What it’s about and who the heck is writing this thing.
To be up front at the start, this series of articles will cover a breadth of topics beyond actual finance of Force of Will. It will go into a lot of history of the TCG industry. This is due to various reasons, mostly to cover the main question anyone has when looking to a game for financial reasons, is it worth it? Will it be around in X years? These are the underlining questions for anyone who wants to plan for the long term just as a player. Is spending $50 on that card going to be a good call? This is just from the player perspective, when adding in if you’ll get your money back in 3 years is a whole other. Both are valid and apply to more than Force of Will.
The constant measuring stick for all of these questions is, of course, Magic, as well as Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon. The big 3 will usually dictate the way we think about other card games. This is both good and bad. Each aspect will be covered in due course. So, if you are looking for a simple list of what is worth money and what isn’t, this isn’t going to be the article for you. I may toss some of that stuff out later, but with the access to information like TCGPlayer and other sites, it’s easy to look up on the fly.
I will be covering other random stuff as well beyond the financial issues of the game. I find the comparison of other games and companies to kind of fascinating. Looking at them allows us to see where Force might be going and what it could be doing better. I may rant from time to time as well. But don’t look for too much in the area of tech, I am bad at that stuff. In reference to the market(s) I will mainly looking at the USA, as I know things are different in other markets and I will stick with what I know.
Before going too deep, I should likely expound my experience, so you don’t think I am just some hack spouting nonsense like all the people who say the game is dead all the time. I started playing TCGs back in 1995 with MTG (of course). I then wandered into over two dozen more games, most of the TCGs supported by Wizards at the time, including Pokemon, Netrunner, Dune, C23, Vampire, and others. The Decipher games, Star Wars and Star Trek, as well. And a myriad of others over the years.
This is the speed version. I was also a Judge and Tournament Organizer for most of the games too. For Wizards alone I judged for over a decade and as high as Grand Prixs. Then I migrated to opening an LGS. Over the years I have owned and operated 3 of them, now I just sell Force of Will online. I have also judged for Force, but that is a sidenote as we’re here to talk money. Currently, I am exclusive to Force of Will cards, singles, and swag. I even recently cut all my other product from online just to focus on the funnest one. Yes, I am bias.
Enough about me, just wanted to establish I have some experience with and in the TCG realm. I have done well enough with FOW that it is a self-sustaining hobby, that means more than just getting the new sets, it also includes travel to and participation in GPs and other events. So, the market is out there for Force. You aren’t going to buying a summer home with it though, so just know that while it exists, it is still in flux due to a rough few years. Shall we get into it then?
We should start by lying out what is meant by certain terms as well as expectations. Stability is the most important, as all else hinges on it. It doesn’t matter what something is worth today, if the company goes under or shuts down tomorrow, it all goes to zero. Thus, knowing the entity that is basically the gold standard for the game (backs its value up just by existing) will be around is the key to everything else. The last couple of years have given some doubt to this crucial aspect to a lot of people.
It’s not just overpowered cards, large print runs, bad sets, or lack of events that kill a game, and historically those things rarely do. Players see things in a way that really only they can understand, and a lot of games have suffered a lot of things that Force of Will has when it comes to the previously mentioned things. Those games weathered the storm, heck MTG printed sets into oblivion less than 2 years after they started, and they are still around. Combo winter existed, and Mercadian Masques…. (a bad set). So, if the big boys can survive it, Force can too. But it’s not about surviving events like this, it’s about business at the end of the day.
A game usually dies to business decisions. I mean the renownedly bad game Spellfire got 4 editions and 12 sets, it was designed in a weekend by TSR reusing old D&D art, seriously, look up the history. It was a solid seller and even had 2 more sets planned. Then why did it die? Wizards bought TSR and already had a fantasy based TCG.
