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Toy and Tech Stocks Tap the Digital Collectible Card Game Market


Consider this "power nine" of digital and physical CCG developers and partners.

Once strictly limited to heated arguments in the corner of a school cafeteria, collectible card games, or CCGs, have entered the digital gaming market.

With the push towards "free to play" (F2P) microtransaction-based mobile and social games, many companies have taken an interest in digital CCGs because of their ease of development and monetization.

CCGs are games where players purchase randomized "booster packs" of cards with different abilities and interactive features, to build "decks" to compete against other players. The player base is maintained through cyclical releases of new sets of cards that change the game in different ways.

The first CCG to find major commercial success was Magic: The Gathering, which continues today as a subsidiary of Hasbro INC (NASDAQ:HAS).

A wave of imitators copied Magic's success, including Japanese exports Pokémon and Konami's (NYSE:KNM) Yu-Gi-Oh! Many others existed as niche projects, but the growth of video games as a competing medium, and the established success of the CCG revenue stream, have resulted in another rush of developers to the genre.

A CCG may succeed or fail depending on how well it courts the "midcore" demographic. This refers to the balance between making a game tactically deep and rewarding enough to reward your hardcore competitive gamer, but also accessible enough to encourage a more casual gamer.

F2P games generally try to ascribe to the 80:20 rule where 20% of your player base is paying (in this case, hardcore players) and therefore subsidizing the 80% who may not (casual players).

Mobile iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) CCGs such as Rage of Bahamut and Zynga's (NASDAQ:ZNGA) War of the Fallen and Ayakashi Ghost Guild rank as some of the highest grossing apps in mobile gaming. They combine addictive gameplay with accessibility, and incentivize the hardcore market with premium priced cards.

As imitators to successful games flood the market, some companies are taking great steps to differentiate their games from the competition. Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) brought the digital CCG battle back to the physical world with their respective Disney: Infinity and Skylanders franchises.

Both games work via figurines with chips embedded in their bases. Players use them to interact with an accompanying video game through proprietary hardware plugged in to a Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) XBox console.

Different figures affect the video game in different ways, and with both companies leveraging numerous recognizable intellectual properties and artificial rarity, expect the riots at Toys 'R Us to continue into the foreseeable future.

And Activision is doubling down on the CCG market as it enters Beta for Hearthstone, a digital CCG based on the massively popular Warcraft franchise.

With players growing to accept the F2P business model and a proven revenue stream, CCGs are shaping up to be a genre more developers will embrace in the future.

Do you think CCGs have mainstream staying power? Consider this "power nine" of digital and physical CCG developers and partners.

Click on the interactive chart to see data over time.

1. Apple Inc.: Produces PCs, mobile devices, and portable digital music players, and sells related software and third-party digital content. Market cap at $478.93B, most recent closing price at $521.36.

2. Activision Blizzard, Inc.: Activision Blizzard, Inc. publishes online, personal computer (PC), console, handheld, and mobile games of interactive entertainment worldwide. Market cap at $19.52B, most recent closing price at $17.46.

3. Walt Disney Co.: Operates as an entertainment company worldwide. Market cap at $121.83B, most recent closing price at $67.61.

4. Hasbro Inc.: Engages in the design, manufacture, and marketing of games and toys. Market cap at $6.48B, most recent closing price at $49.72.

5. Konami Corp.: Develops, publishes, markets, and distributes video game software products for stationary and portable consoles, as well as for use on personal computers. Market cap at $3.4B, most recent closing price at $24.50.

6. Microsoft Corporation: Develops, licenses, and supports a range of software products and services for various computing devices worldwide. Market cap at $291.99B, most recent closing price at $34.99.

7. Sony Corporation: Designs, develops, manufactures, and sells electronic equipment, instruments, and devices for consumer, professional, and industrial markets worldwide. Market cap at $19.89B, most recent closing price at $19.68.

8. Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG): Provides Web search and advertising solutions worldwide. Market cap at $334.72B, most recent closing price at $1003.30.

9. Zynga Inc.: Develops, markets, and operates online social games as live services played through the Internet and on social networking sites and mobile platforms. Market cap at $2.9B, most recent closing price at $3.65.

Editor's note: This story by George Tsemberlis originally appeared on Kapitall.

Kapitall's lists break complex concepts down to their basics, offering education and investing ideas to novices that double as a refresher course for more seasoned investors. Inspired by video game design, Kapitall's revolutionary brokerage platform combines a graphical user interface with tools that make it easy to build portfolios, share ideas and execute trades.

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