Further Inspection

The PTCGO vs. Hearthstone Article, Part Two
computer kid brent rambogiphy.com
Ok … maybe I could have tested PTCGO more. And now I have!

Over the years I’ve written quite a few articles, but probably my most controversial was a comparison between PTCGO and Hearthstone. The feedback I got on that article ranged from “a beautiful, well-written piece” to “poorly-written trash.” The overwhelming criticism from people who didn’t enjoy the article was that they felt like I had a very vast knowledge of Hearthstone but lacked the same depth of understanding from the most recent version of PTCGO.

When I originally wrote the article, I was an avid Hearthstone player mainly due to my frustration with PTCGO. I hadn’t picked up the program in over a year at the time and I had missed some updates. I will stand behind the article, and many of the things I felt Hearthstone had done very well I found still lacked in PTCGO. However, I will admit that I might not have given PTCGO its fair shake.

Several months after the article, I did attempt to get back into PTCGO. However, I had a very hard time getting into the program and enjoying it due its numerous bugs and glitches. I really do love the game of Pokémon, but I found myself having a hard time immersing myself in the software.


All of this brings me to the current day and a new drive to finally write the PTCGO vs. Hearthstone article, part two. I’ve been retired from the Pokémon scene for over two years now and the truth of the matter is I really miss the game and — more importantly — I really miss the community. This has made me realize that on some level I want to get back into the game. The very sad truth of growing up is that I won’t be able to devote the same level of time, travel, and energy to the game that I was able to when I was younger. However, I also feel like I’m in a place right now where I’m fine with that. There is something to be said about being able to enjoy a tournament and the experience without putting a ton of pressure on oneself to get a Worlds invite.

The original Hearthstone versus PTCGO article was written from the Hearthstone perspective, so for part two I think it’s best that I write it from the perspective of PTCGO. The program has a come a long ways and I’m really excited about many of the changes. This article will be very open and honest about the pros and cons of each program.

I’ve done my best to remove any personal biases that I might have from this article. I really do enjoy both games for very different reasons. I in no way want to argue one game is better than the other because that not how I feel. My intention is simply to look at the platforms through which these amazing games are delivered to all of us players.

Things to Realize / Setting the Groundwork

Before I dive into the article there are a few underlying points I want to discuss and I feel are important to establish.

1. I love online gaming and I feel it is the future as far as gaming goes. There could be a very long discussion involving whether or not this is a good thing, with talking points around human interaction, screen time, etc. The truth is though, the convenience of being in your own home and finding a game whenever you want is amazing. There is no traveling, no scheduling conflicts, and relatively minimal costs. In the last eight or so years, we’ve seen many online games really rise in popularity such as World of Warcraft, Magic: the Gathering, League of Legends, Hearthstone, and of course PTCGO.

2. People only have so much free time and/or money and numerous options on how to spend it. Even if somebody only spends their free time playing online games, they’re still competing against every other major online game for their time and money. The “love it or leave it” attitude doesn’t work in today’s world.

3. If you’re a free-to-play player, then understand free-to-play games are not designed for you. Every single company that puts out a free-to-play game has a ton of costs behind that game. A quick Google search shows that the average salary of a computer programmer is $76,140 per year. That’s just for a single person. Think about the costs for a company to employ a whole team, maintain servers, cover rent, pay upkeep, etc.

I’m not saying that as a free-to-play gamer you aren’t important to the system. But it is important that you understand that free-to-play games have to cater to those who put money into the game instead of those who don’t. This may mean you’ll have a slower time unlocking cards, content, or perhaps even part of the game won’t be accessible to you at all. While these things may be frustrating, they are essential to the longevity of the game.

I’m a very casual League of Legends player, and over the course of my two years playing the game on and off, I’ve probably put $40 into the game. This unlocked a few champions, but I’ve also had to be patient to save up for other champions I’ve wanted. I also own only two skins and I’m really not willing to spend money to get more. As a casual player, it’s just simply not worth the financial investment to me.

That being said, I don’t look down or get angry at people who have all of the champions unlocked or a ton of skins because they spent money on the game. In fact, it’s the opposite; I’m very thankful to these players because they are the ones who are truly supporting the game. My measly $40 over two years is a very small contribution to the company. These people with $400-$500+ accounts who are constantly buying new champions and skins are really what support the company.

