A collectible card game, or CCG, is a card game where, instead of using a standard set of cards, each player brings his own deck to the game. The "collectible" aspect comes from the fact that the cards are sold in randomized packs, and players must buy these packs in order to create their decks. Most CCGs come in starter sets (one or two decks which are playable, but not very powerful, and may ignore some of the more complex rules) and booster packs (random cards which cannot be used alone, but can supplement existing decks).
The are also called Trading Card Games, or Customizable Card Games.
The first CCG was Magic: The Gathering, and is still a major player in the genre. Currently, Yu-Gi-Oh! is the most sold card game in the world, with 22.9billioncards, however, Wizards of the Coast does not release sales numbers for Magic the Gathering and it possibly is the number one sold CCG in the world.
For the Video Game equivalent of this, see Card Battle Game.
Tropes common to collectible card games include:
Bribing Your Way to Victory: To play constructed formats competitively, you'll often have to spend lots of money, either because the most useful cards are the rarest, or because their usefulness increases demand (and therefore price).
Crack is Cheaper: Those little booster packs add up over time. You can drop a hundred dollars (USD) on a huge box, or instead spend that much directly buying the most useful cards for your setup. Pick your drug.
World of Warcraft ("Loot" cards have codes to unlock mounts, noncombat pets, and other cosmetic bonuses in the video game)
Another more recent category is games which use personal decks just like CCGs, but do away with the "collectible" part. Some like Summoner Wars or Fantasy Flight Games' "Living Card Games" work the same way but eliminate the randomness of booster pack, letting you buy a whole Expansion Pack instead. Other games like Dominion, where building your deck is the game use the underlying concepts in a more innovative way.
A number of other media (especially the geeky sort) have licensed CCGs which are otherwise unrelated.
The long-runningGundam franchise has had two CCGs in its time: the Japanese-made Gundam War and the US-made Gundam MS War. MS War was poorly designed and died quickly, while Gundam War didn't do much better when it was imported to the States because of anime's decline at the time. However, the game continues to run unabetted in Japan.
Digimon had 3 TCGs in America, and has had at least 4 in Japan — the newest two of which are currently being produced at the same time. The first of the Japanese TCGs became a Canon Immigrant in Digimon Tamers, which was intended to come from a more 'real-world' perspective where Digimon is a media franchise.
Likewise, Duel Masters, sadly no longer going outside of Japan. Starting with the first expansion, the flavor text of the cards began receiving the same sort of Gag Dub treatment as the show.
Kaijudo: A revival of Duel Masters created just for North America* The term "kaijudo", while Japanese in nature does not exist in the Japanese franchise, and totally incompatible with the original card game.
Zatch Bell! has one. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that there is no randomness: instead of a deck, you put your cards in a special miniature binder modeled after the Spell Books found in the show. You could only use the card that was on the current page.
Making TCG out of existing works is one half of Bushiroad's business, the other half is making anime, which then may or may not be made into TCG. Derivative TCG from Bushiroad includes:
Sunday vs. Magazine TCG, which pits characters from manga serialized in Weekly Shounen Sunday versus character from manga serialized in Weekly Shounen Magazine. Detective Conan versus Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, anyone?
†ALICE†note Alice Cross, which is the same thing except with Bishounen series. Female characters are on the "Queen" side, male characters are on the "Joker" side. Has characters from Hakuōki, Togainu no Chi, and Junjou Romantica, for example.
The VS System, a TCG built around comic books, primarily those of Marvel and DC, that was reasonably successful for a while. There were at three earlier attempts to make a comic book TCG: Overpower (Marvel, then DC), ReCharge (Marvel only), and the Edutainment card game Genio involving Marvel superheroes.
This game is remembered even among non-fans for the presence of the "Get On With It!" card. When played, it obligates another player to stop wasting time thinking and actually make a play. More games should have this card. All games should have this card.
Highlander, which died mostly due to the slow release schedule. There is a new edition of the Highlander CCG, although distribution is limited.
Star Wars franchise has — bear it with us — no less than ten TCGs in various state of life to date:
Before losing their license in 2001, Decipher cashed in and made some spinoffs, Jedi Knights and Young Jedi. The first one, based on the Original Trilogy, lasted for only three sets and used computer-generated imagery instead of movie stills. The second one was based on The Phantom Menace and had even more simplistic game mechanics. Both were aimed at the younger audience.
In 2002 LucasArts took the license away from Decipher and gave it to Wizards of the Coast, which created a TCG for Episode II as a Revenue Enhancing Device. It barely made it to Episode III, but still retains some of its followers today. Probably the second-known Star Wars card game.
Then there was the Star Wars Pocketmodel Game from Wiz Kids, which utilized both collectible cards and cardboard starship miniatures. It never made it into Star Wars: The Clone Wars expansions, ending in 2008.
Star Wars: GalaxiesTrading Card Game, apart from being the first Star Wars card game online, was different from its predecessors in using artwork by world-class artists instead of movie stills and being focused almost entirely on Star Wars Expanded Universe material, which previous games only touched at best. Unfortunately, being tied to the Star Wars: Galaxies didn't do it justice: the MMO was already in decline and restricting the game to current and former SWG subscribers limited the potential player base to several hundred people at its best. Nevertheless, the game survived thanks to MMO players buying virtual boosters while hunting rare loot items and spawned 8 sets with thousand of beautiful artworks, until it got shot down along with the MMO that gave birth to it in late 2011.
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is a casual "Free Realms-style" MMO based on Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. It added its first CCG, Card Commander, shortly after the launch in 2010 - a game with very simplistic gameplay , aimed at the very young audience. In 2012, it added a second came called Card Assault. It's a step up, including Deckbuilding and Strategies, while the Card Commander is mostly luck-based and has no deckbuilding.
