The history of Yu-Gi-Oh Online

Yu-Gi-Oh Online from 2006
(Image credit: TechRadar)

If you watched early morning television back in the mid-2000s, there's a good chance you would have caught the Yu-Gi-Oh show. Since then, it's boomed in the West to become a duelling competition in real life, with tournaments and trading cards being held ever since.

This even included me, as I began as an internet duelist in 2006 towards the beginning of Yu-Gi-Oh! Online’s life. The game launched back in 2005 and it had a great following until its eventual close in 2012. Over seven years I was engrossed in the game, investing hundreds of my own dollars into it, which after its discontinuation, was rendered worthless.

But the game still lives in my memory, seeped in nostalgia and a longing for simpler times with Yu-Gi-Oh. These are the life and times of Yu-Gi-Oh! Online, banished to the shadow realm too soon.

All in the duelling family

Before Yu-Gi-Oh! Online, Konami experimented with non multiplayer Yu-Gi-Oh! games for the PC. Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Yugi the Destiny, Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Kaiba the Revenge and Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Joey the Passion all came out between 2003 to 2004 respectively in the build up to Yu-Gi-Oh! Online and shared many assets such as menu layouts and sound effects.

The final game called Joey the Passion, even had a multiplayer option available over landline. These were the games that laid out the ground floor for which Yu-Gi-Oh! Online reigned supreme for many years.

I was introduced to the game by my older cousins who had been following the series of games so far, and became hooked when Yu-Gi-Oh! Online came out. Soon after, I followed my cousins to the game. They had a joint account under the name Kryptor and they were veterans of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Online scene, something that I was in awe of.

My cousins were well-known in the game so much, that others simply knew me as Kryptor’s cousin, and on occasion and gave me free cards to play with. The Kryptor account did well through online worldwide tournaments and managed to place 419th worldwide during the game’s first ever tournament. Eventually it climbed the ranks until its peak in 2007 during the game’s 3rd season and became the 102nd best Yu-Gi-Oh! Online player in the world.

Yu-Gi-Oh Online showing leaderboard of Kryptor

(Image credit: Mahin Kesore)

DuelPass or no pass

Like the anime, the game was very Egyptian themed especially in its early life. No avatars were introduced at the time, while the game was a bare bones version of the MMO that was to eventually come. The biggest gripe I had with this game and what I think stopped players from enjoying the game as much, was the fact you had to pay real money to duel. This came in the form of DP or Duelpass Points which could be purchased as Duelpasses.

Back around 2006 at the age of 11, every weekend I would be dragged to go shopping with my mom in exchange for one Duelpass, which cost £2.50 and on occasion older Duelpasses were £1.50. These were sold at independent gaming-related shops and were actually quite hard to find. Luckily the markets of East London were the perfect place for them. 

A single Duelpass would give you 30 DP which was enough for 30 duels, a promotional in-game card and 10 Mileage Points (MP) which could be used to buy special cards in in-game shops.

At the end of every duel in Yu-Gi-Oh! Online, whether you won or lost, you would be offered a card out of a pack to choose from. This was the main way to earn cards other than from trading with people online, where it would be known as a free for all for scammers within the game. Duelpasses were very important, not only to duel but also to collect cards. With the help of my older cousins and the kindness of strangers, I would eventually own a bunch of good cards to kick-start my dueling career.

Apart from scammers, Yu-Gi-Oh! Online amounted a nice community of people who helped smaller and newer duelists get better cards, and this was a product of its time. People talking to strangers on the internet in these days was a friendlier experience and a lot less sinister during the days of Neopets, MSN Messenger and MySpace.

Apart from buying Duelpasses (DP), there were other ways to attain DP. Overseas there was something called DP 150 which could be bought online and was the equivalent to 5 DP. The USB DP Key was a USB stick which would equal to 3 Duelpasses when plugged into a PC.

In the UK we had the option to gain DP via text. This was called SMS DP and cost £1 for 15 DP and 10 MP. I recall using this option a few times on my Pay As You Go Nokia 5300, but not often as I got in trouble from my parents for wasting credit, but needs must at the time.

Yu-Gi-Oh Online from 2006

(Image credit: TechRadar)

It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3

There were three iterations of Yu-Gi-Oh! Online. The first one was simply Yu-Gi-Oh! Online and lasted from its original inception until 2007, where there was a complete overhaul of the game’s design which was more in line with the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX series.

It featured avatars, an actual overworld to explore based on the anime which included areas like Domino City and the Duel Academy. As well as this, NPCs of characters from the show were now available to duel and the game seemed to be doing better than ever.

The final iteration of the game was called Yu-Gi-Oh! Online 3: Duel Accelerator, and was influenced by the Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s series. Gone was the ability to walk around as your avatar and instead, a map of different areas which you would point and click to get around was your mode of transport around the newly implemented city. Different areas included the mileage shop, avatar customisation, deck creator section and more. This seemed to be a huge simplification of the world we’d come to love in Duel Evolution and was the beginning of the end for Yu-Gi-Oh! Online.

Banished To The Shadow Realm

On March 30 2012 the closure of Yu-Gi-Oh! Online was announced, which was to occur on September 30 of the same year. Not only was this heart breaking to fans but this meant that all the hard earned money that players had spent on the game, alongside the hard work collecting the rarest cards was now about to disappear forever.

Players of the game speculate the height of the game’s success brought in roughly a million users in its heyday. To the present day there still isn’t a concrete answer as to why the game ended, but fans speculate the numbers were dwindling, and in an official statement Konami said the following: 

Closure information for Yu-Gi-Oh! Online from 2012

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Every now and then I'm tempted to duel online once more, but it comes to nothing. This is mainly due to the current mobile game Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links not quite providing the full Yu-Gi-Oh! experience due to its smaller three card grid as opposed to the normal five.

The other method to play online is through the Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist game, but when searching for players online, not many can be found. However duelists shouldn’t fret, as Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is in development, which includes a mobile release.

This seems like the ultimate Yu-Gi-Oh! experience, with all the rules and cross compatibility between platforms. While I wonder if this could be the spiritual successor to Yu-Gi-Oh! Online, only time will tell if my dueling itch will finally be scratched.

  • Welcome to TechRadar’s PC Gaming Week 2021, our celebration of the greatest gaming platform on Earth. Despite the global pandemic and ongoing GPU shortages, PC gaming has never been more vibrant and exciting, and throughout the week we’ll be reflecting this with a selection of in-depth articles, interviews and essential buying guides.