4. Hearthstone was designed to be an online card game while Pokémon was designed to be a physical card game. This means that PTCGO is more likely to have complications than Hearthstone. While designing Hearthstone cards, the development team can take programming into consideration. This means they can avoid concepts or interactions that would be difficult to program into the game. The PTCGO team, on the other hand, gets handed the cards of the physical game and is told to make them work in the virtual game. They have no ability to adjust cards or game interactions since the physical card game is already set in stone.

5. The purpose of this article is not to say that Hearthstone is a better game than Pokémon or vice versa. Personal preferences and interest levels will play heavily into which game you like better. The purpose of this article is to compare and contrast the two games and their delivery to the player. A person can feel Xbox One has better games but believe that PlayStation 4 is the better system for various reasons.

What I Love About PTCGO

Over the last couple of years PTCGO has come along way and there are a lot of things I love about the program. There are also some things that I feel PTCGO has or does better than Hearthstone.

Tournaments

ptcgo tournamentspokemon.com
Tournies have been fast and fun.

Since my return to PTCGO, I’ve played in two online tournaments and managed to win both of them. Each one finished up in around 30 minutes and the transition between games was flawless. I was able to access other areas of the program and it would give me a 60-second heads-up before the next game started.

It sounds really dumb, but I remember getting almost nervous before my first finals. There was actually something on the line. Had I lost, it wouldn’t have ruined my night or anything like that, but the tournament brought a feeling of competitiveness to the program. The lack of competitive feeling was one of my major complaints about the program previously. The competitive feeling, tournament structure, risk (tournament entry fee), disappointment, and reward are all present in the tournament feature and give newer players some of the feeling of tournament play with a low-risk threshold.

Not having a tournament feature is something that Hearthstone players have been disappointed about for quite some time. I would love to see even more from the tournament feature in the future. Features I would love to see would be private 8-man tournaments (so players can set them up with their friends). I also think it would be really cool for Pokémon to run large-scale online tournaments and even get to a point where there is an online tournament circuit.

Deck Slots

PTCGO allows a player to have unlimited decks (or at least I haven’t hit a cap yet). Hearthstone, on the other hand, limits a player to only 18 slots.

I’m one of those guys who when perfecting a list will have 2 or 3 copies of the deck — all within a card or two — and I don’t want to have to go in and make those few changes every time I play. I also love to have some “fun decks” or challenge decks. The more I think about it, I just like to have a lot of decks built in general. On PTCGO I love not having to find something to delete every time I build a new deck.

Ladder Rewards

My other biggest complaint about the program (aside from lack of competitive feel) was that it gave a player absolutely no incentive to play the game. Yeah, sure you earned a few coins here and there, but their overall value felt low. When I started the program back up, one of the things that excited me the most was to see that PTCGO had an entire rewards system.

Essentially how it works is you earn 5 points for a loss, 10 points for a win, and 15 points for a win that had your opponent as favored. Each “ladder” lasts for three weeks and rewards start at 10 points and go all the way up to 2,000 points. I’ve been playing semi-consistently for the last four days and I’m sitting somewhere around 700 points. With 21 days and a decent amount of play, the 2,000 mark is pretty realistic for anybody, but at the same time it’s a big enough goal that a player would have to play pretty consistently over those 21 days.

I think the PTCGO ladder reward system has a few advantages over its Hearthstone counterpart’s. Hearthstone just gives out gold which in turn you can buy packs with (an incredibly slow process by the way) or enter the Arena (draft mode) while PTCGO has a wide variety of rewards ranging from packs, coins, cards (I’d love to see this in Hearthstone), and a variety of other prizes. I also really like how PTCGO shows your ranked progression for what you’ve earned and how close you are to the next tier. There have been several times where I’ve been ready to call it a night only to play a few more games trying to reach the next tier.

Giving people a reason to come online and play on a regular basis is something that PTCGO had lacked originally. Their ladder reward system is huge step forward and encouraging continual play.

The other very subtle thing that PTCGO does is it gives a combination of visible and invisible rewards to work toward. What I mean by that is sometimes the player knows exactly what he or she is getting. For example, Lucario-EX is 2,000 points. A player knows once they get 2,000 points exactly what their reward is going to be. The problem this creates is if the player has no interest in Lucario-EX, then they have very little incentive to ladder. However, PTCGO scatters in random rewards as well, such as packs or mystery gifts where the player isn’t entirely sure of what they are getting. It creates this “well I could get” thinking that will drive players to earn those rewards.