The success of MTG saw a lot of rolled out games trying to cash in. By 2000 there had been over 100 TCGs pumped out and over 400 sets for those games. As you can guess by the numbers, a lot failed. The collapse of the collectibles market in the late 90’s didn’t help either. Comics faltered, Beanie Babies, and cards (sports and TCG). The glut just couldn’t hold, and it all came down. Few survived, even Pokemon took a huge hit. It has clawed its way back in great form, but it had to switch companies in order to do so. Yu-Gi-Oh emerged shortly after the fall, thus it premiered in a thinned out field.
Most of them failed due to just being cash grab, with no thought about longevity or quality. It was a new thing, and no one knew that is would last or could last, it was seen as a fad back then. The world of TCGs is a lot more resilient now because of lessons learned, but some still haven’t.
Longevity is the First Sign of Stability
Let’s just do a quick down and dirty when it comes to longevity of games, this is the largest indicator if a game is even worth looking at for financial gain (as a collector or investor) or as a player (keeping value on high end cards). Which games have lasted the longest? We can break this up into categories for simplicity, 20+ years, 10+ years and the rest. Because the most lucrative games are the longest lasting.
This list will only list games that are still similar to their original. Yes, Dragonball has had a version out for a while, but DBS is the third game to sport the name and is not compatible with any other version.
20+ Year Games:
- Yu-Gi-Oh (technically only 18 years in the US, but was in Japan first)
That was simple. All 4 are still here and going strong. Pokemon is the best selling of the 3 across all markets, Magic is the top Hobby industry seller though. Fun fact (I might cover later), Pokemon used to be distributed by Wizards in the USA. Yu-Gi-Oh used to be by Upper Deck in the USA. Once Pokemon and Konami got their games back, they decided to do it all themselves and became that much stronger for it. Redemption is a religious based game put out by a small company and is still going since 1995, still a TCG though.
- Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (kind of dead)
- Legend of the 5 Rings (kind of dead)
- Star Wars – Decipher (kind of dead)
- Star Trek – Decipher (kind of dead)
- World of Warcraft (dead)
- WWE Raw Deal (dead)
- Duel Masters (dead in US)
These 7 games are the main ones that lasted between 10 and 20 years, and most were good in their day. What do all of them have in common? None died because of power, events, or any of that. I will cover their fates later, but a lot of things that players think kill games actually don’t. Aside from L5R all of the rest died to either companies being bought, going under, or licensing/distribution issues.
As you can see, only 11 games have made it past the decade mark, 4 past the two-decade mark. I know there are others scattered around, but they are either so niche they are outliers or never made an impact in the overall market. But the main difference between the two groups is all the 20+ year games are still going, why?
The first difference is that all the 20+ games control all aspects of their game. The intellectual property elements. The art, story, and thus have full control over it as well as retaining all the money as well. 6 of the 7 that lasted 10 years were licensed, that means they might profit from the game itself, but that was it. No additional revenue streams and part of any money made had to be paid out as well. Plus, depending on the agreement, they might not have control over the art/pictures or even some game mechanics.
What does this have to do with Force of Will? Well, they control all the IP elements of their game. Sure, they aren’t off doing an anime like Pokemon, but they could. No novels like Magic, but they could. That is all secondary though. The main reason is that they don’t answer to anyone else or have to pay them money. This is a key element to longevity and stability. FoW is right on the precipice of that decade mark now, it premiered in 2012 and is about to hit year nine. The critical time frame for a TCG is the 2-3 year mark. So far, the game is making all the crucial benchmarks, time wise, that over 90% of other games have failed.
I will close out this first installment by just saying you can’t predict the future, let alone the value of things. But when it comes to TCGs, knowing the maker will be there is a cornerstone. Will Eye Spy be around in 10 years still making Force? No idea, but so far they are beating a lot of their predecessors on that front, so my money is on yes, and I mean that since I have a lot invested in Force product.
Hopefully join me next time as I explore the transition of ownership of the game and how it effected the game and the rise from the perceived ashes by comparing similar situations from other games, like Pokemon.
I really liked the analysis in this one. It’s cool to get a behind the scenes look at the business.