Death Of A Gaming System


So. You went out and you bought into this cool new gaming system. You bought the first release and it played so well you bought every expansion that was printed. You built decks, you tweaked them, you traded for just the right cards - and when you couldn't find those, you even bought singles online. You played in league, you competed in tournaments, and you even collected all the promos.

So. You went out and you bought into this cool new gaming system. You bought the first release and it played so well you bought every expansion that was printed. You built decks, you tweaked them, you traded for just the right cards - and when you couldn't find those, you even bought singles online. You played in league, you competed in tournaments, and you even collected all the promos.

Now, the company who launched this great new gaming system has decided it's just not making enough money and isn't going to print anything new. They've not made a big announcement or anything, but they've sort of just. . .stopped. No new printings, no new advertisements, league has kind of fallen away and no one really seems to know where all those promo cards or cool league check in sheets went to, but they don't seem to be coming in. . ."yet".

OK, so now what? You have a few hundred (or a few thousand) cards from this system and you're whole family plays - but there's likely to be no new cards (at least as far as you can tell) from the company who owns the rights. One of the coolest things about a CCG is that there's always something new. Can (or should) this game survive in your circle of family and friends without more publication? What do you do to make it "fresh" if you decide to continue? Is there anyway to get the company to make more?

Good questions all. So let's address them. First, do you go on playing? Well, it seems to me if you've invested all this time and money in the game, and you still like playing it; it's worth continuing for the time being. Certainly, a lot of players will simply mothball (or sell) the set and start on whatever's new and cool out there, and that's a perfectly good option. On the other hand, lots of us are still playing with exactly the same set of cards known as Mille Bournes or Yahtzee we learned as little kids, no expansions, and the game plays just fine. The game has changed in complexity as we've grown up, perhaps changed in style and even house rules as we've met new friends, but we still keep playing and enjoying it. You may have to tweak how you approach the game some to keep it interesting, but just canning it because there's no "new" material seems kind of faddish to me. Not to mention, at least in the case I'm thinking of at the moment, there was no alternative being built that all members of the family in question could really get into - that is, both complex enough for the adult members and accessible (in terms of complexity) to the younger members of this family.

You've decided to keep on playing. How do you go about it? There are a number of issues involved. First, keeping it active within your family, as long as everyone's enjoying it, is fairly easy; you just keep playing. Playing amongst your friends may take a little more doing - they have to see your point of view - that's there's good reason to keep playing and not just moving on to other things. Chances are, some friends will stick with it, for many of the same reasons you are choosing to, and some will simply move on. Fine, that's probably as it should be. Your gaming sessions will likely be somewhat smaller and perhaps even less intense. This may, over time, lessen your interest in the game. Remember, we're playing the game while it still interests us. We still have the right to give it up (just like any game) when it doesn't anymore.

So, next question: how do you keep it fresh? One doesn't have to look very far to find some very good answers (or ideas for answers) on that topic. The mother of them all, Magic: The Gathering, has been reinventing itself for years. That's a big part of what's been keeping it alive and kicking. So? Do what most good game designers do, borrow the good ideas out there and apply them to a fresh new design. It's worked for thousands of years, no reason to think it wouldn't work now.

Ideas for keeping it fresh abound. You can buy new cards to keep the sense of new in tact. One of the interesting things about CCG's is that often, when a system hits the "we're not publishing anymore" wall, it doesn't stop being available in stores everywhere for many months. Not to mention online (for years, in some cases). Better yet, the boxes of boosters usually start to become available much more cheaply - bonus! So get a box of the latest set - the one you didn't buy a lot of because it was really expensive - and enjoy the new cards! If you already own all the cards in all the sets (in sufficient quantity), buying new isn't for you, but might be for some of those friends we mentioned. The other trick to acquiring "new" cards is the old "Booster Draft" or "Sealed Deck" Limited Environment that so many folks favor. You can get some of the "older" boxes of boosters in the system very cheaply (true for almost every CCG out there) and use those to conduct a Booster Draft or a Sealed Deck session with your buddies. Let's face it, if you spend $20 or $30 bucks (total, not each) on an older booster box, and here we're talking about within the last couple years - not enough time to get "worth more" yet, but enough time to get cheap, and 6 or 8 of you get to play a Booster Draft "tourney" for the evening, it's no more expensive than most of the other things you do with your buddies, and cheaper than many.

Beyond acquiring new, there's all the fun of building decks. Building new decks with the cards you have is a lot of what drives this type of game. Try new decks you haven't before, new combinations, check out the online sites that talk about the "cool" decks or the "best" decks. Again, just because a company stops publishing, doesn't mean the all the fan sites go cold. Lots of them will continue to publish for quite some time about new decks and new strategies. Remember, you're not the only one out there who bought all those cards. Then there's the "new game format" approach that Magic: The Gathering loves so much. There are all kinds of ways to change the way you play, many of them in multiplayer formats that can keep everyone involved, so no one has to sit out just because you had an odd number of people that night. Check out the Wizards of the Coast site or Magic: The Gathering for a large number of multiplayer games that can be applied (after some alteration to make it fit your system) to almost any CCG.

