When Did YuGiOh! Jump the Shark?

Power Creep

Power creep in games with collectible items refers to new items being introduced having more and more power, leading to a slow upward creep of average power, making old items ultimately useless. Making new powerful cards gives fans a reason to abandon their current deck and buy new cards.

2002 | YuGiOh!

The original YuGiOh! manga only featured what we now know as the card game in one episode, but the author received so much fan mail about it that he later on expanded upon the idea.

2005 | YuGiOh! GX

The original anime ended and its sequel, GX, saw the main character use an Elemental Hero deck based around fusioning weaker heroes into more powerful heroes with powerful effects. This takes the number of turns to summon a level 7+ strength monster down from 3 to 1 or 2. Fusion-based cards accelerated the pace of the game further, by granting additional fusions or loosening fusion material requirements (Fusion Sage, Fusion Gate, Future Fusion, Hex-Sealed Fusion, Overload Fusion, Chimeratech Overdragon).

2008 | YuGiOh! 5D’s | Synchro Monsters

GX ended and its sequel 5D’s introduced a new monster type: Synchro. To summon a Synchro monster, typically one of a special type of monster called a “Tuner” is needed, and one or more mosters which are not “Tuner”s. The sum of their levels has to add up to the Synchro monster’s level.

2011 | YuGiOh! ZEXAL | Xyz Monsters

Xyz (pronounced “exceed”) monsters are summoned by overlaying monster cards of the same level. I don’t know too much about Xyz, but my general impression is they do not spike too much over the Synchro monster power curve: The Tuner requirement is dropped, but the level requirement is stricter, and the number of materials remains around the same.

2014 | YuGiOh! ARC-V | Pendulum Monster

Reddit agrees that Duelist Alliance, which introduced Pendulum monsters, was an extremely overpowered set. Pendulum monsters can either be played as a normal monster, or played as a spell card into a Pendulum zone (hence the 2 text boxes). After playing cards into both Pendulum zones, the player is allowed to summon any number of monsters between the two levels.

Card Length

I used the database over at https://db.ygoprodeck.com/, which seems intended for pricing data, but does contain a year filter and description field which is all I need to check my hunch that the length of card descriptions keeps increasing. A first version of my script did output:

2002 has avglen 106 ( 496 for Toon Summoned Skull)
2003 has avglen 173 ( 649 for Pitch-Dark Dragon)
2004 has avglen 153 ( 508 for The First Sarcophagus)
2005 has avglen 168 ( 427 for VWXYZ-Dragon Catapult Cannon)
2006 has avglen 187 ( 525 for Allure Queen LV5)
2007 has avglen 197 ( 660 for Vennominaga the Deity of Poisonous Snakes)
2008 has avglen 209 ( 627 for Arcana Force EX - The Light Ruler)
2009 has avglen 214 ( 589 for Majestic Star Dragon)
2010 has avglen 202 ( 650 for Shooting Star Dragon)
2011 has avglen 200 ( 681 for Meklord Emperor Skiel)
2012 has avglen 226 ( 588 for Noble Arms - Arfeudutyr)
2013 has avglen 266 ( 688 for Meklord Emperor Wisel)
2014 has avglen 310 ( 777 for Qliphort Shell)
2015 has avglen 350 ( 838 for Odd-Eyes Rebellion Dragon)
2016 has avglen 373 ( 916 for Nirvana High Paladin)
2017 has avglen 365 ( 921 for Astrograph Sorcerer)
2018 has avglen 375 ( 968 for Chaos Emperor, the Dragon of Armageddon)
2019 has avglen 374 (1048 for Endymion, the Mighty Master of Magic)
2020 has avglen 411 ( 922 for Performapal Celestial Magician)
2021 has avglen 414 ( 714 for Ancient Warriors - Rebellious Lu Feng)
  • The average card length has rapidly risen from 200 to 400
  • This sharpest rise occurred from 2012 to 2015
  • The longest card in 2005 is as long as the average card in 2020/2021
  • (not shown) More and more cards are released each year, up from 300–400 a year before 2008 to 774 in 2019

Card Types

One possible objection is that the new monster types (Synchro, XYZ, Pendulum, and Link) contain a lot of boilerplate text (“1 Tuner + 1 or more non-Tuner WATER monsters”) that can mentally be ignored or replaced with a symbol. Especially Pendulum monsters are known for their complexity, contain 2 textboxes instead of the usual 1, and thus the most text on average:

  • only a small fraction of released cards are Pendulum monsters
  • “classical” Effect+Spell+Trap cards show the same pattern:

Source Code

The following Python code was used to analyze the data and produce figures:

import requests
from matplotlib import pyplot as plt
url = 'https://db.ygoprodeck.com/api/v7/cardinfo.php'for card_type, card_color in [
('all', 'black'),
# ('Normal Monster', '#f0da16'),
('Effect Monster', '#c4700a'),
('Synchro Monster', '#d3d3d3'),
('XYZ Monster', '#2e2e2e'),
('Pendulum Effect Monster', '#06bf6f'),
('Link Monster', '#1427cc'),
('Spell Card', '#07ba85'),
('Trap Card', '#bd0275'),
]:
print()
print(card_type)
for year in range(2002, 2022):
r = requests.get(f'{url}?startdate={year}-01-01&enddate={year}-12-31')
ds = r.json()['data']
if card_type != 'all':
ds = [d for d in ds if d['type'] == card_type]
if not ds:
continue
avglen = sum(len(d['desc']) for d in ds) / len(ds)
maxcard = max(ds, key=lambda d: len(d['desc']))
print(f'{len(ds):3d} | Year {year} has average description length {int(avglen)} '
f'({len(maxcard["desc"]):4d} for {maxcard["name"]})')
plt.bar(year, avglen, color=card_color)
if card_type != 'Pendulum Effect Monster':
plt.gca().set_ylim([0, 500])
plt.gca().set_xlim([2001, 2022])
plt.xticks(list(range(2002, 2022)), rotation=45)
plt.title(f"YuGiOh! average card description length by year ({card_type})")
plt.xlabel('year')
plt.ylabel('number of characters')
plt.savefig(f"yugioh_card_len_{card_type}.png")
# plt.show()
plt.clf()

Conclusion

YuGiOh! jumped the shark somewhere between 2012 and 2015. The ever-growing card texts and number of cards make it nearly-impossible for new players to join the game. Established players complain about growing prices, although I did not investigate that claim. Power creep has been a problem in every generation, but now complexity creep in the form of super long card descriptions has sucked the fun out of the game.

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Konopka Kodes Blog

Konopka Kodes Blog

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25/M software engineer from Düsseldorf, Germany. Developer of Mundraub Navigator (Android app) and Jangine (chess engine).