Kiwi-made trading card game goes viral overseas

When James White, founder of Epsom-based Legend Story Studios, set out to create a new classic card game eight years ago, he never pictured it would be in the middle of a global pandemic.

The fantasy themed multi-player card game Flesh and Blood made its debut last year, with the intention of bringing people together through the common language of fun, friendship, and competition.

Since the release, more than 5000 players have registered as tournament competitors, with an estimated thousands more in each territory playing on a casual basis.

Card prices on the secondary market have spiked unbelievably, with some chase cards reaching more than 10 times their original value on release.

One coveted card from the first set, the Heart of Fyendal, was being bought and sold for about $400 a year ago.

Now copies of the card are being sold online for up to $10,000.

Sealed boxes of the game’s debut set Welcome to Rathe, initially sold in stores for $120 each, are now being passed between players for more than $1,200 apiece.

White has more than 25 years of experience in the trading card industry, and was determined not to repeat the mistakes he had seen from dozens upon dozens of failed games.

Welcome to Rathe hit shelves on October 11 last year, quickly gaining momentum in New Zealand, generating a lot of buzz online, then picking up in Australia and America.

Everything hit a brick wall when New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown on March 25, just two days before the game’s second set, Arcane Rising, was scheduled for release.

“Covid cut everything off at the knees. We watched sales drop to zero, had to cancel most of our hundreds of planned events. It was very scary.”

White said they considered going into hibernation for 18 months, facing the impossible job of marketing a game designed to be played in person to a world locked away in quarantine.

But seven years had gone into developing this game, and White wasn’t about to throw in the towel just yet.

Legend Story Studios introduced the Play Anywhere mechanic, that allowed players to set up their own tournaments at home, cafes, or in the office.

By the time the game’s third set, Crucible of War, rolled out at the end of August, the game had exploded.

Demand was so strong in New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and America, that all three sets had sold out worldwide.

“A hundred per cent of retailers who ordered Crucible of War sold out in a few days, and came back to reorder. Then they sold out again, and again, and again.”

He said currently they were struggling to meet demand, and were working hard to reprint sets for the ever-growing player count.

New Zealand’s first victory over Covid-19 was also a victory for Legend Story Studios, running the first ever Flesh and Blood National Championship in Wellington in September.

The game was launched in Europe on October 31, and is already selling five times more than the company’s initial predictions.

It was also introduced to Canada about a week ago.

White attributed Flesh and Blood’s success to his small but dedicated Kiwi team – both creative and business sides, and the players who have grown to love it so much.

“The key components all work together. High design and production quality, an extremely solid business plan, as well as new, innovative game-play different to any other game on the market.”

He said other mainstream trading card games were migrating to a digital environment, but Flesh and Blood was doing the opposite, focusing on bringing people together.

“The big industry three are Magic: The Gathering, Yu-gi-oh, and Pokemon, but we’re in a really good spot for that to become the big four in ten years time.”

“One day we might even hopefully overtake them, and become the primary market leader.”

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