I was recently asked to share some perspectives on Cardfight!! Vanguard and Bushiroad games in response to an older blog article that cropped up in a discussion at our locals. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m mainly a Weiss Schwarz player who also plays Vanguard and Luck and Logic casually. I started my TCG career playing Magic: The Gathering and switched to Weiss Schwarz in 2014. Since then, I have been playing Weiss competitively and casually in both English and Japanese.
I will preface this article and information with a few disclaimers. I am not Japanese, nor do I pretend to be. With a base Western education, I recognize a few of the cultural differences that exist between Japanese and Western culture. Of course, I may still be wrong in my viewpoint of such differences. Also, I am not an employee for Bushiroad, nor have ever worked for the company. My perspective comes from being a player who has gathered bits and pieces of information that I simply wish to share with others. Again, I may be in error in my observations or come across as providing false information. Though this is the case, this article is simply meant to open a different perspective on some of the things that I hear grumbles about from players in passing.
In October 2015, a very active Vanguard blogger in the community for Cardfight Pro (Vanguardians), Alexander “Touya” Fisher, wrote an open apology letter to players and readers of his blog as he backed out of the community. Among the many things, he cited some reasons why he felt he could no longer support the game as he wanted to (his original article can be found here). Some of his concerns as a competitive Vanguard player are more than understandable, and this article does not aim to say he was wrong in his observations and frustrations. Some of the things that upset him, though, are things that through another viewpoint may provide consideration in understanding how and why Bushiroad makes some of the decisions that they do.
Differing Perspectives on Bushiroad Tournaments
Despite an overwhelming amount of data, Fisher cited first in his grievances the lack of the support of the Best of 3 format at tournaments. He was tired of fighting an uphill battle against Bushiroad who, from his viewpoint, seemed to want to kill the further development of the “professionalization” of Vanguard. To players who see card game players in games like Magic who make a living off simply playing the game, it is hard not to see why they might get frustrated by this, especially when competitive Vanguard cards sometimes do hit the prices that Magic competitive cards do.
The conflict from this arises is the fact that Bushiroad’s company philosophy is rooted in everyone playing together and having fun. In this light, the company is more oriented around family and community involvement in the game rather than worrying about recognizing the best pro player at all times. While Bushiroad certainly takes the time to recognize and reward those who top in their games, it also doesn’t want this to be the only reason why people play. Anyone with some business sense and strategy can see this is a stronger policy than just catering to a smaller, extremely competitive player base. The more people you expand to, the more people buy your product, the more the game grows, and the more people play. Give away small free participation gifts at events and don’t charge entry? What a great way to get people to just pick up a trial deck and play for the day.
Consider the recent G Vanguard Anime series as another example of this. They showcase festival days with everyone playing Vanguard games in their communities from young to old. The show the protagonist and his friends playing games with elderly man to earn points to qualify for a regional tournament. Again, community is the focus rather than professional play. Everyone playing together and having fun. Another friend through Weiss shared with me a memory from one his trips to Japan about the coolest Vanguard tournament he had ever seen. Families came to the event with one deck, and the youngest member in the family piloted the deck with all the other members standing behind to help him/her out in play.
Best of 3 format is a great thing for dedicated professional players who understand that sometimes in a Best of 1 format doesn’t allow for the mathematical issues when your deck just says “No” due to a bad shuffle. Trust me, I’ve had those games on both sides of the table. Best of 3 format is terrible in a tournament format with families and younger children who only have a limited time to be there, participate for the day, and realistically can’t come back to participate in a Day 2. In North America, our demographic audience is drastically different. Tournaments are usually attended less by families and more by single adult individuals or couples have devoted the weekend to play.
On another note, paid entry or included tournament pay outs to top players is a very hard thing to handle, especially for a foreign company. Winnings must be reported on both ends for tax purposes, and some areas view playing card games for an entry fee as a form of gambling which isn’t allowed sometimes. From Bushiroad’s cultural viewpoint, these people would argue your entry fee is a ‘wager’ at a chance to earn more money back than you paid into the event. Bushiroad, like many companies, don’t have the resources to devote to this kind of a format as of yet, nor do they want to. I feel that this kind of competitive format will have to continue to be supported by local stores for the player communities here in North America that desire that.