In-Game Store

PTCGO has a full online shop where players can spend their coins on a variety of different products like packs, sleeves, starters, etc. I absolutely love the variety of products the store offers. The Hearthstone store is very linear in the sense you either buy packs, alternative hero art, or additional content.

In the future I would love to see the store grow and offer additional items that can be bought. It’s a tough balance between having a variety of products and not having an overly difficult to navigate/cluttered store.

Customization

I think it’s cool to see all of the little things the game lets you choose and personalize. Starting off, a player can design their own avatar with a lot of options on how to make them look and dress. Next, the game gives the players a lot of choices on their coins, sleeves, and even deck boxes.

In the future I’d like for age to become more of a factor with the avatar although I understand Pokémon not wanting an individual to hint at that information. I’d of course like to see more options for the avatar and other accessories. I think they’re all great things to have in store and allow players to spend their in-game money on.

What I Sorta Like About PTCGO

Trading

The trading feature on PTCGO is something that I keep going back and forth on. As a player of the game, I absolutely love the concept of the trading feature. However, I’m not sure whether it’s good for the game. I think it’s very important to understand that liking a feature and having it be good for the game are not mutually exclusive ideas. Often the player might love an idea such as getting five free packs a day; however, giving away so many packs would be bad for the game. What must be done is striking a balance between having a happy customer and having that customer continue to spend money on your program. Once again both Hearthstone and PTCGO are businesses with costs.

Growing up I did a lot of online trading on sites like PokéGym. A part of me really enjoyed that “business” aspect and making deals. As I grew up I really think that helped me out being able to negotiate deals and then follow through on them. It also teaches that you can’t have everything and sometimes you have to give something up to have something else. It also allows people to more easily get the cards they are looking for or trade cards they don’t want for cards they do. These are all reasons I love trading on PTCGO.

That being said though, the trading feature is probably not good for the profit of the game. The idea behind any company should be to get players to buy their product. By allowing players to easily and openly trade cards, they are allowing players to acquire the cards they want without investing more in the game.

Also, at this point, I don’t think they have many options. The program just isn’t big enough or successful enough to remove a trading feature without receiving noticeable backlash from the community.

Hearthstone was successful in their non-trading feature because that’s how the program was launched and it is generally accepted by the community. There would be huge backlash within the Hearthstone community as well if they started off with a trading feature and then attempted to remove it. As somebody who loves golden cards, I would love to see a trading feature in Hearthstone. A part of me tears up every time I dust an extra copy of a super playable legendary just because I have nothing else I can do with it. However, I understand the reason Hearthstone is so financially successful is because players constantly have to buy packs.

It’s pretty clear that the trading feature on PTCGO has to stay. Over the last few years PTCGO has made leaps and bounds in its effort to improve trading within the program. However, I still feel there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I think everybody can agree the biggest issue is the clutter of extremely one-sided trades. Offers like my common for your Shaymin-EX, and this isn’t just one or two random offers; there are a ton of them. I wish I had a good solution to suggest, but I really don’t have one.

The other thing I feel would an important step for PTCGO (though I realize I’m probably in the minority on this) is to encourage players to open packs instead of just trading them. The only real currency of the program is the trading of packs. I personally think it would be better for the game and the company (by the sale of packs) if players had more encouragement to open packs and trade cards. The only feasible way I can come up with though is to remove booster packs from the trading feature.

Chat

Let me start off by saying I love the chat feature as a 26-year-old who has pretty thick skin. But I don’t know if the chat feature translates well into the family-friendly environment Pokémon is looking for. Most of my chat instances have been pretty friendly, normally just conversations about card counts or asking about bad Prizes. However, let me give a few examples of some of my other chat conversations.

speed checked by radarreddit.comThe first comes from a guy who told me I was winning just because I was getting lucky and that he was just going to sit there until time ran out making me wait the whole 20+ minutes. I was sitting in my living room watching MASH on Netflix while I played, so I started telling the guy about the show, explaining the characters, and then talking about some of my favorite episodes. He eventually got tired and conceded his losing board state. Really sad because it’s a great show and he is missing out. This sort of interaction could have been frustrating or hurtful to other players. While I got a good laugh out of it, this type of interaction doesn’t foster the Spirit of the Game TPCi is big on.

