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The company did not want kids to get turned off by a lot of advertising. So first they asked a lot of websites that review new games for kids, like and, to write stories about it.

Sending out 1 million free videos

The company then mailed more than 1 million videos with information and scenes from the cartoon to kids across the country. 4Kids got the list of kids' names and addresses from Toys 'R Us.

4Kids had done the same thing years ago to stir interest in Pokémon. "It worked so incredibly well the first time," Mr. Syatt says. "[We wanted to] get the word out directly to kids."

The cartoon began airing on TV in the fall of 2001. Soon after, Yu-Gi-Oh video games and action figures started showing up in toy stores. But when the trading-card game came out last spring, Yu-Gi-Oh took off. Many kids, like Kyle Dickson, also at the tournament here, learned the game at summer camp.

What attracted Kyle to the game? "The powers are interesting," says the 10-year-old from Beverly, Mass. "I feel like getting all the cards that exist."

Many who play the game are like Kyle. They want to get all the cards so they can play the best game possible. The rarest cards have the best powers.

The companies that sell the cards know this. That's why they design them so that the kids who are most interested in the game have to spend lots of money.

A nine-card "booster pack" of Yu-Gi-Oh cards costs about $3. Each booster pack includes one "rare card." But ultra-rare cards, which are even more powerful, are in only one of every 12 packs.

To get the best cards, you have to buy lots of them. Most of the cards you end up with will be ones you already have.

"They want to keep you hooked," says Douglas Gentile, director of research at the National Institute on Media and the Family, in Minneapolis. "Their goal is to get you to spend more money, and to get you to get your friends to spend more."

Are cheaper games just as fun?
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