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Pokémon TFG: Analysis of figure distribution in boosters

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Systematic problems uncovered in distribution
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  • Friday, October 20, 2006

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This editorial has been written by Archaic. It expresses the views of the writer, not necessarily those of Bulbagarden networks.
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This is an editorial by Archaic.
About the author
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Liam Pomfret, a.k.a. Archaic, is the webmaster of Bulbagarden since December 2002. A long time member of the online Pokémon fandom, he has worked on numerous Pokémon websites as an administrator, moderator and news correspondent since early 2001.

Offline, Archaic is an academic involved in the study of online consumer privacy behaviours, and is currently in the process of working towards his PhD. He has taught for undergraduate subjects relating to Marketing, Management and International Business Strategy, and has guest lectured on the topic of online communities for post-graduate students.

Hello everyone. This will be the first of a series of weekly articles I intend to write on the Pokémon Trading Figure Game. Let's see if I can actually manage to keep to that. ^^;; Most will thankfully not be quite as serious as this, but I felt that there wasn't any good reason to delay on publishing this information, as a warning to other people who've already started to get into the game.

As many of you would be aware, during the "Journey Across Oz" Pokémon 10th Anniversary tour, I was employed by Croftminster (the company who are responsible for the distribution of the Pokémon Trading Card game in Australia) to demonstrate the new Pokémon Trading Figure game at the two events held in Brisbane. As part of my payment for running these demonstrations, I recieved an entire box of Pokémon TFG boosters, containing 4 individual cartons of 8 boosters each, for a total of 32 boosters and 64 figures. After having noticed a number of irregularities when purchasing my own boosters in stores, specifically issues with poison/paralyze counters (an issue which the manufacturers are now aware of), and odd distributions of some figures, I decided to use this box to do some serious study, so we wouldn't just be speculating in the dark. While the results and conclusions I may draw from a single carton may not be enough to reach any definitive position, I believe it's quite obvious fromthe data that I've collected that there are issues that need to be corrected before the sale of this game in America and Japan.

Data

The Cartons are stacked in layers of 2 inside the Box. Carton 1 will be top left, 2 top right, and so forth. Boosters are stacked in layers of 4 inside the individual Cartons. Booster 1 is top layer top left, 2 top layer top right, 3 top layer bottom left, and so forth. While all care was taken to insure that the carton and boosters were not mixed up during this test, there is some potential for the exact order of the cartons to have been confused, or the exact order of boosters within each layer of the first two cartons (before I realised the potential for figures in a booster to be influenced by the figures in boosters next to it, a point I touch on further later, and started taking precautions) to have been confused.

Carton 1:

  1. Feraligator, Golem
  2. Charizard, Absol
  3. Charizard, Dratini
  4. Charizard, Brock
  5. Spearow, Golem
  6. Spearow, Mudkip
  7. Marril, Mudkip
  8. Marril, Pikachu

Carton 2:

  1. Dratini, Pikachu
  2. Sentret, Marril
  3. Sentret, Zangoose
  4. Marril, Golem
  5. Zangoose, Nidoran M, 2 Paralyze Counters
  6. Sentret, Zangoose
  7. Machop, Misty, Max Revive Trainer Card
  8. Absol, Nidoran M, 2 Paralyze Counters

Carton 3:

  1. Spearow, Murkrow
  2. Spearow, Corsola, Long Throw Trainer Card
  3. Feraligator, Pikachu
  4. Feraligator, Zangoose
  5. Spearow, Dratini, X Attack Trainer Card.
  6. Marril, Corsola
  7. Charizard, Brock
  8. Marril, Absol

Carton 4:

  1. Marril, Murkrow
  2. Absol, Nidoran M, 2 Paralyze Counters
  3. Marril, Zangoose, Max Revive Trainer Card
  4. Sentret, Pikachu
  5. Zangoose, Nidoran M, 2 Paralyze Counters
  6. Marril, Pikachu
  7. Duduo, Dratini
  8. Sentret, Dratini

Analysis

Before getting onto the main issue at hand, I'd like to note that, while we'd already established that Paralyze and Poison counters are getting mixed up in the boosters through extended observation of people opening random boosters, the data here provides nice confirmation of that.

It's also interesting to note that the trainer cards seemed to come out at a nice even average of 1 in every 8 boosters. Before now, we didn't have any idea exactly how rare those were. Though, considering that this would mean the number of boosters you'd need to purchase just to get 8 cards, while all the 8 cards in the base set may be labeled as "common", it's going to be difficult for most to complete the full set. Thankfully, you can get 3 cards each in the 4 figure starters, but these tend to be the same 3-4 cards. In the boosters I opened, the only card which isn't commonly found in boosters was the Long Throw. Of course, without further data, we can't be sure on the real relative rarity of these cards, so further speculation there will need to be left for another day.