The next chat I had was with a young kid trying to talk to me like one of his classmates, asking me what my favorite color was, my favorite Pokémon, how old I was, etc. Just by what the kid was saying I could tell that he was very young, probably around the age of 10. I tried to be polite but not really get into a conversation with him. It kind of felt like Chris Hansen was going to walk in at any moment. As a mature adult I felt like I handled the situation well, but it worries me that so many mean people on PTCGO might have interactions with a kid like that. Clearly he was just a young kid who enjoys playing and talking about Pokémon. Now imagine if he got in a chat with somebody who constantly talked about how much he sucked and how bad his deck was. What would that do to his confidence and opinion of Pokémon?

Like it or not, online keyboard warriors are out there and they can be mean and harsh. They feeling confident saying things behind a screen that they would never say in real life. People who find the online game before getting into the physical game can have a preconceived notion of what the Pokémon community is like before they even really know it. If a player has bad experiences on PTCGO, they won’t be very likely to want to enter the physical card game.

Personally I vastly favor the Hearthstone approach to communication. During games players are limited to six emotes (short phrases spoken by the hero). They are “Greetings,” “Well Played,” “Thanks,” “Wow,” “Oops,” and a g-rated threat like “I’ll destroy you.” Each hero speaks slightly different variations of these. Generally these phrases are used as intended by saying things like “Well Played” after the game, but they can also be used to taunt the opponent by saying things like “Well Played” after your opponent makes a huge mistake. Sure, it’s slightly annoying to be taunted by one of these six emotes, but it’s considerably less abusive than an open chat.

hearthstone emoteshearthstone.gamepedia.com
“Greetings, traveler.”

Hearthstone, like PTCGO, also has a friend feature where you can add or remove friends with ease. If somebody is on your friends list you can have unrestricted chat. This is great for people who truly want to discuss a good game or add somebody they want to test with in the future. However, it’s all by both players’ choice.

I know PTCGO has a feature to turn off the chat feature and parental settings that will do it as well. That being said, I know a lot of parents who simply don’t or don’t know they can. Not to mention I hate playing a game where my opponent won’t shut up about how lucky I’m getting while ignoring either their own luck or not appreciating the small plays I’m making to put myself in a situation where I can get lucky.

What I’m trying to say is that I feel chat is an important feature in any game and helps to build relationships or allows people to enjoy the game better with their real-life friends. However, I prefer the Hearthstone approach of allowing players to choose if they want to enter into a chat versus the PTCGO approach of having a chat unless they opt out of it. With the vast majority of younger players playing PTCGO, I feel it’s the better approach. It would also lighten the amount of complaints that that PTCGO staff have to follow up on.

What I Dislike About PTCGO

Deck Types Shown Before Games

ptcgo matchup deck typesThis may seem really minor, but it can have a pretty major impact on how people play. Let’s say I’m entering into a game where I’m going first and my opponent flips over Shaymin-EX. It’s an incredibly generic start by my opponent and tells me nothing about his or her deck. Let’s say the program showed me their types were Psychic/Lightning. Alright, educated guess tells me it’s so I Jirachi-EX and grab Ghetsis. Let’s take the same situation, but my opponent’s type is Dark, so based on my hand I might prioritize setting up 2 Yveltal-EX instead.

I’ve had a handful of games where just knowing the types has pretty dramatically affected how I played my first turn. I just don’t see a point in showing the types; in tournaments players wouldn’t have this information either. People would never have this sort of early information in real life, so giving it in the game is doing a disservice to players.

Nothing to Do with Extra Untradeable Cards

A player only needs 4 copies of a card since that’s the maximum amount they can play in a deck. Extra copies of really good cards are easily traded in the game, but what about all of those pesky bad commons and uncommons?

In real life I’d take extra copies of all of my bad commons and uncommons and sell them as bulk. I’d love to see something similar for PTCGO. Perhaps something where they can be easily traded in for coins, packs, or perhaps even some sort of bulk trading system (that’s probably a little too complex though). I only rattled off a few quick things that came into my head and I’m sure there are more, but the point is there needs to be something players can do with their bulk.

Lack of Full Screen Mode

A big thing to me is the ability for a program to completely immerse the player into the game. While not being able to go full screen may seem like a very minor thing, it does hinder the player’s ability to really become immersed within the program.

