I don’t think I’ve been this early to the party since I got to my friend’s house a full day before a get-together.
If you are one of my readers, you already know that I’m a relatively new science fiction and fantasy author. I predominantly write Portal Fiction–basically stories where a person or group of people somehow find themselves in another world. My work so far has mostly been written under the umbrella of the GameLit genre and LitRPG subgenre, but I’m sure I’ll branch out in the future.
In other words, I have at least one foot firmly planted in geek/nerd/dork world. I’m a proud, card-carrying member.
Many who follow me also know that more specifically, I ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ love CCGs (collectible card games). CCGs are also known as TCGs (Trading Card Games). For any non-basement dwellers who may be reading this, CCGs include games like Pokemon TCG, Magic the Gathering TCG, and Yu-gi-oh TCG.
If anyone just wants to know about the game, you can scroll lower for the relevant section. For everyone with a little bit of patience, I am going to take you on a journey.
Let’s be real about collectible card games for a moment. These types of games have been heading into mainstream consciousness for a while, but were not always super popular like they are today. A player of a CCG is no longer seemingly required to wear eyeliner or an anime t-shirt and play The Crow on repeat every night at home. There are people playing collectible card games in 2021…who wear colors other than black, and are even *gasp* girls!
For anyone rolling their eyes at this intro, you might not understand where I’m coming from on this. I have been a geek for a long time, and all things geeky (including Marvel) were not always so readily embraced by the public. There was a crossover of goth and other counterculture interests with geeky hobbies in the 90’s, probably because if you were in for a penny, why not be in for a pound? People into geeky hobbies dressed in eccentric ways sometimes because they’d already been ostracised and they just leaned into it, created an identity out of it. Nowadays if I see a geek dressed in an eccentric way, I just assume it’s part of their personality, not that they’re giving society the middle finger. I absolutely love the increased number of folks who share my passions now, and I applaud the increased representation in a number of my hobbies. This has been a long road, though.
I’m not bitter about it, but this is definitely an aspect of my geeky journey now. All of what I’ve experienced and have witnessed likely colors how I feel about new hobbies or games. So again, I’m not angry about the past, but I do remember.
In the past, not only were games, “kids stuff,” one’s immortal soul might be written off for playing! Does anyone remember the hit pieces that mainstream news stations did on Dungeons and Dragons?
Hell, I still remember when very well-meaning, but very ignorant ladies at church made it a point to solemnly inform everyone that Harry Potter has *whispers* witchcraft in it, and nobody at all should buy it, since this “JK” person is obviously trying to turn youth to Satan!
You may think I’m being salty or dramatic here, but this actually happened. The Zoomers wandering into well-lit game stores, picking up RPGs, and later that day telling their date’s parents that they play tabletop role playing games… (AND THAT PERSON UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE HELL THEY’D JUST SAID!) is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The meek, and the geeks, are truly inheriting the earth. Being into geeky or a nerdy past times used to be potentially ostracising, not a regular interest for the average person.
Obviously, things have changed. I am extremely pleased and excited that kids seem to have much more freedom to pursue differnet hobbies now without fear of persecution. Fortnight is massively popular, gaming in general is mainstream, and RPGs are better understood now as improv with dice.
This all might seem a bit off topic, but not really. We’re building toward something, so please keep all of this in mind.
…Now then, have you heard of Pokemon? : )
Two of the most famous TCG games of all time are Magic the Gathering and Pokemon. Part of the reason these two games have spread outside of geek-consciousness and have become household names all over the world is due to the astronomical prices that various rare cards can fetch. Not much can capture the imagination quite like a small piece of cardboard worth as much as a house.
Black Lotus, the most expensive card of the Magic the Gathering game, can fetch in the six figures for pristine examples from the “Alpha” MtG set, the first printed.
Collectible cards have become such strong investments and have had such upward growth over the last two decades that wealthy individuals (most likely of the geeky persuasion) have invested heavily in them as a form of diversification. And like many pursuits of the wealthy, regular people can rarely participate, due to lack of funds, or having come to the party too late for acquisitions to be worth the risk.
