Over the last few years, digital cards have gone from an experiment, to a lucrative future in the trading card game. Thanks to the ability to print on demand, not deal with redemptions or even card condition, and have interest from new corners of the hobby, digital cards are now a top priority at Topps. Ever the follower and never the leader, has Panini FINALLY decided it was time to dive into the game? Hobby tweets are saying that is a possibility.
If you remember, Topps is even bleeding their digital lines over into physical, with the release of Topps Series 2 and Topps Update. The ultra limited player code cards have become the top selling inserts in Series 2 as a result, and the coin reward cards are still selling well too:
2015 Topps Series 2 Felix Hernandez Bunt Player 5x Boost /25
2015 Topps Series 2 David Price Bunt Player 5x Boost /25
2015 Topps Series 2 Aroldis Chapman Bunt Player 5x Boost /25
Digital cards from Topps in general can have huge value, even without physical equivalents:
2015 Bunt Miguel Cabrera Variant Signature Series Card
2015 Bunt Chris Sale 3x Black Boost Card
Topps has even expanded into the pop culture realm of non-sport collecting with the recent release of Star Wars Card Trader, which has become one of the most productive apps in their portfolio. They have digital down to a science, and to hear that Panini wants into a market dominated by the existing apps? Makes me curious to see if they can even make a dent in what Topps has been able to accomplish over the last 3-4 years.
That’s not saying they cant figure out a way to eek out an existence, but its going to be extremely difficult to make it work on any level close to what already is there. The one thing that Panini has going for it is the sticker licenses that their parent company has in their back pocket, but it would take an immense effort to make money in a consistent manner without structuring their apps exactly like Topps’ pre-existing games.
Now, there is not an NBA game currently, and with Panini's long time NBA exclusive on the books, that is a logical first step for them to delve into digital. I could also see digital sticker collections becoming their main focus. They could spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and launch their games, but their lack of proficiency displayed in creating the Panini rewards app and rewards program brings any potential success into major question.
Digital is a growing area of the collecting market, and its interesting how small of a percentage is made up by physical card collectors. Bringing a license like Star Wars to digital was possibly one of the best moves they could have made, and it has paid off in spades. Topps also made the right call by initially integrating fantasy sports into their games, and its still unclear what or even if Panini is going to try the same thing. They dont have the data on the market the way we see with existing games, and apps have been proven to be a money pit if you dont know what you are doing.
Like I have said in numerous posts prior to this one, competition is welcome in my book. It gives a reason for everyone to keep running at full speed. I just dont see a near future where Panini is even in the same continent as Topps when it comes to digital, but you never know when a company has a blank check in a lot of ways. Panini could outspend Topps and not even blink an eye, much like they have in overpaying drastically for exclusive licenses in physical.
Regular collectors should take notice of what is going on, even if they dont plan to want to pay money for digital cards. This is an aspect of the collecting world that is here to stay, and I am curious to see how it plays out.