So, you've found ways to extend the life of your game. Whether you do this as a long term family game that just really works for your family and friends, or just until something that does fit your family needs it produced (and no telling how long that'll take), it's a good way to take advantage of a game you thought was well enough designed to sink some bucks into in the first place.

The last question is the hardest to answer. Is there a way to get the company to print new editions of the game you really enjoy? There a number of reasons companies stop printing new expansions (or supplements) so finding out why they stopped is important. Unlike television, a huge number of letters won't necessarily do what you think it will. Television reads a huge number of fan letters as a "potential" income. That is, they can show those letters (or the numbers) to potential advertisers who will fund the show for another year (or 2 or 3) based on the assumption that X number of letters drives X dollars of profit. Letters about a game might work, but only for one expansion, unless sales themselves go up. The company you're writing letters to isn't signing a contract for a year or 2 years like the advertisers that allow the television show to sign contracts with actors for another year or 2 years, they're printing one expansion to see if their game finally caught on (based on the number of letters) and they just "quit too soon". So the real trick is to get the number of buyers to increase. Here you have a real stumbling block for a couple of reasons. First, if buying wasn't at "expected levels" when the company's full ad resources were behind it, the chances that you can boost sales in any significant way without them are pretty darn slim. Second, when it comes to CCG's, a huge number of the players in the community buy from very cut rate secondary sources. Like buying a used book, it may foster reading, but doesn't help the writer or publisher with any income hit. Getting folks to pay "full price" for a game that's "on it's last legs" is next to impossible. They wouldn't when it was still being published in earnest, so let's get real.

On the other hand, many CCG's these days are based on a license (Pokemon, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter to name a few) which is often owned by a large company that has vested interest in seeing their product (and logo) as many places as possible. So another approach is writing to the company that owns the license. It's entirely possible they can goose the game company into producing more simply because they want to see more of their license on the shelves.

All of this assumes the reason the game stopped being published was it wasn't meeting sales expectations. If the reason was more about internal politics (remember, a lot of CCG's are being published by bigger companies these days and turf wars are not uncommon in larger game companies) or wanting to fund one game over another (our big seller needs more funds, if we kill this marginal one, we can divert funds there) or some lawsuit over rights that was kept out of the news, then you have no chance at all. But you also have no real way of knowing that was the issue - so you have no reason to assume the worst until you know it's true.

Writing letters is still worth a try - if only because you gave it a shot and it didn't cost you much more than a few minutes and a stamp to do so. If it's a game you love, go for it. And if they don't decide to continue printing, keep playing the game as long as it holds your interest. That was, after all, the point of the game in the first place.

There are many ccg's out there, so it is really inevitable that some will die off. Most of the good ones last a really long time, until they stop being fresh and new, so death is a good thing. There are only so many new rules you can add to magic before people start saying "ok phasing was kinda weak but wtf is this!". I played Magic cards since 3rd ed to around 6th, and still have my fair share of cards. It eventually just got...old. With most really good games, a lot of players leave before it runs out of steam. Players should watch out for new games in a saturated market. Seldom do people play several ccg's, as the investment in each is usually substantial(time and money). Getting involved in older, established games might be the wisest course. That way, if it is discontinued, there are old sets to collect, and more people who have played.
Sorry if this is really scattered, but it is 6 am here. Gah, insomnia be DAMNED!

I really wonder what CCG may have inspired this article, Twilight. I'v been submitted to nothing but M:TG, Pokemon and Yugioh as of late. No hance for other games save for that damned harry potter thing that I dont want to get involved in. What else is out there anyway? It seems all my local stores carry ar these. Can someone reccomend something, well, diffret?

I've been playing M:tG since Beta popped out the mothorlord's woumb. Stopped around Stronghold before getting talked into buying in on Torment. And will likely NEVER EVER EVER buy another booster again. I blame the destruction of strategy and fun on Hasbro for buying out WotC and trying to compete with Yugioh (A card game thats not only more expensive than any other Ive seen, but a game I could make more sucessful with a color printer and some carboard off of cereal boxes).

Final notation: What happened to Magi-Nation Did it ever catch on? I've got decks and boosters, but I've -never- seen anyone actually play. Gah. It had such intereting points of lay too :/

If you are looking for a different kind of CCG, try A Game of Thrones by Fantasy Flight Games. Out of all the CCG's I have ever played (about 10 in all), this one has the best strategy I have ever seen. It is based on The Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, the best fantasy I have ever read (including LoTR). The second expansion goes on sale next week and the company already has plans for three more. If you want more info, their website is


Indeed, Magi-Nation is less popular than I would have liked. Not enough interest in these parts... =(

I still feel that the best ccg ever was spellfire by tsr. But as with all TSR merchandise they let it stagnate and die, but hey, what can I do about it. I've tried playing others out there and they never seemed to feel the same, as if something was missing. And eventually everybody stopped playing as well.

I guess it's just expected though, everything ends eventually, no matter how great it is.(He look at the Atari). But that's just my two cents.

Have Fun.

Oddly, it was the Harry Potter game that inspired this article -- my kid was REALLY into it at and suddenly it was gone.