attract and retain members

The members are the heart of your TCG; if you don't attract them, you'll never get your TCG off to a good start. And if you can't KEEP them, your TCG will fizzle out and die. Here's how to get them in the door and keep them there.

attract members

Advertise! You MUST advertise your new TCG if you want anyone to find it. Sign up for as many TCG listings as you can find. Seek out other TCGs and ask to affiliate. Visit TCG related message boards and post an invitation to your TCG.

When you're first starting out, it can help to offer a larger starter pack or extra bonuses for new members. This is especially popular when TCGs are open for prejoining (joining before the TCG is officially opened). However, this is not as important as the factors discussed in the plan your TCG section.

Also important: if your TCG is in prejoin, how much of it is visible to the public? It's a good idea to have at least 20 card sets finished before opening for prejoin, and to have a good sized list of future decks. Members should also be able to view the list of games (even better if they can see some sample games!), the guidelines for image/deck donations (if you'll allow graphics donations), and the about/rules pages.

retain members - basics

The single most important thing you can do to retain members is VERY SIMPLE.

If you can't update on time, at least post a message stating why. DO NOT PROMISE to update later unless you can come through on your promise!

Breaking promises is a surefire way to get members to quit. Members will be understanding of a planned hiatus, or one that comes up suddenly, but they will NOT be happy if you disappear for three weeks and then announce that you need to go on hiatus for even longer.

While updating on time is most important, you'll need to do more than that to keep your members hooked. Unique games and contests will help hold member interest. Holiday themed games will have them looking forward to updates. As membership increases, keep expanding your game and hiring new staff to help out with the additions.

retain members - special games

Create complex, long term games that give your members something to work toward, either individually or on teams. Make them want to keep coming back to work on an extra hard series of games or participate in a team contest. Offer special rewards to high level members so they don't get bored with the game.

For example, my Sailor Moon TCG used to have a monthly "Sailor Wars" contest where members can earn points for their team by completing tasks such as mastering sets, completing stamp cards, donating graphics, and so on. Running it monthly, however, was pretty hard on me as the owner, and the members got burned out too! So it's probably a good idea to keep events and special games... special. :)

Other ideas for harder or long term games and prizes include:
- a series of trivia questions or puzzles (answering one gives a prize and access to another question/puzzle)
- holiday or seasonal themed games
- "limited edition" games that give out participation graphics when solved
- card sets that can be obtained only by completing specific tasks/games
- personalized rewards for reaching a high card value (custom badge, user-specified forum title/graphic)
- entry into a TCG hall of fame for completing specified tasks

retain members - interaction

Get your members to interact with each other! This is why forums are great. Your members can make friends as well as get their TCG needs taken care of, which is great incentive to keep coming back. The more members interact, the more likely they are to return!

To encourage member interaction, try these:
- a trade forum where members can post wishlists and offer trades
- forum-based games (group collect, card swap, card chain, quitter's cards, etc)
- an off-topic area of your forum for chat, forum games, website tips, TCG advertising, etc

My lists are pretty gimpy. See what you can come up with!

retain members - things to avoid!

Aside from failing to update, I've found that these factors can drive members away.

game pacing
Is your game too slow or too fast paced? Members want to earn cards at a steady rate without feeling like they have to work too hard OR that the cards are being handed out too easily. The TCG should be challenging, but not impossible. Have a mix of difficult and easy games, and adjust the amount of cards and currency given out if you notice members mastering or levelling up too quickly or slowly.

owner attitude
Be more than just a TCG owner; be a friend. Encourage your members to give feedback and ask questions, and never act offended when they make suggestions. Of course, don't let a rude member walk all over you, but don't be rude in response to a genuine concern. Remember, everyone else is watching what YOU do!

stagnant feeling
So your TCG is successful. Don't be satisfied with just that! Keep adding to your game to keep the highest level members interested. Create new card sets, think of new challenges, and incorporate more complex games as TCG membership grows.

too much focus on graphics
Avoid games or contests that focus solely on graphics. Not everyone is good at making blends, badges, or card templates. Contests should be balanced and allow all members to participate on some level.

revamping or restarting your TCG
Be very careful when deciding to revamp your TCG. You should do more than just remake your card template or layout; use revamp time to add new content to your TCG as well. And never ask your members to start over after a revamp! They've worked hard for their cards and been loyal to your game; the old members don't want a "level playing field," they want to continue where they left off. Do whatever you can to keep everyone at the proper level.