DoctorNik: "You gotta pay to play." | The Irish Duelist

DoctorNik: "You gotta pay to play."


Nik Ristoski (aka: DoctorNik/slick) has recently posted another article on one of the finer aspects of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the notion of 'paying to play'.

You can find his article in its original form, here.

Welcome. I wanted my first few articles to be about fundamental universal YuGiOh concepts. In other words, there are key principles that will always be true regardless of the format, the “metagame”, the players, the organizers, or the producers. And today I would like to discuss, YuGiOh and the costs of playing.

This topic was probably not the first thing you had come to mind after the phrase “fundamental universal concepts”. But it is one, and I’ll explain why.

I’ll tell you a bit about the history of the title of this article, as it has a personal meaning to me. Back in the day, when I was just learning about this game, I had only one friend that even knew what “YuGiOh” was. We had both bought a starter deck (Kaiba’s of course, Big Green Machine La Jinn ftw) and we would play in his basement. Then one day, we start a match and I’m swinging in with some monster and he flips Waboku. My reaction, WTF is that? He tells me he had a little surprise, he had bought a Yugi Starter deck and added some of the strong cards to his deck. (I didn’t even know you were allowed to do that at the time.) So he beats me. Over and over. I have no chance. I’m getting pretty pissed and he just looks at me and says, “Sorry man, but you gotta pay to play”. Little did I know how right he was.

We have to remember one very important concept. Konami is not in the card making business. They are in the money making business. This has been a fact since our old starter deck battles, and will be until the day the game dies.

Konami makes money by selling product. They need ways to get you to buy said product. And the way they do this is by intentionally creating an “arms race” environment, not unlike our old basement duels.

They will continue to release cards with better and better effects. They will continue to make them hard to get. They will make forbidden/restricted card list that favor these cards. And you WILL have to shell out some big bucks if you want to play at the top level of this game.

People are always looking for alternative solutions. But universal truths are universal. I’ll explain using some examples:

People have a lot of misconceptions about what it is and what it means. It does not mean people are going to pay you to play. It does not mean people will give you free cards. It is essentially no more than an alternative form of payment. But you will still “pay to play”. Sponsored players are required to perform duties. Much like any other work contract. They must advertise, promote and help their sponsors in various ways (carrying boxes, working tills, etc). It is a job. Except you aren’t getting paid in cash, you are getting cards and tournament entry instead. When phrased in this way, it doesn’t sound quite as appealing, does it? Still there is an important role for it. Since everything is “off the books”, it saves the sponsor hassle with contracts, benefits, taxes, etc. And for the player, it gives them experience and connections.

Alternate Methods of Playing.
This has been a great outlet for people without cards/cash to play at a premier level of competition. There are several various online programs that accommodate this. There is also Konami’s online program (pay to play). And, Konami is starting to be less tolerant of these alternative gameplay options. Free online YuGiOh costs Konami money. It means that less money goes to their pay-to-play program. All Konami has to do to justify action is determine that the money lost is greater than the legal fee to cease-and-desist. And now, they are starting to do this. I would not be surprised if these free online programs start disappearing one by one. Time will tell.

Non-Official Tournaments.
This has not been seen very often in the YGO world, but if the online programs start disappearing, I predict it will emerge. Basically, it means having IRL tournaments, but with proxy cards permitted. Clearly, Konami would not allow these tournaments to be sanctioned. However, there is potential in this. I’ve seen some huge MTG proxy tournaments. The other nice thing is that since its non-official, it means that organizers are not bound by Konami sanctions. They could have cash tournaments, for example.

Anyways, back to the topic in the title. If you want to play in premier level YGO tournaments, and get the “creds and respect” associated with this, you have to cough up the big bucks if you want to play with the big boys. Konami will continue making high demand over-powered cards in short supplies, and you have to learn how to be on terms with that. I have come to respect this a while ago. What I do not respect is Konami’s denial of this, and their insistence that “non-players and casual players make the base of our sales and therefore rarities and card supply is targeted towards them” [Citation Needed].

It is true that the vast majority of card sales come from kids who “collect” the cards and casual players. But I’ll be darned if Konami isn’t trying to squeeze every last penny out of the competitive players. Take some examples. Judgment Dragon. Overpowered card. But it is an overpowered card that EVERYONE wants. The kids want it, the weirdos with the Kaiba coats want it and you, the competitive player, wants it. If Konami wants to make money, they better had made JD hard to get. And they did. That’s fine.

Now lets look at some cards coming out in this week’s Sneak Preview:

Battle Fader.
Do the little kids want it? No.
Do the collectors want it? Maybe a bit.
Do the competitive players want it? You bet.
Konami’s response – Let’s upgrade it from common to Ultra Rare.

XX-Saber Emmersblade.
Kids don’t really want it.
Collectors that specifically like the X-saber theme might want it, but I don’t expect too much of a collector demand.
Do good players want it? Yes, and in multiple copies (not playable with just 1).
Konami’s response – screw you guys, its secret rare, try getting THAT in multiples, suckers.

In summary, YGO has been and will always be an arms race, dictated by new product release and a forbidden list that will favor new product. And despite what Konami tells you, they want your money. They want to suck you dry. And you have to accept that because you gotta pay to play.

Note: The opinions and views of the above article are of an outside party and not my own. I am not for or against these opinions, but am merely posting them here for those that may be interested in reading them.