There are tons of options when it comes to playing card games. Magic The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and the Pokémon trading card games dominate card shops and events worldwide, but a new form of these games has appeared online.
Video games like Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra, and more have risen to fill the card game craving in virtual space, and for a good reason.
There are a variety of reasons why in-person play has dwindled recently. For instance, most people need more time or money for a physical card game. Online card games allow these people to play with other players worldwide. Plus, it’s easy to play whenever you get the itch to slap some cards down!
One thing that isn't friendly to the players is purchasing cards. This was carried over from physical card games. Being able to trade physical cards helps alleviate some issues with card purchasing. This isn't present on most virtual TCG platforms.
Taking The “Trading” out of “Trading Card Games”
In the real world, cards are physical objects that can be bought, sold, obtained randomly from booster packs, or traded for cards of equal value from friends and other players at events.
These cards can hold serious value depending on their rarity, print, and quality. For instance, the infamous Black Lotus card from Magic the Gathering starts at around $10,000 for a well-worn copy.
$10k might seem like an outrageous amount of money to someone who doesn’t play card games. However, it’s what makes the difference between card games being a hobby to some and a job to others.
Physical trading cards have real value; collecting, trading, and selling these cards give the hobby some security. If you ever want to stop playing, you have something to sell to recoup the costs of getting into it.
Digital card games don’t have this benefit and actively seem harmful to players in the long run.
Magic The Gathering Arena, the mobile version of the famous card game, allows players to still sink money into it to purchase packs. These packs will provide the player with various random cards from a set, but they're all virtual at the end of the day.
You can’t trade or sell your cards (unless you want to sell the account they’re attached to, which usually comes with many strings attached). You can craft these cards using materials obtained in-game, but to get excellent or rare cards requires an incredible amount of time dedicated to the game.
With these games having hundreds of cards, collecting and growing a collection becomes tedious and frustrating. You want to play with your favorite cards, but getting them is a gamble and far more time and money-consuming than using unofficial alternatives or just playing with a webcam and friends.
That’s where the newfound hero of our story arrives: Marvel Snap.
This new Marvel card game had its full release only a few weeks ago. It has drastically changed how online card games provide their player base with the tools they need to feel competitive in their games. In doing so, they have created a monetization scheme that seems just as effective and less consumer-predatory than their peers.
Less Can Be More
While some card games have been around for decades, the Marvel Snap game is new, and that’s to its benefit.
The game currently has almost 250 cards, as opposed to most other card games like Hearthstone, which as of this writing, has nearly 4,000 cards. Additionally, players' decks consist of 12 cards; each game is anywhere from 4 to 7 turns to complete if neither player forfeits.
The low card and turn counts create a fun, fast gameplay loop in which players can maximize the fun on commutes or in minor downtime but can also sink a lot of time into it with little effort. If you know anything about mobile games, it should be that retention, or bringing people back and keeping them playing your game even in short bursts, is one of the best ways to increase revenue from it.
Have an idea for your own virtual TCG? Click here to get started on your own prototype!
Collection Level and Pools
Players don’t get cards from boost packs. Instead, the game relies on an entirely new method of obtaining cards in the card game genre– a collection level.
When you obtain a card in Marvel Snap, it starts at collection level 1. Each time you play a game, you will receive boosters for a random card in your deck at the end of the game, equal to the number of turns you played. Using those boosters and the soft currency of the game (credits), you can upgrade the rarity of your cards.
These boosters give that card a new colored border and some extra pizazz when you play it. Examples of this would be a character breaking from its frame, animated art, or a shiny logo of the character’s name. The boosters also increase your collection level.
Players will receive rewards for increasing this level at different intervals, ranging from boosters to credits to new cards. But those cards, again, aren’t random. They’re cultivated from three different pools of cards.
So, no matter what, by the time you reach pool two’s collection level, you’ll have all the same cards as other players of the same level. With all cards on the same level, everyone has the same options, and power creep is avoided. Power creep is an issue in other trading card games, where buying the best cards will make you unstoppable in lower rankings.
Cosmetics and Variants
Lastly, Marvel Snap approaches its cosmetics in a newer and more exciting way that encourages players to spend for fun instead of to win.
Variants are the game’s equivalent of costumes. Since all the cards in the game are well-known members of the Marvel universe, the game doesn’t have you spend cash to get the heavy hitters. Instead, you can spend the game's hard currency (gold) to purchase variants, alternate arts, and versions of those characters.
These don’t offer any mechanical benefit but can encourage players to purchase gold when they see a cooler art style in a variant available or entice them into buying the season pass the game offers to get more rewards to obtain said cosmetics. Additionally, each one of these variants has its collection ranking to improve independently of the original cards.
A Step In The Right Direction
Ultimately, solving every issue in online card games is difficult. Trading is easier to break and abuse in virtual space than it is to reproduce cards in the real world.
Sometime in the future, the servers of Marvel Snap could still shut down, leaving people who spent hundreds of dollars to speed up their progression with nothing but memories. But Marvel Snap is making interesting choices and moving in a better direction for monetizing online card games without sacrificing profits, and that’s a wonderful and exciting change for the industry's landscape.
Want to try Marvel Snap for yourself? Visit marvelsnap.com