PTCGO is the Best Game in the Game

While we don’t know when the game will be back to normal, what we do know is the fact that it will have changed

Thoughts about the future of the video game. While we don’t know when the game will be back to normal, what we do know is the fact that it will have changed. In metro areas, around 15 to 50% small businesses closed during October. Some were temporarily, others were permanently or soon to close. This means that organized play will see the loss of many stores that we know and love by 2021. Players will need to cope with fewer stores and the consequences of that reduction.

Bulbasaur #1 card found in the booster packs and boxes or in the Black & White series.However, expectations for events will change after one year and half of online events. Every year, venues have increased their costs to tournament organizers. Those costs have been passed onto us players in form of entry fees for regionals. In a year and half when hotels and event spaces are hard hit, many venues will attempt to recoup those funds once events resume. The burdens placed on tournament organizers, players and venues over the past year and a quarter will be mixed up and there could be multiple situations that could alter the game’s state for the worse or better.

The pandemic has caused severe damage to stores, including closures and reduced business. In these cases, they were permitted to reopen and recover their losses. This will mean that organized tournament play will be affected. Let me first show you how these businesses function in relation to organized tournament play. Boutique and retail businesses rely heavily on the margins of their product, not organized play. Traditional organized play has been a way to spread word of mouth and get foot traffic. These stores have been hit hard by the virus, but online traffic has increased and will mean that brick-and-mortar game stores’ revenues will decline.

Players on the margins might be tempted to skip the game because entry fees will rise

The costs must be recouped somehow. If a store doesn’t have an online presence, then the return of organized players might be seen not only as a source for advertisement, but also as a way to generate quick revenue to help the store survive. Players on the margins might be tempted to skip the game because entry fees will rise in many areas. Closing stores means there will be less competition. From a micro-economics perspective, people are less likely not to join a market after an adverse situation (like the pandemic).

Chandelure #16 card found in the booster packs and boxes or in the Black & White series.Therefore, a lack in competition should be the norm in many areas. By requiring stores to offer better prices, better tournament organizers and better pricing, competition creates better player experiences. We saw a decline of “customer experience” in airline flying as a result of decreased competition in the latter 20th century. It is not surprising that many of the customs of local stores we are used to will disappear as a result. We have now established that these businesses have a lower level of competition than ever before. So why is it important for us players? The game thrives when there are venues.

The next generation of Pokemon players will not emerge if they don’t have places to meet and play the game together. Although the average competitive player might complain about league challenges and local events, having local events is an effective way to build interest in Pokemon among kids. The social distancing that we have experienced over the course of the pandemic has already partially guaranteed a decline in this base. This does not only affect the competitive scene. As a generation grows up, the value of Pokemon cards rises as the generation enters work and nostalgia drives it.

Competitive players may not be fans of the league challenge/cup grind grind

These venues will not allow for growth. Pokemon and Organized Play need to be aware of this fact and find a way that protects the future of the game. Pokemon World Championships 2019. The future, schmuture. What about the present? The local CP grind will change due to a decrease in venues and pandemic-related changes. This may not seem obvious. Although competitive players may not be fans of the league challenge/cup grind grind, it is part and parcel of the system. Stores will try to support local events to help with the recovery from the pandemic.

Pokemon depends on these stores to promote their game. This is similar to how organized play relies on word of mouth to spread the word about the game. Pokemon will be incentivized then to increase the attention to local events after the pandemic. This is evident in the local league promos that were run during the pandemic, as well as the Team League tournament organized by Organized Play. Pokemon doesn’t want the “local” scene to collapse. This means that I don’t see any future in which local events will be removed or neutered. There will be fewer local tournaments if there are fewer venues. It is unclear what this will mean, but it could mean that players in some areas will be encouraged to play at local tournaments to earn points.