As far as the distribution of the figures goes...as we had guessed, there is an obvious issue here. While there are 59 figures in the Next Quest set total (including 6 "Crystal" versions of the EX rares, 10 "Pearl" figures of the normal rares, and an extra Referee figure that's only available in the 9 figure starter sets), out of the 64 figures pulled from the boosters, only 16 of the figures in the entire set were represented. As further insult to injury, 4 of these figures (Charizard, Feraligator, Murkrow and Pikachu, being 2 EX Rares, a Rare and an Uncommon respectively) are found in the standard 4 figure starter packs, thus making their value in boosters dubious at best. TCG players might wish to think of them as being along the lines of a 1st Edition base set Holographic Machamp.

The breakdown of the figures is as follows (ordered by set number) Charizard x 4 Feraligator x 3 Absol x 4 Dratini x 5 Murkrow x 1 Corsola x 2 Golem x 3 Mudkip x 2 Pikachu x 4 Zangoose x 6 Doduo x 1 Machop x 1 Marril x 8 Nidoran M x 4 Sentret x 5 Spearow x 5 Brock x 2 Misty x 1

The distributions of figure rarity for the entire box of boosters was as follows EX Rare x 7 Rare x 14 Uncommon x 17 Common x 24

Eliminating duplicates, we arrive with the following distributions of figure rarity EX Rare x 2 Rare x 5 Uncommon x 5 Common x 6

Surprisingly, this distribution over the entire box of boosters seems fairly stable and reasonable. Unfortunatly, the distribution of these individual figures in each booster is significantly off, with more than a few boosters having both an EX Rare figure and a Rare figure. The breakdown in rarities in each individual carton is equally bleak, as you can see below.

Carton 1:

  1. EX Rare, Uncommon
  2. EX Rare, Rare
  3. EX Rare, Rare
  4. EX Rare, Rare
  5. Common, Uncommon
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Uncommon
  8. Common, Uncommon
  Total = 4 x EX Rare, 3 x Rare, 5 x Uncommon, 4 x Common

Carton 2:

  1. Rare, Uncommon
  2. Common, Common
  3. Common, Uncommon
  4. Common, Uncommon
  5. Uncommon, Common
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Rare
  8. Rare, Common
  Total = 0 x EX Rare, 3 x Rare, 5 x Uncommon, 8 x Common

Carton 3:

  1. Common, Rare
  2. Common, Uncommon
  3. EX Rare, Uncommon
  4. EX Rare, Uncommon
  5. Common, Rare
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. EX Rare, Rare
  8. Common, Rare
  Total = 3 x EX Rare, 4 x Rare, 4 x Uncommon, 5 x Common

Carton 4:

  1. Common, Rare
  2. Rare, Common
  3. Common, Uncommon
  4. Common, Uncommon
  5. Uncommon, Common
  6. Common, Uncommon
  7. Common, Rare
  8. Common, Rare
  Total = 0 x EX Rare, 4 x Rare, 4 x Uncommon, 8 x Common

This unusual distribution of the figure rarities between the cartons would seem to be caused by the tendancy towards boosters being likely to contain at least one figure from boosters adjacent to it in its layer, the booster immediately above or below it inside its own carton, and the boosters adjacent to it in the adjacent cartons. While I haven't subjected this to any substantial mathematical analysis at this time, simply due to the lack of sufficient data, looking at what we have, it's obvious that the likelyhood is statistically significant.

Conclusions

In conclusion, I believe the above documented box of the Pokémon Trading Figures to be concrete evidence that there are systematic problems in the distribution of the Pokémon Trading Figures within the 2 figure booster packs. While there may be no problems in the overall distribution of figure rarities, the likelyhood of anyone finding identical figures in boosters purchased is unacceptably high, to the point where trading of figures between friends and people at leagues will likely be hampered, simply by them having purchased them from the same store, from the same stock of boosters. No doubt also, this will lead to those who find themselves on virtual gold mines of rare figures (see the example in the postscript) purchasing large quantities of boosters, allowing them to control trade and on-selling of individual figures at a level totally beyond what we've ever seen for the Pokémon TCG.

Postscript

As I was already in the process of writing the final version of this article, a member of the trading card game league here in Brisbane passed onto me this list of the contents of boosters he had bought at the league store. While we cannot be sure of the exact positions in each carton of these boosters, we do know at least that the first 8 were one sealed carton, and that the next 4 were the first layer of a second. While I hesitate to use these to further solidify my conclusions (hence them being here in a postscript, rather than the main article body), I have to say, the implications for the distribution of figures from these boosters are somewhat disturbing.

  1. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Groudon
  2. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Kyogre
  3. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  4. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  5. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  6. Golem, Ho-oh (Ho-oh was apparently broken when the booster was opened)
  7. Brock (Pearl sub-set version), Lugia
  8. Eevee (Pearl sub-set version), Groudon
  9. Ho-oh, Golem
 10. Ho-oh, Kyogre
 11. Murkrow, Kyogre
 12. Murkrow, Groudon