The future of baseball cards is virtual
Online/offline baseball cards are just the first of many possible ways to bring card collecting into the 21st century.
Upper Deck and Flying Lab Software launched a beta version of UpperDeckU, a new kids-oriented online virtual world where sports fans can create their own personal player and socialize and play games with other players.
The ultimate goal of UpperDeckU is to revitalize the dying art of card collecting, but obviously monetization would be great. According to Louise Curcio, vice president of marketing for Upper Deck, "the vision is that this is a marketing tool we're using to engage kids into collecting cards more. That being said, there's also the possibility that it could be a viable business,"
Upper Deck plans to monetize the new site in a number of ways:
- Special Access Codes - Upper Deck will still continue selling physical cards, but within the packs, collectors will find "Insider Access" codes that can be utilized within UpperDeckU. These codes will then allow users to access new features within the virtual world.
- Virtual Card Sets - In addition to the physical cards, users will also be able to purchase virtual sets as well
- Microtransactions - An in-game currency is expected to come online and allow users to buy any number of special items.
It's a good idea to make sports a focus area to connect the real and virtual worlds. Products like Webkinz also cross over, but do so only in the name of commerce, encouraging more dollars to be spent while receiving nothing in return.
I think the way to really make UpperDeckU a big business is to get Major League Baseball and other bodies to participate and integrate real players and game statistics into the virtual world. At that point, the crossover opportunities are boundless--TV, internet, physical toys etc.