The Pojo.com forums (biggest in all of Yu-Gi-Oh!)
are abuzz with recent developments in the Upper Deck
v. Konami scandal. If you're not aware of the
current developments, I urge you to check out the
forums for the full scoop!
I say this sadly, but it's pretty clear Upper Deck
has lost its hold on the game it transformed into an
American phenomenon. Even if the best possible
scenario occurs, say the court prevents Konami from
distributing and gives Upper Deck full
distributorship rights, the agreement naming Upper
Deck as the main distributor of Yu-Gi-Oh! ends in a
year. And unless Konami and Upper Deck are both
fooling us, it's highly unlikely that Konami will
renew this agreement after all the acrimony involved
in this round.
So Upper Deck loses Yu-Gi-Oh, possibly in a year and
likely sooner. I want to take a trip down memory
lane and discuss the company and what it has done
for the game.
Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane to Discuss the
Company and What It Has Done
Apologies for that descriptive header.
I have some personal experience with Upper Deck,
since I worked for Metagame.com (which *may*
or may not be a subsidiary of Upper Deck *wink
wink*) for two years. I was always grateful
for this position, because it put me into fleeting
opportunities of contact with quite a few prominent
figures of the organized play and TCG departments of
When I first started, Metagame had not yet become
the ubiquitous phenomenon it is now. Coverage of
events such as Nationals 2004, the first Gencon
Anaheim, and SJC Las Vegas was rather sparse and
lacking (as you can see by clicking on the events).
The game had not yet exploded, and Upper Deck was
actually intently focused on its VS. System TCG.
When Metagame began to kick into full swing and
Upper Deck started to hit it big with the VS. Pro
Circuit and the Shonen Jump Circuit, the
possibilities were limitless. You could feel the
electricity in the air as the company began to
capture lightning in a bottle. Soon, it was able to
announce discretely that representatives were
discussing changes to the ban list, banning Cyber
Stein, and designing TCG exclusive versions of
From this perspective, the collapse of UD's control
over the game has been rather shocking. I saw
firsthand the tireless individuals who worked so
hard to champion the game. I saw all their dreams
dashed lifelessly across the TCG landscape. The
flawlessly designed, extensively well-supported, and
brilliantly licensed VS. System and WoW TCG both
collapsing despite the best of intentions. The loss
of Yu-Gi-Oh. I want to remind Konami supporters that
Upper Deck's organized play department created this
game. It turned the game into something worth
discussing on the message forums.
Reminiscing from the Old School
When I was a beginning player, I have very, very
fond memories of Yu-Gi-Oh! The game was supported on
the local market, and regionals tournaments were a
HUGE deal. As a beginner during Invasion of Chaos, I
would scour the different PTO websites, trying
desperately to grab deck lists of the best decks to
try to play.
Yu-gi-oh Virtual Desktop was in its infant stages,
and rulings were a terrible mess. You would have to
find direct rulings on the Yugioh-card website until
Netrep.net came out with a database, and organized
play was terrible. Judges were often clueless,
tournaments other than locals were non-existent, and
event coverage was lacking.
It was Someguy, Nickwhiz, and then f00b and Sandtrap
that first ushered in the idea of the Yu-gi-oh pro,
or “celebrity YGO player” (I take this term with a
grain of salt, but it is convenient for describing
the concept.) I would constantly read their articles
for advice and religiously scour the Pojo card of
the day. At the eve of Gencon Anaheim when Team
Savage was formed and I actually realized I was a
good player, nobody in the game including T, Hugo,
Emon, Eric Wu, or even Jason Meyer had any clue how
big this game was going to be.
The explosion of Team Odyssey and the hyping of
Savage vs. Odyssey, Overdose vs. Savage, and
Overdose vs. Odyssey really exploded the concept of
the “pro” player. When Evan and I attended SJC
Houston, we were bombarded even outside of the
tournament venue by Yu-Gi-Oh! players that
recognized us. I was amazed at how far the game had
come in development. I did not realize at the time
that it took a tireless force of Upper Deck
employees to spur this into motion.
Honestly everything we have in this game today we
can attribute to Upper Deck. Konami basically
leapfrogged on the backs of Upper Deck and now has
access to the fruits of its labor. Metagame.com, the
judge system, more nationwide visibility, the idea
of the pro player (which started right here on
Pojo), deck lists, and a more advanced discourse on
the game all started with Upper Deck and its
Getting a Clear Idea of What Yu-Gi-Oh! Under
Upper Deck Would Have Been
You can see how good Upper Deck is at promoting a
card game by looking at both Vs. System and World of
Warcraft. Both card games have given out some of the
biggest prizes in the industry other than Magic.
Let's take a look at VS.
From a competitive standpoint, it was nearly
flawlessly designed. The rules of the game led to
the same players consistently doing well at the
events. The license was fantastic, and UD clearly
communicated both flaws in the game (banning
Overload and other cards were always clearly
articulated) and the future direction. There was an
honest and open dialogue.
In addition to fantastic game balance, prize support
was incredible. The PCQ's gave about as big a prize
as SHONEN JUMP CHAMPIONSHIPS, and the Pro Circuits
gave 40,000 to first place. This is what Yu-Gi-Oh
should have been, considering it is the biggest TCG
in the world (or close to it).
Unfortunately, UD's hands were tied by Konami's idea
of Yu-Gi-Oh as a children's game (despite all of the
top players being college age) and thus Yu-Gi-Oh
fans were made to suffer through terrible card
design and horrible prize support.
A number of UD employees helped shape the game for
us. It would be far too difficult to list them all.
I urge you to shake their hands, possibly kiss them
if they allow it, and send them booze and tear
Commencing the Open Letter Portion of this
Upper Deck guys! Spring to action! Upper Deck Day is
Since you are losing the game anyways, why don't you
create a bunch of cash tournaments that give out
either a bunch of electronics as prizes, or cash
just like the Versus System PC! Give us something to
remember you by! Adjust the ban list, do what you
always wanted to do with the game!
You are losing the license in a year anyways, so why
not go all out and try running Yu-Gi-Oh the Upper
Deck way? You have nothing to lose! Suggestions:
own version of UD Nationals (since Konami likely
won't recognize the U.S winners). Make it something
like invite only and pay out prizes equal to the Pro
own versions of cards! Make a new UD only set!
trademarks and make your own card game with YGO
mechanics! 12,000 lifepoints and 50-60 card decks!
Shonen Jump Championships while you still can!
P.S ILY Upper Deck.
I would like to thank all of the employees of Upper
Deck who were, above all, true fans of the games
they put out and ardent believers in the fun of a
trading card game. Many were nerds at heart (like
me) who found a dream job and milked it for all it
You will be missed.
(email me at JAELOVE@gmail.com)