Mew VMAX #TG30 card found in the booster packs and boxes or in the Sword & Shield series.These changes could lead to tournaments that are more casual and fun. Even though there are fewer local stores, that does not mean every event will be bigger. A portion of the players will have given up on the game after a year and half. Similar breaks have occurred in other sports/hobbies. Online tournaments may soon make it so that players will not have to travel to local events. Some people might not take the vaccine and decide to skip local events for a while. It is likely that the player base will be lower than it was before the pandemic. This would be the first time such a decline has occurred in a long period.

Players complained loudly about the Jimmy Ballard regional not long ago

A decline in player base could indicate that tournament organizers are putting misplaced hope on the resumption organized play of cards games to regain their business. Pokemon World Championships 2019. Photo courtesy The Pokemon Company International. Let’s move on from local events and look at regional events. We will likely see dramatic changes to these too. Pre-pandemic, regionals increased their prices continuously. This will again result in a loss of revenue for tournament organizers and venues. The only way to fix this is through the players. Players complained loudly about the Jimmy Ballard regional not long ago. It was the first to break through the $45 entry barrier. Ballard then reduced the entry price.

However, this was only temporary. The next year we saw $50+ regional entry fees. It is expensive to host a tournament. TOs must make estimates about the number of players they expect to attend an event. To compensate for a decrease in players, TOs might overpay for venues. Players will pay the difference. In recent years, regionals have become more centralized. There are fewer TOs who control more regions. This could lead to mismatched expectations and a decline in player base. A reduction in competition can also result in a decreased player experience.

Charmander #101 card found in the booster packs and boxes or in the Diamond & Pearl series.Although regional events can involve hundreds of people, one thing we should not forget about the pandemic is that it will not go away overnight. This will be something that TOs/events need to consider. Even if everyone has access to the vaccine, not all will receive it. This will create moral and legal problems for organized play. What happens if someone becomes fatally ill or dies after getting the virus from an event? This will be a difficult issue for players and TOs alike, as all the vaccine candidates have varying efficacy levels (ranging from 70 to 90%). Even though the vaccine is now available, safety precautions will still be in place. Are TOs required to enforce the mask rules even after the vaccine has been released? They may be required by Pokemon. Even with the vaccine, things may not return to pre-pandemic levels. Venues that were previously used may have to be modified or may not be available anymore.

Changes to venues will result in possible cost increases

If a venue does not have enough toilets/space, or people are forced to wait six feet for a restroom, it may be unviable. Changes to venues will result in possible cost increases, which will be passed on to the players. The venue supply chain will likely be stretched in a way not possible to foresee as other conventions try to compete for larger venues. PTCGO is here and will stay. Other TCGs have better online experiences than Pokemon. They also have more support online than us. This was a late addition to the game, and Pokemon was only forced to focus more on it due to the pandemic.

While in-person participation might drop, there are still people who have gotten into the game through the online promotion. If Pokemon perceives what I believe will be a significant drop in attendance at in-person events, who are they to say that PTCGO will not be considered a more cost-effective, riskier, and less risky way of promoting the game than supporting an inefficient, infected, organized play scene? The Pokemon pandemic exposed the lack of support for its online platform. However, this does not mean that it will continue to neglect this. It is possible that the current trend of fewer in-person events may be the new normal. 2019 Pokemon World Championships Photo courtesy The Pokemon Company International.

Charizard & Braixen GX #22 card found in the booster packs and boxes or in the Sun & Moon series.Traditions and sportsmanship can change. Who doesn’t recall shaking hands with each new opponent at a tournament. Although we all know this, handshakes can spread germs. However, it is still a common practice in many countries. Players will be asked not to shake hands with other players if they are unable to get vaccines. Close contact could lead to death. This has been the reality for the past year and a quarter. However, not everyone will get vaccinated. This means that everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, will need to be aware of the dangers involved in spreading the virus. You shouldn’t throw away your hand sanitizer if things get worse. Anybody who claims they know the future will look is being naive. In reality, no one knows what the future will bring.

We should expect changes in venues and costs as the game returns. As we all navigate a new future together, patience for venues, TOs and each other will become more important. It will be dealt with by organized play – and I hope these musings have helped you to keep an open mind about the future.

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