hansoloDigital media. It’s not just for e-books anymore. At least, that’s what Topps seems to be learning with its Star Wars digital trading cards.

Yes, that’s right. Digital trading cards. Just collections of images that you pay for, trade, and collect on your phone. This puzzles me more than a little, given that you can’t even do anything with them, the way you could with digital collectible card games, but the allure of ownership and collection is pretty strong. The author of the io9 article knows this better than most:

It only took a few days. Star Wars: Card Trader quickly took over my life. I downloaded it on my iPhone, iPad, I have mules friends who have accounts just to get cards for me and—at times—I’ve scheduled days around the release of particular cards. One time I forgot my phone and I called my mom from another phone to grab my phone and open packs for me. It was painful (“Mom, now press Boba Fett”) and embarrassing, but it’s true. And some people out there totally understand where I’m coming from. The same kind of person who’d pay $225 for a photo of Han Solo.

Effectively, the cards work just like physical trading cards: you buy them in packs (of which you can get some free daily, or buy more) that include regular cards plus random “insert cards.” Some insert cards are super-rare, others are moderately rare; collecting all of them gives you a reward, as well as the thrill of simply owning the complete collection. The rarest of the cards have only 10 copies available, but they can range up to tens of thousands, with most in the 1,000 to 5,000 range.

And, as with any rare item, including rare digital items, they can end up on eBay.

The interesting thing about the phenomenon, though, is just how much it shares in common with e-books. The digital nature of them means that they can be bought, sold, and traded to and from anywhere over the Internet. And they make it possible to carry your entire collection, possibly amounting to boxes and boxes of stuff in the real world, in your hip pocket where you can access it at any time.

Add to that the addictive rat-pulling-a-lever thrill of occasionally getting a reward when you open one of those packs, and you start to see just why they’re so addictive. Indeed, they’re so very popular that the release of one particularly sought-after set caused the entire game’s servers to crash.

The biggest thing I wonder is, is this Star Wars digital trading card fad going to last, or is it going to fade away after the movie hype dies down? We all remember how insane Magic cards used to be, after all, and just look at them now.

Still, it’s an interesting reminder that even things you don’t expect to go digital sometimes do all the same.


  1. Chris, this is my company. The Star Wars app is very popular as are the other digital card apps that Topps has. In the other apps, you can play games against others like a fantasy aspect. The collecting aspect works in Star Wars because people enjoy collecting items, you get badges, rare award cards for collecting a set of cards, and their is the competition of having more cards than the next guy. Admittedly, I play this too and I am also hooked. FYI, Magic is still very strong.

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