In 1999, kids were so crazy about Pokemon cards that some of their parents sued the game's creators for creating an illegal lottery. In 2011, more kids wanted an iPad for Christmas than anything else. Today, the two concepts are joining forces.
Nukotoys is a hybrid gaming company that makes physical trading cards to power its virtual iPad games. On Tuesday, it is launching its first game cards in Apple stores, Walmart, Target and other major retailers.
Not only does Nukotoy's game concept combine two products with proven appeal to children, but it solves a marketing problem that has long plagued virtual game developers: Even if you make a great game, how does it get noticed in the app store?
When the game has physical cards, Nukotoys is guessing, they will be noticed in a department store checkout lines, while parents shop for devices at the Apple store, and on the school bus.
Trading cards also take in-app purchases offline. While the iPad components of Nukotoys games are free and can be played with a handful of included characters, the games are pretty lame until kids start buying additional cards either within the game or offline. Three cards cost $1.99. Seven cards cost $3.99.
In Animal Planet Wildlands, a game built for kids ages 3 to 7, children collect animal cards that they can tap into the game. They navigate through a world based on Animal Planet to access different races, quests and puzzle games. Monsterology, based on the popular "ology" books series, is a "technical turn-based strategy game" wherein users tap in different mythological creatures to battle. Like Pokemon, some characters are more likely to win battles than others, which incentivizes additional card purchases.
Beyond driving sales, giving trading card characters a virtual place to interact has potential to add a new element to the game type. "When I tap the card on Wednesday it can do something different than on Friday," Raderman tells Fast Company. "every time I use it, it can be a surprise."
Meanwhile, trading cards give kids a physical reminder to visit the virtual games. Other toys such as Webkinz, a line of stuffed animals that have virtual counterparts, and FunGoPlay, an online game that incorporates real-world sports equipment, have also linked physical objects to virtual play, and with some success.
Nukotoys will be the first to combine trading cards with mobile apps, a product category expected to reach $38 billion in revenue by 2015.
Now they’ll find out if the result is as addicting as its ingredients.