As the Fanattik x Yu-Gi-Oh! collection grows, we invited friend of Fanattik and Yu-Gi-Oh! super fan, Peter, to give us a beginner’s guide to the global phenomenon.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is a media franchise grossing over 20 billion dollars, primarily known as an anime/manga, collectible card game, and video games. Literally meaning “Game King” in Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! originated as a manga (Japanese comic) about a games-enthusiast, Yugi, and his confident Ancient Egyptian alter-ego who never loses a game (except when he does). Little Yugi would stumble into high pressure situations with murderers, psychopaths and high school bullies, then use his alter-ego to challenge them to a variety of death games.
A 27-episode anime (Japanese cartoon) adaptation of the series to some success, but it wasn’t until the manga underwent a massive retooling that its popularity spread. One game in the initial run, Magic and Wizards, a fictional trading card game about monsters battling each other, gained attention from readers, and eventually became the focus due to popularity.
And so, the thriller manga focused around all kinds of games, filled with psychological tricks and more grimness than you’d expect from a comic written for children, transitioned into a story about saving the world with trading cards.
It may seem silly from an outside perspective, but it really just plays with the same dramatic highs and lows a person gets from any media. A hero gets into an unexpected situation (a game), struggles to come out on top, then in a desperate situation, they figure out the root to victory (or not).
With interesting monster designs, escalating stakes and new, interesting scenarios, if the game gets its hooks into you, it can continue to amuse for hundreds and hundreds of episodes, through battles with Egyptian Gods, going into space, playing on motorbikes in a desolate future… with each new series following different characters and plot lines, there’s a lot of entry points to get into the anime.
But there’s another options for fans of Yu-Gi-Oh! In fact, many players view the manga/anime as a novelty. A good hook, but not always the thing that retains interest. And that comes to the card game itself. Of course with any good children’s franchise, merchandise is bound to release. And with a card game that could easily be played by people around the globe, why not make a physical version?
The first attempt at creating a physical card game was Japanese-exclusive and almost purely ornamental. Rather than a widespread phenomenon, it was more just a collectible things for mega-fans.
But after production companies changed hands, the second try was much more fruitful. The game surrounding the cards was given more focus, and the distribution model allowed people to dip their toes in without a massive commitment or continually buy random packs of cards to get the exact ones they wanted. With forty cards allowed per deck and hundreds of cards to choose from, with the choice of what to use entirely in the player’s hands, it enabled a level of customization that few other games offered.
And this is what’s allowed the game to continue. People can easily get some of the cool cards they saw from the anime, add in some random other cards they like they look of, and play against their friends with good ol’ screenless entertainment. However, things are different on the competitive side of things, when people start playing against each other in tournament play and shelling out hundreds of pounds for a few cards.
Woah woah woah, stop the presses. Hundreds of pounds for a few cards? Well, let me explain the distribution model a bit. Starter decks and structure decks are an entry point. They give all you need to play and are completely non-random. You get the exact cards listed on the box. Starter decks showcase a lot of different elements of the game, great for new players. Structure decks focus on specific strategies, good for new players and old players alike.
Then there’s booster packs. A random assortment of 9 cards in an aluminium wrapper. Each booster set contains 100 unique cards. The rarest ones, Secret Rares, only appear every 24 packs (RRP £3.50 per pack), and with 10 different Secret Rares, you could be spending £840 before you see a single copy of the one you want. Sounds like a lot… and it is! Which is why online sellers tend to buy in player’s stead and sell all the cards individually on places like eBay.
If every card had equal demand, the prices would say more level, but Yu-Gi-Oh! is driven by supply and demand. It doesn’t matter if a card is obscenely hard to find if nobody wants to buy it. On the other hand, if a card is essential for every competitive strategy, then it’ll sell like hotcakes even with a £100 price tag.
Though it’s this element of the game that’s led to its longevity. Games like Yu-Gi-Oh! come and go, but without the player market surrounding the game that leads to people shelling out for the big cards, booster boxes aren’t profitable for vendors, which results in only die hard fans buying the product.
To sum up, it’s easy to buy a starter deck and have a few fun games with friends, but the competitive minefield gets expensive. They don’t call it a lifestyle game for nothing; it’s so expensive, you won’t be able to afford other hobbies!
But there’s still another option if you want to try without the buy, or at least a smaller investment. The video games.
Yu-Gi-Oh!’s had a long history of video games right back to the days of the original Playstation and Gameboy. It’s had weird game adaptations that have done it’s own thing and spin-offs out the wazoo, but also plenty of 1:1 simulators. For a long time, the World Championship series was the key way to play on the go, but with the advent of smartphones, Duel Links stands on top.
Duel Links simplifies the game a little, but it’s still fundamentally the same beast. Monsters attack other monsters, with spells and traps to support them. It uses a freemium model like a lot of other smartphone games. Filled with tutorials and plenty of AI and real life opponents to play against, it’s a perfect way to get a taster of the game.
There’s also unofficial simulators like YGOPro and Dueling Book, but whilst being free and a great resource for competitive players who want to play online, they’re not particularly beginner-friendly (mostly due to being fan-made). People who go straight to using those might want to watch some YouTube tutorials on how to play first.
Whether it’s a unique anime about playing card games in various fantasy or sci-fi settings, a physical game you can collect and play with your friends, or a quick and easy mobile game, Yu-Gi-Oh! offers a lot of content to keep people engaged. With so many ways to check it out, why not take a peek? Maybe you’ll become the next King of Games.
You can shop the Fanattik x Yu-Gi-Oh! collection here. All our products are official Yu-Gi-Oh! merchandise, authorised by Konami, and many are collectible limited editions.