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Free-to-Play Summit: Digital Trading Card Games: 25 Years of Design Lessons Learned

Thandrie Davis  (Owner, Thandrie Games)

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Free-to-Play

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: TBD

Audience Level: Intermediate

Digital trading card games have been a part of the industry for a quarter-century. Starting with Chron X in 1997, through to Magic Arena, Hearthstone, and Ultimate Teams today, players have loved TCGs for their replayability and customizability, and publishers have loved them for their relatively-low development costs as compared to their potentially-high revenues. Digital TCGs were among the first free-to-play games, and over the years what that has meant has dramatically changed over and over again. In this presentation, we will cover the most-influential moments of the last 25 years, and dive into the lessons learned for both for gameplay and for monetization designers of this genre of game.


Attendees will learn lessons from the front-lines of digital TCG development. Why did Artifact fail? Why did Magic Online have a cap on its user base? Why did Hearthstone succeed, and why has it faultered? How have games have managed to encourage sales while not become "pay to win"?

Intended Audience

This lecture is intended for current and future designers and producers of digital trading card games.