Panini returns fire in war of words over video cards


By Chris Olds | Basketball Editor | Commentary

One might think that the cards themselves — and the reaction of the NBA’s hottest rookieBlake Griffin — would say enough about Panini America‘s Highlight Reel Experience, or HRX, NBA video cards.

Apparently not.

The return shot in what is the war of words over video trading cards arrived from Panini on Monday as it took on Upper Deck‘s forthcoming NCAA football line, continuing the shots that first came from California a couple weeks ago.

“To be sure, this is no ‘concept,'” read the Panini blog on Monday afternoon. “It’s Panini HRX – and it’s revolutionary. It will take the trading card category to new heights by providing up to 30 minutes of HD-quality video content. It will also bring collectors and sports fans in basketball, football, hockey and every other sport Panini has a presence in their very own Highlight Reel Xperience, beginning with limited Panini HRX autographed versions of Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and John Wall inserted into 2010-11 Totally Certified Basketball (or should we call it “Totally Licensed?”).

Or, should we call it Totally Licensed? Clearly, the gloves are off.

Panini was the first company to unveil plans for a video card at a recent industry event in Las Vegas. Two days after Panini’s news, Upper Deck pulled back the curtain on a project that it had been teasing, Evolution. That turned out to be a line of video cards set to arrive starting tomorrow in packs of 2011 Upper Deck Football.

Perhaps it was that sting that prompted the following on the Upper Deck blog:

“No. 1, they have a concept, we have a card,” wrote Upper Deck Customer Care Manager Nick Leslie. “That is very important. We didn’t share anything about the Upper Deck Evolution cards until we had the actual cards in-house to show off. The reason why is because these are not easy to make. What Panini has shared is a concept for what they think their video card will be along with a mock-up. They have not shared an actual card. We could mock-up a flying trading card, that doesn’t mean we have one ready to go. From concept to final product is a long distance.”

And Leslie wasn’t done there.

“No. 2, Evolution is a trading card first, while their product looks like a video player. We have done some technology-based cards before and while they were popular and definitely had a niche fan base, they weren’t very popular with the hobby. The reason why is because they didn’t look like trading cards. Throughout our extensive development process, one thing we felt was paramount to the success of the project was that these look like trading cards first with a compelling design, player images and the video adds to the trading card.

“When I saw the mock-up of the Panini card, it looked to me like a video player, not a trading card. What do you see when the card isn’t playing for the Panini card? It would just be a blank black screen. That is not a very compelling collectible and certainly doesn’t make you think ‘trading card.’ We all know that trading card companies cannot compete with Sony and Panasonic, so what Upper Deck chose to do is focus on what we do best. We made a compelling new trading card utilizing existing booklet card features and incorporated video, not a video player we tried to pass off as a trading card.”

And Leslie even took on the uncertaintly of the NBA’s labor issues while talking about the competition’s card while pushing its NCAA products. (For the record, Upper Deck is a former NBA card licensee.)

“No. 3 is that they are launching with the NBA and we are launching with college football. This is a huge difference potentially for fans. Why? Both sports have rabid fan bases, but if their video trading card may not release until next season, you have to ask yourself, ‘Will there even be a NBA season next year?’ Collector interest in Upper Deck CLC products seems to be at an all-time high with many of our 2010 cards outperforming NFL-licensed releases. We believe we are starting this product in the right sport with a tech-savvy fan base looking to gobble items like this up.”

Upper Deck’s Evolution cards will feature college highlights for Adrian Peterson, DeSean Jackson, Tony Romo and Patrick Willis and look, to this writer, more like a small video-recording device with a cardboard flap covering the screen. As Leslie said, it looks a bit like a booklet card.

Meanwhile, Panini’s cards look a bit different (no flap) and are autographed — something Upper Deck failed to mention — and the signature will be one of the videos that will be appearing in the cards when they will be found in the company’s 2010-11 Totally Certified set, which arrives in June.

Since the Vegas showing, Panini has since revealed that its video cards have been in development for the last 18 months, working with the Los Angeles-based Recom Group as its exclusive technology provider for the cards. They have even undergone cosmetic changes since the concept was first introduced with a prototype photo in Las Vegas (which is all that Leslie had to base his comments on at the time).

“We have gone through multiple generations and developers as we developed Panini HRX over the last 18 months, and we’ve spent countless hours perfecting the design to ensure that it maintained the technological integrity we required while still being representative of a trading card,” said Mark Warsop, CEO of Panini America.  “We are pleased to have partnered with a technological leader like the Recom Group, who worked with us throughout the process to ensure all of our concerns and objectives were met.”

And, of course, that “trading card” element was echoed by all at Panini — as well as Recom.

“What impressed us most was Panini’s commitment to quality in making this an actual trading card,” said Rob Norden, CEO of the Recom Group, “and not just a box with a video screen in it.”

Regardless of the companies’ jabbing, reaction from collectors has been largely cynical. After all, some collectors remember a late-1990s creation from Upper Deck called PowerDeck, which were card-sized miniature CD-ROMs packed with stats and highlights. They didn’t last long — just like past attempts at enhanced cardboard. After all, talking collectibles actually arrived in the 1960s with Auravision sports records.

