With their international success making headlines, you may have heard about Legend Story Studios (LSS) and its trading card game (TCG), Flesh and Blood (FAB), but you may not have heard their story.
A team of experienced gamers and talented artists, Legend Story Studios developed FAB to push back against the rise of digital gaming and require players to sit across from each other in the flesh (if you will) to come away with a win. However, FAB’s mission became rather difficult when COVID-19 hit our shores and social distancing meant gaming with a community of like-minded strangers in the same room was not an option any more.
We caught up with one of the founders and CEO of Legend Story Studios, James White, to find the secret to FAB’s success and how LSS managed to successfully launch a product during a global pandemic.
Tell us about the trading card game industry and how both Legend Story Studios and Flesh and Blood fit?
The TCG industry really kicked off in 1993 with “Magic the Gathering”. Owned by Wizards of the Coast, Magic the Gathering became an internationally recognised brand and was bought in 1999 by Hasbro for USD$325million. The game has acquired many more players since, such that with Yu Gi Oh and the Pokémon TCG there are really only three big players in the TCG industry. We are aiming for there to be four big players, with FAB to be part of the four.
The growth in the TCG industry over the last 25 or so years has normalised gaming now to the extent where it is for many participants their primary source of identity outside of their paid employment. The TCG industry has built a network of local games stores, shops that are 50% retail space and 50% space to host and bring people together to play games socially or more competitively at tournament events. Our involvement with, and passion for, those “local” stores are a big part of why we created FAB.
LSS is a vehicle to create FAB and give us different development options for the future. FAB began with my experience in the TCG industry. I have worked in the industry since 1995, originally in a marketing capacity and as a distributor for Yu Gi Oh. I've also represented NZ five times at the “Magic the Gathering” World Championship as the NZ champion. As an avid player, I did not want to be at the mercy of what other people wanted done with the industry, I wanted to be a creator of intellectual property. At the same time I saw a trend in the TCG industry of the big three (Magic the Gathering, Yu Gi Oh and the Pokémon) moving their games online.
We started LSS and FAB in 2012, as well as a growing part of the TCG industry, we wanted to push back against the move to online. We also wanted to support those local game stores and maintain the local gaming communities that had developed around them. The name “Flesh and Blood”, perfectly captures the bringing of flesh and blood together, people physically playing games against each other. The name (which came to me in the middle of a yoga class after months of development) is about that, but it also exemplifies how in FAB you play and fight as the hero, as opposed to having creatures fight for you.
So no matter your strength as a hero once your blood is split your essence dies (we also love the acronym). To us, this and our resource system (patent pending), differentiates FAB from the other TCGs. The resource system allows for more chance than a chess game but not as much as our competitor so that those who hone their skills are able to consistently succeed at the game.
Describe the business challenge or objective that led you to seek advice
When we setup LSS and FAB I wanted to set up and be successful, to win. If you do not have a solid foundation to your business and processes then you will never succeed, no matter how great your product is. Legend Story Studios has ten incredibly hard-working employees in NZ, and we've developed an amazing team that includes hundreds of contracted artists and contributors around the world with the talent and desire to take the TCG world by storm!
When we started, we knew we had a great product, but we needed that foundation and we needed to protect our IP before anyone heard about it. We also knew we needed to find someone who could see our vision and help us make it a reality. I met Edwin Lim (HGM partner) at a Game Developers Association convention, where he was presenting on issues relating to commercialising IP. His attitude (and passion) towards the gaming industry is what separated Hudson Gavin Martin (HGM) from the other firms we looked at. HGM sees the gaming industry as viable and respects it, they share our vision of building a strong business with the capacity to scale up into a world leader of the TCG industry.
Our journey with HGM started with registering our trade mark. However, the relationship has grown alongside our business, and HGM has helped support us at a number of milestones, including our personal share offer, shareholders agreement, manufacturing and distribution contracts with worldwide manufacturer of cards and games, Cartamundi, as well as our agreements with artists and content providers.