Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 27, 2009
Free Realms Trading Card Game costs

So I was looking around the internet for what other people say about Free Realms. Some people like it, others don't, and that is totally okay. This isn't a game for everybody, and especially those who already played a lot of MMORPGs might well find it too simple.

But then I read a blog post that really annoyed me, Oz does Free Realms Beta on Kill Ten Rats. I don't mind that Oz doesn't like Free Realms, but I do mind that he tries to discredit the game by writing things that are just outright falsehoods. Quote: "The card game is incredibly expensive compared to others on the market, giving 3 cards for $10. Any other game you can find that has an online component has at least 10-15 cards for $10." This is either a deliberate blatant lie, or incredibly badly researched. The Free Realms Trading Card Game costs the same thing online and offline: $4 for 10 cards plus 1 code for an in-game item. Well, it's $3.99 for the paper version, and 400 Station Cash for the online version. But it isn't, and never was, $10 for 3 cards. In fact the FRTCG is actually cheaper than Oz's standard of "10 to 15 cards for $10". And as in the Free Realms beta you got constantly bombarded with free boosters, which already contained 10 cards, this would have been easy to find out. A click on the shop icon would have easily revealed the actual price. I can't understand how an otherwise good MMORPG blog can post such falsehoods.

And by the way, Oz's statement that SOE wanted to charge him for testing the subscription content isn't true either. The UPGRADE button was in the game, but it wasn't functional.

There can be a valid discussion about the sense or nonsense of buying virtual trading cards. And obviously if you want hundreds of cards, at 40 cents per card this is quickly going to get expensive. But that discussion isn't helped at all by false statements that each card would cost $3.33, eight times the real price.
Buying trading cards has always sounded like a scam to me.
1. create artificial scarcity
2. profit
Maybe someone can explain me if/why I'm wrong?
You aren't wrong at all, profit from artificial scarcity is exactly what trading cards are a all about, be it Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, or the Free Realms TCG. Although it has to be said that the inventor of the concept, a math professor named Richard Garfield, originally intended "rare" cards to be exactly that: Rare. So everybody would play with the same common cards, but have different rare cards. That concept went out of the window pretty quickly, when people started to get more competitive, and wanted to have even rare cards in multiples for optimal deckbuilding.

Free Realms TCG boosters, like pretty much every booster of every TCG, have only 1 rare card, few uncommons, and lots of commons. You can put every card up to 3 times in a deck, so you'd need to buy hundreds of boosters to get every rare card 3 times. At the same time you'd get every common so often, that they'd be completely worthless to you, a common phenomenon in TCGs.

Having said that, I do think you get a free starter and two boosters in Free Realms. The starter is not random, but preconstructed, so you can start playing. And in the latest balance adjustment of the online TCG, this was enough cards to beat the NPCs and follow the quest line. Beating NPCs earns you non-tradeable cards, so even at zero expense you can play, grow your collection, and build decks.

Of course people haven't stopped thinking competitive, and I do think those most interested in the TCG will spend a bunch of money on these virtual cards, and SOE will profit much from them. People with less money can probably use that to their advantage, and get lots of commons in trade very, very cheap. Just watch the little number in the lower left corner, whether the first letter says "R" for rare, "U" for uncommon, or "C" for common (I think there is "P" for promotional as well), and only trade rare and uncommon cards for a whole bunch of commons.
Thanks for the explanation.
It looks like I have to stay away from these games, cause I'll probably end up spending a lot of money on them, accepting the fact that that's exactly what the company wants me to do ;)
Come to think of it, the problem is quite similar to that of MMORPGs: You *can* play by only spending very little of a resource, but the more competitive you want to be, the more of that resource you need to spend, with diminishing return. Only that for TCGs the resource is mostly money, and for MMORPGs the resource is mostly time. Which one is worse depends on what resource is scarcer for you personally, money or time.
Hey Tobold,

Since I know you have access to the beta forums, check out the post in the trading card section that talks about this. The name should jump out at you. I seriously did not make this up, but had it quoted to me.
> "Only that for TCGs the resource is mostly money, and for MMORPGs the resource is mostly time."

Hey what do you know, SOE may have managed to successfully merge the two - from what I've seen (I'm a level 16 Card Duelist so far) they may just pull it off.
10-15 cards for $10? Wow, either someone's been ripping him off or I've been out of the trading card loop for too long. Back in high school I'd never expect to pay more than $4 for a booster pack. By no means is that an "average price" and I'd love to know what kinds of trading card games he's talking about.
In case you hadn't checked, Oz caught the... inaccuracy in his post after doublechecking. Something about the price he posted having been the price up until a week ago.
The problem with trading card games isnt the primary issuer market, it's the secondary market that -will- eventually spring up like it did for Magic The Gathering.

Artificial scarcity my a**, it's an outright scam.
>"In case you hadn't checked, Oz caught the... inaccuracy in his post after doublechecking. Something about the price he posted having been the price up until a week ago."

It never was 4 cards for $10. And I doubt he'll man (rat?) up and admit his mistake.
I am amazed that everyone gets upset because somebody has come up with a way to make money. Is it expensive? A bit. Is it something that people are willing to pay for, to have the entertainment? Absolutely! Why is this bad? The market tends to weed out the real gimicks and scams. Why would you call a profitable business idea a scam? I'm going to guess you work for a company that is profitable right? It's how our economy works... if it sucks or isn't entertaining people will stop buying them. There are billions of dollars spent on wrestling, which is about as big of a gimick as there is... but it is a VERY successful business model. Use your brain a bit folks and see what you can do to make $ yourself!
I play everything for free, also don't play with cards... I am not paying for something that might not exists anymore or get bored from it for 1 year... example W.O.W! it was released I played it and got bored from it for a month so fuck all this... I like freerealms, BTW I play it for 2-3 months I guess and it's cool but not sure for how long...
Thank you anon poster above for being the one not crying their eyes out that they must pay to use the more advanced cards - while getting three other teirs of cards for free, which is much cheaper even than if they played this card game (or any other commercial card game in our entire history - including solitaire) in it's physical form, which would charge for a starter pack.

A scam is when a company tricks you by offering services that you never receive. Trying to make a profit for their effort is not a scam. I'd say you get quite a bit of free services before making the decision to pay a single cent.

We truly are growing up in a age of online piracy. Actually, I use torrents too, but I call it what it is - piracy, and I don't blame the other side of the coin for expecting to receive their profits.

It's called, "conflicting interests"; and just because my interest conflicts with theirs, I don't have to justify my side to be morally righteous over their own.

I want the cheapest services possible, they want to make the most profits possible. Welcome to a free capitalism market.
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