Every major games publisher has invested into the ever-growing free-to-play market, and today Namco Bandai announced its biggest F2P venture to date.
Tekken Card Tournament is a smartphone, tablet and PC title that brings card-based battling together with the series’ trademark martial arts duels. It is due for release in the coming weeks, with physical add-on trading cards arriving later this year.
The game is simple, but tactical. Players randomly draw attack cards from their deck, each worth a certain number of hit points, then unleash this combo on their opponent. The first player to whittle down their foe’s HP to zero wins.
Gamers will be able to purchase packs of physical trading cards, which will give them a better chance of finding stronger and rare attacks or new characters. It is a great opportunity for physical retailers to participate in a free-to-play title’s sales without relying on the usual prepaid currency cards.
Of course, they can still play Tekken Card Tournament for free, defeating computer-controlled or human opponents to level up and unlock new attacks and characters.
“Tekken Card Tournament is focused on the free-to-play market across many different age groups and fan bases,” Namco Bandai’s PR and marketing director Lee Kirton told MCV. “It will obviously have some pay functions but you can play the whole game for free without parting with any money.
“The fact the game links to actual physical cards that make a difference to what you can play in-game gives the game a huge collectable functionality.
“Our focus is on the tablet, smartphone and web browser formats at present. Players can take both the game and their physical cards out on the street to show each other and battle in-game. At Namco Bandai, we have a wealth of experience in both these areas so we can pull together to make this a stand -out release.”
It’s an interesting move from the Japanese publisher and follows hot on the heels of other products that attempt to bridge the gap between digital games and physical retail.
Last week, it emerged that a quarter of all gaming accessories sold in the UK last year were Skylanders figures – over 6m toys sold. And Disney announced its own Skylanders-like initiative in the promising Disney Infinity.
Kirton commended these products: “Skylanders has proved an incredible success. I am very excited by the prospect of what Disney is working on with Infinity as well. They have a great catalogue of dream characters to experiment with and I think kids are going to go nuts for this.”
However, both Skylanders and Disney Infinity are ultimately expensive for parents and youngsters when you take into account figurine and game sales. Whereas the free-to-play model and comparatively cheaper trading cards – likely to be available for pocket money prices – could work in Tekken’s favour.
Kirton said: “Pricing is still being discussed and will be communicated externally. Obviously we will price competitively and be in-line to make it a worthy purchase and addition to the digital experience.”
In fact, Namco Bandai hopes the connection to the game will help Tekken Card Tournament’s booster packs stand out from an already packed sector. In addition to non-video games properties such as Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh, there are currently trading cards available for the likes of Pokémon, World of Warcraft and Moshi Monsters.
But Tekken’s interactive feature will hopefully turn heads: each card can be scanned into the tablet and smartphone versions of the game with a QR code, or added to the browser version by typing in the serial number. The codes can only be used once, so any duplicates players find can be traded with their friends.
The cards also work with the augmented reality section of the smartphone and tablet game, allowing players to take photos of their favourite Tekken characters in the real world.
“There is a decline in the trading card market, but with cross format play this can change,” added Kirton.
“Everyone’s looking for that something special that they can touch, see, feel in their hands physically no matter how digital the world becomes. This gives you that opportunity across all formats… You can challenge anywhere, any time on any device.”
You can read more about Tekken Card Tournament in MCV on February 1st.