marriedtothesea“To play or not to play? That is the question.” – A line I will borrow (and slightly edit) from our good friend William Shakespeare. Being a longtime Magic The Gathering player, I wondered if it would be worth it to ditch the physical card game and give it a go online. So, what was stopping me? The answer was a very easy one: Spending money.
It wasn’t the fact that I was spending money, but that I would be spending it on a virtual product. It would essentially be a deck of cards that doesn’t even exist. It’s hard to justify spending money on something that isn’t physically in your hands. But of course, my Magic crazed brain got the best of me.
That tough decision was made easy after taking a look at the model that Magic Online created. What MTGO provided was a key element to influence anyone to actively participate in a game: INCENTIVE. The “I” word has long been a part of what drives us as human beings, and it directly influences the daily decisions that we make. Why pump my precious paychecks into a game, when the return I’m getting is just “having fun”. It’s like playing poker without money. I’m not looking to just have fun (even though fun is an important aspect of any game). I’m a competitor. I want to win, and I want to win prizes if I’m going to spend money.
MTGO, in my opinion, provided me with the incentive to invest money into a “virtual” product. How did they do this you ask? The answer is tournaments! When participating in MTGO tournaments, a meager 2-person tournament victory awarded the victor 2 or 3 booster packs! Increase the tournament size and that number of booster packs increases! It was a challenge that I could not refuse.
But wait, there’s more. Check out the kinds of prizes MTGO is offering for the Magic Online Championship:
2011 Magic Online Championship
1st Place – $25,000 USD, one complete digital premium foil set, and one complete digital standard set
2nd Place – $17,000 USD, one complete digital premium foil set, and one complete digital standard set
3rd-4th Place – $9,000 and one complete digital standard set
5th-8th Place – $6,000 and one complete digital standard set
9-12th Place – $4,000 and one complete digital standard set
This may be a huge online championship tournament, but talk about the incentive!
Contrary to Magic’s prize pools (online and physical), national tournaments for the Pokémon Trading Game award scholarships to its winners. I will not argue that this prize is necessarily a bad one. With that said, I would like to point out that I believe this effectively pigeon holes the Pokémon Card Game because it explicitly targets a certain player age demographic (younger players).
Most players in their early – to late twenties (or older) will find investing into a deck, practicing their game play, and traveling to tournaments not simply worth it due to fact that the game will be awarding them prizes that are not of monetary value to them. But this does not hold them back and it is rather unfortunate for the players. This is because Pokémon doesn’t invest in these players or appreciate their contribution to the game.
Now, I’ve been playing the PTCGO since it was created. I’ve been through Closed Beta, I’m currently going through Open Beta, and you know what catches my eye the most? That little button on the screen that reads “Coming Soon – Tournaments”. That’s right…Tournaments (Incentive!).
It’d be unfair to compare MTGO to PTCGO at this point, but Magic certainly provides Pokémon with a model to follow. What I will say is this: Magic, both in the Online and physical games, provides the incentive that leads to (1) a greater number of players and (2) older players (let’s say above the age of 20). A trend I’ve been noticing lately is that older Pokémon TCG players are making the seemingly natural progression from Pokémon to Magic.
Certainly, some may argue that Magic involves a higher level of skill that these players may crave. However, at the same time, the incentive Magic provides compared to Pokémon, at this point in time, is much greater to an older player demographic.
Question: Do I want to win thousands of dollars (Magic) or do I want to win a scholarship that I can’t use because I’m not in college anymore Pokémon?
The answer is an easy one to me, Magic. But (for better or worse) my heart will always remain with Pokémon.
That is why it is imperative that PCTGO offers the right amount of incentive to encourage players of all ages to keep playing. The key lies in PTCGO s ability to create a tournament format online that emulates the physical game. An online format which features a series of tournaments throughout the year that will culminate with the epic “PTCGO Championships” with the winner being awarded a sizeable cash prize.
Note: I’m not trying to take away that glorious feeling of winning a tournament or simply having fun. But let’s face it, we would prefer that there are some nice prizes involved, and Pokémon has been long overdue to increase us old and new players’ incentive to stay in the game. With PTCGO, the goal should be to attract as many players as possible, and I think some great prizes would do just that.
That fact of the matter is that PTCGO has an incredible opportunity to capture a huge market of Pokémon card players and at the moment it doesn’t seem like they’re doing a good job. Interest has waned and prices of code cards have plummeted from over $1 to a mere 50 cents. The only way to influence people to invest their money and interest into a virtual product is with incentive! You show me the prizes (not to mention lack of bugs in the game would help too), and I’ll show you an investment in PTCGO. Let’s hope that they get it right! Thanks for reading!