw Deal CCG, No way Out ~ more non-existent tension in the retarded world of wrestling. “Lock up the trailer door! Put your teeth in Ma! We’re going to see wrasslin!” Pure dreck. Plays a lot like MTG though.

Conan CCG ~ liberal use of the terms; original, unique, brutal, pulse-pounding and gritty. Great art. Plays a lot like MTG.

Gundam War CCG ~ this is what you’d create if you sat in a room with a Japanese fanboy for 30 years and neither one of you had the capability to muster an original or cogent idea. Same dated art that looked wrong in the 70’s. Plays a lot like MTG.

Zatch Bell CCG, Blinding Fate ~ Doomed to fail because, a) it has an original mechanic, the spell book, and b) its not very much like MTG. Oh yeah, and the storyline, art and concept both suck and blow.

Phew. And that’s just a sampling. I didn’t even cover such developments as Anachronism, The History Channel’s leap into the nano-CCG machine building competition and I left CMG’s (collectible miniature games) alone and purposely avoided the re-emergence of Dragon Dice and the new Marvel collectible dice game. But I’m certain you see the pervasive and antagonistic trend here? What of all these resources had gone to building a long-term game market over the last 13 years? Do these designers really give a crap about the games? Or are they just drawing a check and moving on to the next project?

I know for certain that the publishers have about as much concern for their customers as McDonald’s does when they coax obese 11 year olds in the Biggie-Size mindset. These games aren’t labors of love, they aren’t innovative, hell they aren’t even good. Virtually every one of them will be a rapidly fading memory of a wasted allowance within a matter of weeks or months. A couple of years perhaps for the ones with ties to a solid property like Warhammer or Lord of the Rings.

The comparison of the CCG virus to nano-machines gone amuck is acceptable in my mind. The potential for applying the huge amounts of money that MTG made towards innovation and creativity was there, but someone chose to eat their young instead. And the process is, in my opinion, very close to complete. I’d give the whole cycle perhaps 5 more years tops before most CCG’s, as we know them today, will be history… distant history. An anachronism perhaps.

Thanks for attending my bitch-session this week. What got me started on this whole subject was some time I spent reflecting on my retirement from game store ownership and several discussions with a good friend who will be opening a new store in a few months. He asked me if he could spend some time with me just covering some of the basics that I learned in my years in the trenches. I know I’m going to have to tell him that CCG’s are a gravy train and that if he wants a better shot at success then he’ll need a ticket for the ride. But damn, he also needs to understand that CCG’s have changed everything about retailing games successfully. They are the gaming equivalent of Gordon Gecko, whose modus operandi in the movie Wall Street was to buy a company, suck all of the assets and life out of it and then leave a desiccated husk in his wake.

If you get an outside, long view of the last 13 years, that’s exactly what has developed in the game industry. CCG’s are short-term. They are not designed to make gamers out of kids; they’re designed to open mom and dad’s wallets as quickly and efficiently as possible and then move on to the next school of fish.

Anyway, it’s food for thought. And speaking of food, I’m hungry. I’m not sure if I want a Pop Tart or a steak. Oh well, I’ll just go program the nanos to make me something. Hopefully the instructions make more sense than the average CCG rulebook.

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*Disclaimer*

No actual CCG's, game designers or industry workers were harmed in the process of making this blog. In particular, any CCG designer who may also write a blog entry right here, or any who read this blog, should know that the author personally believes that if CCG design were left solely up to that designer(s) the entire population of Earth would now be gamers, the author of this blog would be a wealthy man living a life of excess and gluttony and the threat to humankind of being consumed by nano-machines chomping up every animal, mineral and vegetable on this dirtball as they relentlessly churn out Yu-Gi-Oh! expansions every 13 minutes, well, that threat would never come to pass.

16 comments:

Ryan Walberg said...

You forgot Mystical Empire. An absolute "MUST PLAY!!!!"

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listid=11447

GROGnads said...

Then there's the INTENTIALLY "planned obsolescence" for these, with those A$$-hos at "Whizzers on the Consumers" being the worst 'offenders' for such distinction. But hey, they know their "sucker demographics" for this, and 'plan' accordingly. NO amount of dissuasion will deter 'those' FOOLS and the "parting of their monies" anyway, so maybe a "Chuck Norris 'roundhouse kick' to the HEAD" might do the 'trick' eh?

Shannon Appelcline said...

Within those same 13 years, we've also seen German games blossom in the United States. There was only long, often poorly designed stuff on the shelves in 1993, and now you have hundreds of great games.

There's either a true relationship there (definitely not at the retailer level, because CCGs have prevented good games from getting into stores due to cashflow, but perhaps at the manufacturer level) or else the CCG nanobots aren't as crazy as you'd expect.

