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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How I made 5000RMB in One Day

Posted Friday, April 24, 2009, at 6:19 AM

(Photo)
This ain't your grandpa's game.
My last two articles were about gaming although in the modern, digital sense but what about traditional gaming in China? Nearly every street I walk down is full of people playing games. It's not rare to see teachers gambling away large portions of their paychecks playing majiang; students slapping cards down on a chair that is being used as a make-shift table; old men click-clacking away as they strike their opponents' piece in Chinese Chess. These sights were not so rare in the west once ago: bingo, poker, bridge. We all have them -- but while westerners usually consider playing games or gambling to be something only the retired or lazy do, it's but a necessary evil in the way of living in China. With such an affinity for traditional gaming, it's no wonder that other sorts of western gaming has slowly seeped its way into the hearts of the Chinese. This game is the deceptive CCG.

CCG is an acronym for Collectible Card Game. These are very similar to TCG's which are Trading Card Games. An example of a TCG that nearly everyone knows about is baseball cards. Oh yes, while others thought you were wasting your time with those silly cards, you were making millions with your DiMaggio's and Wagner's. The main difference between a TCG and a CCG is that a trading card game is mostly played by trading to complete a collection while CCG's add strategy to it. CCG's are relatively newer than TCG's with the three most popular being: Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh! and Magic: The Gathering.

Basically the game play is something like chess except instead of pre-determined pieces for both side, you choose which pieces you have on the board, and the opponent does the same. A typical "deck" is about 60 cards with 4 of any card being the maximum for most games while the choices for these decks usually consist of 1000 or more cards. The combinations are often limitless. The business model for this type of game is very sound because in order to play the game more effectively, you must buy more cards so that you can get the rarest ones (which are often perceived as the best ones) in order to beat your opponents. While it's doubtful that these cards will ever hit the same price point that Wagner does (1.27Million USD) they can fetch for quite a sum. Magic: The Gathering's rarest sells for around 2000USD and recently the new World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (the terms TCG and CCG are often used interchangeably) has had cards sell for nearly 2000USD as well.

But wait! I thought World of Warcraft was a computer game! What do you mean 'trading card game?' Oh yes.

Not one to miss out on enterprising opportunities, Blizzard, the company who makes World of Warcraft, has licensed their title for several offshoot titles such as a World of Warcraft: Miniatures, World of Warcraft: The Trading Card Game, a World of Warcraft themed Dungeon&Dragon-esque Role Playing Game and a World of Warcarft strategic board game.

Yes, shops which specialize only in TCG's and CCG's have been popping up recently in China, most noticeably in Bejing and Shanghai. My best friends in America opened up a Traditional board game meets digital gaming storefront called GameOn. We wasted several months of our life playing these together and it has been one of the things that this nerd as sorely missed in China. So, I set off to try and find a "Magic" shop in the surrounding area.

First, I started looking in Xiangtan. Unfortunately, Xiangtan isn't best known for its modern gaming and only has a few shops devoted to such things. I did find a place to buy Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox consoles so not all was a waste. Later, I found a Japanese animation store but this was still folly. I needed to find the more niche, more evasive Card shop.

No good, I decided. My next destination was Changsha -- a city famous for its exciting pastime indulgences with great locales for shopping, bar hopping and eating. A quick stroll down Changsha's famous walking street lead me to "Animation Sky," a building which is something akin to my wildest dreams.

Inside there are several shops devoted to Japanese Animation, a store with 8-10 Playstation 2's ready for gaming with your friends and, get this, Laser Tag on the 3rd floor (30 minutes of death and destruction with your friends for a mere 30RMB). Surely if any place would have a card shop, this was likely it. I entered several boutiques only to be shot down. Upon inquiring, I indeed found a "magic" shop but it was focused on the sleight of hand rather than the card game. And then, I spotted something recognizable. Packaging for the WoW TCG. I asked the boss about it and he gave me a card. "If you want to play, go here." he says.

Not one to waste trees, I set off to try and find it. Down through Changsha on a drizzling day, under pedestrians draped in pale blue umbrellas. The shop was definitely difficult to find. Not a single person seemed to know its exact location; I rode 5 different elevators to 5 different 11th floors to no avail. Ragged and haggard, someone finally directed me to a building next to a floating eye on top. I entered and had to sign my name for the security guard before I was cleared access. Ding. Ding. 11th floor. The steel doors open and I can't believe my eyes.

Find out what happens next week. Will I be ravaged by an angry mob or ravaged by angry women? Only time will tell!

This article was featured on eChinaCities and just for reference: 5000RMB is around 700USD.



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