Just over eight years ago, James White set out to bring people together with an all-new classic trading card game.
Little did the founder of Epsom-based Legend Story Studios know it would soon make history.
Flesh and Blood is designed to be played by two people, who each pick a hero such as a ninja or a wizard, and use a deck full of unique cards to attack each other until one is left standing.
The game hit shelves in 2019 and was an instant success, with some special rare cards like the coveted Heart of Fyendal being sold between players for around $400.
Halfway through 2020, Heart of Fyendal cards were going for around $10,000 each, and today they are valued at upwards of $30,000.
White said in an industry where 90 per cent of new games didn't last longer than two years, Flesh and Blood was going from strength to strength.
"Even in a global pandemic with a game designed to be played in the flesh and blood, we have about 200,000 players worldwide. We're in 26 countries at the moment, and our vision is for it to be a truly global game played by people of all backgrounds."
In May the company released the game's latest expansion, Monarch, which became the number one sealed product in North America on online marketplace TCG Player during that month, beating industry giants like Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic: The Gathering, and Pokémon.
Every month TCG Player announces its top 25 best-sellers, and White said this was the first time in the history of the trading card game industry that an independent publisher had claimed the top rank.
"Keep in mind we're up against some of the biggest companies in the world. Hasbro is one of the largest toy companies in the world, Pokémon is one of the most loved brands in the world."
He said the data released by TCG Player wasn't inclusive of mass-market channels, but it did reflect independent retailers, which were the primary channel for trading cards and collectables.
"It's independent retailers that make up the backbone of the industry. There's about 3000 independent trading card retailers in America, and it's an incredible achievement to have our Kiwi game reach the top. Think of it like the Billboard Top 100."
When asked if he saw Flesh and Blood ever becoming number one in the business down the line, White said it was possible, but not the main objective.
"Our focus is creating the best product we can, and supporting our fans and retailers. If they like what we're doing they'll support us back, and that'll be reflected in our growth."
White said the amount of attention the game was getting overseas was also bringing a lot of awareness to New Zealand's creative industries.
"Kiwis have had such amazing creative successes such as Weta Workshop and Lord of the Rings. Flesh and Blood is starting to draw more eyes towards us in a similar way."
The road to success hasn't always been smooth, especially when marketing a game designed to be played in person to a world where social distancing has become the norm.
New Zealand's Covid-free status meant they were able to run big public tournaments, with their last one in Auckland on Queen's Birthday weekend selling out at around 300 players.
Running events overseas proved to be a lot more challenging, with many countries affected by lockdowns resorting to using webcams to play the game.
"It's been difficult adapting to this environment, and we've had to push a lot of things back. But we've got some exciting events planned for the United States that will take place in September or November. We're talking 1000 plus people. And when it's safe to do so in Europe we'll run them there as well."
But White said their biggest problem was actually keeping up with demand.
"We are just constantly running out of stock. It's a very specialised product, and there are a very small number of places that can manufacture these kind of high-end collectables. So we have to be very particular about who we partner with in terms of production quality and the technical side, such as making the cards random in each pack. Often there are long lead times too."
Despite some cards having a hefty price tag, White said anyone could play, not just fans or collectors.
"Collectability is a really important part of the trading card ecosystem. We have created beautiful cards, and it's pleasing to see collectors cherish and appreciate them. But there are also equivalent cards available at reasonable prices for people who don't want to fork out thousands of dollars just to play.
"Flesh and Blood is about being part of a global community. Our cards, the heroes, their stories, the world we've built around it, is just the glue to bring people together in the flesh and blood, through the common language of great games."