It’s clear that the two card companies are focused on these cards as a potential way to draw in new customers — growing the base of collectors is necessary for industry growth — so much so they’re not afraid to butt heads over something where, in essence, they’re not even competitors yet … of course, how long will it be before Panini unveils NFL video cards to trump Upper Deck’s NCAA ones?

Panini essentially promised it today.

Meanwhile, initial reactions have been mixed or negative — save for those who have seen the cards in-person, such as Griffin.

“It’s unbelievable, man. I just got to see it,” Griffin said. “It’s crazy. You never think something like that is going to happen and then to actually see it … it’s going to be game-changing.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Basketball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


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  1. steve 11 April, 2011 at 14:38

    use to be a time, when I would support Upper Deck and whatever their challenges/fights were……..BUT NOT NOW-they are like the poster child for what is so wrong with the hobby these days……..GO PANINI !! (and I could care a less about these particular cards/concept….just dont like UD anymore !!!!!)

  2. Ronald Doucette 11 April, 2011 at 15:51

    Yep horrible idea we all have tvs and pcs we don’t need this crap in our packs….

  3. J.R. 11 April, 2011 at 16:13

    “No. 2, Evolution is a trading card first, while their product looks like a video player. We have done some technology-based cards before and while they were popular and definitely had a niche fan base, they weren’t very popular with the hobby. The reason why is because they didn’t look like trading cards.”

    Dear Upper Deck,

    Your “card” looks like a cleverly packaged video player, not a card! Sure, so does Panini’s. That’s why NEITHER one of these products are going to matter in a year or two. Yeah, the autographed ones are great, but autographed Starting Lineups and magazines sell a whole heck of a lot better than regular ones too. Stop wasting the collectors/hobbyists time.

    We all know that the cost of development and production of this product doesn’t just affect the cost of this product, but the cost of everything across the board. I’d rather pay $5 less per box of 3 or 4 different products than try to cover the cost of what is going to be a failed process. Find what you do well and stick to it. What that is, at this point, I am not quite sure, but find it. Quick.

  4. cody oleson 11 April, 2011 at 16:58

    haha- i wouldnt touch either of these products with a 10 foot pole…btw, id like to see panini slap a sticker auto on one…itd look just as pathetic as most of their – done by a 12 yr old in art class -releases.

  5. graham aylor 11 April, 2011 at 19:42

    If this is where the card hobby is heading then I will be done very soon, kind of like the WAY TOO many products are pushing me back to the 1990″s which almost killed the industry.
    I think the card companies have NOT learned from their past mistakes.

  6. Shawn Skillings 11 April, 2011 at 22:47

    What a total waste of creative talent . Panini im Shocked that you would waste your time . IF I WANTED TO SEE HIGHLIGHT REELS ILL WATCH ESPN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    this new crap from UD and Panini is a waste of money and time and everyone of the collectors patience .

    ITS DOOMED TO BE A COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURE Panini Stop while your ahead dont produce this piece of crap

  7. Ben Roberts 12 April, 2011 at 00:12

    I’d be happy if I pulled an autographed one – just because it’s an autograph. Non autographed ones I would either sell or trade asap.

  8. Shaun Baus 12 April, 2011 at 02:54

    What happens when the batteries run out? Surely at some point it will die. Will it break easily like my cellphone? Imagine it’ll be just as fragile as it is. Hope I dont drop it or something. If I do will that decrease its book value? Oh, can I get it graded? Hope it grades gem/mint although I’d probably drop it once and then it wouldn’t even be worth getting graded. All in all, just sounds like a stupid idea. Most people can just watch video and highlights on there cellphones or Ipods and such, why do we need an extra stupid gimmicky device. Cant wait for these companies to put all this money in these projects and then watch em all fail. These companies seem to have nothing but idiots running them…

    From mod: There’s a USB port.

  9. dante 12 April, 2011 at 10:27

    should make pack searchers happy. shouldnt be hard to find a “heavy” pack that contains one pack of these.

    From mod: Unless they are redemptions …

  10. JP 12 April, 2011 at 12:29

    I don’t have a problem with this stuff if it stays in the 4$ packs. Once they start adding to the higher end stuff they can keep it.

  11. Paul Medina 12 April, 2011 at 21:48

    Damn if it generates new interest in trading cards how could it be so bad? Maybe some of you haven’t noticed but, we haven’t had anything worthwhile introduced in years. I agree with Steve and J.R….not a big fan of U.D. now (They were once the best and still some of my favorite cards) Their video card does look cheap, Panini’s looks more like a traditional card. I’ll reserve judgement when I see it for myself.

  12. DIRTBAG699 13 April, 2011 at 00:21

    Chris, you and everybody else @ Beckett need to STOP swingin’ off Panini’s you know what! Why? Because Hackler works there now? So what! There format is basic and for the most part identical across the board from sport to sport. Plus way to many redemptions! I just did a request for nine(9) redemptions. Don’t get me awrong I’m not a big fan of Upper Deck either except for there Hockey but this article sure seems like you or firing back for Panini. Beckett needs to be more bias and stop giving Panini so much play just because there in your backyard.

    From Olds: The piece is labeled as a commentary item.

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