Sunday, March 27, 2011

Innovation Fuels Controversy

For as long as I have been a member of the blogsphere, there have been several recurring cries for change from the trading card manufacturers, foremost of which has been the lack of innovation. Yet at every attempt at innovation, the companies are derided and ridiculed. When Topps experimented with augmented reality and 3D trading cards, everyone's reaction, mine included, was pretty much, "What's the point?". Fast forward a couple of years to this past week with both Upper Deck and Panini announcing that 2011 will see the industry's first ever, self-playing video trading card. Again, collector reaction was overwhelmingly negative. It seems as if the companies are damned if they do and damned if they don't and I just don't think that's fair.

Not only is it not fair it certainly can be stiffling to the entire creative and innovation process as a whole if these ideas are routinely criticized, this time, before the product is even in collector's hands. Those of you who read the blog regulalry know that I am certainly not an apologist or staunch defender of the manufacturers. I hold them accountable on several things including design and value. But when every innovation is called a gimmick, it's simply a no win situation.

In all honesty, I'm not sure about these video cards either but I'll reserve judgement until I actually have one in hand. I think the potential is there to be very cool. Jordan's dunk from the free throw line, Don Larsen's perfect game mauling, Ripken's lap around Camden Yards, buzzer beaters, hockey's greatest fights, The Immaculate Reception, etc. I think before casting judgement we just wait to have them in hand and even if they aren't your cup of team, at least the companies are willing to try something new.

the way this was handled by the two companies is an example of how to do something right and how to do something wrong.
Over the last several weeks, Upper Deck has been teasing the coming of their video card, called, Evolution, with a series of videos, blog posts etc. Very well executed PR and marketing to create hype and garner interest prior to the debut of the innovation in 2011 Upper Deck Football.

Unfortunatley for them, Panini stole their thunder at the Industry Summit with a presentation that included the announcement of their own video card called, Panini HD. A truly back door kind of way to make the announcement, especially considering that they do not even have a prototype yet. Contrast that with Upper Deck who is already at the pack out phase with their version. Panini's mock-up looked much like a normal trading card compared to Upper Deck's which looks like a video screen in a small box. I hope, if the concept sticks, that Panini is successful with their mock-up as it makes for a more streamlined look resembling a true collectible and less like a novelty.

The pissing match that ensued on Twitter between the two companies after the summit was awkward and uncomfortable and lacked any degree of professionalism. It was clear that Upper Deck officials were clearly upset at having been one-upped by Panini and forced them to change their PR approach to "First to Market" as compared to "Pleased to Announce the First . . ."

So, what do YOU think about The Hobby's first selp playing video trading card?


Pablo said...

These video cards look kind of neat but, I don't know if I'll pony up the dough to buy a box of 2011 Upper Deck football to get one though. Why doesn't Upper Deck just do a another set of football legends with retired players only instead? This kind of gimmick has sort of been done already with the CD Power Deck. Another gimmick which will only end up as another fad.

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