Chris Farrell said...

I have a hard time believeing there is a direct relationship between the growth in boardgames and the CCG bubble. Most of the boardgames sold in the US at that time and for a while after were still in the category of being made and marketed for the European (German) market, with the US as a tag-along, so it's hard to figure out how the US market and consumers would be a factor in driving quality.

One might make the interesting comparison that the blossoming of German games shows an effective market: lots of companies in competition to produce quality product. The US market for games, on the other hand, is so generally non-competitive that when a genuninely new and potentially lucrative opening was presented (CCGs), nobody knew what to do except to rip off Magic.

Now, all that having been said, let's not forget that along with the droves of games that failed, many of the ones that actually succeeded were the ones that were genuinely different. Games like the Middle-Earth CCG (a personal favorite), Star Wars, and Legend of the Five Rings were amongst the biggest sellers and all were a far cry from being Magic rip-offs. The clones were the ones that flamed out.

I can see that as a retailer, DW might get lost in the sea of crap that consumed shelf space. But there was a fair amount of good stuff, too. And CCGs are certainly not the only niche of gaming that contains a lot of junk.

Anonymous said...

Hello DW:

Longtime reader and first time to respond to gone gaming blogs. I for one totally agree with you but then perhaps because I am of middle age. I feel your comments were not a rant but I do not collect CCG.

Let's not talk about the few boxes of a few CCG games I have in my closet that have not seen the light of day for the last five years. I admit I spend cash on these cards in my younger years. I was naive. Oh well - we all have skeletons in our closets. After reading your blog maybe I should try and sell my CCG on Ebay before they become entirely and totally worthless.

I would like to suggest that the reason why CCG card companies produce evergreen products such as MtG and others is because there is a possibility the new products will make money. The copycat products is an attempt to cash in on a fashion trend. There are numerous examples in business where once a product catches the attention of the consumer, multiple copycats flood the market. I think you would agree this trend happens elsewhere in business. So it is consumer beware (or parents of consumers beware).

The retailer may be forced by the invisible hand of profitability to carry the CCG because they provide a certain cash flow for the business. Perhaps the retailer would love to carry just Euro boardgames and enlighten the public to such fascinating games but there might not be sufficient cash flow from only selling these Euro boardgames to paid for the rent. Thus the retailer sells CCG (and perhaps holds his nose).

Also consider the individual who buys these CCG. 8 - 13 years olds or their mental equivalent in adults. Sometimes I think that CCG provides an outlet (a channel) for them to release their ??????. In a way, doing CCG is better than other avenues for these individuals. Peer pressure like "in order to join our group (gang) you need to have a particular CCG" I think plays a big part in the growth of CCG.

Being a parent, I would steer my children away from CCG and D&D for various reasons (and enlighten them with Pureto Rico, Pitch Car Mini, Caylus, Lost Cities, Through the Desert etc).

I know of parents who buys and lets their children buy these CCG. Their comment is "there is no harm in CCG. It is just a card game". My thoughts are perhaps there are better avenues and more creative outlets for the kids. But perhaps I am just more anal about my kid's activities.

Also lets not try and convince my fellow adult gamers to sell their MtG collection (that they have not played in years) but can not part with it. I think it provides them with fond memories.

I would be interested in your thoughts about the traits and personalities that are common amongst RPG, CCG and Euro Boardgame individuals.

Thanks for the blog.

Anonymous 2

DWTripp said...

I agree with Chris that board games and CCG's are apples and oranges. At the same time, it's understood by anyone who gives it a glance that CCG's impact severly the cash situation at every point in the chain, from publishers to retailers.

Retailers do tend to get swamped by the offerings and suffering from information overload they are prone to making huge buying errors. After all, who can really predict if a CCG will have legs, or just be another cash drain? Certainly not the publishers or distributors. They have a different objective; "move it out" is all that matters there.

As a retailer I chose to not buy into the CCG madness to any great degree. I sold many of them, true, and made my share of mistakes. But I never abandoned the core RPG's, miniatures and board games that made our store successful before MTG came along.

Anonymous 2, who brings up the parenting issue gets it. Pokemon sales when my store was in a downtown setting were strong due to parents buying the cards, some daily. Some even admitted they bought them in an effort to coax their children to clean their rooms or carry out the trash.

Anyone who reads this blog probably understands completely my very dim view on that parenting style. That's the gaming equivalent of telling your 11 year old, "I'm not buying any more ammo for your assault rifle until you do the dishes."

As a long time retailer I see the rise in board game popularity as a phenomena that has occurred despite the cash-sucking nature of CCG's. The strength of contemporary designs, the increased quality, the tightness of design, all of these elements have no relationship I can detect with CCG's.

