Card games are basically as old as time, but it took a surprisingly long time for the genre to truly embrace the possibilities of the digital space.
In fact, there are still many who cling to the tabletop approach – which is fine if you are focused on the social aspect or nostalgia, but much less desirable when you’re trying to design the best possible gaming experience.
Here’s a short rundown of why it’s awesome that card games are increasingly turning digital, including the absolute game changer of blockchain technology utilized by Gods Unchained!
Welcome to the Future
More than five years after Hearthstone’s launch changed the face of the card game industry, the digital TCG/CCG scene is more vibrant than ever. With Magic also finally making the great leap as Wizards of the Coast opted to invest resources into an actually good online iteration of the granddaddy of the genre, it’s clear that it is here to stay and that even the tabletop veterans can embrace the limitless potential of the digital card game scene.
If you’re already a fan of some of these titles, you likely already understand what makes digital card games, including Gods Unchained, occupy a special place in the ecosystem. Indeed, the virtual nature of these titles often provide efficient solutions to many challenges faced by the genre as a whole while also allowing for wonderful design and gameplay opportunities our pen-and-paper brethren could only dream of.
An Interconnected Player-base
Imagine getting a Gods Unchained card collection and then having no one to play with because your IRL friends are not interested in the genre. No such thing is possible with an online game: you can play against anyone else around the world at the click of a button, with little to no waiting required. Once the game is over (and you hopefully won), you can immediately hop into a new game at a moment’s notice at any time.
We’re beginning to take this for granted, but as someone who regularly attends board game clubs, let me tell you: it really is not. Better still, the capability to match up against anyone, anywhere on the globe does not exclude the possibility of a friendly match at home: it simply allows for a near-infinite number of alternatives alongside it.
Consistency and Simplicity
There can be no functional disagreements about the rules of the game as they are consistently resolved in the client based on the programming behind it.
Also, think about the many little streamlining tools offered by a digital game every time you have to use a coin or a dice in a tabletop alternative. Shuffling your deck? Check. Looking at cards? Check. Keeping track of damage dealt and healing received? Check. There’s a reason why Burn is not a commonly used keyword in traditional card games…
Unique Gameplay Elements
Want to obliterate a random card in your hand and replace it with a random rune? We’ve got you covered: say hello to The Nether Prince! Or how about our Mythic cards? How about manipulating a specific card’s position in your deck? Illuminated Warrior says hi! While basically everything from a physical card game can be replicated in a digital format, the same can’t be said going the other way around – and the possibilities are truly endless…
Better Balancing Tools
Isn’t it beautiful that “errata” didn’t have to enter the dictionary of digital card game players? For those not in the know, it’s basically impossible to recall overpowered cards in the way you’d do with a line of cars that have a dangerous mechanical defect, even though they have a very similar effect on their respective ecosystems.
Instead, rule changes are formally announced and have overbearing effects without having a chance to specifically adjust. It’s a blunt and yet necessary tool for physical card games due to the impossibility of recalling every “update-worthy” card or rulebook – much like how they have to simply ban overpowered cards instead of adjusting them for every player around the world.
In digital card games like Gods Unchained, all this is just a question of a patch.
By the same token, it’s so much easier to keep track of your collection and to organize play sessions online than it is offline, especially for draft-based game modes.
Acquiring new cards is also a whole lot easier, and everyone involved on the design side of the aisle likely breathes a sigh of relief every time they realize how much logistical overhead they get to shave off compared to a tabletop game on a consistent basis. This, of course, also benefits the consumer in the long run.
Which brings us to the one major challenge of a digital card game: the creation of a functional trading economy.
Blockchain: The Answer to the Trading Conundrum
Fans of the genre have no doubt noticed that most game companies opted for the CCG (collectible card game) route instead of taking the TCG (trading card game) approach. The difference between the two lies in how you can acquire cards and what you can do with them once you’ve done so.
TCGs, as the name implies, establish some sort of a marketplace where the players can directly trade their cards for other ones or some sort of currency – meaning each card will inevitably have some sort of specific market value – while collectible card games only allow you to collect the cards with no resell opportunity, only allowing you to recycle them at a fraction of their original cost to create other ones for your collection.
Even though this is mostly a downgrade from a player standpoint, it makes a lot of sense otherwise for most games: establishing a functional trading environment is a very challenging proposition for a game development company, both from a practical and a legal/monetary perspective. The moment you give digital items tangible value, someone somewhere will try to convert it into cold, hard cash, whether they are allowed to do so by the different licenses or not.
Of course, having a successful digital marketplace doesn’t guarantee a successful game alongside it. In fact, as successful as Valve’s Steam marketplace is, and despite their pristine pedigree in the industry, their attempt at a TCG (Artifact) has completely bombed, mostly due to its monetization model. Then again, even that game would not technically allow you to trade your cards beyond the constraints of the Steam ecosystem, limiting your options to invest or to cash out.
Meanwhile, Gods Unchained’s revolutionary decentralized, blockchain-based system guarantees that the developers can’t just destroy the value of your purchase by making a massive nerf, flooding the market with additional copies or locking them to the specific game or platform.
The beauty of this setup is that you have true and final ownership of your cards, not just a license to use them until the central server remains operational. In fact, Ethereum provides both this and provable scarcity, alongside a unique identification for each card ever “printed” digitally.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this setup is that it does not have to stop the developers of the game from proactively balancing the cards: the solution here is to allow changes for a certain period of time – defined as a given season’s beta period – before the contract locks them in and renders them immutable. Not only that, but the corresponding ERC721 tokens contain every card’s value and statistics as well.
Now that’s definitely something that no physical card game can recreate!