Oh, my. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, but Blizzard is making a(nother?) Collectible Card Game.
Like I imagine many people in the non-apoplexy camp, I spent a large portion of my formative nerd years with Magic: the Gathering. My original shoebox of cards were from Ice Age, gifted from some obscure cousin of a family friend, but the first real entry into M:tG came with Tempest. Which then led into the Urza trilogy, with Urza’s Saga still remaining my favorite expansion of all time.
My high school friends and I continued playing weekly up through, I believe, Ravnica. At that point, we were all scattered from life and interest waned. I dabbled with Magic: Online, still in the Ravnica era, and I was midway through busting out my credit card for another $17 tournament entry fee when I realized my objection to WoW and other MMOs with subscription fees was somewhat hypocritical.
I have little doubt that Hearthstone will be fun, at least for anyone who enjoys CCGs – it is difficult to screw up the innate simplicity and surprising depth to deck-building games. Any reservations I have is entirely based on the payment scheme.
Can we be frank for a second? Calling a Collectable Card Game “Free-to-Play” is such rank PR bullshit as to make even David Reid nauseous. Of course a CCG is free-to-play. You already bought the cards! Who is selling collectable cards and then charging a subscription for the privileged of keeping them? EA? This sort of nonsense is like calling Chess a F2P game. Maybe we are so mired in novel payment schemes that such a distinction (misleading as it is) is nevertheless necessary as signals to consumers.
And all of this obfuscates the underlying snare of all CCGs, Magic included: they are Pay-To-Win by design. I love M:tG, I really do. There are Pauper leagues (all common cards), Drafts, and some historical decks in which many of the key cards were no more than uncommon. But those things are only noteworthy insofar as they were the exceptions. If you look at standard tournament decks, they will cost between $250 to $650+ (!), stuffed as they are with Rare (or Mythic Rare, these days) cards. I used to read the WotC design articles, and at that time I almost swallowed their premise that these rares were justified in their rarity based on their complexities. “Commons are, well, common. You wouldn’t want the average player to crack open a pack of 12 complicated cards.”
Yeah, you’re right, we wouldn’t want that. It is just a huge coincidence that the more complex cards are the most objectively powerful and the most (artificially) rare, thereby forcing people to buy more booster packs in order to compete. I mean, we couldn’t possibly keep things proportional, like limiting rare cards to 1 specific card per deck instead of 4.
I mention all this because there is one indelible truth to CCGs: someone with more money to burn is going to ruin your day. Over and over and over again, until you can’t whip out your credit card fast enough. If you don’t think this is the first thing that will happen in Hearthstone, I don’t know what to tell you. Cynicism? Bitch, please. I am a Grade A recovering CCG addict and I know what’s coming for you and anyone else with less street-smarts to know that the first hit from the dealer is always free.
Way back in February, I was quoting Bullshitter in Chief, David Reid, on how Dust 514 could make EVE “the biggest game in the world at the end of 2012.” There are only 33 days left in the year for this to be theoretically possible, but nevermind.
At that time (and still currently), my questions focused on the “what the hell were they thinking with a PS3 exclusive” angle. The related followup question was how CCP planned to muscle into an already crowded FPS marketplace with a completely unknown IP (the FPS portion anyway); free-to-play will only get you so far, if no one knows about you.
Well, with all the game console browsing I have been doing lately, I have a partial answer:
Product FeaturesPlatform: PLAYSTATION 3 | Edition: 250GB Uncharted 3: Game of the Year
- The new 250GB PlayStation 3 System, with a built in Blu-Ray player, can hold over to 1800 Games, 140 Movies, 99,000 Songs, and 40,000 photos
- The PlayStation 3 system includes a free PlayStation Network membership for online gaming, streaming movies and music, and access to the PlayStation Store
- UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception Game of the Year Edition showcases Nathan Drake’s journey through new challenges and includes over $45 of Bonus Content
- With a 30-day trial of PlayStation Plus, access your instant game collection and download from a free library of hit games. Save over $70 with the PlayStation 3/Uncharted 3 Game of the Year bundle
- Dust 514, a free to play game available exclusively on the PlayStation Network, thrusts you into the explosive ground conflict of the EVE universe
- Included with this PlayStation 3 bundle is a promotional code for your personal DUST 514 ordinance pack containing a 7-day active skill booster, a permanent Armored Personnel Carrier, an assortment of digital items, and 2,000 Aurum to spend on in-game gear, weapons and equipment. Over $30 in total value.
That’s right, somehow CCP got Sony to include $30 worth of item shop goods in the, er… PS3 Uncharted 3: Game of the Year bundle. Because nothing says sci-fi F2P FPS like a 3rd-person action game.
It is an interesting move, and certainly one that will garner some extra attention from whomever takes advantage of that bundle. I can’t help but get confused though, when it appears that the Dust 514 mention is missing from the other bundles like the 500gb Assassin’s Creed 3 and even the 320gb Uncharted 3 bundle. Did CCP only pay enough to get on the 250gb bundle instead of the 320gb? Surely there is no hardware difference, so did they just change their minds? Did Netflix out-bid them?
Regardless, I find myself even more intrigued by this unfolding drama than I was before. And, hey, now that I own a PS3 myself, I might actually go full gonzo and try it at some point.