After nearly 7 years, the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game is shutting down. The 21st Set, “Timewalkers: Reign of Fire” is the final set of cards for the game. I can’t say I’m tremendously surprised, I don’t think the WoW TCG has been particularly healthy for sometime. Though it has continued to score a small piece of real estate at mainstream retail stores like Target and Walmart it has clearly been on a slow decline in sales.
It could be argued that WoW TCG never really stood a chance against the much larger and more entrenched 800lb gorilla that is Magic the Gathering. Still, WoW:TCG was actually a very good game design that leveraged a popular IP with some genuinely interesting and unique mechanics to see some degree of success:
– A unique resource system based around quest cards that rewarded you for using quest cards for resources but allowed you to use any card as a resource. This meant no more mana screw and opened up some interesting player choices. The quest rewards also helped the end-game I think.
– The class system for abilities strongly tied the game to the WoW theme while also setting some themes for deck-building. I know some also viewed this as a weakness since you could open several packs and not get any abilities for the class you were interested in playing.
– The Raid decks. I think these will always be viewed as a breakthrough in TCG design and were even featured on Penny Arcade several times. The Raid Decks took some of the most evocative content from WoW and brought it into the cardboard realm as a fantastic and rewarding opposed co-op experience.
– The loot cards. It’s hard to know just how much these lengthened the life of the game but I imagine quite a bit. The number of people who bought booster boxes of the TCG simply for the handful of loot cards to use in the online game is absurd, showing just how crazy some people are about WoW and what they are willing to spend; after all, these are the same people paying 20 bucks for some mount in the computer game. At one point loot cards for Swift Spectral Tigers from the 3rd TCG set were selling for around a thousand dollars, if I remember right, which artificially raised the price of that set.
At the end of the day, though, I think the game was just too similar to Magic and WoW was too divisive of an IP for the game to ever hope to see the kind of broad success it needed to stick around longer. The end of a trading card game is always sad since people who spent money on the game system are now stuck with likely hundreds or thousands of dollars of cards for a game that is not longer supported or being developed. I don’t know what the exact amount is but I spent probably at least a couple hundred dollars on the game; more than I have spent on Magic. I did really appreciate and enjoy the Raid decks and would consider those my favorite method of playing the game, but overall I would have to say I probably did not get my money’s worth out of what I purchased. Every game purchase I make is begun as a mental calculation of the hobby value I will get out of playing that game vs. the financial cost of the game itself, but TCGs can be tricky because you usually acquire them in small purchases and can more easily rack up a lot of expenses over time without realizing it. Magic is referred to as “cardboard crack” for good reason.
Still, I don’t regret the time I did spend with the game and I hope that my collection will see some use in the future. I don’t intend to try to sell it, mainly because my cards are all from older sets and I’m sure I would only get pennies on the dollar. The Raid decks alone are reason enough to keep it around.
In the meantime I have signed up for the Hearthstone Beta, the digital and spiritual successor. I haven’t gotten in yet but have had a good experience with the digital TCG Duel of Champions I have high hopes that Hearthstone will provide a good gaming experience for minimal cost.