Meanwhile, the license for physical card games went to Fantasy Flight Games, who now produces "Star Wars: The Living Card Game" and X-Wing Miniatures (much like Pocketmodels game above, this one uses both cards and miniatures), both games already several expansions in.
A Song of Ice and Fire has a spinoff card game, called Game Of Thrones. When first released, it was a fairly traditional CCG, with base decks augmented by booster packs. Starting in 2007, though, it converted to what the makers call a "LCG", or Living Card Game. A $40 starter set will get the starting decks for four main Houses, with additional sets for players wanting to play as other Houses or with expanded options for one of the 'core' Houses (Stark, Banatheron, Lannister, and Targaryen). Since then, though, the makers have released monthly "chapter" packs: Basically 60-card booster packs with identical contents to eliminate randomness, arrayed in six chapter arcs built around a general theme or region, much like M:tG's card block system. One of the longest lasting card games on the market aside from M:tG, Yu-gi-oh and the Pokemon CCG, in continuous production since 2002.
Star Trek has had two, the more notable one by Decipher (which was itself split into two editions, where the 2nd edition barely resembled the first).
"Series/Animorphs" had one made by Decipher. To be honest, it's more of a board game than a card game.
Based on Tabletop Non-Card Games
The BattleTech CCG made by Magic: The Gathering creator, Richard Garfield, maybe? It saw about half a dozen expansion sets and a revamp of the main set (Commander's Edition) before folding. By CCG standards, that's fairly respectable. Even then, its folding was caused by FASA's buyout by Decipher, a rival to Wizards of the Coast who were releasing the CCG.
Deadlands had the Doomtown CCG, which had a decidedly niche fandom. The plot and setting were unique, and later ported over to Weird West canon. Perhaps best of all, every card in the CCG had a rank and suit — just like playing cards — so they could also be used for poker, or with the tabletop game as the mystical Huckster's spellslinging or a general initiative deck.
Netrunnertechnically falls into this category, since its background drew upon R. Talsorian Games's Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing setting (despite the game itself being produced by Wizards of the Coast). Of course, even at the time that was arguably a fairly obscure property... The game was pretty solidly designed but just sadly short-lived.
Rifts had a short-lived game, but when they came out with their new "half-edition", they actually took a lot of the original artwork and blew it up into quarter- to full-page spreads in the new rulebook. Acknowledging its failure, Palladium would later have a joke contest; what to do with 50,000 Rifts CCG cards. Which was how many the company had in storage after the CCG failed.
Spell Fire, a hastily put together CCG based on Dungeons & Dragons and mostly reused art, created by TSR to cash in on the Magic fad while it lasted. Three years later, TSR went bankrupt and was bought by WOTC, the creators of Magic... but not before being reduced to using photos of TSR employees in extremely crude costumes as card "art."
Queen's Blade was originally a fighting-book game using the Lost Worlds game books, but of course featured sexy fantasy women. This spawned a CCG, two PS games, and an anime series. Of course, the CCG was only released in Japan.
And then Square Enix saw fit to remake this game for the PlayStation 2 as part of one of its Japanese rerelease packages, and even exported said remake as a standalone release in North America.
It also had a very short lived TCG, while the translators, Fantasy Flight Games, teased of the fifth set, which would have been Japan's Sixth and Seventh Set, including whatever promos respective to that set.
.hack had one. .hack//GU had an in-universe one, Crimson VS, that was made into an out-of-universe one, .hack//GU The Card Battle, which had different rules but could also be played as if it were Crimson VS.
City of Heroes developed one, and released initial card sets, through the project got dropped well before it could be called complete (the player base has continued development somewhat). It did have one noteworthy feature, a website app and proxying rule which allowed players to generate and print tournament-legal cards representing their characters.
Touhou has one. In true Touhou fashion, it's actually named Rumbling Spell Orchestra. There's also the Touhou Ginfuritsu, from the company that make Lycče (and using the same mechanic). Note that this is not a Touhou official TCG, as it's not endorsed by the creator of Touhou.
Wing Commander had one, made by Margaret Weis. Set around the time of Wing Commander III (2669), it used artwork and technical elements from that period of time.
Margaret Weis took the opportunity to make a CCG of her own IP, Star of the Guardians.
Madden NFL has "Ultimate Team" mode, which is a TCG within the game (but for real money of course).
Colossal Kaiju Combat has collectible cards that can do battle with each other via a separately purchased Combat Deck, which comes with four stock monsters itself. Using an Official Fan-Submitted Content method, new monsters go through the card game before being introduced to the video game proper, although significant changes may occur between the card game and video game versions.
Based on Webcomics and Websites
MSF High has a card game, complete with characters from the forums. It's even had Linkara and Spoony have their own decks.
Sponge Bob Square Pants had one in 2001, based on the first season. The goal was to get customers to the Krusty Krab.
Transformers had at least two, both primarily based on the live-action movies. The first was a "3D Battle-Card Game": characters were represented as punch-out buildable cards that could either be built as vehicles/animals or out-of-proportion Off Model robots (here's Optimus, for those interested◊), and the game could easily be played without the card models. Only two sets were released. The second is a more traditional TCG, currently exclusive to Japan; time will tell whether it'll be more successful.
The Cosplay website "American Cosplay Paradise" parodies this phenomenon with its "American Cosplay Duel" game, originally intended as an April Fool's joke. The game represents making/wearing costumes and entering them in masquerades, and can technically be considered a multi-license game, except Lelouch isn't the real Lelouch, and Haruhi isn't the real Haruhi, and... well, you get the picture...
The Simpsons TCG, made by Wizards of the Coast. The goal here is not combat, but to create a setting with characters suited for that location. Despite everything about the premise suggesting it would fall on its face, those who've played it say it's very fun.