Digital card games have evolved. Previously, smartphones were the realm of relatively simple card games like Rage of Bahamut and Marvel: War of Heroes. Highly-complex digital collectible card games, or CCGs, modeled after tabletop games tended to exclusively target PC and tablet players. The success ofHearthstone on smartphones shows that the most dedicated CCG players want to play their games on the go too. As digital card gamers grow to expect seamless play across devices, publishers will need to rethink their game designs to account for players’ diverse tastes and different play habits across PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft managed to disrupt the category in the same way World of WarCraft transformed massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs). Blizzard’s first digital card game has deep mechanics, but it is more accessible and streamlined than long-running games like Magic: The Gathering. Hearthstone now dominates the genre and earns around $20M monthly. History repeats itself here: In 2004, World of WarCraft became the MMO to beat thanks to a combination of the popular WarCraft IP and gameplay that was more accessible than existing MMOs.
Collectible card gamers designed for smartphones can be very different from those built for PCs or tablets. The large screens of PCs and tablets easily support complex games similar to physical CCGs such as Magic: The Gathering and The Pokémon Trading Card Game. Prominent smartphone CCGs like Rage of Bahamutand Marvel: War of Heroes barely resemble physical CCGs as battles last only a minute or two, and winners are determined mainly by who has cards with higher stats.
Hearthstone proves “traditional” CCG players want to game on the go too.Hearthstone’s monthly revenue jumped 31% when the game became available on smartphones. Thanks to the rise of large-screen smartphones and “phablets,” more smartphones now have the screen space to comfortably fit the detailed user interfaces of more complex card games.
Hearthstone has heightened consumer expectations for digital card games. Publishers now need to account for the fact that Hearthstone is many players’ entry point to the genre. These players expect CCGs to let them play across devices and be easy to learn yet tactically deep. Game makers are beginning to take note: The recently- released Magic Duels: Origins is the first version of Magic: The Gathering to appear on smartphones and also emphasizes tools to ease newcomers into the game.