The lights are on
I'm trying hard not to become a stereotypical old guy. I've given up CDs for MP3s. I read ebooks. I don't mind purchasing games through digital distribution services. Why then can't I abandon paper collectible card games for the new digital titles that are so much fun to play?
I almost buried myself in Sony Online's PoxNora a few years ago. The title is a digital collectible miniatures game with units that level up across matches. The progression system is something that would be hard to integrate in a physical game.
I've dabbled in a couple of newer games, and I've only barely escaped with my wallet intact. Ubisoft's Might and Magic Duel of Champions is a creative application of the turn-based strategy property. Stoneblade Entertainment's SolForge (created by the minds behind the popular Ascension deckbuilding game, with input from Magic: The Gathering's father, Richard Garfield) is a brilliant blend of deck-building game and CCG. Both of these titles incorporate systems that wouldn't be easy to implement at the table. So, what's my problem?
The answer is simple: I'm scared of my investment disappearing. I've spent a lot of money in Magic: The Gathering. I don't currently play regularly, but any time I want to pick it up or teach someone the game, I have my decks right here. No matter what happens with it, even if Wizards of the Coast were to pull the plug (something unlikely to happen any time soon) I will always have my cards.
The same isn't true of Duel of Champions, SolForge, or any other digital-only CCG. The publisher could shut off the game with minimal notice and no recourse for players.
Sure, this isn't entirely unlike other free-to-play games or other microtransaction-based affairs. But something feels very different about building a collection that isn't really mine. Maybe it's the blind-buy aspect of opening booster packs. Perhaps its the emotional investment on top of the cash that goes into crafting the perfect the deck.
My feelings were cemented a few days ago when EA announced that Battleforge, its collection-based real-time strategy is being sunset. The game has been around for four years, but the player base has dwindled due to flagging support from EA. When the servers are turned off, all of the cards purchased by players disappear forever.
It's easier to look at an MMO subscription fee, a League of Legends skin, or even a power-up in a free-to-play game as a sunk cost. If Microsoft abandons the current avatar gear, I won't weep for the money I've spent dressing my mini-me as an Assassin or a Big Daddy.
Collections are different. They are personal and, in many cases, unique. The way the pieces fit together to make an individually-tailored whole is deeply personal. CCG players pour themselves into their decks, and the idea that those can disappear on a whim is enough to put me off.
I know I might be missing out on some experiences because of my trepidation. I know that my approach is likely to be considered old fashioned. But until I know that my Hearthstone collection is as safe as my Magic: The Gathering decks, I'll be sitting on the sidelines.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
I've been playing the official Pokemon TCG Online. They practically throw decks and cards at you, and then you can buy the physical versions that come with codes to unlock decks and booster packs in the online game...so, it's a win-win. You get the actual cards and online decks to challenge computers and other people with.
I've never been big into card games. I used to play Magic, and I had a small stint with Yu-Gi-Oh. I did, however, collect Pokemon cards. I never played the game and I don't think I ever figured out how, but collecting the cards was a blast. I agree with you that a lot of the fun and attachment is in collecting the cards and knowing that they're yours forever. It would be hard to purchase digital cards knowing that they'll disappear whenever a developer pulls the plug.
I'm the same way Mike. I'd rather have the cards in hand and collect them that way than have them digital. So I understand completely.
I started playing MTG 3 years ago. I could never switch to a digital collectable game. As small as it is I love the physical collection I have. I love having my rares and mythics in a binder I can flip through and show people. And like you said, who knows how long til they're gone? Even if it is a few years, its silly to think they'll be around forever. I'm not even interested in MTG videogames for the same reason. So I feel much the same.
I've never been a card game guy myself, so I just avoid it altogether.
I have never played/owned a DCCG. Only came here because Mike is the Author. And after reading this piece, I guess I never will.
I agree completely - I don't play MTG as regularly as I did but I always bring a deck if I'm traveling with someone who plays and MTG is one of the few things I can play with another person if the power or my internet connection goes out.
I tried to play MTG online and its not even as fun with Digital cards. There is something about playing a few rounds of Magic at your kitchen table that just can't be replicated online -maybe its the fact that you can't see your opponent, so you can't see their face when you destroy their last land or bluff a counter spell by keeping mana untapped.
I have a large MTG collection and can build pretty much whatever type of deck I feel like, if I switched to digital I'd have to buy all those cards again and the experience isn't the same.
never been into card games somehow ( mostly too broke or lazy to learn) but its a fully understandable reason to stay away from digital versions
So you have the same problem I have with all MMO games. I like owning what I buy and not losing what I worked for. If I play these games I play for free, which kinda contributes to the problem of keeping the game profitable, but hey, I don't have money to throw at such things.
Why play digital when you can get your hands on tangible, eh?
I am generally on the fence about DLCs and I am generally against paying real money for a digital item thats for one particular game.
I enjoy the card games in part of a larger game like fallout new vegas or even Rage (yea I get that they don't have the depth as a dedicated card game) but I don't see myself buying cards and booster packs to build my deck with real money.