Spin Master is preparing the hobby channel launch of the Bakugan Battle Planet TCG, for which lead designer Justin Gary (Ascension) promises "enough strategic depth to support high-end play from even real competitive gamers" despite the core property’s younger age target.

The relaunch of the property, which was originally developed in the mid-00s as Bakugan Battle Brawlers by Nelvana, Spin Master, Sega, TMS Entertainment, and Japan Vistec for boys 8-12 (see "Bakugan,’ an International Multi-Media Property"), kicked off in December with the launch of a new 50-episode anime series (with script help from Man of Action) on Cartoon Network and video shorts from Spin Master, followed shortly by the toy line and TCG in mass merchants early this year.  The property is now focused on kids of both genders.

From our vantage point, this property pioneered the strategy of giving the TV platform a piece of the action back in 2008.  As it has since the initial launch, Cartoon Network Enterprises is handling licensing for all territories except Asia.

The original release in the U.S. in 2008 was tremendously successful, with over 250 million of the toys sold by 2010 (see "Bakugan Hits 250 Million"), and a wide range of other content and merchandise beyond the core anime and toys, including a bestselling manga series and a screen-cap graphic novel series (both published here by Del Rey Manga).

We talked to lead TCG designer Justin Gary at GAMA Trade Show last week.

ICv2: Tell us about the relaunch of Bakugan.
Justin Gary: For those that don't know, Bakugan was a huge brand that launched about 10 years ago from Spin Master.  It was really one of the biggest games in the world at the time.  They've since pulled it, and we've now relaunched it as a brand new, modernized game.

We made sure we were bringing a robust trading card game, something that people could really enjoy and play for the long term.  This is actually one of the first TCGs ever to integrate that kinetic toy, rolling component with strategy, trading cards, and all that.

The Bakugan toys themselves are these little plastic balls.  When they roll over a metal object, they pop open and turn into a monster.  Inside, there's a power number.  You can use that power to attack your opponent, play cards to boost it, and things like that.  It's actually really fun.

What's the target age of the game?
There's a basic version of the game for younger kids,… but we have 13‑, 14‑year‑olds playing it.  We have people who were fans of the game back in the day that are now coming back and playing it.  There's enough strategic depth to support high‑end play from even real competitive gamers.

What’s the plan for hobby distribution?
The initial push was into mass.  Now the team is really focused on getting the right kinds of SKUs and hobby store support. (There's a partnership that was just announced with TCGplayer to support singles sales, to make sure that the market can be as robust as it needs to be and be able to support TCGplayer stores.)

The details are still being worked out; one of the reasons I'm here at GAMA is to talk to retailers, talk to distributors, and find out what they want, what they really need from this brand to be as successful in hobby as it is currently in mass.

How many cards in this first set?
The first set has about 280 cards. We are going to plan about three card set releases a year with about 200 cards.  The toys come with cards, as well, so there'll be another 20 or 30 cards each season for toy card releases.

How do those cards that come with the toys get incorporated into play?
That's a great question.  Each toy has a character card that associates with the toy.  It gives you its stats and abilities, and then there's often evolutions, where your characters could evolve.  Those cards will come with the toys, too, so you can play them using the card game mechanics to upgrade your character.

What are the mass SKUs, and how might that change for the hobby channel?
There's card pack SKUs and there's toy SKUs, as well as single‑toy SKUs.

We have starter decks in the initial wave that are everything you need to play the TCG, so three Bakugan balls, their character cards, the little metal Baku core that they pop open on, as well as 40‑card decks.

The card packs are already available, and those will be the same across the board.  We're trying to make toy SKUs that are really appropriate for hobby and that can support organized play, as well.  We need to figure out how to get SKUs that will be really functional for hobby channel that can let them buy the toys as well as the cards.

Click Gallery below for the mass channel Bakugan Battle Planet TCG SKUs!