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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
JK12: An Open Letter to Upper Deck

January 27, 2009

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 Yu-Gi-Oh!


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 cards!


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 efforts.


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 stained handkerchiefs.


Commencing the Open Letter Portion of this Article


Upper Deck guys! Spring to action! Upper Deck Day is not enough!


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:


-        Hold your 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 Circuit!

-        Print your own versions of cards! Make a new UD only set!

-        Copy trademarks and make your own card game with YGO mechanics! 12,000 lifepoints and 50-60 card decks! Do it!

-        Run more 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 was worth.


You will be missed.


(email me at JAELOVE@gmail.com)




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