Bryan Gannon Interview : Chaotic Trading Card Game
We were given the unique opportunity to speak to Mr. Bryan Gannon about Chaotic. For those of you who do not know who he is - Gannon is the CEO of TC Digital - and the person responsible for bringing Chaotic to 4Kids and eventually to all of us. Although this was an interview, there was a lot of information taken from this information and I could only write so fast. So, what I write may not be exactly what Mr. Gannon said exactly, but I will try to give you the gist of it. I have also combined some of the answers into single questions where appropriate. [by LED, April 2007]
Q: What is your Background?
He spent twenty years in the electronics/computer chip industry (aero electronics). In 2000, he went to work for Upper Deck as an Executive Consultant in charge of marketing, sales & distribution. He sunk his teeth into the organization and made changes that streamlined how they marketed, sold and distributed their sports and collectible products. One of those products was a new trading card game you may have heard of called Yu-Gi-Oh. When he began there was only one person on the Yu-Gi-Oh team. He grew helped develope it into the mega sucess it is today.
With all of the knowledge he gained from his previous experiences, he formed his own company a few years later called Chaotic USA (along with his partner John Melito). With a few great ideas he met up with Carlin West (Executive V.P. of Aquisitions and Development of 4Kids) and the rest is becoming history in the making as the two organizations work together to create what may be the ultimate trading card game ever.
Q: Where did the idea behind Chaotic come from?
It was not Bryan Gannon's idea, the original Chaotic idea was created in Denmark by a company called Draco. They launched it in their company and it went into production for two years. They then came to the states to sell it to a company here and through a twist of fate, it wound up in the lap of Bryan Gannon who saw what a great opportunity this would be. He knew from his time at Upper Deck that this had all the elements of a great game -- interactive features, game play, DS and animation.
After further developing the idea, Gannon then tried to find a partner and through a second twist of fate a chance meeting occured with Carlin of 4Kids and she loved his idea. It was then brought back to 4Kids and they were on board. Not only that, 4Kids was traditionally a licensing company (meaning they owned the name (e.g., Pokemon), but never actually made anything) and decided that they would partner with Gannon and his company to co-produce the game.
Q: Did you play any type of trading card or role playing game when you were younger?
No, he never played anything like Dungeons and Dragons or other similar things as a kid, and Pokemon was not yet around. However, he knew of Pokemon and watched children playing it throughout the following years. [Quick note - he has an afinity towards sports cards.]
Q: What type of game play does Chaotic have that would "surprise" a Magic player?
Mr. Gannon first recognizes that Magic is the standard which all later games have followed [personal note: it is good to see that Bryan Gannon respects the industry by saying this instead of just insulting the competition]. He then went on to say that many of the employees working for this project are themselves "strong" Magic players. What they found surprising about the game was that it seemed fairly easy at first, but got progressively more challenging. They would start playing battles with 3, then 6, then ultimately work their way up to 28 cards in a batlle. However, it is not just the fact that there are 28 cards you can play, but there are is now also a greater selection of battle gear to use and you can also use a combination of tribes. Each of these creates a unique experience to the player. Add to this the fact that each of the cards are unique from any other card in existence makes for some great game.
For those who are not familiar with how each card is unique let me explain. Each creature/card will have four variable power scores, such as energy or life. For every card made of every creature, the power scores will be different. So if you have Maxxor (a key creature in the TV series and will probably be in the game as well), it will be different than everyone elses. You will not have the same power scores and this will make for better games and greater challenges. This feature is unique amongst trading cards and has not never been produced in this manner before.
Q: What type of game play will there be -- easy or difficult to master, or both?
The game has seven different levels of difficulty. It starts will a 1 card vs. 1 card battle and progresses until it reaches a 28 on 28 battle. The less cards you have, the easier it will be to fight. For the novice player, 1 on 1, 3 on 3 and 6 on 6 matches are the way to go until you are ready for the intermediate battles of 10 to 15 cards. For those who have mastered (or think they have) the game, there are 21 and 28 card matches. As you add more cards and go up in levels, it will become progressively more challenging. There will be more Mugic (the magic in the world of Chaotic), more locations and more battle gear to use. There is also a "rule of two" which means that every deck can only have a maximum of two of the same creature -- so if you have three Maxxor cards, you can only use two of them in any single battle.
To even make it more interesting, you gain experience by acquiring points. You can build up your points either through their online portal or through officially sanctioned events at hobby/card shops. By acquiring more points, you can move up through the levels. The points you earn playing off-line at hobby shops can also be added to your online points.
Q: Have you met your projected saturation levels (i.e., have you been able to get the word out about this game to the number of people you want to)?
They have gotten the word out at major events such as ComicCon in NY and other major events, through the media (including their own tie-in TV animated show by the same name) and through other means to the hobby shops and the general public. However, they are starting to get the main word out to its "core" [core is their marketing lingo for hobby/comic shops] and the people who shop there. In the fall (September/October), they will begin to target a lot more to the mass retailers and distributors. They already have a lot of distributors asking to be part of this event. The order status for the first edition of this game is almost filled. Their main concern for distrubution right now is to make sure that every region around the country will be adequately covered so that as many of the "core" will be able to get the game.
They have actually done better than originally expected in getting the word out about this game. They were looking for real users to help test the game in beta. They were hoping to get about 10,000 players. The potential beta testers would be chosen from those users that went to the Chaotic website and after answering a number of questions, became "Explorers." They wound up having between 80k and 100k Explorers. Unfortunately, they will still only be asking 10k of these Explorers to help do the Beta Testing.
They have tried to make the game indestructible from the game play to the security and now they are want these 10 thousand testers to try to break it as well. They expect a lot more than the initial 100 thousand Explorers to play, so they have some state of the art systems in place to handle any amount of traffic.
Q: What did you learn from working at Upper Deck with Yu-Gi-Oh?
He was able to really respect what the hobby and comic shops do and mean for the industry. They add integrity to the business and are a key player in the sucess of any game. However, the retailers are also important as well with a much wider reach of potential customers. His organization needs to make sure that both groups are taken care of properly and with the respect they deserve.
Q: What's up with the "rare" cards that will be in the packs?
There will be four levels cars. The regular common cards, the uncommon cards, the normal rare cards and the rare chase foil cards that will only be available in the starter packs. The rare foil cards will be a short print run (there will be less of these cards made), which means that they will be valuable when playing the game and also as a collectors item.
[Note: I also asked him about other chase cards, like autographed cards, but he said that that is not really something they would do for gaming cards.]
Thank you Mr. Gannon for your time in answering these questions.
It was a real pleasure speaking to Bryan Gannon and we hope to speak to him again in a few months after the game hits the streets. I hope this give you some new information and insight about the game, the man behind the game and some of the features of this upcoming game.
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