With my upcoming collectible card game still on the way, looking for ways to become possible, I thought it’s about time I’ll write a little explanation for what it is, and what’s the point – Why should we even want a free collectible card game? If you’re already into open source software, or know the WTactics project, this probably won’t be very new for you.
The existing model
Every collectible card game I currently know (MTG, Scrolls, Duel of Champions, and many others) has basically the same business model: Either give or sell you an initial set of cards, and, if you want to get more or different cards, you have to buy booster packs or individual cards either with real money, or with long hours of playing the game. Usually, they will add various mechanisms to make it more difficult to get the cards you want (most notably, selling packs of random cards instead of letting you get just the cards you want).
What’s the problem with that? Two things. The lesser problem – not everyone has the money for it. This business model blocks very large populations from taking part, and while that’s not a huge problem on its own (many hobbies cost money, there’s nothing wrong with that), it goes against our interest as gamers. The more people can afford to play collectible card games – the better we all are, because there are more games and more contributions to the field.
But the main problem is much more serious – not everyone spends the same amout of money. This means that every game you play with another person is always played from an unequal starting point – one of the players has spent more, therefore there’s a good chance they could build a better deck. This causes two things:
1. You can lose a game even if your strategy is significantly better, just because the opponent has payed more money for better cards.
2. When you win a game, you can’t really be sure if it was your strategy or your investment that did it.
So how will a free collectible card game work?
All the rules and all the cards will be published online, under a creative commons license. Everyone will be able to download all the cards, choose whichever cards they want to build their decks with, and play the game online for free. People who prefer physical cards can either print / make them at home themselves, or buy them from someone else who has. Everyone is free to make and sell physical cards however they want, no company will demand any royalties for them.
But what about the thrill of working hard to build your deck?
There is certainly an advantage to the current model, in that slowly collecting cards adds a sense of long-term challenge to the game and adds another layer of strategy and depth. However, this is only a side effect of the common business model and there’s no reason not to implement it in a more fair way into a free game: the rules will include an extensive reference to tournaments and leagues, with ways to limit cards for their duration. Thus, a group of players can start a league with starter decks and slowly accumulate cards through playing (and, since they all start from the same point and cannot use money to get more, they’ll all be on equal grounds). At the same time, they can play single games with any cards they want, to test new strategies or just to enjoy different styles of play.
So why would anyone make this? Is it financed somehow?
Making a card game and a set of cards is work, and probably will not be done for free. However, it only has to be done once – so all we need is a single crowdfunding effort, gather enough money to reward the creators of the game, and the game will be released forever. I am currently looking for options for starting this crowdfunding campaign, and I’d love to hear from anyone reading this: Will you be interested in supporting such a campaign, either with a financial donation, and/or by publicizing in any way?
 For the sake of the argument, let’s assume time also equals money, which is a reasonable assumption. Not everyone wants or is able to spend his days grinding games to get the cards they want.