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Power Creep is a term used in any kind of multi-player game (including Video Games, Collectible Card Game and Tabletop Games) to describe the process in which newly-added-content can be played along with the old-content, but with the new content being far more powerful/useful in every sense. These process leaves old-content completely worth-less, save for few exceptions and for Cherry Tapping.

This makes sense, at least for a monetary point of view. New-added-content requires people to actually buy it and use it, but why would they use their money to buy some obscure thing they don't know how to use (yet) if they can keep on using their awesome Infinity+1 Sword by paying 5 mana? Easy, make every new content item a Inifinity+2 Sword which requires 3 mana to work. And the same will happen in the next expansion, with a Infinity+3 Sword that only cost 2 mana.

The thing is that this gets out of hand really easy, particularly in a Long Runner. After four or five expensions, with the new Infinity+8 Swords that gives you 10 free mana, there is little point in using the Inifinity+3 Sword that cost 2 mana, and let's not talk about the lame Inifity+1 Sword that cost 5 mana!(who'd ever use that anyway?).

A Power Creep virtually always leads to a Broken Base, with the most "conservative" players stating that the new unbalanced content is an insult to the original game (which might be true or not, depeding on the case). On the other hand, there will always be players who like these new adds on, saying that it actually makes the game more fun to play.

Have in mind though that as a general rule, Power Creep has a negative connotation. The reason behind it is that, while there may be some few exceptions, it usually shows that the producers were unable to come up with something interesting and balanced, instead resorting to create an over-powered add on. Power Creep also tends to lead a game beyond it's pre-defined limits, with one of two results: it will becomes a competition of mindless speed, or of predictable slow strategies.

This trope is the Gameplay Mechanics counter-part to Sequel Escalation and Serial Escalation, which refers to narrative or thematic elements.

Compare with Revenue Enhancing Devices. The complete opposite of Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage, which is a new content which is actually unusable.

Not to be confused with Power Creep, Power Seep.


This trope provides examples:

Trading Card Games

  • Creatures in Magic: The Gathering have crept up in power over the years along almost every possible metric. Force Of Nature was the original strongest creature in the game, a 8/8 (for 6 mana) that you need to keep paying mana in order to keep alive and lacks any useful powers. Compare Emrakul, the current strongest creature, a 15/15 (for 15 mana) that still needs host of special powers to be relevant.
    • A better comparison to Force of Nature would be Terra Stomper. For a more flexible cost you get the same creature without the detrimental upkeep costs, and a cannot be countered perk.
    • On the other hand, several mechanics have experienced power seep as the developers decided they were too effective or too cheap. Compare Counterspell to Cancel, or Lightning Bolt to Shock.
    • The card draw effects they print get nerfed periodically and still manage to be metagame-defining.
    • The effect is most clearly seen on creatures. One only needs to compare Serra Angel, a creature that was at one point removed from the core set for being too powerful, to Baneslayer Angel, a sort of okay creature.
  • The Pokémon Trading Card Game similarly raises the bar for each generation. In the 1st generation, Stage 2 Pokémon (Pokémon who have evolved twice, like Charizard) were lucky to have 120 HP. In the 5th generation, Basic Pokémon (Pokémon who don't evolve or haven't evolved) get published with this much HP or more in every set, with evolved Pokémon approaching 200 HP. Attacks have since increased in damage and Energy costs too. It has gotten to where Base Set Venusaur's "Energy Trans," which allows free transfer of Energy between Pokémon, was a near Game Breaker in the card game's earliest days but the more recent Meganium Prime from HeartGold/SoulSilver, which has the same power, was quickly brushed aside for quicker and more powerful cards.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh, as seen in the above image and caption.

Notes

  1. a powerful 3000 ATK monster which requires 2 tributes
  2. Powerful 1900 ATK monster which was destroyed when controlling a non-LIGHT monster
  3. Requires 2 or 3 tributes. If summoned with 3 tributes, destroys enemy's spell/trap cards
  4. Requires 2 or 3 tributes. If summoned with 3 tributes, destroys enemy's monsters
  5. Can be summoned with no tributes with 1900 ATK. Can be summoned with 2 tributes with 3000 ATK. Can be summoned with 3 tributes to destroy all cards on your opponent's field.
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