Reverse Holo Cards

Personally I’m not a big fan of reverse holos in the physical card game. Over time they tend to warp and they can be hard to look at during a long day of Pokémon. However, I understand why some people really love playing reverse holos and even try to reverse holo out their whole deck. Reverse holos really shine, they’re bright, and they stand out.

Here is a reverse holo Ducklett I thought looked amazing and this is just a picture. Compare that to the PTCGO version. You can barely even tell the card is reverse holo, and most importantly it doesn’t have that same standout “wow” factor the physical Ducklett does.

ducklett dex reverse holoebay.com

ducklett dex rh spanish@YoshiTCG

Now let’s compare the normal and golden versions (golden is the equivalent of reverse holo) of Hearthstone a card:

ragnaros the firelordhearthpwn.com

ragnaros the firelord goldenhearthpwn.com

Clearly I don’t want nor do I think it’s necessary for PTCGO to turn around and copy Hearthstone’s golden cards. The point I want to get across though is how amazing the golden cards look. You just look at it and you’re like “wow that is awesome.” Everything from how bright it is and how much it stands out, to the very subtle flames swirling around the character. That first reaction of “wow” is what I would hope PTCGO could capture in its own way. Not only would that be great for the players, but it would push sales as more people got more interested in having these awesome new reverse foils. Just think of how in demand and how much people are willing to spend on full arts.

Personally I would like to see them go back to early days of reverse foils when they looked like the reverse holo Dark Tyranitar below. Believe it or not, this card is a non-holo rare and this is the reverse foil variation of it. You can even see the lightning bolt in the background shimmer.

dark tyranitar rocket returns 10 reverse holoebay.com

I would love for the reverse holo pattern to be switched back to these classic days moving forward. However, I’m assuming they changed the pattern either due to it being cheaper or to switch things up. I don’t know if they would be willing to switch the pattern for PTCGO, but I’d love to have them do it.

What I Dislike About Hearthstone

While writing this article I’ve attempted to be as unbiased as possible with both programs. I’ve taken some time to talk about things I’d like to see changed in PTCGO and now I’d like to talk about my issues with Hearthstone.

Rarity Scheme of Golden Cards

The basic rarity scheme of Hearthstone I like quite well. Each Hearthstone pack contains 5 cards with at least 1 of them being a rare or greater. A Hearthstone website similar to Wikipedia has the pull rates listed as follows:

hearthstone pack percentageshearthstone.gamepedia.com

This chart was made by Steve Marinconz who published the results on June 5, 2014. He figured all of the odds himself, but the data was collected from 1,000 packs opened by streamers. While my sample size is probably a bit smaller, I’ve found these ratios to be pretty close to my pulls. Other statistics calculated by Marinconz:

  • The chances of getting a pack with any 5 legendary cards is one in a million
  • The chances of getting a pack with any 5 golden legendary cards is 1 in 3.2 billion
  • There’s a 0.4% probability of getting 2 legendaries in a single pack
  • The probability of getting a pack with only one common card is about ~0.80%
  • There’s a 16.26% probability of getting a pack with any golden card
  • Only 2.19% of common cards were golden, while 7.69% of legendaries were

I really enjoy the fact that Hearthstone has “god” packs. The chance at getting 5 legendaries in a pack is astronomically stacked against you, but you still have that “what if” feeling. That “what if” feeling is something I think is incredibly important for card games. It’s also one of the things that makes the lottery so successful.

Now let’s take a look at the odds of pulling a golden card. This information is taken from Amaz, who is a very popular streamer in the Hearthstone community. This is from one of his pack openings where he opened 400 packs. This is a very small sample size, but semi-close to my personal experience:

  • Golden Common: 1 in 13.7 packs
  • Golden Rare: 1 in 13.3 packs
  • Golden Epic: 1 in 80 packs
  • Golden Legendary: 1 in 200 packs

Overall odds of getting a golden card: 1 in 5.9 packs

Looking at the individual odds, they look pretty bleak, but the overall odds don’t seem too bad. However, to put this in Pokémon terms, this is only about 6 golden cards per 36-pack booster box.

The other issue is the crafting/disenchanting cost of these cards:

hearthstone crafting dusthearthstone.gamepedia.com

Personally, what I would like to see done is increase the odds of pulling a golden card to 1 in 4 packs. Next, decrease the crafting cost to something like 300, 600, 1200, 2500, and then decrease the disenchanting cost accordingly.

