@Topical_Island Its why I pretty much only play on Cockatrice nowadays, even though I can 10 proxy almost anything. Here there is no vintage scene and legacy is sinking like a stone. As I mentioned in the "Riders on the Storm" thread, I'm really enjoying FFG's LCG model because everyone has access to the same stuff. It's your deckbuilding and playskill that matter, not your pocket book. Yet there is still an ability to add some flair to your deck through their alternate full art cards.
Fantasy Flight Games releases their card games under a "Living Card Game" model. The releases are all predetermined. Other than the initial box set which is designed to also be played as a stand alone game, all packs and expansions are sold with the complete number of cards you need, usually 3. The newest set has a mechanic that allows you to put 6 of particular card in your deck, so the monthly pack comes with 6 copies.
The collectability aspect of the game is what I dislike the most about Magic. That is the main thing that has stopped me from investing in MTGO. The other thing is the interface that creates its own issues. Cockatrice is much easier to work with, and I can customize my own interface for it now with the new releases. If Wizards created something similar to Cockatrice I'd be all over it. Instead of paying for packs, make it a monthly subscription model. You get access to all the cards when you subscribe, and when a set it released you have access to all the cards to design with. Prizes would be special avatars or custom art for cards. If you stop paying, you can't play, but your prizes are still linked to your account in case you decide to resubscribe.
@Topical_Island Yes, the price (or accessibility) of cards is probably an obstacle to growth and is the one complaint that unites nearly everyone in the game. But what I have come to realise more and more is that this is the fundamental paradox of MTG - we play a trading/collectible card game and for many people (myself included) a big, big part of the enjoyment comes from acquiring new cards and having a 'wish list' of cards that I hope to add to my collection in the near(ish) future, knowing that I will then just end up lusting after newer, more desirable cards. Without this trading and collecting aspect I don't think MTG would ever have been as successful as it has been, so in a sense the inaccessibility is baked in.
So if by 'this otherwise amazing game' you mean vintage, which I assume you do, then yes, you are right. But it's my view that for MTG in general the inaccessibility is probably a net driver of growth. Maybe this will shift as the culture becomes more driven by online play and less by physical cards, but I think WOTC are aware of this and are doing everything they can to prevent the paper game from declining.
At least the Pokemon people were up front enough to make it their slogan - 'gotta catch 'em all'!
The inaccessibility initially was never due to a price tag, it was due to the built in scarcity of the cards. The internet kind of broke that aspect of the game. I remember buying packs of Revised, Arabian Nights and Antiquties from my local Microplay (A preEB game store chain in Ontario), in 94, and we had no access to buying singles and trading on the level we have today. We can get any card we want thanks to the net, if we are willing to pay. Back then, you had access to what your playgroup had, or whatever the local stores had from what they opened.
@Ked That is a really good post, and thank you. (That's usually the sort of thing someone says on here before they disagree with you, but I really do mean it.) But I disagree with you about the net driver of growth part. I think Magic, vintage magic, is such a good game that it can stand on it's own like Chess does. I really think it's that good.
I do mean Vintage when I say, an otherwise amazing game. I think the card hoarding that goes on is terrible. Just terrible. It cuts against everything else that I see as good about this game.
As for the rest of your post, thank you again. I also love getting new cards. I don't think that is ever going away. If ever tourney in the world we unlimited proxy, I would still want a Black Lotus. I just went to an unlimited proxy tourney, and a Landstill player won the thing with perhaps the most gorgeous deck I've ever seen. Just about every card was foil, or beta, or altered. The Library of Alexandria was probably the prettiest card in the room. Just look at altering and foils... they aren't better than other cards in terms of gameplay, yet people crave them anyway. Hoarding is not necessary to create the desire in people for what is rare and beautiful. That will always exist. In the mean time lets let new people into the game.
@Topical_Island Thanks for your response. I completely share your sentiments about wanting to get more people into Vintage. I also absolutely agree that Magic can stand on its own like chess in terms of gameplay. I have played a little bit of chess and although I enjoy it I would never play it over Magic given a choice between the two. But is chess 'growing' in any real sense these days? Maybe it is, but certainly not enough to satisfy a commercial gaming outfit like WOTC. Perhaps vintage is the chess of the Magic world - a format with a metagame that (usually) shifts slowly over time and that rewards technical mastery and sound theoretical understanding.
It seems to me that WOTC's business model is based on making it as easy as possible for people to start playing Magic with the unspoken assumption that there will always be cards/decks/formats that are relatively inaccessible for various reasons and that this is something that keeps people coming back for more. So while I absolutely agree with you about the strength of its gameplay I just think that too many people are unwilling to acknowledge that a huge part of the success of Magic is because it was the first collectible card game.
I guess this leads to a few questions (I don't have the answers to these, I'm genuinely curious to hear what you think): what is the relationship between growth in the broader MTG player base and the growth of vintage? How do people get into vintage specifically? Is it more to do with the gameplay or the allure of playing with older/more exclusive and therefore more desirable cards? If WOTC went bust tomorrow and stopped printing new cards would MTG become more like chess? Would Magic as a whole look more like Vintage does now? And would card accessibility become better or worse?
