Translated by Coldtaco
Edited by Aelryinth
Were Chinese card games fun
The ansswer differed from person to person, as everyone had different tastes.
Many said that card games were crude, monotonous, and repetitive, all of which are true.
But… they were quite profitable!
Being profitable meant the players approved of it.
Why did players approve of it Because they thought it was fun!
This was a very weird phenomena, as players complained while forking money out of their pockets.
Why were card games so profitable Which part of the game made it fun
This was an open-ended question. If Chen Mo were to write a thesis on the core of card games, it would probably be tens of thousands of words long.
In simpler words, the pleasure of playing card games came from three distinct areas.
First was the collecting and level-up cards. This was built on the players recognition of the character cards.
There was a certain company who made a One Piece-themed I Am MT bootleg. A certain rich person spent a few thousand RMB without question just to draw a Hawk-Eyes card!
There was another nameless Three Kingdoms card game that was still in beta, and another certain rich person added five thousand RMB into his account in anger just so he could draw Zuge Liang. It turned out the game didnt even have Zuge Liang yet!
The company ended up working overtime to add Zuge Liang into the game!
Similarly in I Am MT, many players would be grinding dungeons daily, collecting purple card shards, or spending heaps of money “Drawing Ten”, all just to get the cards they wanted!
The video game designer would balance the cards abilities to match the scenes in the series (or according to the popularity of the character), all just to train the players to recognize the character cards.
With the recognition of players, the cards would become more valuable, which in turn incentivized the players to spend money.
Once the value of a card had been established, it would be differentiated from the other cards. The desire of the players to collect and level up cards would also be satisfied, and they would feel that the money was well spent.
Therefore the key in making a card game profitable was to establish a value system that was recognized by the players. This made it possible to constantly sell the players new cards, just like they were collecting stamps.
After a player got the card they wanted, in order to make it stronger, they would continue to level it up, or improve its abilities. Everytime the card was leveled, it let the players feel like they were growing, which would make it feel like money well spent.
This was also part of the aforementioned “numerical stimulus”.
This was the most important source of joy for card games. This was a very mature, and very repeated model, which is why the mobile card game market was so saturated.
The second core attraction was figuring out the lineups and crafting your own strategies.
The combat system of card games might seem monotonous, but it was actually quite rich. In I Am MT, each card had three attacks: a normal attack, a special attack, and passive attacks. The character creation system was based on the combat system of World of Warcraft, with different characters having different abilities.
There would be several types of AoE spells, such as blizzard types (attacked the whole screen), whirlwind types (three cells in the row in front) and piercing attacks (two cells in front).
There was also physical and magical damage, as well as single and multi-targeted spells.
Healing had the same idea, with single and multi-targeted healing.
Other than that, there was also damage reduction, resurrection, damage over time, and many other combat abilities. If you could think of it, there was some way to integrate that into the card game combat system.
This was all in addition to card positioning, order, effectiveness, and weaknesses, party leader abilities, and other complicated mechanics, which greatly increased the playability of the card game combat system.
Of course, this combat system was no match for a standalone game, but it was more than enough for mobile gamers!
This combat system could be displayed all over the world again, just by reskinning the combat system for animes like One Piece or Naruto, or Wuxia Novels.
These combat systems had a cyclic balancing system. For example, single target healing beat burst damage, burst damage beats group healing, group healing beats AoE damage, etc. It would take the players a large amount of time testing and sharing their experiences with others to be able to find the best group of five cards among dozens of cards.
The rare cards were under strict control, requiring the player to spend time or money. Testing out each and every card in combat was a huge investment!
This process would also be fun and fulfilling to the player. Therefore if the combat system and card growth system in a card game were a perfect match for one another, it would result in a combat system that never grew old, allowing the players to play it for years and years without getting bored.
The third feature was marketing strategy and numerical stimulus.
These all covered a broad area, such as operational activities (seven-day logins, check-ins, growth bonuses), daily bonuses (free diamonds, free combat bonuses, online rewards, etc.), early bonuses, etc…
Of course, these werent just for card games, but were standards for every Chinese mobile game. It was also popular among other genres, such as strategy games or FPS games.
However, the absolute first source of it had to be early browser games, popularized by mobile card games, which finally spread to all Chinese mobile games.
Of course, this “Ivan Pavlov” style of numerical stimulus have been greatly criticized by many gamers. In the end, it was only criticism, and there wasnt a single mobile gaming company who didnt dare not do the same.
Why Because it was simple, yet effective. Once it was removed, the statistics for the game and its profits would drop.
This was the effect of “numerical simulation”!
First, the game must be free, attracting as many players into the game as possible. Some of these players may not plan to spend money, but that didnt matter.
After the start, there would be a very detailed tutorial, allowing the players to experience what the game had to offer as soon as possible. At the same time, the game would be extremely easy and allow the player to steamroll through it.
This was the same theory behind ebooks: providing the first sections for free, experience it first, pay later. If the user wasnt happy, no payments would be received.
However, this could not be maintained for a long time, probably three days to a week, and the player had to experience some difficulties after that.
In games like these, paying players and free players were naturally on different levels. In order to make the players spend money, barriers had to be introduced.
The aforementioned barriers would be introducing them to difficulties and guiding them to spending money to make themselves stronger, and then moving forward on harder levels.
This would result in another problem: if a player didnt want to spend money and they were met with a barrier, what would happen They would probably give up on the game!
How do you keep these players Simple, just give them help!
TL Note:  Ivan Pavlov is a psychologist known for his work in classical conditioning-