From a company perspective, players who don’t care about golden cards will disenchant them anyway regardless of value. On the other hand, players who do care about golden cards will be profitable to the company regardless. I believe by making golden cards still rare, but slightly more accessible, you will even increase sales. Players will be more likely to spend money on sets they need only golden cards from knowing that they have better odds of pulling them — and knowing if they don’t get the gold cards they want, the dust they do receive will be able to get more gold cards than before.

To put my frustration in more relatable terms, last night I bought 40 packs of the new Hearthstone set for $49.99. I still needed some cards from the set and I’m working on making my Zoo deck more golden. The overall cost of the packs was about $1.25 each which is extremely cheap compared to a physical card game, but some would argue very expensive for a digital card game. Once I opened my packs and took out the cards that I didn’t own I ended up with 2,600 dust.

My $50 was only enough for me to craft 6 golden commons, or 1 golden epic and 2 golden commons. In my mind it’s pretty crazy that’s all I got for that amount of money.

Like I said, the reason I bought the packs was to search for some cards I needed from the set, but once a person has everything they need from the set, there is very little incentive to continue to buy packs with such stingy crafting rates for golden cards and such low odds of straight pulling them.

On the Massive PTCGO Update

ptcgo updateforums.pokemontcg.com
The November update was met with tepid approval.

The massive PTCGO update from last year has been met with a lot of hate from the community in general. While I understand a lot of the frustration from the community, I don’t feel like it’s all justified because of what the developers were attempting to do. With many of the updates, I understand what they were trying to do. The problem is they lost focus of what makes a game successful. Regardless if it’s a MMORPG, first-person shooter, a card game, etc., the best games are the ones that are able to have the players become completely immersed in the game and the gameplay itself. Those games where you just want to jump online for a minute, but when you look up at the clock you realize it’s been an hour already.

This becomes even more problematic when you’re trying to transfer a physical card game to an online program. There is nothing more real than physically playing a real card game and it’s a big challenge to try and keep that “real” feeling when the game goes virtual.

Starting off, the coin spinning looks cool, but it isn’t very representative of an actual game. A coin flipping then landing on the board would be far more accurate. Next, nobody stacks their Prize cards like that; heck I can’t even go to a tournament and stack my Prizes like that without a judge correcting me.

Probably my biggest frustration is Pokémon Tools and Energy cards because the layout hides the cards. Not only is it easier to overlook something (like a Focus Sash or Strong Energy), but it takes away the feel of playing cards because you’re removing the card image. With physical cards you don’t play down a Muscle Band then replace it with a little Tool token. You slap the Muscle Band directly onto the Pokémon.

Moving on, the drawing animation, the discarding animation, and the shaking animation after playing a card: my cards don’t move like that in real life, and by making them do so in the game takes away from making the game feel as real as possible. At the start of the game my cards don’t just swirl around before finally coming into my hand and the rest of my cards don’t shake after I play one.

I want to show two different videos to illustrate these points.

PTCGO Gameplay

This video comes from Joel Moskow, a well-known player and Pokédad from the Midwest.

Hearthstone Gameplay

This video is from a popular streamer named Trump as he introduces the game to new players. The video not only shows what the Hearthstone collection manager and deck builder look like, but also basic gameplay.

I understand what PTCGO devs were trying to do, but I feel like the change took away more from the game and the feel than it added.

PTCGO Wish List

Ranked Ladder

I’ve really enjoyed all of the changes that PTCGO has made, but a real ranked ladder is something I very strongly feel the program is missing. It’s also in my opinion one of the reasons that Hearthstone has been so successful.

I’m going to go ahead and quote myself from part one instead of explaining the Hearthstone ranking system again:


The Hearthstone play system is divided into three areas (Casual, Ranked, and Arena), but for this discussion we’re going to focus on Casual and Ranked. Casual Play is simply fun games against another human opponent with no risk to either player’s ranking. It’s a great way to test out new decks and strategies or simply play without worry. Ranked Play, on the other hand, pits the player into a game involving the Hearthstone ranking system.