@Ked I think I'm willing to acknowledge that. The collectibility of the game was a big part of its initial growth. But largely I think that's a piece of good marketing more than anything. Collectible... like able to be collected? Baseball has collectibility, in it's memorabilia. There are people who collect coins, and stamps, and rocks, and little statues of cats. Just about anything you can hold in your hand can be collected.
But collectibility did play a big role in Magic's rise. In fact Magic came out at the perfect time, right at the beginning of the halcyon days of collectible non-sense. Remember Beanie Babies... Remember Pogs? Remember Tulip Bulbs in Holland in the 1630s?.... (Ok, I'm going to assume that's no to the last one.)
The point is that collectibility isn't a static feature of objects, it's a static feature of humans. Humans like to get stuff. They like rare and beautiful things. The separator for magic is that the game is great! (Compare back to the mindless smashing of disks that is Pogs.) There is actually real value to this game, and to the cards in it therefore. I would argue that there is real value to say... baseball. The game. It does things collectively for communities. It reaches a level of sophistication that allows it to transcend just leisure time activity. It connects generations of people, and allows people from across the globe to share a common experience. So what is Babe Ruth's rookie card worth... well really it's just a piece of cardboard, so a good argument can of course be made that it's worthless.
But that's crazy. It's crazy in a practical sense, as in, seriously dude don't throw that away, people will pay a lot of money for that. And it's crazy because it willfully disregards that the card is mainlined to the cultural and historical significance of Baseball itself, which in turn stems from the fact that that game itself, has real value and requires real skill. The card is an icon of that culture and that skill. Saying it's just a piece of cardboard is like saying that a Rembrandt is just an oily cloth... It's woefully, almost certainly willful in it's ignorance of the weight of human time that came to bear to produce that one thing... as with a Babe Ruth card.
(But seriously, are you really comparing a Rembrandt to a Black Lotus?) Yeah, I am really comparing a Black Lotus to a Rembrandt painting. I'm not saying they are the same thing. If you offered me a choice between the Lotus and the Rembrandt, I would take the painting, I'm not an idiot. (I would sell the painting, then buy a couple original Hokusai prints and a full set of Power for my wife and me... except maybe just one Timetwister... sorry, just not a fan.) I'm saying that with each of those items as a human artifact, there is the same thing going on. Each one is austensibly just paper or cloth with pigment on it, but they represent skill and culture and knowledge, and they are rare and beautiful. And that sets each of those things far apart from the other "collectible" chaff that's out there, like Beanie Babies, or those stupid statuettes of angels they try to sell tired old people on cable tv late at night.
That's why I cringe every time someone gets away with calling this a 'kids' game. I get that, but seriously folks... I don't see too many kids winning these touneys. I see grown ups with a really solid grasp of sophisticated math concepts, language, causal logic and economic principles. If I were marketing this game I would go straight at parents and teachers and say, kids should be playing this because it absolutely improves their language and math skills... here's a kit we offer to run a tourney at your school, winner gets a free deck on us. We consider this a world class game and we want you to be a part of it. (I would also let kids know that it has elves and dragons and vampires too... cause those are friggin sweet. Hey there are Knights and Towers and Queens in chess folks.)
(And I hate that use of the phrase, "for kids"... it manages to insult the game and children simultaneously. It means to say, dumbed down. And sets expectations for children that are needlessly, foolishly low. Kids as a group, tend to either just like things because they're fun... which is actually the best meaning of the phrase, "for kids"... or when they get older they just want to try to do what adults are doing and prove they can.)
As for collectors, the value of their cards is only linked to the cultural significance of the game. It is only reflective of how much other people want their cards. Now that we have Moto and full proxy tourneys and the price for paper Lotus keeps going up, we have confirmed that the value of the cards doesn't lay in having to get the card to play, but in the cultural sway of the game. That is what should be tended to. And that's where vintage comes in. If vintage gets secured as a chess-like world class game, these cards are going to be things we proudly pass down to our grandkids. So long as we go for the shortsighted "kids game" model, and do things like call the highest plainswalker point tier "archmage" instead of life master, like they do in Bridge... we risk someone 100 years from now finding our collections in some attic, and saying... oh yeah, this is that goofy card game for kids from the early 2000s...
Build the game. That card value will take care of itself.
@Topical_Island I think that this distinction between 'kids games' and 'serious games' like chess or bridge is becoming less and less relevant. We live in a world where it is perfectly normal for an adult to play videogames (and even that term now sounds archaic) in his or her spare time or even as part of their job. I have a colleague who has made a career out of researching and writing about the politics of videogames. As time goes on I think we will worry less about whether our particular game is taken seriously or not.
The bigger question is whether it will be successful in competing with all the other alternatives that are out there. A problem for Vintage players is that our game has to compete not only with other games but also other form(at)s of the same game! This complicates things because what is good for MTG as a whole might not be good for Vintage and vice versa.
But yes, I like your vision of vintage and generally agree with you here. Except I would probably keep the Rembrandt.