The Newest Model: Trading Cards

Sony announced a partnership yesterday with trading card company Topps to create a collectible card game for the upcoming free-to-play virtual world Free Realms. The exclusive long-term licensing agreement will produce a digital card game playable in Free Realms as well as a physical card game for sale at retail. The digital version will launch at the same time as Free Realms with the actual cards hitting stores in Spring 2009. Both will allow players to earn virtual goods for use in the online world. Some items, like exclusive pets, clothing, race car enhancements, wands, house items, and special character effects, will be exclusively available through the actual card packs.

Virtual Worlds News: Sony Partners with Topps for Free Realms Trading Cards

Well no, Izzy, it’s not “new, new”… but it does seem to be the start of a mini-rage.  Bella Sera was one of the first to work it into a virtual world play (forgive me, D&D, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon & you others – but I’m talking about an actual virtual world here).  Chaotic wasn’t too far behind, amongst others like Webkinz and Toppstown (one of my least fave VW’s, mainly because there’s not a feeling of welcome for chicks in Toppstown, and I was a girl who collected Topps trading cards at a kid, but whatevs… clearly they’re going for their top tier target demographic, despite the fact that there are more girls investing in VW’s then boys these days). 

Wizard 101 even worked the idea of trading card gameplay into their MMO play, as is another virtual world I may know <insert grin>.   Club Penguin was the most recent entry into the trading card play – with their new Ninja trading card game (which is all the rage in CP society at the moment… high demand for the Dojo & ninja belts).  CP’s method is (In my opinion) one of the most casual, yet clever ways of integrating that play into the virtual world.  Once again, props to them.

So now we have pay-as-you-go cards for micro buys (or monthly subscriptions), stuffed animals with codes, dolls with USB ports/ “keys”, toys with plugins, subscriptions, micro-brand/license additions, ad models, and trading cards.  Props to Moshi Monster’s old Beta model of access to VW with the purchase of a mopod – a which is a toy that goes on your phone (first VW for youth that had some sort of safe cell phone tie-in, very forward thinking).

It might be cavalier for me to say, but I like the idea of trading cards worked into the overall play pattern that is organic to either the audience or the context/content of the site.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll no doubt say it a million more times – virtual worlds for youth are ex…pen…sive.  Oh, wouldn’t it be grand to have these amazing play patterns free & available for youth to explore and devour and grow in.  I would L.O.V.E. that.  Unforch, it takes an army to build such an experience, and that army needs to survive on more than virtual thanksgiving turkeys for real world din din.  There has to be some sort of money rolling in – and if you can make that less painful for both the parent & the child to swallow, while enhancing the entertainment value of your site?  Then maybe it’s not so bad?

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