Social-card-battle games such as Rage of Bahamut and Zombie Jombie are creating a buzz in the United States. The spotlight on this genre will further intensify with Zynga’s recent announcement of the release of two games; Montopia and Ayakashi: Ghost Guild.
Ever since the debut of Dragon Collection in 2010, a large number of social card battle games have been released in Japan, and developers have implemented a number of improvements along the way. There are quite a few things to be learned from the changes and current trends.

Let’s examine the card motifs used in these games. A wide variety of source materials and fantasy worlds have been made into games, but recent hit titles can be divided broadly into three categories:
1. IP-based
2. Historical Warfare-based
3. Mythology-based

The Growing Number of IP-based Games

The key to a successful card battle game is to figure out how to make the players feel there is value to each of the cards, thereby making them want to collect more. IP-based games can capitalize on characters from manga or anime, games to make every card special to the players. (IP stands for Intellectual Property)

 Final Fantasy Brigade (Square Enix)

One other great strength of IP titles is that the fictional setting is already known to the players. There is a limit on the amount of information that can be displayed on the screen in mobile games, so an overly long explanation can be a source of alienation for the user. Thanks to familiarity with the story, IP-based games can abbreviate in-game explanation. If the source material is particularly well-known, it can also be possible to sign-up a large user base at the game’s launch thanks to buzz among the fans.

The Deep-Rooted Popularity of Historical Warfare-based Games

IP-based titles are extremely effective, but it’s not easy to use, especially if the source material is popular. Besides IP, historical warfare, such as battles from the Japanese Age of Provincial War or the Chinese Records of the Three Kingdoms, are also used as a source that is easy to convert into attractive cards.

Sengoku Collection (Konami)

They are already widely used in novels, manga, anime, and movies, and they enjoy considerable popularity. It’s also easy to create cards from the large canon of famous generals, and players will feel value in collecting those cards just from the names attached to them.Another advantage lies in the fact that users already understand the setting and the relationships between the power-players, which means the reasons for fighting are clear and the story is easy to understand. 

The Global Appeal of Legend and Mythology

The names of gods, demons, and monsters that appear in myths and legends can be used in the same way as historical figures. These mythical figures appear in a large number of games, meaning that most users will be able to make assumptions about the character just from hearing its name. For example, just by hearing “ifrit,” people imagine a fire-elemented creature.

Rage of Bahamut (Mobage)

Additionally, games with legendary or mythological motifs can easily be developed all over the world, making them uniquely versatile compared to historical warfare-based games. This is one of the reasons Rage of Bahamut was able to gain popularity in the US. 

These three genres dominate the rankings in Japan, where the social card battle game has come into its own. Gree and DeNA already have experience with the process in the Japanese market and are moving forward with negotiations for the rights to famous titles so they can repeat their success overseas. The announcement by DeNA of card games based on Transformers and Marvel: War of Heros is just another example of this pattern. 

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About the Author
Wataru Tanaka is the chief editor of Social Game Report and writes about mobile social gaming. He works at Mynet Japan, a social game developer. His vision is to create worldwide network and enhance the industry, take it to the next level where everyone can enjoy communicating each other through games.