But again, current times are a little different. The world (and especially the US) saw a curious and notable thing happen with Gamestop (GME) Stock and several other connected situations. Since all of this happened before the time this article was written and it’s been covered many, many places by people smarter and more eloquent than myself, I will not take up article space hashing it out again here.
Let’s just say shit got wild, and some regular, average people got rich due to being on the ground floor of something amazing.
And not surprisingly, most people like the idea of being on the ground floor of something amazing. It’s potentially a combination of multiple dreams hard-coded into the human condition, not least of which the underdog story. And it seems that some very interesting things are currently happening in 2021–some similar energy has been growing in the collectibles world.
But before diving into Metazoo, let’s talk about yet another different game first. (Again, trust me. We’re going somewhere with all of this)
In the CCG world, another lightning rod right now is Flesh and Blood.
As of 2021 when this article is being written, Flesh and Blood is about two years old. It is a competitively structured game with absolutely gorgeous art. Flesh and Blood has been hailed by some (not me, I think the mechanics are too different) as the “Magic the Gathering Killer.”
>>>I need to make a brief aside, here. The penchant for different fandoms and communities to label various things as the “X <popular IP> killer” has always seemed jarring to me. For those of you who experienced the rise of World of Warcraft and all the MMOs that were made for a decade afterward, it seemed that “WoW Killer!” was being flung around everywhere.
If something is fun, I don’t feel it necessarily needs to replace something else to succeed. Like, a game’s player base doesn’t need to be cannibalized from a different game. People can play more than one game at a time, or brand new players could discover something that they love. /endrant This really was a rabbit trail, and I apologize, but if I don’t do a little soap boxing from time to time, what’s the point of writing articles, eh?
So let’s get back on track—we were talking about Flesh and Blood. Flesh and Blood, despite being a relatively new game, has some very, very expensive cards. Among them are (absolutely beautiful) Cold Foil cards, which are exceedingly rare, printed in small numbers during the very first print run, and can fetch prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. Sealed boxes are also very expensive, to put it lightly.
For those of you who don’t understand the significance of this, just consider that it took decades for Magic the Gathering, one of the handful of most successful CCGs in the world, to reach these kinds of prices for singles and sealed boxes. The prices for these rare Flesh and Blood collectibles seem to be stable (and rising), and the game itself just continues to grow in popularity.
Now let’s recap. Through long-running examples like Magic the Gathering, we have a history of people investing in and speculating in collectible card games. Ultimately, this isn’t much different from doing the same thing with sports trading cards.
Then through other games like Pokemon, we can see how interest can re-surge, and that both older cards, and newer cards can still be very valuable. We also have a really interesting example for how younger generations can embrace an older game.
And lastly, Flesh and Blood has proven, at least in the short term that people who are on the ground floor of a new, hot game can really be a part of something special, benefitting through geek cred, identity/satisfaction, or making monetary gains.
Let me clarify that last sentence there. CCGs are meant to be played. They are at their core, games. The pieces of these games can be worth a great deal, though, and some people may collect cards while never even playing. However, for the collectible nature of a game to continue to grow, the play itself needs to be fun, and the cards need to be desirable. If the game dies, the hype dies with it.
Many, many CCGs have failed over the years. The formula for success is seemingly simple, and also extremely difficult to accually accomplish. For any new game to take off, it really needs to appeal to both players and collectors. Metazoo is a really, really cool game, and I’m going to tell you why in one sentence: This game manages to appeal to everyone. From the crusty old geek/gamer who can remember being an outcast for playing Magic the Gathering in the school cafeteria, to the young person who just likes the art, to the college student who loves Creepypasta and cryptids, to the speculators and TCG investors, Metazoo has something for everyone.