In regards to the handling of a reported cheating incident that Fisher, realize that it is difficult for any TCG company to pick up the pieces of hard evidence after a cheating event has occurred. Similar to viewers at home viewing a sporting event on TV seeing things the referees didn’t, this type of event is a problem in any competitive format play. In addition to this, Bushiroad also practices passive judging for larger events, which means that players are responsible for their own fair play and for calling a judge if they need a ruling. It isn’t that their judges won’t stop to correct a misplay if they see it, rather that it is the player’s responsibility to know their cards and play properly. Though hard to understand, the culture of Japan has a negative stigma for cheating or dishonest play and/or work is so high that this stigma is a form of community censorship. People just don’t do it with the frequency that it crops over here in competitive formats, where I would hazard a radical opinion that while cheating is also negatively looked upon that it also carries with it an unwritten “Let’s see if I can get away with this without getting caught” clause. It is understandable for people to be frustrated with these things, but understand the company’s difficulty with pulling up evidence during tournaments and the implications of the company’s policy of passive judging.
Differing Perspectives on Secondary Markets
In addition to the point above, Fisher also cites high card prices and increased rarities as a contributing negatively to Bushiroad not continuing to push for professionalization of the game. The reality is that the singles market for the game, also known as the secondary market, is driven by business minded individuals who realize that in a collectible game that the cards pulled from packs are sometimes a better sale deal to competitive players than opening sealed card packs. Bushiroad does attempt to combat this if they can, even if it takes time to do so. The most recent Revival Collection was printed in English to help bring down the cost of some older staple cards and reprints of expensive generation rares at a lower rarity but a few examples. Interestingly, more from my experiences in Weiss and less in Vanguard, the company’s reprint formulas are much sounder than some other TCG companies. It is very rare that cards do anything but a dip in price briefly, and then rise back up in value. They keep their collectibility as much as they can in a very fast paced and ever changing competitive scene. While I will not deny how quickly the meta has been evolving in the game to any degree, realize that players contribute to determining these outcomes. True, Bushiroad could do away with the higher GR rarity, but this tactic is no different than trance rares in Luck and Logic or mythics in Magic.
Differing Perspectives on Bushiroad’s Game Design Decisions
Fisher cites his frustrations with Bushiroad’s Research and Development team for contributing to a stale game state ridden with power creep. If you look across all Bushiroad games, you will find players in their perspective communities with a similar frustration. Even I have read spoilers for a newly up and coming Weiss set or Vanguard Generation Rare, get heated, and grumble “Did they play test this?!?”. The reality is that they did, and they are attempting in their own way to push the game forward. Vanguard has grown to the card pool point to begin competing with Pokemon, Magic, and Yu-Gi-Oh. Similar to Magic, there is no way for a team to play test every card combination that players might find, and Bushiroad’s R&D is on a much smaller scale than Magic.
With the intent to advance the game design mind, Bushiroad also likes tournaments and events to move along at a decent pace and not stall. In Weiss Schwarz, cards like anti-heal and anti-salvage were actually printed in response for games taking forever to finish due to stalling the game out with overuse of these abilities. Power creep in the game actually contributes to making events and games move faster. My recent experiences in playing my Genesis and Oracle Think Tank decks at locals have found that the game is moving so fast it feels like you don’t have enough turns to do everything you might want to actually do. While this can be a frustration for more casual players, it helps Bushiroad keep tournaments on the shorter side and move new product. Honestly, this is all par for the course in TCGs as a whole, proving to be a strong business move.
Sympathizing with Touya and Concluding Thoughts
Fisher brings up valid reasons in his post for players to be upset with the game and Bushiroad as a company. It isn’t wrong to be frustrated by these things. I’d be lying as a player if I said otherwise. But I will point out that Bushiroad’s perspective on their card games is a bit alien to our perspective. They want everyone to come, to play, and to have an enjoyable experience. They want to encourage a variety of level of players to play their game, not just the competitive ones. They want to give away free items and not hinder participation with an entry fee on top of travel fees to play at a location. The things we grumble about from time to time as players sometimes stem from perspective differences in location and philosophy.
I realize this article is highly unlikely to change anyone’s opinion, nor do I disagree completely with the points Fisher brings up. Rather, all I hope to do, is lend a different perspective to the discussion to hopefully help others see things a bit more differently. At one point in time, a variety of other skilled players shared these perspectives and more to help give me a better view of things. Similar to Fisher’s statement in his post, I have no intentions of leaving Weiss, Vanguard, or Luck and Logic even though I may become frustrated with changes and decisions that happen. I feel it is better rather to move forward and improve my playing to help support the games I love.
Writer from 9th CX
P.S. – Fisher’s original article is online if interested if you are interested in his perspective. Please read here the original post that was the inspiration to this response:
Thanks to 9th CX for the perspective on Bushiroad as a company! If you want to find out more about them and their adventures in the game of Weiß Schwarz, you can visit there official website here.