Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 17, 2013
Maybe not so niche?

I love Card Hunter, currently in closed beta. So much that I gave them more money than I considered necessary to play comfortably, just because I wanted to vote with my wallet for the game. You see, I'm a bit worried about the financial success of a game like Card Hunter: While the art style reminiscent of old school D&D looks great to me, and a combination of trading card mechanics with turn-based tactical combat is pretty close to my dream game, I am very well aware that these aren't mass market trends. Card Hunter is a game which is difficult because it forces you to think, and most people don't like having to think while playing games, and would rather mash buttons.

But maybe I underestimated the size of the market for a game like Card Hunter. A recent discussion on the beta forums (they are public) about the number of people trying to get a beta key had a developer reveal that they are already sending out 1,000 beta keys PER DAY, and in spite of that the waiting list was getting longer, because more people than that were signing up every day for the beta.

One factor here is certainly demographics. The people who played D&D in the 80's and/or Magic the Gathering in the 90's are now adults, having maybe less time to get a pen & paper game going, but more disposable income. In a way they are a far more attractive target audience for a Free2Play game than kids and teenagers are. For $50 you can buy pretty much everything you need in Card Hunter for months, including a 3-month subscription to get more loot and access to all the extra adventures; for anybody who used to spend money on Magic the Gathering cards that would seem dirt cheap today.

The other factor is probably positive word of mouth. There is no other game comparable to Card Hunter, and the closed beta already has rather impressive polish and amount of content. Anybody interested enough in that type of game to sign up for the beta is probably going to enjoy it. No NDA means that nothing stops Card Hunter from "going viral", with everybody getting in recommending the game to his friends.

On the cost side, I am not an expert, but presumably it is cheaper to program and run an online turn-based "board" game without character animations than a MMORPG. This isn't a game where you'd be worried about how many milliseconds your ping is, in fact there was a recent discussion from the developers talking about a 2-minute time limit per turn in multiplayer. I don't think there is a huge amount of data being exchanged between server and client.

So if the cost per player is low, and the average revenue per user is high, Card Hunter could in fact be quite profitable, even if it doesn't attract millions of players. Here's hoping, because I'd love this game to stick around and be developed further.

I'm not too much into this kind of games, but I'll probably end up trying it when it goes open beta.

I have a friend who may like it, do you have any idea how it compares to Kings and Legends (which, as far as I understand, is also a card-based game with extra activities)?

I still don't get why they opted for Flash. As you correctly said, this is not a fps/graphics intensive game. And it's not a title that ned amazing technologies and/or engines like Unity or similar stuff.

I bet it can be done in HTML5 too, which would make it cross-platform and more up to date.
HTML5 is still a pain with different browsers requiring different media formats, and some things still poorly supported on some browsers. Flash is at least mature technology, and works fine except for the lack of right mouse button. If it runs at all, it will run right, which I don't believe can yet be guaranteed for HTML5.

That said, maybe their programmers are just used to ActionScript, or prefer whatever networking libraries they are using.

Wish they would send me a beta key, I signed up weeks ago when Tobold posted about it :-(

Flash is going to die, and it's not supported by mobile devices. You just cut out iOS and Android by using it. which -for a card based game- sounds weird.

Sure, HTML5 is not "perfect" but neither is Flash, and it's an old tech/platform/whatever already.
Any idea on the release date for Card Hunter?

Any idea on the release date for Card Hunter?

The Card Hunter site has two infos on that:

1) "We don’t have a firm release date yet. We have been in a closed Beta since January 2013. Our goal is to hit a quality level rather than a release date, so we can’t commit to anything definite in terms of a time frame."

2) "We’re launching summer of 2013."

So I'd take "summer 2013" with a grain of salt, and certainly not on the first day of summer.
Flash? Seriously? (insert usual techie rant here)

A more interesting observation is my opinion that development cycles need to be shorter (and thus smaller.) E.g. SWTOR was much more competitive with BC than Cata. If you started designing a game several years ago, the perception of F2P, Flash, mobile, has really changed.

Perhaps the biggest thing that will keep this game niche is that when you can play a f2p Blizzard card game on an iPad, it is unclear how much market visibility they can get.

If you are familiar with the story of Howard Moskowitz, you know how smaller markets can become severely under-served. For those that aren't familiar, the short of it is that Howard figured out a problem that market testing had created. Testing for tomato sauce indicated that a majority did not like chunky sauce, so no one was making any chunky sauce at all. Prego made a killing by being the first to cater to those 30% who do.

I think that applies here. While not quite as niche as open PVP free-for-all MMORPGs, I think Card Hunter is still pretty niche. It's just a game type that has never been represented before at all. I think if their success leads to a market flooded with competitors, we're going to see a lot of games flop hard.
Hi Tobold. I have also put a couple of dollars into this so far (read, the $50 level) because I really want this to succeed and I really enjoy playing it.

I am also keen to see it released, plus, when they wipe you get your pizza back so it is like spending money twice!
Incidentally, they have some answers to technology questions on their site at

"Card Hunter will be playable in a browser using Flash. We hope to provide a downloadable client as well. We are also looking at iOS and Android tablet versions."

"Flash is just another technology. A lot of Flash games are rather simple for reasons that have nothing to do with Flash itself. We think you’ll find there’s more than enough depth and intriguing gameplay in Card Hunter. The browser model allows us to avoid a lot of compatibility problems – you should be able to play on a PC, Mac or any platform where you can run a Flash player."

So I guess they are probably operating on the basis of reliable compatibility and familiarity, as I suspected. If it's a hit they can port it to other platforms.
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