An inside look into the world of anime trading cards16 August, 2012 by Mus
There’s always interest to hear about the business side of things, and how it motivates those working in the industry. Japan Lovers is a series that will bring you an insider’s perspectives on an industry, whether through the use of a guest article, or a structured interview conducted by us. In this first Japan Lover’s segment, we bring you one of the owners of The Card Geeks (TCG), Noel Chau.
Noel got his start in the business of anime while in the anime club of the National University of Singapore, when he got involved with Anime Festival Asia. A student of Japanese studies and English Literature in the university, the ex-gamer’s role in TCG is focused largely on outdoor events. He elaborates more about his history and motivations for working with TCG in his guest article.
What I write when we talk about the business of playing cards
An article by Noel Chau.
‘Ex-gamer’ is somewhat appropriate but erroneous at the same time, because I still actually play computer games, just that I don’t play them that much as I used to. As requested by Mus, here’s my history as a gamer. Ironically, the only card game, in which I define as ownership of physical cards, was Magic: The Gathering (MTG).
Played in a few GPs (Gran Prix) during the Kamigawa block and got into Day 2s but I believe that I never went anywhere beyond top 32s. I was marginally more successful with computer games. I first played Starcraft then both of the Warcraft III games . I had several top 8/16 placings in national tournaments like the World Cyber Games (WCG). Aside from WCG, I participated in other smaller tournaments like the Singtel GXL Leagues, tournaments sponsored by AMD, Creative and others.
Yet my proudest achievement as a “gamer” actually has nothing to do with conventional notions of “gaming”: I was in the Singapore Chess Federation’s Development Squad which can be considered as a de facto national age-group squad. Back then, I did not consider I was talented enough in chess to turn professional (and I still hold the same opinion). All in all, I believe all these “competitive” gaming valuable life experiences, even despite not actually achieving any results.
History of The Card Geeks
This is a compilation of the recollections of several of the shareholders.
Yong Han first discovered Weiss Schwarz and he learnt more about the game in one of his Japan trips. Fascinated and intrigued by a card game which featured artwork from Japanese animation, Yong Han along with some of the original shareholders went on to organize several workshop events in SMU during the year of 2009.
These events allowed people to be exposed to WS, providing a platform for people, to come together to play and learn the game together. One of the original shareholders, Darren, later went to Bushiroad’s office which was at Tokyo to do the Gold/Silver exchange. (The Gold/Silver exchange is a program which rewards lucky buyers with special items such as card sleeves and others.)
It was through Darren’s meeting with Bushiroad where Bushiroad offered an opportunity: the opportunity of directly procuring cards from Bushiroad instead of having to go through other sources. It was through such serendipity that TCG was opened in its original location at Sunshine Plaza at June 2009 officially, although we were already in operation from April onwards. The learning curve was pretty steep in the beginning, but TCG managed to overcome teething problems thanks to the support and assistance of others in the industry and the community.
It was also during this period that I was offered the opportunity to join TCG as a second generation of shareholders by Eugene. Due to my personal situation and existing commitments I did not involve myself with the daily operations of the shop; more importantly there was no real need for me to do so as the existing shareholders were already managing the shop excellently. I involved myself mostly with external events which TCG participated in such as ACME, STGCC, AFA and others. Aside from that I was and am still pretty much a silent partner.
In the beginning TCG only operated during the weekends where the shop organized weekly tournaments that were authorized and recognized by Bushiroad. All these tournaments eventually culminated in a national competition where the winner would serve as Singapore’s representative for Bushiroad’s World Grand Prix (WGP). The very first Singapore edition of these national finals took place in Anime Festival Asia 2009.
AFA 2009 also served as the first time in which senior management from Bushiroad Japan came down to Singapore to observe the burgeoning card scene. This was not the first time Bushiroad had sent representatives down to Singapore, the first time was Cosfest 2009, but AFA 09 served as an excellent platform for Bushiroad to observe the trading card game scene in Singapore first-hand.
In 2010, the shop decided to expand our operation hours, and we opened on weekdays as well. The decision to do so was mainly in consideration of the growing community, and by extension, the increasing pool of customers that the shop was handling. In the middle of 2011, TCG decided to move over to PoMo along with KKnM, which we still operate till today.
On a whole, TCG seeks to continue whatever it has been doing, which is to engage our present customers and help to build the growing community of card players. There will always be new products, but continuity will remain, the shop is not going to deviate from how we handle and treat our customers.
The future of TCG and the local anime trading card scene
Unless stated otherwise, the opinions in this section are wholly my own, on a personal capacity.
Having played card games on and off for more a decade, I believe that trading card games, especially anime trading card games have the potential to endure for years, let me elaborate my position further. Some people may mistakenly think players and consumers of anime trading card games are into such card games because their favourite anime/game/visual novel is featured on these card games.
It is undeniable that such a group exists and in fact this group is a significant group in terms of numbers. However if a card game is primarily premised on appealing to the fandom of players, I believe that such card games are at best collectible trading cards, and not so much of a trading card game.
The word “game” demands and speaks of a competitive nature in these card games. If a card game possess no balance, or worse still, is horribly imbalanced, people will eventually desert and leave the game.
To borrow from MTG terminology, there are several types of card gamers, be it the Timmy/Johnny/Spike but there is one common strand amongst all of them. No gamer plays to lose. As long a card game has new expansions/cards, there will always be groups of players playing it, as long the game is not horribly broken by imbalance. The longevity of MTG and Pokemon: TCG comes to mind, even as the numbers may fluctuate throughout the years, there will always be a group of players.
There may be a plethora of reasons behind player loyalty but I believe that balance is one of these reasons.
The following part is written with input from Yong Han.
As far as I understand, Bushiroad has taken steps towards balance, one major step can be seen in how there are several games which caters for different groups of players. Chaos is seen as the most competitive and seen as Bushiroad’s answer to other competitive card games like MTG and Lycee.
This view is borne out of the fact that Chaos has the deepest game mechanics and that presents the widest range of options and toolsets that players can use. Another important point is that the luck factor is minimal in Chaos where the ability to “cancel” incoming damage is limited to 3 times in Chaos as compared to WS’s 8 times.
One frequent sight in early external events that I saw was of people asking us, “What game is this?” or “How do I play this game?”, such a sight is much rarer now. This is made possible by the fact that there are a lot of sources of information from various communities to assist new players. A common bugbear by new players is the language barrier, where many cannot read or fully comprehend Japanese, this becomes important when it comes to rulings and decisions. This bugbear is thankfully mitigated somewhat by the many fan translations that one can find on the Internet.
Can Bushiroad endure as long as MTG and Pokemon: TCG?
I believe it has the ability and the potential to do so. The very fact that its card games are based on Japanese animation ensures that there always will be new players being interested in the card games. Most importantly, as long the game remains competitive with some semblance of balance, players will stay. I am certain that, no card game prospers for very long, if the player base is constantly changing and in flux.
Writer who also doubles as the photographer during event coverage. Mus' interests in Japan lie in the language, literature, popular culture and underground rock bands. Having an academic background in Japan, Mus is also particularly interested in the study of Nihonjinron.