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

Thandrie Davis  (Owner & Game Director, First Pick Games)

Location: Room 2016, West Hall

Date: Monday, March 20

Time: 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Free-to-Play

Format: Lecture

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: Intermediate

Digital trading card games have been a part of the industry for a quarter-century. Starting with Chron X in 1997, all the way through 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 compared to their potentially high revenue. 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, Thandrie Davis, Owner and Game Director of First Pick Games, will cover the most-influential moments of the last 25 years, and dive into the lessons learned both for gameplay and for monetization designers of this game genre.


Attendees will learn lessons from the front-lines of digital TCG development. Why did Magic Online have a cap on its user base? Why did Hearthstone succeed, and why has it faltered? How have games managed to encourage sales while not becoming "pay to win"? How can new TCGs be structured for a 30-year lifespan?

Intended Audience

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