So for old gamers who remember picking up Zelazny books when they came out, or Millennial gamers like myself who are still old enough to remember being clowned on for loving RPGs, or even newer gamers who are growing up in a world where Marvel is the most lucrative IP around…I think this game is for everyone. The art style is bright, but the subject matter is dark. It’s awesome.
And like many interesting new games these days, Metazoo began life as a Kickstarter.
The Metazoo story in a nutshell:
Metazoo was a game that its creator, Michael Waddell, successfully launched on Kickstarter to the tune of around $18k.
You can find the original Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/metazoogames/metazoo-cryptid-nation-a-tcg-where-your-surroundings-matter
The Kickstarter print run was very, very small.
Once the actual KS units had shipped, more folks began learning about the game. I was one of them. This created a surge of interest that has been steadily growing over time. As demand has grown, the supply, which wasn’t large to begin with, shrank. This has resulted in skyrocketing prices for the original Kickstarter set.
As an example of how far prices have risen, a week before I learned about Metazoo, a specific rare holo card might have sold for $5. A few days later when I actually bought one, they could be found for $20. That same card, only two weeks later, was $200. Prices continue to rise.
A more extreme example of rare cares with an associate hefy price tag are the black-bordered “sample” cards.
Only 100 of each sample were printed. Within the course of 2 week, these cards rose from only a few dollars, to over $1000. The price continues to rise.
It’s worth reiterating that the Kickstarter Metazoo cards and sealed boxes are very rare. Fewer than 3000 boxes were shipped, and most of them have likely been opened by now.
There is currently a print run of 25k units being printed and pre-sold for the First Edition (not Kickstarter) of the base set game, Cryptid Nation. When sales were opened, the first 20% of this print run sold out in less than a day, which has further increased hype.
I think a lot of the current excitement is justified. Metazoo has been connecting with a large number of people. Everything the company has been selling has been selling out fast and the secondary market is proof of growing interest.
But what is Metazoo? (you might ask)
Metazoo is a card game. We’ve already covered that.
The game’s story/lore is that in our world, cryptids (monsters or wonders from modern myth and from legend) were, just like magic, being suppressed by a Great Veil. However, this veil has either been broken or damaged, resulting in magic returning to our world.
Gameplay in Metazoo is a battle between two “casters” or mages, who can use artifacts, cast spells, and contract beasties (cryptids).
For anyone who is a little hazy on what a cryptid is, think Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster/Nessie.
The first, base set of Metazoo (Cryptid Nation) features cryptids from the United States. Future expansions will explore other countries/continents, or even other relevant myths/legends.
Metazoo’s art is unique among today’s other TCGs. However, the game is played similarly enough to some other modern TCGs that current players will pick it up with minimal fuss, and new players can be easily taught. Each player may play an “aura” each turn, which acts as a resource to cast spells or contract beasties. Of course, there are spells to draw more cards (“pages”), or to get a boost in resources for larger spells, or to even lower the cost of spells.
And why are you so excited about Metazoo, BC?
Ah. And now we come to the heart of the article, or at least my motivation for having written it, eh?
For me, Metazoo is a brilliant mashup of a few things that I love. The art style speaks to me, I dig the cryptids, and I like the game’s story. What’s more, I feel very confident in the game’s long-term success.
You see, I believe the art style appeals to a large number of people. I think the gameplay is fun and will be more streamlined in the future (more on that later), and I think it was BRILLIANT for the game to feature cryptids.
One reason for the success of Pokemon, at least in my opinion, is that the card game is another form of play for a multi-media IP. There are lots of Pokemon fans who might have never played the card game but buy them just for the art. Magic the Gathering has books, games, and every kind of merch under the sun.
All of this is hard to compete with for a brand new game…but what if a new game were to feature a subject that interests many, many people, can be instantly recognizable, and doesn’t require paying any royalties for use?
Michael Waddell is a genius. Making a game that features cryptids is one of the reasons I have fallen in love with this game. And the idea that in the future, there might be a…say…Aswang card if a future expansion includes the Philippines, or a Mokele-mbembe card for an Africa expansion, it excites me. I love it!