And finally, the CCG's that Chris mentioned gave me a chuckle. Why? because the two games I still have, and intend to keep, are the original Middle Earth CCG and the L5R cards. Well, I'll admit, I have a fair share of the Guardians CCG, which I enjoyed and I'm reluctant to part with my old Call of Cthulhu cards... and then there's my Shadowfist cards, Over the Edge and perhaps one or two others.

I suspect the designing talent has moved on though. Perhaps to board games?

Anonymous said...

And when I was a kid, I spent a lot of my money on baseball cards, garbage pail kids, and ALF trading cards, and I couldn't even play a game with them.

gamesgrandpa said...

For a good fiction book about dangerous nanotechnology, check Michael Crichton's Prey (2002).

I collected a couple thousand MtG cards and enjoyed playing it for a while, but got rid of them all -- not one left in the house. It was expensive entertainment and addictive. The original idea was great. Too bad it became so popular -- that encouraged the massive explosion of expansions and ruined a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Netrunner. A CCG done right.

And it didn't exactly succeed in the marketplace. ;-(

Face said...

I don't even bother looking at the CCGs any more, heck any C*G is a pain. No matter how good it looks, how godo it plays, you know it'll be hard to get players to join your game because of all the dilution.

I remember a Call of Cuthulu CCG that came out in 95/96? That was a lot of fun because you basically told a story as you were playing. Anyway, I loved the game and although it was very different fromt he MTG clones, it was near impossible to get anyone to play. People didn't want to buy yet another game thinking it might be a "flash in the pan".

CCGs, in my experience, have turned many players away from card games in general.

Anonymous said...

In the 90's, I think CCGs sucked away a lot of gaming dollars from boardgame companies. I remember playing lots of boardgames at Gencon in 93, and the numbers dwindling every year after, as Magic took center stage. I see signs the trend is changing though, probably due to german games.

I dont think you are wholly consistent in your views though because collectible miniature games are built on a similar model...buy and keep buying, multiple expansions. Im not entirely consistent in my hatred of CCG's either....I want FFG's CCGs to be wildly popular to ensure the viability of the company.

wargamer66 on bgg

Anonymous said...

Actually, my involvement with MTG in the first few years of its lifespan is what led me to German style boardgames. There is absolutely no way I would have ever discovered Settlers of Catan without one of my MTG friends bringing it to a con in '95. I was lucky enough to live near a really good game store in Boulder,CO called Dragonfire Games, where the owners were as much gamers as they were entrepeneurs. But what they did right that so few understand is that they learned how to play anything and everything they carried, and would readily teach it to any who expressed an interest. If they stumbled upon a crap CCG, they would tell you not to play it and suggest a better one. Keep in mind, I was in my early to mid 20s at the time, with lots of disposable income.
Fast forward to 2006, and I think you will see the CCG boom of the 90s has led to two interesting developments: 1) a decided tend toward marketing CCGs to the kids market and 2) A burgeoning interest in boardgames predominantly from the mid-30s and up demographic. The CCG companies have figured out that as their customers get older, they end up with things like house payments and kids, and less money to spend on themselves. So who can they entice that has an almost unlimited supply of cash to feed their habit? Why, of course, the kids of these now older gamers! The parents will see it as a way to spend time with their kids (or to avoid spending time with their kids, as the case may be), and will be hard pressed to say no to the doleful look of little Johnny who can't get the latest Yugi-Oh flavor of the week. Parents, as a rule, will always spend more on their kids than themselves, so it's a sound marketing concept.
Now what happens to people like me, the older gamers who maybe started out throwing away large sums of disposable income on those silly little CCGs? Well, we're tired of having to spend hundreds of dollars just to have fun playing a game, and playing marathon tournaments to win prizes, etc. That's right, you too see the perfect replacement: German style boardgames. They have more strategy than the usual schlock sold at WalMart, but you are out $25-50, and you are done. Even better, you can talk your friends into buying a game to play, and you don't have to invest a dime to play it with them! I think the burgeoning interest in boardgames is as much a byproduct of the aging CCG community, as it is the increased production and quality we've seen arise in recent years. While crap CCG's continue to flood the market like a busted sewer pipe, endeavoring to squeeze every last remaining dollar out of the genre, they are also inadvertently feeding the boom of boardgames by those who are too old or too poor to keep up with the pace. So while I'd much prefer to see that cash go to good designs, be they boardgames or CCGs, if it creates a new gamer who may one day enjoy boardgames as much as me, I consider it a positive phenomenon.
Sean
King Mob on BGG

huzonfirst said...

