In August of 2005, Blizzard Entertainment announced an exclusive partnership with Upper Deck to create a new physical trading card game (TCG) based on their immensely popular MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW) . The game was met with excitement from fans and was a huge success, introducing a brand new way to experience the world of Azeroth. Unfortunately, the game was eventually canceled in August of 2013, just 8 years after its initial release. So why are we talking about a card game that’s been dead for almost a decade? And wtf does any of this have to do with NFTs? Let’s get into it!
The WoW TCG and Loot Cards
In just 8 short years, the WoW TCG went from the talk of the town to dead in the water. During its short-lived success, the game launched a huge collection featuring 22 unique card sets, new gameplay types like raids and dungeons, themes that were familiar to players of the online game, and even special holiday and event-based collections. It also spanned two publishers as Upper Deck lost the license in 2010 and passed it on to a company called Cryptozoic Entertainment . The game had a fairly robust tournament scene and was beloved by players who were shocked when the game was later canceled.
The interesting thing is that the WoW TCG wasn’t best known for the actual game itself. While the game had a fun and whimsical art style that resonated with players of the video game, it was another aspect of the experience that really drew the attention of players. If you hadn’t guessed yet, we’re talking about “Loot Cards.”
Loot Cards in the WoW TCG were physical cards that were randomly inserted into packs that featured unique items. They also contained a scratch-off code that players could then use in World of Warcraft to claim unique digital goods exclusively available from the physical card game. These loot cards contained in-game items like cosmetics, companion pets, and unique mounts, which were extremely rare and sought after by players—so much in fact that players of World of Warcraft, who had no intention of ever playing the card game, were buying entire boxes of cards just to try and get the rarest loot cards possible.
The loot cards were a huge success and went for anywhere around $20 to upwards of $10,000 on the secondary market. Mounts like the “Spectral Tiger” became status symbols within the game, and everyone wanted in on the action.
Remind you of anything?
That’s right, I’m talking about NFTs.
NFTs and Mass Adoption
No matter how much you love NFTs, it’s clear we have entered a bear market. With demand for the majority of collections drastically dying off, and once vibrant communities now all but dead, it’s a good time to reflect on where the industry can improve and explore new ideas for when the market starts to pick up again. NFTs are far from dead in the long term, but they will have to evolve in order to see mainstream success. Despite the bull run over the last year, the NFT market is still fairly small with most collections having only 3-4k unique holders.
So how can we learn from the WoW TCG and also use that knowledge to bring more people into NFTs?
The key to long term mass adoption lies in the power of existing brands. Don’t get me wrong, Bored Apes and Cool Cats can 100% be major brands over the next decade if they play their cards right, but they are outliers here. The majority of NFT collections are doing things a bit backwards. That is to say, creating a new IP to launch an NFT collection and then attempting to build a brand on the back of it is like trying to surf on the sand. Sure, you can do it, but it’s not really surfing, and people are going to look at you funny.
If the NFT market wants to reach a wider audience, it needs to actually market to a wider audience and introduce them to NFTs where they are. The average toy collector isn’t going to see a CryptoDickButt and immediately be sold on NFTs. In all likelihood, they’re going to end up believing all the horror stories and think NFTs are a scam. But if more existing brands can be lured into launching low-cost, unique NFTs for their existing customers, the narrative can slowly shift away from the “lilling the Earth, scammer gambling, 4chan idiots” vision of NFT communities, to something that regular people may actually want to be a part of.
And that’s where the WoW TCG comes into play…
The WoW TCG Charted a Path for NFTs
The WoW TCG was way ahead of its time. While it was eventually replaced with a now hugely successful digital card game called Hearthstone , the loot cards from the various collections still fetch high prices online. Why? Because they featured unique digital items that people wanted. Blizzard could have outright sold the Swift Spectral Tiger mount in their in-game shop for $100, and people might have bought it, but it wouldn’t have helped spur the sales of their physical card game and helped make it a success.
And therein lies the lesson that other brands need to take away from this example. Rare and exclusive NFTs can be used to augment physical products, build demand, and allow users to rep their favorite brands online in unique and powerful ways. Let’s look at another example.
Now whether you like Gary or not, his marketing for the book was ingenious. Pre-order 12 copies of the book, and you’ll get a special digital gift when the book launches. That digital gift turned out to be the “Book Games” NFT collection . While Book Games isn’t anywhere near as big as VeeFriends , one NFT from the collection would have easily covered the cost of the 12 books you had to buy in order to get it. But what did Gary Vee get out of it? Why not just sell the Book Games NFTs?
Well, he got a New York Times Bestseller that hit #1 on the Amazon charts the day he posted the details of the launch.
By using the power of NFTs and his rabid fan base, he turned the desire to get unique, digital collectible NFTs into a driving force in the sales of his new book, helping to push it up the charts and gain more exposure for his book in the process. Not only that, but many of the fans who purchased the books then donated them to libraries and community centers which helped spread the positive message inside.
The key here is that NFTs can be used to augment existing brands and give them new ways of reaching their existing fans, not just by having them release NFTs direct-to-consumer in a mint that costs $200 just to make some extra cash. That isn’t what we’re talking about here, and unfortunately, that’s what we’ve ended up seeing most brands do. Brands will have to be much more creative than that if they want to leverage the technology in a positive way that changes people’s minds about NFTs.
So What Now?
Whether it’s through redeemable points in a form of NFT-based loyalty programs, or rare inserts like the WoW TCG, brands that use NFTs to augment existing products and reach consumers in a cost-effective way are going to be the key to mass adoption. If we want to change the general perception of NFTs, we need to lower the costs, and we need to meet consumers where they are. That means using NFTs not just as a cash grab, but as a way to reward loyal customers and bring an added bonus to the relationship that already exists between the brand and the customer.
The WoW TCG may have ultimately failed, but their loot cards paved an interesting path and showed the unique power that exclusive digital goods can have on traditional product sales. This was only reinforced by Gary Vee in his recent book launch. Use these examples as fuel, build a system that allows brands to easily repeat this kind of success, and market it to existing companies, and we’ll definitely see NFTs gain mainstream adoption in the next bull market.
So what do you think? Was the WoW TCG the OG NFT in a lot of ways? Do you think brands using digital goods to augment their physical sales and reward loyal customers is the way forward? Let us know your thoughts!