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Virtual Play: Site’s set on virtual card addictions

What happens when you combine the marketing potential of collectible card sets with the high-tech appeal of an interactive strategy game? You end up with Sanctum, a new mythical on-line Collectible Card Game (CCG) produced by Laurel, Maryland-based Digital Addiction, that...
September 1, 1998

What happens when you combine the marketing potential of collectible card sets with the high-tech appeal of an interactive strategy game? You end up with Sanctum, a new mythical on-line Collectible Card Game (CCG) produced by Laurel, Maryland-based Digital Addiction, that offers kids age 12 and up access to a fantasy world filled with

3-D fortresses, dragons and magicians.

Players can download the game and pick up a starter pack of spell cards for free at www.digitaladdiction.com. The next step is to access the game’s chat room (the Great Hall), and choose an opponent. Each player has a fortress-like home-free zone called, appropriately enough, a sanctum. The object of the game is to capture your rival’s sanctum, using virtual cards that summon monsters and cast spells to do so.

At first glance, Sanctum seems targeted to an older audience, but Jamey Harvey, the 29-year-old president and CEO of the two-year-old on-line game development company, says a trickle-down effect brings most fantasy games to the younger crowd almost as soon as they’re released. ‘Most players of collectible card games these days are kids in elementary and junior high school,’ he says. ‘We are already implementing an Interac purchase system, so that younger kids can buy cards more easily.’

Harvey believes that the invention of on-line CCGs is a marketing coup that will revolutionize the world of gaming. ‘The business model behind the digital CCG is brilliant because it’s a product that markets itself in a never-ending cycle,’ he explains. ‘You make the cards, people play with them and the playing generates the need for more cards. Also, it’s more affordable than traditional non-Internet role-playing games. People can play for free and the cards [at six cents each], are comparatively cheap.’

So far, the formula seems to be working quite well; within 15 days of Sanctum’s July 9 launch, the site had garnered 400,000 hits, with between 50 and 100 people downloading the game each day (no mean feat, since the process takes about an hour). A publishing company has shown keen interest in producing a novel based on the world of the game, and Harvey expects to roll out a CD-ROM version of Sanctum at the retail level next year.

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