As for the effects of CCGs on game stores, I can only refer to the examples I have direct experience with. My local FLGS opened in 1991, with a wide variety of standard board games, wargames, RPGs, and even a few German games. He also had several large tables in the back for customers to play games. The square footage to house all this was considerable and while I was enthusiastic about the selection, I couldn't see how he could possibly bring in enough revenue to pay the rent. What saved him, of course, was the appearance of Magic. Suddenly, this fellow had the perfect place to capitalize on the craze and far from going under, he expanded. His offerings expanded as well, including a very complete line of German designs. There's no way he could have managed this without the money the CCGs bring in.

I can't believe this is an isolated case. In fact, other game store owners have told me that they always need another big mover to allow them to carry the boardgames--CCGs, comics, or something.

I feel silly mentioning this, DW, since you've just ended more than two decades as a successful game store owner, but for some reason, the subject hadn't been broached, so I felt I should bring it up.

As for the copycat nature of CCGs, I'm sure it's true, just like it is with mainstream boardgames, television programs, movies, books, and just about any other creative field where there's lots of money to be made. It's a disturbing fact of life, but I wouldn't call it evil and it hardly seems limited to CCGs. I guess you could blame our economic system as easily as you can blame the suits who call the shots.

One final thought. When it comes to exposing other people to the hobby I love, I've found I have a lot more success with folks who play some sort of games, as opposed to complete non-gamers. It's at least possible, therefore, that the generation of young CCGers we're growing could give us a larger pool of prospective Eurogamers (or whatever other form of gaming you want to proselytize). I have no hard data to support this contention one way or the other, so I just mention it as something to think about.

DWTripp said...

I will certainly agree that CCG's can predispose some people to board games. I say "some" for a reason. If you can wrap your mind around the sheer volume of dollars that CCG's generate and then contrast that with how many people really become boardgamers because of CCG's, I think you'll conclude that it's isolated.

I suppose my real view on CCG's is they are a neccessary evil for many stores, as they generate cash that allows the store to stay afloat.

Huzonfirst mentions that fact and he's correct; CCG's do make it possible for many stores to stay alive and broaden their product mix. When I use the word "evil" I don't mean it as a literal evil, I mean it in a less negative but still annoying sense.

King Mob mentions the aging gamer who encourages their kids to play CCG's as a phenomena. It's real, I've seen it many times. That's one of the personally satisfying aspects of such a long tenure in retailing. Many people who were gamers and shopped with me in the early 80's were bringing their teens in in the late 90's and early oughts.

I kinda do, kinda don't agree with wargamer 66. I agree that my views are inconsistent, but that's me I suppose. I love the cash CCG's brought and I disliked the shallowness and transitory nature of the game and even the players.

Overall I would guess that CCG's have done less harm than good, but I still maintain that we witnessed a missed opportunity. Many, many millions were made and its still happening. Something long term in the arena of broadening board gaming's reach into the general public could have been done with those funds.

That's what I would have done with my $100 Million if it had been me.

Mike said...

Wolf, I gotta agree. CCG's pretty much sucked. Not because there were no good systems - because some were - but most sucked. It became about the 'collectability' of the game. 'oooh! I have the [insert lame name here] card! It's ultra-duper-rare! I now can't be beat!' Stategy stops being the primary driving force while luck and deep pockets take over. I play games to use strategy. No to prove I can spend more money than someone else.

That said - I do have a success story. My oldest wouldn't read. Hated it. Love Pokemon for some evil reason. So I used the cards as a parental bribe. He earn cards by reading, and periodically I upped the cost. Now, in Jr High, he is tops in his class, reads at the college level and thinks Pokemon/Digimon are the dumbest things he's ever heard of and I have a 6-7 inch stack of unopened Pokemon cards. He plays Settlers & Tsuro with us, and likes WarMachine and has expressed interest in WarHammer 40K (Ug. I am not a GW fan. Why was I not surprised to see 2 GW CCG's on you list?)
Another point, I think SEVERAL great game ideas were RUINED by making them into CCGs. As a boxed game many would have been very interesting. But by its very nature, a person never seems to have a 'complete' version of a CCG. I think the part I am bothered most by is the collectability.

Anonymous said...

My store closed about 2 years before the CCG craze but I am positive that it would still be around if it had survived until then.

A friend if mine that opened his store about 3-4 years after I closed told me that CCGs (M:TG in particular) paid all his bills and left him to grow other parts of his game store. Now he has a small section for CCGs (which still provide him with the income) and a large selection of broad and rpgs, both of which he pushes more.

Second story, a second friend, who worked at a third store explained to me that the CCGers were getting into Warhammer because, as they said "Shit, this stuff is cheap!"

So you can use the evil force to do good, it just takes some persistence.