In total there are 25 ranks and then “Legendary” after a player beats rank 1. The ranking system starts at level 25 and then moves in descending order down to 1 before finally hitting Legendary. For ranks 25 through 21, a player can earn stars but not lose them. However, once a player reaches rank 20 then the real challenge begins. If a player wins a game, then they earn a star, but if they lose the game then they lose a star. Each rank has a total of 4-6 stars. Once a player has earned all the stars for the rank, the player is promoted to the next rank.

This sort of ranking system keeps players at a level approximate to their skill level. At the higher ranks (25-21), you run into a lot of lower-level decks and players, but as you advance through the ranks, the decks and the players progressively get better. At the lower ranks (10-1), you’ll never run into bad decks or bad players.


A ranking system similar to Hearthstone would continue to build on giving players a reason to play every day and give the program appeal to the competitive player.

Also, adding a ranked ladder similar to Hearthstone does not mean that you would have to do away with the casual aspect the program has now. Keep the current rewards and points in place and leave the casual side of the program. It will give the casual players goals to climb and work toward without actually risking anything.

Online Tournament Coverage

I would love to see a large online tournament that would be featured on the official Pokémon Twitch channel. The tournament could be commentated by Kyle, Josh, Kenny, Crim, or other casters. They wouldn’t even have to be in the same room since Kyle could commentate from Washington, Josh from Illinois, etc., and they could still have that “in the same room” type feeling. Hearthstone does this sort of online casting all the time and it works beautifully. For big events they still bring all of the casters out and have them next to each other.

Easter Eggs

I would love to see some small Easter eggs for players. How cool would it be to have a Dave Schwimmer or Kyle Sucevich lookalike character that you could play against or giving the tutorial at the start. Little things like that which wouldn’t impact the gameplay but TCG players would see and get a smile out of. I don’t think anything like this is an immediate concern, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind while polishing the program.

Employee Interaction

The ability for a company to be viewed as a group of people instead of a faceless corporation is important. One of the things I love about Blizzard’s Hearthstone department is that senior game designer Ben Brode is the face of the department and very interactive with the players.

Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.

Ben Brode on a major nerf in the game:

Not only does he bring a face to the Hearthstone team, but he also excellently uses social media to promote the game. Compare and contrast this to Pokémon’s announcement on the banning of Lysandre’s Trump Card.

It literally says the card’s banned along with four sentences contrasted with Ben Brode talking for almost 10 minutes on the issue. There is something to be said for being concise and straight to the point when making an announcement, but after the fact, it’s important to give background. Just listening to Ben Brode talk, you can tell he has a lot of passion for the game. I might not agree with him on everything, but I can really see how much thought they put into each decision.

The Ability to Buy Things with Real Money

I’ve discussed this multiple times throughout the article, but it is incredibly important to understand that a company must make money to survive. Right now PTCGO is only bringing in money indirectly. Adding packs, promos, and starter decks to your collection is done by typing in a code found in each of the respective items. This has been great for the game and it has increased the value of the overall product.

What I would like to see in the future is a very direct way for people to purchase cards from PTCGO. Allow players to get those packs, promos, or starter decks either by typing in a code found in the physical product, or directly purchasing the item from the PTCGO store. Of course this would take some balance as far as pricing goes, but it would allow PTCGO to actually start bringing in money itself.

Sure, people can still buy the codes from online sellers and either type or scan them in, but there is something to be said of the convenience of simply clicking a “purchase now” button and not having all of that hassle. It would be a much faster, safer, and more convenient way for players and the company.

Conclusion

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The next generation of Pokémon Trainers.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game has had a huge impact on my life. My friends, my job, and even my other interests are largely because of Pokémon. I’ve had so many great things happen to me and opportunities in my life due to this game and it’s important to me that other people and this next generation get to experience those things too.

Some of you might have loved this article and others of you might have hated it. Regardless of which camp you fell into, my goal for this article was that you will take away a better understanding of both games. I really hope you can say I love PTCGO for reasons A, B, and c, but Jay really had a point about D, E, and F.

The truth of the matter is Pokémon has a lot of great things going for it and absolutely one of the most dedicated fan bases of any game. However, there are some things the company could do to bring the game up to date with other games of the time. The internet and online gaming is exploding right now. While it’s important to not neglect the physical card game, it’s also very important to not ignore the internet age. I’ve seen a lot of great things come out of the company and the game the last few years, and I really hope to see more vigor from its online programs, online advertising, and social media. All three of those things are going to be huge in bringing this game to the next generation of kids.

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