There is also the fact that Mike and the Metazoo team are humble enough to have learned from the mistakes of past, failed games, or blunders that current games have made. For instance, almost anyone who plays Magic the Gathering is aware of the Reserved List. Without going too deep into the history, it was a rule that was put in place to preserve the collector value of older cards, a promise that they would not be reprinted.
Mike’s vision for Metazoo and how print runs will take place pretty much already address this issue, and it’s brilliant in its simplicity: Metazoo sets won’t be overprinted. Print runs will be clearly marked.
Earlier in this article, I mentioned older players like me who remember when games had a different, deeper, “feel” than today. This game appeals to them. But it also appeals to brand new players. I have shared the cards and art with a number of people now, and gotten overwhelmingly positive reactions.
Many folks will be familiar with the “colors” of magic in Magic the Gathering, five of them. Metazoo has twice as many, called “Auras,” which could offer really interesting potential for future deck building opportunities.
One of Metazoo’s greatest differentiators from other games is its “meta” mechanics (hence the name of the game). Beasties in play may be strengthened if the real life players are near a physical forest, or an open flame. And there are “Terra” cards that players can use to simulate these same surroundings on the tabletop.
Some of the 4th wall effects are zany, like cards that instruct players to blow on the table. These cards aren’t very common, and they were the initial reason I was at least somewhat hesitant about the game. However, after some further thought and talking about it with Michael Waddell, I have a better understanding for the vision of how these early sets will be played.
I think children will love the 4th wall-breaking effects on the cards, the same way they loved Chaos Orb back in old school Magic the Gathering. There are also already players I’ve spoken with who have made house rules about them. Basically, for competitive play, some players have deemed that the only 4th wall effects that will be counted are via Terra cards.
While the Metazoo staff have not officially commented on these mechanics yet, I do have an interview with Michael Waddell about it at the end of this article. I would encourage anyone on the fence about the game to read it.
There is a lot more to talk about with the game, but one last point I will mention that I find interesting is that players can directly attack an opponent’s beastie using their own beastie(s) during their turn. This won’t mean anything to non-TCG afficionados, but folks who play a lot of card games will immediately understand how mechanics like this could shake up and enliven exchanges.
So again, what is going on with Metazoo prices? How is this even possible?
Like I said earlier in this article, the print run for the Kickstarter, first set ever printed is extremely limited. As interest grows, so does the player base. This demand for cards to actually play with will be alleviated with the release of the First Edition print run being delivered in mid-2021.
However, as there are more players, or more people interested in Metazoo, the Kickstarter cards will likely just continue to grow in value.
A lot of people who are brand new to Metazoo don’t understand that there is a 25k unit print run currently in the works. They might have also gotten incorrect information that it was already all sold out (it’s not as of the time this article is being written). Preorders for the first print run are still taking place.
Also, future print runs will clearly show which iteration they were/are. For instance, the Kickstarter cards have “1st Edition,” and a greek “K,” on them. First edition cards will say “1st Edition,” and not have the “K.” If there is a Second Edition, it will clearly be labeled “2nd Edition,” and so on and so forth.
The staff at Metazoo are very passionate about creating a game that is affordable and accessible to players, but also retains values for collectors. For instance, they have been ignoring the prices in the secondary market, and all First Edition product prices have not been raised in the slightest.
Since I have been part of the Metazoo community, I have been blown away by how positive, fun, and helpful the community is. Michael and his staff seem legitimately kind.
At one point a while ago, I complained on Discord that I was missing a card to complete my set. Granted, it was not a super expensive card, but a long-time community member immediately volunteered to send me one, free of charge. He didn’t know that I was planning on writing a review. I want to repay his kindness. Shout out to Nostalgia Collecible Investments. His Youtube channel can be found here, and I highly suggest his “Oboxious 9” video he made for Metazoo. That video can be found, here.
