Every month or so I run across another miss-guided designer making a CCG (Collectible Card Game or Trading Card Game). So again, I’m writing a blog so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time. Let’s be clear, CCG is not a STYLE of play, it’s a distribution model. If you just want to make a game where you construct decks to play, then don’t call it a CCG.
I’ve been in this industry a long time… about 20 years now. In that time hundreds of CCGs have been made. Do you know how many CCGs have lasted more than 1 year’s time? Maybe a dozen or two tops. You know how many have made any significant money? About half that. How many have lost significant money? Hundreds. There is a reason Magic the Gathering is still the only profitable card game WOTC produces – did you know they had 14 other CCGs? How many can you name besides Pokemon and maybe Star Wars?
In today’s hobby gaming world the CCG label is more or less the kiss of death to any game. Even large companies with large marketing budgets with awesome licenses don’t make it. Why do you think you have a chance in hell?
– CCG’s are very costly to make. Tons of unique art is required and the manufacturing process (with random boosters) is very costly. You will end up printing huge amounts just to get the cost down. Now you’re stuck with a bunch of product you need to warehouse. Then there is the unique art that you need to commission for each card which will cost you $100-300 per card. CCG’s that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing have still utterly failed – do you have that kind of money? There is a saying, the fastest way to lose a million bucks is to spend it making a CCG in the hobby game industry. Others have before you. Literally.
– Publishers don’t like CCG’s. If you are attempting to pitch your game to a publisher to let them handle all the business aspects of your game, if they hear the word CCG they will go running fast in the opposite direction. If they don’t they’ll want you to change it from a CCG to some other distribution format anyway.,
– Backers do not like CCG’s. CCG’s rarely fund on Kickstarter (or other crowd-funding sites) and if they do it’s cause someone had an unrealistic goal and probably did it POD (print on demand). There is no quicker way to loose the interest of prospective backers then to tell them they have to buy your game multiple times to play it.
– Distributors do not like CCG’s. The distributors were burned back in the 90s with all the MTG clones. They had to eat a ton of debt. They won’t even talk to you if you say the word CCG.
– Game Stores do no like CCG’s. Stores have and continue to be burned by CCGs over and over. Sure a couple have a good run for a few months. Some regions have some success with one game or another. But overall almost all the retailers I know will not purchase a game that is branded and marketed as a CCG.
– Customers do not like CCG’s. The problem with a CCG is that you need critical mass for OP (Organized Play) and they are expensive. Customers don’t like having to buy something over and over again (eg. random cards). Most customers who enjoy this kind of competitive format already have a game of choice. They are not going to dump the thousands of dollars they spent on that game to try out yours.
– CCG’s are very hard to maintain. Players expect regular updates and releases. Do you have a team large enough to continue to release tested product on a regular basis? How long did it take you to make your current game? You’ll not have that time anymore. You’ll have just months or people will loose interest. How fast can you work out balancing issues? Oh and you know it takes 90 days to get your product printed and shipped – so you have to launch with the expansion ready to go. Do you have money for that too?
– CCG’s require OP (Organized Play). If you’re going to push on and make a CCG anyway, be aware that you must have a OP system in place with prize support and TO (Tournament Organizers) and the lot. OP is an integral part to these style of games to drive continued purchasing and trading.
Ask yourself why? Why will your game succeed as a CCG when so many others have failed? Other games have had great mechanics. Other games have had great art. Other games have had great characters and story. Other games have had huge licenses. Yet the vast majority have failed. WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) who has all the money, knowledge, and power behind it has had many failed CCG’s. FFG (Fantasy Flight Games) is one of the top 3 game companies in our industry, yet they gave up on CCG’s over 5 years ago. AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) doesn’t release new games as CCG’s anymore even though they have the 2nd oldest CCG maker in the industry. These are smart people and good companies.
So what do you do? Ever hear of the LCG (Living Card Game)? Ever hear of Dominion? Well these are two models that work well these days. The LCG name/brand is trademarked so you can’t use it, but the format is simple enough to mimic. You release a regular small static set of cards on a regular basis that people can use to augment their constructed decks. Sometimes called a ECG or XCG (Expandable Card Game). Dominion does this, just that it does it in large releases. Releasing their game in a board game box makes people assume a higher value due to the packaging and form factor.
If you feel your game needs the “deck construction” aspects of the format, then you really should try something other then rarity (which really doesn’t work anyway as people just get deck lists and buy singles) to make that work. Make sure your game/cards have multiple valid winning strategies so everyone isn’t playing the same deck. You can try assigning values to each card and allowing only a certain point total for your whole deck- this works with most miniatures games. Etc.
Another option is to take your game digital. But I would strongly argue that a great game in an online space is not the same as a great game on the table top. Take Shadow Era as an example, but there are many more. Go one way or the other then after your successful you can consider other options. WOW (World of Warcraft) card game is no longer being made as Cryptizoic and Blizzard both go to the digital format. Then there is SolForge from the designer of MTG which also is digital only.
I know every designer likes to think their game it unique and special and has a chance… well I bet you can say the same for most musicians out there. But how many actually become rock stars? I’m here to try to inject a bit of reality. Hopefully people will love your game – but the only realistic chance you have to find out is if you use a different distribution model then a CCG/TCG.
Best of luck and happy designing!
Are you part of the hobby game industry? If you are you should make sure you join one of the several groups I admin to help each other out.
Game Industry – https://www.facebook.com/groups/gameindustry/
Tabletop Game Publisher’s Guild – https://www.facebook.com/groups/TabletopPublishers/
Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice – https://www.facebook.com/groups/TabletopKickstarters/
Card & Board Game Designers Guild – https://www.facebook.com/groups/GameDesignersGuild/