I had this same thought yesterday. TPC has totally neglected PTCGO for many years, so I was wondering why they decided to update the app all of a sudden. My assumption is:
Before, PTCGO was not a profit-driver, it was purely a marketing tool, a way to attract new players to the modern TCG, or retain existing players (make it easier to play with friends online, play test with the latest sets at your convenience, and when you buy physical products you get a digital equivalent for free in PTCGO).
But times have changed. For nearly 2 years, TPC can’t keep up with the demand for physical cards. There’s absolutely no need to do additional marketing when nearly every single physical products sells out within minutes. TPC must be at a point where it either is very costly, takes a lot of time, and/or has a very difficult bottleneck to remove to significantly ramp up physical cards production, essentially putting a cap on their profits. Add on top of this, with the Covid situation ebbing and flowing differently in each country around the world, it’s near impossible to plan any sort of tournaments or events in advance now or for the foreseeable future.
So, they decided to revamp PTCGO to become a profit center, just like other digital cards games, like Hearthstone, etc. Battle passes, microtransactions, cater to the whales. The sky is the limit for digital profits. The marginal cost of selling another digital pack (or crystals or coins or whatever they call the in game currency) is miniscule compared to beefing up the supply chain for physical TCG products. TPC saw that some people were able to sell in-demand PTCGO cards on ebay for $20, $50, $100. TPC wants those profits, and now they’ll get them. I see no reason why they wouldn’t extrapolate this one step further and eliminate the need to compensate LGS’s with free promo materials, when tournaments and events can all be run from TCG Live.
My predictions (and I hope I’m wrong) on how the TCG Live release is going to go:
-lots of the long-term, loyal PTCGO playerbase is going to be unhappy. Losing significant parts of their collection, no trading, no HGSS, no Legacy mode, no Expanded for an unspecified amount of time
-similar to the launch of other Pokemon “F2P” mobile games, TPC will be very greedy in terms of in game currency, rewards, pull rates, etc. at launch (see also: Pokemon Masters)
-it won’t matter, because it’s Pokemon, they have a massive marketing budget, and for every 100 old players that aren’t happy, there will be 1,000 new players downloading the app, with a few of those spending $$$$$ on TCG Live