【Chromancer】 Cost Analysis

Nothing is perfect in this world, so there have to be some catch or drawbacks.  So what is it for Chromancer?  One is the company is Indy, so without our support no matter how great the game is, it may not take off or even if it did, without enough players, the game may not survive.  However, this is just a risk we have to take if backing up a game on kickstarter.  Therefore, I don’t consider this as a true downside of the game.  So what is it?  Well, the one thing that makes me worry is the price scheme of the game.  Let’s take a look.

Pack Price Comparison

One obvious way to compare the dTCG price is to look at the booster pack price relative to other dTCGs.

Game Name 1 booster pack price Comment
Magic the Gathering Online $4.00 Huge resell value, can usually purchase for slightly cheaper price, physical card conversion option.
Infinity Wars $2.07 To get this price, must buy $10 credits at once.  Minimum is $2.01 with $500 purchase.
HEX $2.00  *$1.00/pack/week with VIP subscription.
Chromancer $2.00
Solforge $1.90 *Premium Pack: $11.50
Hearthstone $1.25 Min To get $1.25/pack, must buy 40 packs
Shadow Era (Min Price) $0.66 Must buy $50 crytals at once

As you can see if you compare to other major dTCG that will be released soon/currently in beta (HEX, and Solforge), $2.00 price point is a standard.  Hearthstone is cheaper, but the game is relatively more casual.

Although Chromancer will only have 7 cards/pack compared to game like HEX where there will be more like 15 cards (plus treasure), the Chromancer’s deck size is 24 cards compared to HEX, which is 60 with 20+ being resource cards i.e. 40 actual cards.  So the ratio of useful cards are about the same.

Is this a good price?  Definitely a not bad price.  However, comparing the price of dTCG based on the booster pack has a major flaw in my opinion.

  1. Rarity distribution may differ, and in reality the only cards usually have a true value are the higher rarity cards and rest are nothing.
  2. Play limitation: you may have enough cards to make a deck but making a competitive deck may be another.

Complete Playset Price Comparison

This is by no means a perfect but complete playset price will provide following (fair) comparison among dTCGs.

  1. By having complete playset, you can make any deck you want including the most expensive deck.

Obviously, most players will not need a complete playset.  Even a regular collector may just need a collection of all individual card (1 copy) rather than full playset copies.  But the problem is when you want to play, you may potentially need the all copies.  For example, having just 1 copy of a card is not enough to put into your deck and get reliable statistical draw out of it.

So why is this comparison be possibly more fair than the individual booster pack price comparison?  A while back when I was playing Magic Online for just brief period of time (couple years), there was a card called Jace, the mind sculptor.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

This card was very good to the point it is now banned in Modern and Extended formats.  This one card at one point costed over $100.  So having four copies of this (a playset) is $400 by just this card alone!  So what’s my point here?  Well, if you wanted to make a deck with this particular card, you had to potentially spend $400 plus whatever the other cards are in the deck.  If you compare the price of this deck to other deck that is competitive the difference in factor can be significant.  So one can argue, on this dTCG you can make a very competitive deck with relatively cheap price.  This can be a perfectly true statement; however, what if you want play in a certain way, with a certain card?  Afterall, the fun of TCG/CCG is variation of the play limited by your imagination.  So not being able to play a type of deck because you don’t have the card seems a overall game limitation.

Therefore, the complete set price comparison in my opinion can be a bit more fair comparison among different dTCGs/dCCGs as they can represent maximum amount you have to spend, and with that you can play any deck you want i.e. you never have to spend more than this value.

How much is a complete set for Magic?

Generally, speaking although there are some variations set to set, if you purchase early or at the right timing, in Magic Online usually comes down to around $400 for complete playset (http://www.mtgotraders.com/store/complete_sets.html).  This is mainly because of its large secondary market with dedicated online MTGO sellers.

How can we calculate/estimate?

The one way to acquire cards would be through the booster packs.   Statistically speaking, this would mean the # of packs you have to buy to get all the highest rarity cards.  The reason behind the highest rarity card is that by the time you acquire the all copies of the highest rarity cards, you will likely to have enough copies of the all the lower rarity cards.   If there is trade house, or second market of individual cards then basically lower rarity cards have negligible value/cost.

So let’s see how well this approach works.  Taking the gold standard Magic as example here first.

Magic complete set analysis by booster packs

On Magic 2014 (current set), there are 15 mythic rares (the highest rarity cards in Magic).  Odds of getting 1 mythic rare is 1:8.  This means on average, you have to open 15 x 8 = 120 packs to get 15 copies of mythic rares.  This is assuming you get no duplicate.  In the mean time, you would have 105 rares as each booster pack has either one rare or one mythic rare.

Source: http://mtg.wikia.com/wiki/Mythic_Rare

Now next step, is convert 120 packs into a cost.  Each booster pack in Magic costs $4.00 at retail.  So $4 x 120 = $480.

You may be wow, that’s just like the set price I talked about above.  Well… surprise, this is not the case.  This is just for a single copy of each card.  In magic, you need 4 copies. So what happens here is you have to further multiply by 4. $480 x 4 = $1920.

Again this is assuming you won’t have any duplicate of Mythic rares.  So if you try to get complete set from booster packs, it is just under $2000.  Obviously, this is quite different from $400 above.  Again, its because there are large enough secondary market.

In any event, based on this, we basically have following generalized equation to calculate complete set price for any dTCGs from the booster packs.

Single copy price by boosters (SCost)  = (Price of a booster pack) x (Odds ratio of the highest rarity card) x (# of the highest rarity cards in the set) 

Complete playset price by boosters (CCost) = (SCost) x (# of copies for a playset)

Chromancer complete set analysis by booster packs

Fortunately, we know all the variables on chromancer at this point, so we can actually calculate this.

