We interviewed Upper Deck Marvel Brand Manager Ben Seck at Gen Con about the company’s plans for a TCG based on Marvel films (see “Marvel Superstars TCG”). 


We covered the announcement that your first release was going to be in February. Do we understand correctly that you have access to images from all of the Marvel movies, or is it just the Marvel Studio films?

We have access to all the Marvel movies except for Spider-Man which we are still in the process of getting.


So for this first release in February, will you have images from future movies or just from past releases?  What films will you draw from?

The first release uses images from past movies all the way up to Hulk.  That includes the X-Men trilogy, Fantastic Four, Elektra, Daredevil, Blade (the trilogy), Ghost Rider, and The Punisher as well.  We have access to all the modern ones [except for Spider-Man] at least, not the old ones like Captain America that have been out there for awhile.  All the modern ones are included.


What’s the target audience in terms of age for the game?

We’re hoping for somewhere near eight and up.  We want the game to be easy enough for younger kids to get in but we want it to have enough depth for the older players.


Is the product configuration going to be starters and boosters?

We’re going to start off with Starters; their focus is on Iron Man and Wolverine.  The first release will be a 285-card set that will have all the movies together.  Within the first six weeks we’ll also have an Iron Man II.  That’s actually the first release we’re going to have that will include future movie content.  Iron Man II releases in May; we plan to release an Iron Man Starter Deck in March.


And so a subsequent booster release will include other Iron Man II images?

That’s correct.


And you say you’re going to do three a year?

Yes, that’s correct.


What’s the rarity scheme?

We wanted to keep it exciting so we’re going to have a four tier rarity system, with commons, uncommons, rares, and there will be essentially one super-rare.  They won’t be prohibitively hard to collect but there will be some interesting things for the collectors, the people who like to chase things, to keep the industry involved and the product fresh.  They will still see cards in each release that they might not have seen before.  I think one of the things that has happened to CCGs in some cases is that a lot of the information is all out there on the net, and we wanted to try to recapture some of the collectors’ excitement with these expansions. 


Are the super-rares going to be one per box, or less? 

More frequent than one per box.  We plan something like four or five per box.


Do you know what the price point’s going to be?

We’re still working that out.  It will be competitive with the others.  I know with World of Warcraft we actually put more cards into a booster because we’re trying to make sure that the value in the new series is very, very close to the top release, compared to other products in the market.  Unfortunately we haven’t locked down exactly how many cards per pack.


How many packs per booster box?

It’s likely to be a standard 24 pieces per display.


What’s the distribution going to be like?  Are you going to go straight into mass at the same time you go into hobby or how are you going to handle that?

We’re going to have a slower roll-out for the product.  We want to make sure that the core consumers and the hobby consumers are very happy with it.  Iron Man II, to try to capture people into the game, is going to be a much wider release.  It’s going to be totally available in a couple of the more mass retail outlets.


That’s the Iron Man II Starters product?

That’s right.  And we’re going to aim that product for the a consumer who wants to have a game experience without having to be too committed to the rigors of having to collect a trading card game.  A lot of customers are initially scared off by the intimidating amounts of cards they have to collect.  The Iron Man II Starter is basically designed as a game in a box. 


A two person game?

Yeah, we want to make sure that it feels like a complete game.  If they choose not to, they won’t actually have to buy a booster again.  But if they want to we’re going to allow them to have that thing join the rest of the universe.


Can you characterize the mechanics of the game?  Is it similar to any of your previous games? 

I would say that most trading card games are related to each other.  This game is innovative; the most innovative thing actually is that all the cards are landscape.  It’s purely visual. but since we are concentrating on movie images it just made sense to have a wide-screen, like a trading card.  It allows us to take images very close to straight from the screen, put them on the cards and they look perfect.  We actually tried the vertical style and the images just looked crowded.  We wanted to make sure that we were true to the movies and so we kept most images almost perfectly letterboxed.  Upper Deck’s sports products are known for having some of the best images in the industry, so we’re doing the same with movies.  We’re keeping the integrity of the format while still having very good images.


What kind of organized play program are you planning for the Marvel game?

We have a very robust one set up.  We’re not releasing the details of that right at this time but it will actually start from the hobby level and will gradually grow up.  We’re just making sure that each of the players will play at a level that they’re happy to play with.  We don’t want to overwhelm the players with a lot of different events.  We want to make sure that the hobby player has a place to go and the tournament player has a place to go as well. 


Will that be ready to roll at the time of the first release?

We will have hobby level support at release.  As the game develops critical mass then we’ll move to ramp it up slowly.