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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Upper Deck PowerDeck - TCIC

Yesterday, I featured coins as the first post in a series of cards that I find are cool or unique. Today, I look at an attempt to market CD-ROMs as trading cards.

Digital trading cards have been discussed for years. The thought of having a card with lots of content - stats, biography, data, even video - was looked at with great interest.

There have been baseball CD-ROMs in the past. I recall Post cereal boxes having different CDs for each MLB division. I'm not sure what's on them, but I do have a CD somewhere. But this was released as a trading card - included with trading cards, actually.

In 1998 Upper Deck issued an Ken Griffey Jr. audio CD. This must have been a test of sorts before 1999, when they released a full PowerDeck set. The cards came in a $5 pack - one card-sized CD-ROM and two "auxiliary" cards in standard cardboard. There were one-of-one gold versions of the auxiliary cards, of course. The checklist features 25 current stars - and looking at the checklist in number order, it appears it is sorted in order of "hotness" at the time - Griffey Jr. and McGwire are #1 and #2, while Gabe Kepler and J.D. Drew hit the tail end of the set. There were four CD-ROM insert sets, three of which received the standard and gold cardboard versions, for a total of 45 different CD-ROM. There were two additional single-card releases (the Babe Ruth card shown in the image below and a Yankees SGA).

Three of the scans are from the Powerful Moments insert set. I popped the Ripken in the tray and let it run. The program runs full screen but was at about 640x480 resolution, leaving a large black border on my monitor, and opened with a short (15-30 second) video highlighting Ripken hitting home runs in three straight games and, of course, breaking the streak. Other options provided a 10-picture gallery, career stats, and a two-page biography. By design, every page and image dissolved in and out fairly slowly - this was designed back in 1997 and on a 2009 laptop it runs slow. It was fairly irritating, but I discovered I could usually speed it up (bypass the dissolve) by just clicking. I didn't check the web links to see if they still worked. I hit "quit" to leave, and I felt like I was forced to watch the opening credits for a feature film - I think about 5 different logos faded in and sat there before fading out (I clicked to get through as fast as I could but even that had a little delay - I think they forced you to look at each logo for a few seconds before it would let you click it away). Yes, I could have ALT-F4'd the program, but what good is that when you're reviewing it?

The set seemed to be popular enough (or Upper Deck had a backstock of video footage and a contract with Macromedia) to release a set the next year. This time, only 12 cards made up the complete set, plus two insert sets (a two-card Magical Moments set and a three-card Power Trio set) and two autographs /50. An additional insert set was made with 11 cards (approximately one per box in Upper Deck series 1, with three of the cards short printed). But that was the end of the CD-ROM idea.

I like the cards. They were a great idea. Sure, now everything is available online, but wouldn't it be cool (at least for card geeks) to have something like this on our iPod? Or perhaps make little SD card tabs that you could stick into the computer. Could you imagine the 2008 Documentary set being issued in digital content form? Perhaps each CD (or DVD, or memory card, etc) would have the full game video, broken down inning by inning, or even batter by batter. You could look at the box score and click on a player, and see his at bats or fielding chances in the game. You could have a tie-in with ESPN's Baseball Tonight or some other summary commentary as well. Maybe the newspaper write up for the day? A quick look around the league, or at least the division, current-as-of-that-game standings, leaders, and statistics... So much could be done with that one simple idea. I'm sure that would take a lot more work in programming and content editing. And a ton more cost. Or maybe not, if the template was set up properly. For regular issue cards, you could provide seriously detailed stats - game by game, by team, home/away, etc. Additional pictures and video clips (as a screensaver too?), you name it. 

Of course, I started that paragraph off by saying that everything's already online. But let's take this a step further. Remember those ToppsTown cards everyone hates? Or those codes on the back of every Upper Deck card? Why not make an iPod/small computer/web app that would let a code like that be entered and some extra content downloaded. Collectors would like the actual cards (hence the need for something like ToppsTown) but could appreciate the extra content when they want it. There would be meaning to the codes. And entering codes in an app could then lead to easy checklist availability when you're out and about. (All my data is digital in excel sheets already anyway.)

Okay, I'm getting way ahead of myself. But the digital card idea isn't a bad one - it was just poorly executed. Make it quick, make it high-res, and make it fun. (The more I think about it, the more I like the SD cards and the app codes...)

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