Im sure if you were alive during the early 1990s, you know about Upper Deck. The Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card is etched in history as one of the most iconic trading cards ever. Since that time, Upper Deck has rode a wave of greatness followed by some enormous despair in losing both their MLB and NFL league licenses for trading cards.
They were able to recently acquire an exclusive license to produce trading cards with the NHL, which is still a major license to own. Today they launched e-pack, which is the sister to their physical products, including a way to sell the physical version of the cards pulled in the digital packs on COMC.com.
I will start by saying this program is not anywhere close to the experience that Topps has built on their apps, and that might not be a bad thing for some of you. Instead of focusing on digital content that is exclusive to the app, they have opted to pair the digital offering with physical content that collectors can actually possess. Being that the app isnt live yet, and everything is done through their site, I cant comment on the full capacity of what the program is about.
I messed around with the site, including purchasing one pack just to see what everything is about. At the moment, from my experience as a physical collector, the program is very interesting. It provides access to real cards without leaving your house. You can buy the pack at any time and theoretically realize the physical version of what you pull.
From the side of the digital collector in me, I cant say Im that interested in its current state. Purchases, at the moment take a lot of info. Maybe that will be different on the app. Similarly, the cost per pack is equivalent to the physical side, which means that money spent per pack is much higher at the base level. Again this could change.
Being able to access the “game” through the computer is nice. Its one thing that I wish Topps could figure out some how. Being that right now, things are bare bones, its hard to judge the full perspective of what is going to be coming. Trading is likely on the way. Selling is fully supported. However, I just dont see why Upper Deck is choosing to operate a digital format, which could exist with very little if any overhead other than license and app costs, and link it to a physical manifestation at its core. For a company that is teetering on oblivion from what people in the industry are saying, this seems like a huge investment with more investment clearly needed.
Other non-sport digital formats have popped up recently, including one that uses kittens as its subject matter. Being that the audience for digital can be enormous, and hockey has a global audience, bringing this set up to the table seems very limiting. That isnt saying they cant cut ties on the physical side eventually, but I would guess catering to a shrinking audience of card collectors who will want to go through the process of acquiring real cards, cant be super attractive.
Additionally, there are a ton of unanswered questions. Do they pre-print the physical cards or are they printing on demand? If pre-printing is in the process, they will need to store, ship and process the orders. That seems pretty limiting and expensive. If they print on demand, it could be a sour note for people whose pack pulled real cards were rare and become less valuable with each new printing. Also, that seems overly expensive and not practical considering what goes into printing cards. Im also very curious how you tell a collector base that a part of the print run is being held back for digital in a pre-printed format?
As a hockey fan but not a hockey collector, I doubt this is up my alley long term. However, this is the second company to try to build a format to compete with Topps, and so far the only reasonably successful one is the kittens. Try that one on for size, haha.
You can access what is available at www.upperdeckepack.com
Here is the official release: http://upperdeck.com/Corporate/News-And-Events/2016-01-28.aspx