The Primeval™ set (our launch set of 300 cards):

96 commons

96 uncommons

96 rares

12 heroes

Rarity ratios:

125 commons : 50 uncommons : 20 rares : 1 hero

… which means that in a booster pack of 7 cards you are around 70-80% likely to find a rare, and that you will find a hero exactly 1 in every 28 boosters. Don’t forget that there are several free-to-use heroes anyone can play with. Also don’t forget that you absolutely don’t need a hero to have an effective deck (we revulse at the thought of pay-to-win).

Common: about 4.5 per Booster
Uncommon: about 1.8 per Booster
Rare: about 2 in every 3 Boosters
Hero: about 1 in every 28 Boosters
SCost = $2.00 x 28 x 12 = $672.
On Magic, this cost was $480.  But wait, here is a catch.  In chromancer, you can only have 1 copy of hero in a deck i.e. this is indeed a complete set when comes to the hero.  So it is already much cheaper than the $1920 on Magic, isn’t it?
So far so good except.. here is a bit concerning part I have (perhaps due to lack of experience playing dTCG using this type of model before).  In Chromancer, other than the heroes, you can have as many copies as you want in a deck with a cap being the deck size itself, which is 24.  Among 24 cards, 3 slots will be for castle, graveyard and bank and the other 3 for basic field to support these.  So you technically have 18 flexible slots.  Obviously, noones is going to play 18 copies of a single card as that 18 cards must also include more resource generator i.e. field cards but what about 5 copies?  How about 6 copies of a rare?  So rather than taking a usual highest rarity card analysis here, let’s see how this changes if we took rares.
First let’s do SCost of rares.
SCost(rares) = $2.00 x 96 x 2/3 = $128.
Now let’s make a little table here to see how # of copies would affect this value.
# of rare copies CCost
1 128
2 256
3 384
4 512
5 640
6 768
7 896
8 1024
9 1152
10 1280
11 1408
12 1536
13 1664

Now from above, remember CCost (hero) is $672.  So this means if the game is set such that # of copies are limited to 5, then the hero card still can be the CCost deciding factor.  But if one can start making a competitive decks with higher copies, rare starts to become the determination factor.  Having said this, even with 12 copies of a single rare is still cheaper than the magic, and I just cannot imagine anyone can make any reasonable deck containing half of your deck being the same card.  Especially, you will be including some of field cards into this deck so it is actually way more than half of your non-resource card in a deck if you end up using 12 copies.

Though having said this I am actually torn here.  Because idea of making being able to make a deck with 12 copies of a single card and be competitive is very intriguing.  I know this is not a HEX, but let me just bring an example here.

This is a relatively unique concept (as far as I know) invented by Cryptozoic for HEX.  It is called “escalation”.  Basically, you double the effect of the other copies of the same card in the deck, and this itself goes back to the deck.  So the first ragefire will give 2 damage, but second will do 4, the third will do 8.  Again, this is independent of the actual copy i.e. you don’t have to redraw the identical copy you just used.

Obviously, this will be overpowered in Chromancer without a change but one can imaging if it had a similar mechanics, you can make deck filled entirely with ragefires (granted chromancer will need a creature to cast a spell, so a couple spots for it).  But once you have your creature out, you can start ragefiring one after another, and make extremely aggressive burn deck.

So yes. I like the potential and flexibility of unlimited copies allowed in a deck.  The cost however, concerns me.

Real Price for Complete Set

Now just I said in above, in Magic if you were to calculate by booster packs it is a little short of $2000, but nobody pays that much to get a complete set.  Using individual card stores, Magic provides around $400 to complete your set.  On top of which, it actually have a huge resell value.  Of course the price of card fluctuate and sometimes like a stock goes skyrocket in one day, and drops quickly another day i.e. lose your value.  But generally speaking, its more of a shift in price within a set than the total collapse i.e. if one card goes down in a price, another goes up; hence, complete set value usually stays steady.

With Chromancer allowing/planning to have free trading option, it is a fair assumption that complete playset will be cheaper than what I have calculated above but by how much?  Nobody knows.  You need to have enough people playing the game, and trading to keep the market stabilized, and come down to good equilibrium price point.

Resell value

Chromancer is emphasizing its virtual goods persistency, which I may actually write a little article about in the future but for now, it is suffice to say, they are doing the best they can.  Only the time will tell.  You just have to have enough players to play the game.  Otherwise, no matter how good the game is if the game shuts down, you lose everything (Carte…).

Conclusion

Generally speaking, I think Chromancer’s price point is reasonable.  The only unknown fact which leads to potential concern is the fact you can include maximum up to 18 copies of high rarity cards (rares).  In the past, I conducted a brief survey with merely 10 or so people replied… but ideal price point for complete playset was somewhere around $200-$300.

My take is $100/month for complete set is reasonable.  This is like you buy couple video games, and if you get addicted to dTCG you can easily get more time on it than couple video games.  So if expansion frequency is 3-4 months then $300-$400 is good.

Currently, Chromancer can hit the mark if “hero” is the determination factor as long as good healthy trading market becomes available (i.e. need enough players).  However, if rares can drive the complete set price, it can be more expensive than Magic Online.  No matter how good the dTCG is, setting a price higher than Magic is the worst idea.  It will never take off.

So potential solution?  Perhaps, they can set a required copy maximum e.g. 3 or 4 copies for rares.  If in certain format, you need more copies additional copies are provided for free in that format i.e. if you want to have 12 copies of a card, you must have 4 copies, but above that is becomes selectable on the format.  This way price will be fixed/capped.

Alternatively, The Started Hares can sell individual cards as in Shadow Era, which will also fix the price.  Though based on their virtual goods policy, I believe this would not happen and probably should not happen.

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