The second coming of collectible games?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 31 October 2013, 4:05 am
Most people know me as a blogger about MMORPGs. But if you look at my avatar on my blog, that is actually an image which dates back to my previous activity on the Magic the Gathering Online forums. It is photoshopped from my avatar on those forums and a MtG card, and was given to me as a prize for winning a forum poll on who was the most helpful contributor to the forums. I have spent most of the 90's playing Magic the Gathering in paper form, and was a judge at one World Championship. So my background is as much collectible card games as it is about MMORPGs, only that the former is less well known.

I am telling all this because of Hearthstone. I am not in the closed beta and didn't have opportunity to try it yet. But I couldn't help but notice that there is a strong buzz around the game. I consider it extremely likely that Hearthstone will be Blizzards next big thing. While Wizards of the Coast more or less botched the implementation of the online version of Magic the Gathering, and many companies had mixed success with online collectible card games, I do believe that making a great online collectible card game is playing right to Blizzard strengths: Taking known concepts and polishing them to a great game.

Furthermore collectible card games work extremely well with another modern fashion: Free2Play games. Even Mojang is considering changing Scrolls to Free2Play. The collectible cards business model is well established since the 90's, and accepted by most people, although it always had a whiff of Pay2Win to it. It is a lot easier to make an online game from a franchise that always had people pay for more stuff, than to convert something that used to have a different business model into Free2Play (e.g. EA's new Dungeon Keeper which is Free2Play, and heavily criticized for it by the fans of the old game).

Assuming Hearthstone works well and is very profitable, what do you think will happen? As always other companies will try to clone the concept, or use it with some modification. Magic the Gathering spawned a multitude of similar games, and Hearthstone will probably do the same. Selling collectibles is inherently extremely profitable, just look at the success of Skylanders. A wave of games with collectible content may well be on the horizon. Maybe I will even get the MMORPG with collectible card elements I have been talking about for a decade.
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