The Metazoo Community is one of the greatest geek communities I’ve seen so far. Seriously.
I have witnessed Michael Waddell give away KS boxes to excited fans. Heck, he sent me some cards, which is why I can tell anyone reading this review, in full confidence, that this game is awesome. The cards look great, and the First Edition being printed, from what I understand, will be even better.
The corporate culture at Metazoo seems very startup, and I mean that in the best possible way. These folks are passionate about TCGs, and they seem to be making a lot of really great decisions. Decisions are made fast and the company is moving quickly. Everything seems very agile.
I haven’t been this excited about a new game or IP for a very long time.
And let’s close with a short interview with Michael Waddell, the creator of Metazoo.
Q: If you were going to give a ten second elevator pitch today for what Metazoo is and what your creative vision is for the game, what would it be? Has anything changed?
Michael: MetaZoo is a modern TCG with a vintage feeling to it. Our goal is to create a game that makes you fall in love with TCGs in the same way you did when you were younger. I want you to feel like you’re a part of something bigger that’s happening, and you can be a participant in that movement looking forward rather than remembering how that magical feeling was looking backward.
Q: What do you think will happen with the meta for cards (and/or the cards themselves) that may not be sustainable for organized play?
First example is Quezalcoatlus. When I saw it (a card that instructs players to blow cards on the table), it actually reminded me of Chaos Orb from Magic the Gathering, a card that instructs players to flip it onto the table from a certain height. Chaos orb is now pretty much banned in every format now. This card has changed between the sample, and the version that was printed for the Kickstarter (it no longer has the blowing meta), so your team obviously caught this as well.
Second example and a card that was actually printed in the Kickstarter would be the text about saying “Abracadaba” backwards for Book of Shadows. That’s next to impossible to do for new players quickly, but I’ve actually practiced it last night (I’m a dork) and I can rattle it off in a quarter second now. Lol
Michael: So much of the base set was playtested by our first fans… and this means there wasn’t too many of them out there to playtest! Our current R&D and playtesters did a fantastic job, but there are certainly cards and combos and 4th wall effects that will not be sustainable in the meta (heh) moving forward. The best we can do is scale these R&D and playtesting efforts with the increase in demand for the product. Even with the best R&D and playtesting team, there are going to be gaps in the mechanics you don’t see until literally 10’s of thousands of people are playing the game.
Q: I know that you have been spending a lot of time and effort on improving print and ship times. Just in the amount of time I’ve been in the community, I’ve actually see progress here.
The maps that I have gotten in booster boxes were beautiful—both the print and the layout. However, I ordered a map directly from the store before with questionable print quality. What steps have been taken to prevent something like this from happening in the future?
Michael: There are some incongruities in the quality of our products, simply because we are sourcing them from where we can, when we can, and at an affordable price. Moving forward we are going to consolidate this merchandise effort so quality is as consistent as it possibly can be across the suite of MetaZoo products. Scalability is fraught with things like this, but we are rolling with the punches!
Q: An expansion for Metazoo is in the works. If you had to sum up the creative and stylistic flavor of the expansion in one to three sentences, what would they be?
Michael: I think there are some stylistic/aesthetic points we want to hit that are relevant to 90’s/early 2000’s kids. These will always be baked into our product. For Nightfall, the best way I can describe the aesthetic is “1990’s elementary school Halloween stickers”.
Q: Last but not least, you have succeeded where many others have failed—creating a new CCG that has been successful enough for you to leave your regular job and go full time.
What has been the most unexpected challenge of being a CCG CEO?
Michael: The most unexpected challenge for me as a CCG/TCG CEO has been the result of my decision to be public facing. The outpouring of positivity that I’ve received from the community to me personally makes the negative feedback I get worthwhile. There is some backlash of course with putting your face out there, but I’ll take it 10 times over if it means I can have an honest, face-to-face conversation with the people who love MetaZoo.
The Metazoo website can be found here: Metazoo Games