The Amazing Staying Power of the TCG: Part 2

We’re back again for part two of our article on the reasons why we all love TCGs so much (you can find part one here) that we just won’t let them die! The big three have been around for 20 years and more, and smaller, newer TCGs are popping up all the time – some manage to stick around, some don’t – as well as all the card games that borrow elements from the TCG, and that exciting newcomer, the LCG! Read on to find out more …


The Collectingdownload

As previously mentioned several times, TCGs are great for collectors! The random booster format means that collecting a full set of cards is a difficult task, and people who enjoy collecting tend to gravitate to this kind of game. If you’re a collector, you’ll know the joy of finding that one missing item – it’s the same for a TCG collector who finds that rare card they don’t have yet in a random booster pack! Collectors pore over each others’ card folders, looking for cards to trade for; they scour the internet, looking for the best price on that must-have foil card; they swap and compare and hunt down and compete for them. Not every TCG player is a collector, but a very large amount of them probably are!


The Community

mtg-community1It’s not just a variety of cards that keeps the TCG going – it’s a variety of players, too! The most popular TCGs have a huge player base who will regularly attend in-store events and tournaments to play each other, and this is primarily what keeps the games alive. Magic: the Gathering, Pokémon and Yu Gi Oh all have organised play programs in place, and so do many of the smaller games. As well as keeping established players interested, these events also catch the interest of new players. And prize support rewards the best players, encourages competition, and gives newer players a reason to keep playing!
As well as organised events, the player community for most TCGs is very strong and welcoming. Players debate online about the merits of particular cards, ask each other for advice, recommend good places to attend events or arrange meet-ups to play. They offer help with rules questions, suggest trusted website to buy from, and of course, trade cards with each other! This welcoming community means a new player can walk into an event and make friends right away.


The New Model – No Boosters!

If there’s one criticism that gets levelled at TCGs over and over and over again, it’s that they’re so expensive to get into; in order to be competitive, you have to buy dozens, maybe even hundreds, of booster packs, just to get enough of the best cards to build a competitive deck. This is even taking into account the pre-constructed decks and intro packs that are available. Granted, not everyone wants to play competitively, but even just taking part in the relatively casual Friday Night Magic events, for example, is going to require at least a few of the best cards in rotation, simply because someone else there is bound to have some of them too. Most TCG players will shrink away from getting into a new TCG simply because of the cost of buying all those booster packs to get them started. Now, it’s not like you have to pay £40 – £60 outright for the game, like you do with many board games. One thing that can be said for the expense of TCGs is that you don’t have to pay out all at once! But the cost mounts: ask any avid TCG player how much they think they’ve spent on their cards and watch them shudder!
A solution to this problem came when Fantasy Flight Games came up with the ‘living card game‘ model (also called ‘expandable card game’ as FFG have trademarked the former). The LCG / ECG model is much the same as a TCG in gameplay terms, with players collecting cards and building decks of their own creation from them. The difference comes with the way the cards are marketed: there are no random boosters. The game is sold first as a core set, which includes all the available cards for the game. Then new expansion packs become available to expand upon the variety of cards – but each pack contains all the new cards. You might need to buy more than one copy of a pack if you want multiples of certain cards, but there’s nothing random about them – you always know what you’re getting, and you get at least one of everything. This makes the expense much easier to predict and control, and this has made it much easier for LCGs and ECGs to entice in new players. And these games get just as much support in the form of organised play and community as the traditional TCGs – FFG’s Organised Play events have become the highlight of the gaming calendar, with National, European and World Championships being held yearly for all of their most popular ongoing games. The secondhand market will never be as strong, of course, with all cards being available all at once to players – but everything else remains in place.

A regional championship kit for FFG's Game of Thrones LCG.



The Virtual Revolution

What good is it having loads of cards for a TCG if you don’t know anyone near you who plays it? The online gaming revolution fixed this problem. You can play all the biggest TCGs online, and there are several offline digital versions to choose from as well (Pokémon actually started its life as computer games). So while the physical games may have fallen out of sight for a while, with the virtual games available at the click of a button, they never have to be out of mind. This is probably what kept the TCG alive through that aforementioned slump.

The Pokémon Online Trading Card Game.


With all these points in mind, it’s pretty clear that while the TCG market may be particularly tough to break into, it’s a market that isn’t going anywhere. Add in the ECG market, and it’s only going to keep growing! So if you’re a TCG collector, take good care of those cards; they’re going to be relevant and possibly even valuable for a long time to come.

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Posted in Cardfight!! Vanguard, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Magic the Gathering, Netrunner, Other Games, Pokemon, The Spoils, WH40k : Conquest, World of Warcraft, Yu-Gi-Oh!
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