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SOE acquires Octopi, strengthens trading card activities

By on January 20, 2009
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Sony Online Entertainment has acquired PoxNora, a trading card/online strategy game.

PoxNora is a intriguing hybrid of collectible card-game and turn-based strategy. It looks to me like a cross between Heroes of Might and Magic and Magic: the Gathering. Players battle build a battlegroup of twenty runes, being a mix of champions, spells, relics and equipment and deploy them in a one-on-one battle with another player.

Poxnora Screenshot

Players can keep playing with pre-set battlegroups for free. But the real interest is in buying booster packs of runes and preparing a battlegroup that suits your own strategy. The booster packs contain the occasional rare (just like any trading card game) and over time players can amass huge quantities of runes in their search for an elusive card or the perfect strategy. There is a deep meta-game as well, as players develop their champions, plan strategies to deply compos or trade with each other on the website.

The model is interesting for a bunch of reasons:

  • Core gameplay is free which is a great way of drawing new players in.
  • Players enhance their experience by buying booster packs at prices ranging from $3 to $45.
  • The booster packs contain a random selection of runes, giving a lottery-style attraction to the game

Above all, these games allow users to spend real-world money for in-game advantages, a model embraced in continental Europe and the Far East but generally disliked by publishers and developers in the Anglo-Saxon world.

So the game is an interesting hybrid that has captured SOE’s attention sufficiently that they have bought it. It’s the first deal in the sector either: CCP, publisher of Eve Online, acquired pen-and-paper RPG company White Wolf in November 2006. Alongside its RPG activities, White Wolf publishes trading card games including Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.

For many games companies, a product like this flies below the radar. But Poxnora had 800,000 users by May 2007 which was within a year of launch. (I can’t find latest user numbers. If anyone else can, I would love a pointer). That’s a lot of users for a not very expensive game to develop.

I think it is a fascinating micro-transaction model, and we will see more of this types of games emerging and being acquired.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com