In a throwback to one of my first articles for PlayPowerUp.com, today I’m going to discuss if there is a place for a story in a card game like Power Up.
“A story? This is a card game, not Final Fantasy!” I hear some of you cry. Very true, but as games like Overwatch have shown us recently, having a story that doesn’t directly impact on the game can be a very effective hook to expose people to the game. The animated short films for Overwatch have been a massive part of the game’s success. The original cinematic trailer has over 13 million views, and the origin stories and advancing story videos for the game’s characters are not that far behind. These stories have connected to the audience in a way that has expanded the game’s appeal far beyond what would be expected just by it’s gameplay. Not that I’m saying Overwatch’s gameplay is bad, my playtime in the game certainly says otherwise! What is clear is that the universe created by Blizzard around the game has connected with a large online community, who have taken the “official” universe, and developed fan fiction and comics that have expanded the story, filling in the gaps left by the Blizzard official content.
Power Up appears to have the beginnings of a detailed universe based upon the descriptions of the avatars in the PokerStars client. Maybe the Stars Group could take a page from Blizzard’s playbook and develop a relationship between the players and the characters in the game by expanding on the universe that we have only been given a glimpse at so far.
I’m not suggesting that content requiring the budget of the Overwatch short films is reasonable for Power Up. However, a set of simple 2d animations, combined with some written content and artwork could offer an expansive universe for players to latch on to. This wouldn’t be anything new for a card game. Magic: The Gathering has had a story for years, and a single player version of Gwent is due for release soon which features a storyline rather than a multiplayer experience.
With the video game market evolving and customers being more discriminating about their playing habits, games need more than just interesting gameplay to stand out from the crowd. Gameplay will always be important, and a release can stand, or fall based upon it. Put two games of equal gameplay next to each other however, and what makes one more attractive than the other. Artwork and story are the two most obvious at first glance. Power Up’s artwork is top quality and reminds a lot of people I’ve spoken to of the old Full Tilt avatars. It is distinctive and works really well with the futuristic game that PokerStars is offering.
The glimpse that the avatar selection screen offers into the Power Up universe intrigues me. We have had tantalising information about the universe Power Up has been set in from interviews with the developers about the desire to set the game in a futuristic universe that, unusually, isn’t a dystopian one. With this universe being a progressive, optimistic take on the future, it could offer stories that aren’t often presented in video games. If sexism and racism aren’t commonplace, some of the standard tropes just don’t work. Where does the conflict come from? The reason tropes are tropes is they offer the background to make stories interesting.
PokerStars have developed an interesting new game in Power Up, that is bridging the divide between poker and video games. However, there are other people looking into the same area, and Power Up seems to need a unique factor to get in front of new players. With the success of marketing campaigns using this technique, like Overwatch, and with the ground work already done in designing this universe, this seems to be a logical step.
I really hope that this is the direction PokerStars is planning to take with the Power Up marketing. It’s a big departure from the way they have been promoting the poker side of the brand, which has revolved around using high profile mainstream influencers like Kevin Hart. I don’t think that’s going to work with this game. Using influencers is much more of a brand wide program, and Power Up needs to have its own identity beyond the PokerStars red spade logo.
If the secondary content is good enough, it might develop a life of its own on social media. If that happens, the ceiling for the game could be smashed, and a mainstream appeal becomes more probable.