Collectible card games are a classic example of how major companies are making money through long term gains rather than by short term profits from the development and sale of AAA games. Most collectible card games on the Internet are free to download, but the revenue comes in through sale of in-game cards in exchange for money, best referred to by the term “microtransactions“.
Since the base game is free to play, many people jump into the bandwagon, only to be smashed by someone who has put in quite some hours, or money, or both into the game. This is the prime spot where problems arise – people start complaining about the games being pay-to-win. The bottomline is, since the base game is free-to-play, the developer has to make money somehow, and it is through the microtransactions in game that the main revenue from the game comes in, which means that they have to tilt the balance slightly in the favor paying players in order to ensure the game’s long term viability, while ensuring a large playerbase. The real question arises is : where should this balance be?
There has been quite a conflict between players and developers on this regard. Players want a bigger card collection without spending anything, and developers want more money from the players. The real problems are with starter players, who are the real beginners to the game, and who have a hard time farming for cards, and are forced to spend money in order to get some progress. People playing without playing without a dime to the developers through their microtransactions are a different question, but things should be made easy for beginners atleast so that can farm enough cards for cheap beginner decks in order to farm their way up the ranks.
In this regard, balance in the card game world is virtually nil. This comes from a card game veteran who has played Duel Masters, Yu Gi Oh and Hearthstone (*sniff* I smell self-appraisal! *sniff*). There are games like Hearthstone, which are too hard on the beginner, and where it is quite tough to acquire a collection. Then again, there are games like Shadowverse, where the game is extremely generous in terms of giving away card packs, but due to a slower pace of development for newer players to keep up with the older ones, the game gets stale after a while. Lastly, there are games like Infinity Wars : Reborn, which have a balanced approach to letting players collect cards, but extremely tough mechanics which push off potential players.
Quite a few days of pondering on the Internet, while taking a break from farming in Hearthstone, I came across a new game called Gwent. Having played The Witcher series, I immediately recognized the game. I immediately started playing, and found the mechanics quite different from the last generation of card games. And adding, it was quite simple too! What adds to the fact are the rewards system, which awards you with in-game resources for every 2 wins or so in the beginning. If you decide to dwelve further, you get substantial more rewards. Moreover, there is an in-game leveling system that rewards you for levelling up, and competitive is locked away for till you reach a level of 10 on your account.
Gwent is played in rounds, where players start with 8 cards, and put down cards on their board in three rows – melee, ranged and siege. The game is played in 3 rounds, and in order to win a round, the total value of a player’s army has to be greater than his opponent’s. Planning ahead helps, since a good hand size often causes one to win rounds and the game itself (and you draw only two cards after the first round and one card after the second round).
The mechanics itself are very simple, and is might not sound difficult to the worst pig-headed troll (I hope the card shop troll doesn’t get offended, where am I gonna get gold cards otherwise?). There are three types of cards, bronze, silver and gold, where gold cards are the rarest, and bronze the most abundant. However, the game itself does not force you to play goldens in every deck for the beginning, and certainly not at the lower levels, which means you have complete deck-building freedom in terms of cards. Due to the diverse nature of the abilities of the cards, most cards have substitutes, which means despite the larger number of cards in the card pool, it is easier to play the game than any other card game. The large card pool also ensures greater variance in the long term, meaning that the games do not feel stale (which normally does when people shamelessly netdeck and then brag about “skill”). Microtransactions are of course there, but only if you feel the need to copy decks off the Internet instead of experimenting with your own cards.
The easier mechanics of Gwent and it’s generous nature means people are jumping ship from other popular card games like Hearthstone to Gwent. While the playerbase is not as big as other popular titles, it is steadily growing, and is likely to exceed others soon, unless CD Projekt Red, the developers behind Gwent decide to jump ship and change the mechanics to those of the better card games, which promotes buying ‘card kegs’ in game from the card shop troll. However, considering their reputation as one of the best developers in the Western video games industry, it is unlikely to be so, atleast not anytime soon enough.