Saturday, January 19, 2013
Why "TCGs As Toys" Is Destroying The Industry.
Ah, Trading Card Games. I've been playing them for about half my life; the thrills of collecting and trading, and of course winning, which has caused me to be a fan of Trading Card Games for so long. However, since I have aspirations to join the market, I am equally fascinated by the failures and boy, are there a lot of failures.
But why are there so many failures? Despite hundreds of Trading Card Games , or "TCGs", having been made, only three: Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh, have had broad success and define the industry. Many card games are naturally pale imitations of those three and crumble within their first two years.
video overview of trading card games likely cost a penny to print, but if I had obtained it while the game was still big, I could have sold it for about a hundred bucks. Producing something for a penny and selling it for a hundred dollars is the dream of every manufacturer ever; It's why the illegal drug market is so big, and why so many Trading Card Games have been produced.
But lately, the industry has been laying some real stinkers. Expensive, colossal stinkers.
The result was store shelves engulfed with immobile Redakai merchandise that could not sell even when marked down by seventy-five percent and a "Buy one, get two free" incentive at the same time.
However, I have developed a hypothesis as to why Redakai was so bad. I also believe that other companies such as Jakks Pacific and their property Monsuno as well as Hasbro with Kaijudo have been caught by this pitfall.
They had the wrong mindset from the very beginning. They thought of Trading Card Games as Toys.
Now, I know what you're thinking: Why not think of TCGs as toys? They're put in the toy section and they're sold in toy stores, right?
Right, but I believe the problem is that when a typical company hears the word "Toy", they think "ages five to twelve".
Now, the Bread and Butter of a Trading Card Game is Organized Play, where gamers get together, trade, battle, and often buy large numbers of cards to stimulate the game. The Bread and Butter of Organized Play is teenage and adult men. These are people with big allowances and jobs who can afford such a hobby.
By labeling Trading Card Games as "Toys", companies with little experience at making them lock-on to the wrong demographic; If you pander your game only to kids five to twelve, you might sell some cards, but teens and adults not only have more money to spend on cards, but care more about getting the latest and greatest so that they can stay on top of the metagame, the constantly-evolving tiers of power within the game's universe.; You won't get very far if you target five-year-old kids who have no money and barely know how to read.
Kids are a periphery demographic. This even applies to merchandise-driven card games; If your supporting material is unappealing to older gamers, you don't stand a chance. Give your tie-in TV show some pathos and an interesting plot line that teens and adults can get into.
Yu-Gi-Oh, despite being a guilty party in this notion of TCGs as Toys, the darker and more intriguing seasons of it tend to be the most popular and attract those who are drawn in by its engaging story, despite what 4kids Entertainment does to it. When the game attempted a more light-hearted and kid-pandering approach with Yu-Gi-Oh GX, the fans revolted and the game entered a Dark Age.
Having a smart, well written show not only draws in older viewers, but makes kids feel older and smarter, too, and kids love that feeling. Batman The Animated Series and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, despite not being related to TCGs, have these qualities.
The first step that large corporations have to make is to stop thinking about TCGs as toys, then we can form the proper mindset.
But you should still have a sense of taste. Remember, I defined kids as a periphery demographic, not something to be ruled out. A periphery demographic is a group of people who you don't specifically target, but end up liking your creation anyway. Kids are the most common periphery demographic for trading card games, the other most common one is women, and both deserve to be given attention.
The proper mindset to have is to make something that appeals to teenage and adult men, but keeps the child and female demographics on the table, so that your retain your sense of decency. The bottom of your target age range should be about ten years old (I started TCGs when I was twelve); young enough that you need to keep it clean and affordable, but old enough that you can make decently complex strategy and throw in some tantalizing bits on occasion while writing smart supporting media. The movies Star Wars and Marvel's The Avengers are fantastic examples of this done right.
And, of course, it has to be smooth-playing and fun. Gimmicks or a connection to other media is not a crutch you can use to prop up a badly-designed card game. The game needs to be fun to play on its own in order for it to work with the tie-in making sense and strengthening an already good game. I'll cover some good ways to do this in my next article. Games that list a gimmick that has no effect on game play as a selling point such as lenticular images should be eyed warily.
If you do this right, you can make a franchise that appeals to teenage and adult men, but is safe enough that stores and networks would be willing to carry it for you, since it's still acceptable for kids. You might not think of TCG's as Toys anymore, but a large part of the retail side still does.
Let's take a look at the mindset used when creating Redakai. First of all, Redakai was developed as a "toy", mistake number one. As a result, their supporting TV shows and other media such as toys and gimmicks were aimed at young children who lacked the money to actually buy the cards and drove away older fans who were turned-off by such pandering. Their "TCG as Toy" mindset, caused them to aim too low. They also relied on the "Blast 3-D" lenticular gimmick and the transparent cards, which had consequences of their own, and we will get into in this article about some basics of TCG development: http://kohdokstoyreviews.blogspot.com/2013/01/trading-card-games-part-2-design-and.html
Until then, this is Kohdok signing off.