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Business Model of NetRunner

    After I play more NetRunner, I started to go deep into the game. I was always mixing up the TCG, CCG, and LCGs. NetRunner is a LCG - Living Card Game, which means besides the core set of the deck you buy the first time, it will continuously sell a small pack of expansion every one or two month, with the specific and same cards in each expansion pack. It is a kind of CCG - Collecting Card Game, players need to collect more cards from expansions.

    The main difference of LCG from CCG and TCG1 is that players know what they will get from each version of expansion. There is no randomize in cards. Expansions of most CCGs and TCGs have random cards in each card bag, including a few rare and strong cards, so players need to buy many the same version expansion to get the card they want. Or they can trading with the others in TCGs, buy the specific card of exchange with each other. Because of rareness, some good cards have a very high value in the market, for example, Magic: The Gathering. Pure CCGs like HearthStone are without trading system.

Figure 1    The Genesis Cycle - Data Packs of NetRunner
Figure 1   The Genesis Cycle - Data Packs of NetRunner

    They are all different from regular card games, which has only one version of deck. And also different from DBG - Deck Building Game, of which the majority of the deck is built during the game instead of before the game. Like Dominion, players use their first version of deck to buy the card they want in the game. TCG, CCG, and LCG all have continuous expansions. They keep giving players new cards, help rebuilding their decks, give them new game experience. I think it’s a really good idea to expand the game’s life span. Dominion also have expansions, but not frequently as LCGs. For DBG and TCG, new expansion always mean new environment or new version.They usually cost one year or more for expansion, with many kinds of new cards.

    More expansions means more profit. For TCG and CCG,they can also sell single rare cards for a very high expense1. But this would lead to bad experience that players with not very much money always do not have powerful decks, make the game unbalanced. That’s exactly what I heard frommany Magic player friends. But - yes, they are still Magic players. They also told me that Magic is such a good game with long time history, which make it a perfect system, a huge card pool, and good balanced. And the most important thing is, the tules are very simple to learn. The only thing that make some players give up is the price.

    Compare to TCG, NetRunner seems to have a great advantage on price. Because of no rare cards, players, players just need spend some money to buy the cheap expansions they need. This help the balance not influenced very much by whether you have much money. And FFG can continuous profit from the cheap but large selling expansions. Also to some extent it is more friendly to new players. Since the profit-model on LCGs is driven by capturing new players rather than keeping players who have already "bought-in", we can see that FFG is also tempting to push their talent towards different games and away from Netrunner.

    Then, why apply LCG to NetRunner? I think there are several reasons. First, NetRunner do not have a theme with great background story. Those kind of cards are always TCGs or regular themed card games. Only the methods to play makes it easier to expand. Second, the theme cyberpunk comes from the developing technology today, so that it can always add in some new functions just as the real new technology applies. And third, NetRunner is not their first LCG, and won’t be the last. As is said before, FFG is trying to apply more LCGs in the future, to profit more.

    Also this busness mode has impact on the game itself too. Because of choosing LCG, FFG won’t put all powerful cards in the same version of expansion. On forums we can always see some players introducing the best cards in each expansion. And under this mode, FFG can also expand every aspects of the game - the characters, funtions, and playing mode, etc. FFG has their won designers and artists, and their card games are famous for beautiful vision design and high quality components, which also apply to NetRunner.

    Most kind of TCGs do not have a online version, because it may cause the phenomenon of sockpuppets all over the server in order to get and sell rare cards. But LCGs can have a online version. Till now the online game of NetRunner is still developped by players2. Online version is very convenient to get familiar with the rules and decks, and to test the decks.

Figure 2     Jinteki - Online version of NetRunner developed by players
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