Wednesday’s announcement from FFG introducing rotation in Star Wars: Destiny has been met with a largely positive, albeit somewhat mixed, reaction from the active online community. There is little doubt that rotation is a necessary mechanic for the long-term existence of a card game. It keeps the competitive scene fresh and helps the developer/manufacturer maintain a renewable income stream which, in turn, motivates the company to continue to produce and support the game. Overall, rotation tends to be a healthy and positive change for the game.
However, we also must recognize that the Destiny community will be forever changed by this decision. One cannot deny that the implementation of a rotation carries significant impacts to the landscape of Destiny going forward. By this I mean more than just the obvious changes in format at tournaments; rotation impacts players’ perception of the game, their commitment and dedication to the game, their enthusiasm for the game, and ultimately their buying habits.
The vocal majority will always skew towards the highly competitive player. This makes sense, after all – no one wants to listen to a podcast about tier three decks or look at deck lists that didn’t make the top cut. Those who are passionate are the ones taking the time to post, to comment, to complain, and to develop content. These are the players who frequent large tournaments, who go to travel, and who put a face on the community. Their voices carry weight, and should. But because these players’ participation is largely driven by competitive scene, it can often overshadow another participation aspect of this game.
Collectible card games – and especially those with popular themes such as Star Wars – have another component that drives player participation: the collecting aspect. There are surely competitive players who enjoy the collecting aspect. But there is a large portion of the community who came to Destiny not for the game but because it was Star Wars, and then found something wonderful. This may be the more casual player, who perhaps hits her/his LGS for a small local every few weeks, or the person who plays with her/his group over drinks.
The existence of a rotation fundamentally means that that the cards we have today aren’t going to be as useful farther down the road. Yes, there are different formats. But today, you can use a card for anything. Tomorrow, you might not be able to. To someone who has worked hard to build their collection, the existence of a rotation – knowing that what they have worked for loses both monetary value and usefulness over time – can considerably change the way that this player perceives the game, and may impact their commitment and emotional investment going forward.
Rotation puts pressure on the collecting aspect, in that it makes it less attractive to own cards you aren’t actively playing with. To this end, I wanted to explore what I see as the impact that rotation may have on the various parts of our community.
The CCG Collector Archetypes
Many of us are familiar with the concept of the three ‘player archetypes’ of Timmy, Johnny, and Spike. This concept serves to categorize players according to what they personally value from playing a game: Timmy likes the big win, Jonny values the intricate combos, and Spike needs to win at all costs.
Similarly, different players will approach building their card pools in different ways. We can similarly break this down into the ‘collector archetypes’.
Derek loves everything Star Wars. Combine his favorite universe with a fantastic game, and Derek is 110% committed. Derek wants a full collection, striving to have a full playset of every expansion. When a new set is released Derek buys a case or more, and will often make ‘disadvantageous’ trades with extras in order to fully complete a collection.
Andrew loves the game of Destiny itself. Andrew enjoys playing different decks and exploring and testing the many different aspects of and playstyles in the game. On release day, Andrew sneaks out of work a few hours early to pick up 1-3 boxes from his LGS. As he tries new builds, he fills the gaps either through trades or through singles.
Devin plays Destiny to win games. He could care less about collecting, and just wants the top deck. Devin purchases the the singles he needs to build that deck, and then rides that train until it stops. When the meta shifts or another expansion comes out, he will repeat. Devin is the least “loyal” to the game, and FFG sees the least direct income from this individual.
Immediate impact of rotation to the collector archetypes
There will be no short-term impact to Derek. Derek will continue to build his full collection. Because what he wants is to have all the cards regardless of their use or strength, knowing that some of his cards will rotate out doesn’t largely impact his purchasing habits. He will continue to be happy with the game, play in whatever manner he desires, and be involved in the community.
Devin also sees no impact. As new expansions are released, he will buy the singles needed to bring his existing decks up to speed, or will buy what is needed to create what he sees as the new power deck. When his Poe gets errata’d or his Sabine rotates out, he will simply move to the next best thing.
The only immediate impact is felt by Andrew. Andrew enjoys the variety, but begins to question whether trying to build four or five decks is worth it. Some players in the Andrew archetype will begin to skew more towards the Devin archetype. Instead of coming every few weeks with a new deck, Andrew will instead begin narrow his focus and stick to one, two, maybe three decks that he enjoys and finds success with. On the next expansion, he may decide to decrease his box purchases and instead allocate a greater amount towards singles.
Long-term impact of rotation to the collector archetypes
As time goes on, Derek becomes one of a dying breed. Rotation discourages newcomers from buying cards they don’t need, as naturally no one wants to feel like they are buying ‘dead’ cards. Thus, very few new players join into the Derek archetype. And as the existing Derek players get frustrated, overwhelmed, or leave the game for whatever reasons, this pool of collector slowly becomes smaller and smaller.
Both Andrew and Devin will continue to exist. As new players come in, they will at first gravitate towards either the Andrew or the Devin based on their own individual desires and resources. But as players increasingly feel that their purchases are only temporary, they are going to be less likely to spend more. This pushes Andrew to be more like Devin, and in turn reduces variety and risks discouraging new players.
The impact to Devin is that he now has more company. A larger percentage of the community starts to fall into this bucket. The risk here is that his tends to foster a more aggressive community (if you can call it that).
“Because of the Infinite format, your cards are never actually worthless!”
At larger venues and in areas with a large player base, this might hold. But for the average player, this really just isn’t true. Most LGS events will be standard format (there are many reasons for this, primarily in that offering only one type of tourney doesn’t divide your player base). Thus to the common player who doesn’t travel, their non-standard cards are (in fact) worthless on anything except the kitchen table.
“Competitive tourneys don’t have that much variety anyways, as its always the 1-2 top decks. So who cares if Andrew builds less decks?”
From a highly competitive standpoint, this statement is fair. From a small local perspective, though, having less variety puts up a larger barrier to attracting new players. Remember how frustrated you got when you played Poe/Maz six times in a row? Remember Rainbow Nines over and over? It wasn’t fun. Now imagine as a new player – it’s even less so.
“Rotation makes it easier for new players to come in.”
No, it makes it easier for *competitive* new players to come in. Again, Devin is fine with the way things are. But brining in a bunch of Devin-type players does not foster a diverse and healthy community, and doesn’t always foster recruitment of non-experienced gamers.
“Why do I care if people stop playing casually?”
The harsh reality is that if FFG isn’t making this game for free. The relatively small number of players on the top-level competitive scene are not enough alone to keep FFG wanting to print this game. Besides, even from a completely selfish point of view, bringing in more newbies to your small locals and growing the game will give you more scrubs to beat, and increase your prize payouts. Whatever gets you off – just remember that casual players are essential for this game’s survival.
As rotation begins to take effect over the next few years, Destiny will no longer be the game we once knew. And no, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – but we do need to recognize that it will change.
The introduction of rotation pushes the average person away from the desire to collect. It makes them consolidate and streamline their resources, which in turn leads to a greater focus on “what’s good”. To some degree, this will decrease variety on the casual tournament scene. At the very least, it will force players to re-evaluate how they approach buying product and how they enjoy their collections. The strength and uniqueness of the Destiny community is a large draw to this game; changing that community changes the game.
Regardless of your personal feelings about rotation, there is little doubt that it is a good thing for the long future of the game going forward. Whether you view it as an exciting development or as a necessary evil, we can all agree that keeping this game alive is something we all want. Rotation is a huge tool in that end. We just need to understand how that will change the community, and thus the game, that we know and love. Let’s just make sure our liberty doesn’t die to thunderous applause.