MetaZoo is well known for its explosive entry into the world of trading card games. With names like Steve Aoki backing the brand, the company quickly became a household name in virtually all pockets of the industry. Admittedly, the attention has mostly been on the frenzied secondary market which continues to drive huge amounts of speculative demand. However, MetaZoo has quietly been making serious efforts to ramp up the competitive side of their gameplay and we think the implications could be huge.
Perhaps the most notable of these efforts is going to be the Caster’s Cup which will be hosted at the Dallas-Fort Worth Collect-A-Con on May 28th and May 29th. With a prize pool of $250,000, it’s likely that this event will be among the larger prize pools in the history of competitive trading card games.
It may not seem obvious, but prize pools have proven themselves to be an excellent way of capturing players and bolstering interest in competitive gaming. Gabe Newell, the CEO of Valve Corporation, is notorious for applying this strategy to the DoTA 2 video game. Using progressively larger prize pools, the tournament quickly grew and slowly bled market share from competing games.
The annual championship tournament, known as The International (TI), initially started with a prize pool of $1 million back in 2012. Fast forward to today and that prize pool has grown to a whopping $40 million — with future pools expected to be even larger. By comparison, the League of Legends World Championship only had a prize pool of $2 million in 2021. Which game do you think a competitive team is going to invest their time in?
It’s interesting to note that trading card games do not have much of a historical precedent for prize pools. Yu-Gi-Oh! is notorious for not offering cash prizes and Pokemon generally has very small prize pools. Sure, special edition cards awarded to winners will often carry a high price on the secondary market — but it still pales in comparison to the $250,000 MetaZoo is offering.
Magic The Gathering is perhaps the only game with a notable history of prize pools. This begs the question: is that why it’s such a popular game? This fact is not lost on games like Flesh and Blood (FAB) who have recently rolled out large prize pools as well. Back in August, FAB announced their plans to provide $1 million dollars of “prize support” for their competitive play programs in 2022.
Personally, I think the competitive TCG industry as a whole still has a lot of room for growth. Even the highest production quality events are still rampant with “fold-out Walmart table in your mother’s basement” energy. Perhaps I am embellishing a bit but you get the point. Consider the following: the E-Sports industry has very similar origins yet it is currently grossing more than $1 billion in revenue annually. As prize pools continue to grow, and as the televising of these events improves, it’s likely that competitive TCGs will see a very comparable fate.