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10.19.2011 Our policy on selling digital cards

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Dear Pokemon,


Firstly I think it's fantastic that you created this game. However, you are making a terrible terrible mistake. To understand your mistake you need only look to the physical Pokemon TCG. The reason Pokemon TCG has been able to stay popular for such a long time is because of the secondary market and here's why. No one wants to buy booster packs. When I was a young child I loved booster packs, but frankly, as I've grown older, it's become a lot easier to buy the cards I need through the secondary market. Now, you could say that this is taking away from Pokemon's business but if the secondary market didn't exist, I wouldn't be around anymore. So what is preferred: My slightly reduced business and interest in the game or no business at all?


Pokemon must realize the sustainability of Pokemon TCG and PTCGO relies on the secondary market, especially when it comes to PTCGO. Pokemon TCG can rely on waves on young children to buy booster packs but the age demographic for PTCGO is much higher. The focus will be on more of the 16+ range and this range of players is interested in getting the cards they want fast to assemble cost effective decks. The only way to do this is through the secondary market so Pokemon may as well kiss these players goodbye and eventually the game itself. Pokemon, I ask you to please strongly consider our pleas, we are your consumers and we ultimately know what's best for the game because we play it every day. Take a page from Magic the Gathering's book! There's a reason they haven't eliminated the secondary markets and it has everything to do with how they've managed to create a very successful game.


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is it november 2011 yet  

TPCi does not allow players to sell digital cards for the TCG Online. In order to play, all players must agree to the terms of use. The language in the terms of use that deals with sales of digital go

One thing I have a huge problem is the fact that sites such as professoroak.com and troll and toad were selling codes which are what is used to get cards in the first place. I don't know if Pokemon ha

I am the parent of two young pokemon players and we are really excited for the potential that PTCGO offers. If executed correctly, the online venue can tremendously expand the game and allow my children to play and practice from the comfort and security of our home. I know we will also continue to participate in the trading card game at league and tournaments. We view PTCGO as supplementary to the TCG not as a replacement.




As a parent, I am not troubled by the presence of a secondary market. As already pointed out, there are safeguards for the percived "dangers" of secondary market exchange that are commonplace. In my opinion, these are more secure than the open market for paper trading cards that you do not regulate (casual sales at league, school yards, etc.).




Also some arguments are smokescreens such as the data-wipe scenario. At least one online vendor offered credit in event of data wipe. I trust that vendor with shipping/ replacement of my paper-trading cards and also would trust them for digital cards (but with this policy I no longer have this purchase option).




After considering all the feedback, I step back and wonder why can't BOTH options exist?




Allow an open secondary market AND also offer your "secure Gem system" as an option for individuals that share your concern about fraud, etc. Why not let your player community choose which avenue they are more comfortable with and value? There is no downside to this mutually benefical approach.




Players should have flexible means to interact, trade, barter and sell their cards to help each other complete their decks. A broader policy view would encourage greater participation in ptcgo. My kids and I greatly appreciate having the ptcgo venue but also respectfully ask that you listen to the feedback of your customer base in addition to your IP lawyers.


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I completely agree with dmorisoli. Greater participation is the key to the game, especially in it's initial stages. Why deter potential players from the game when you don't have to?


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I'm going to add to my argument with these next few statements;




This game is directed at kids, that is your argument. Another part of your argument is that a secondary market will scam you and is completely un-trustworthy. Now this is sending a message to kids that nobody can be trusted except for you. That is not only giving them a false perception of the real world, that is, in fact, filled with as many trustworthy people as bad people, is really only full of bad people that will scam you. In my honest opinion, that is completely un-ethical. Call this argument crazy, but the way I see it, that is what you are doing.




Another thing kids can learn from a secondary market is about the free market. Most of the pokemon community lives in arguably the greatest country in the world, the USA. And in the USA, the free market is a part of the culture. Kids should be able to learn about how competition affects their options to buying cards, and why there is a secondary market. By forcing them to buy from you, you are teaching them that the this country doesn't offer the freedom of buying things from different places.




Kids may watch Kyle Sucevich's live stream of him playing PTCGO, see the decks he is playing, and say, "I want to build that deck so I can learn to get better at the game! How do I get those cards?"




While the answer to that little kid's question could be a very simple one with a secondary market of multiple people offering the cards they need to build competitive decks at reasonable prices, it turns into a complicated and frustrating process. They need to buy a bunch of booster packs, enter the codes manually which takes sometimes hours if you have around 100 codes. Then they have to put the packs up for trade on public offer, waiting for people to accept their deals. This can also take many hours.




That just isn't fair to the people throwing their money at you. That is a big turn off, at least in my opinion. There are other games in the card game world, there isn't much stopping them from switching to Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic the Gathering. While you guys as a company should be trying your best to attract new players, you are at the moment doing everything you can to turn people away!




That is my second bit of 2 cents, which in total brings it up to 4 cents. I can keep going on about this issue until I've put in a whole american dollar, but the question is, "how futile is that approach?"




The fact that so many people, some of them being incredibly talented players, some being parents of incredibly talented players(dmorisoli), are willing to provide huge walls of text filled with reasons why your plan to place an embargo on online transactions is wrong, you should consider the thought that maybe you really should change this policy and possibly bring Pokemon to new heights.


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I think the problem here is that people are under the mistaken impression that we actually OWN anything on Pokémon TCG Online. As far as I'm aware--and correct me if I'm wrong--but we actually own NOTHING but virtual property, and I doubt we even "own" that. As such, there is NOTHING here which we can call legally and rightfully ours to do as we please.






* The money spent to purchase a pack of cards really only went to acquire the legal rights over the PHYSICAL product which a "pack of cards" entail, namely the plastic wrapper which holds the product, ten physical cardboard cards which have no intrinsic value (versus, say, paper and coin money which DOES have intrinsic value [as far as I'm aware]), and a "code card" which entitles us to one "free" "pack" of "cards" on Pokémon TCG Online.




* As the money we spent went towards the physical pack of cards, no money exchanged hands between us and Nintendo/Pokémon that entitled us to claim ownership over virtual property. It WOULD be a different story if we actually DID exchange money towards acquiring the rights and use over virtual property (which is the case--as far as I'm aware--with Magic TGO, as money is spent towards acquiring virtual packs and all that that entails). But we didn't, so we can't.




* Basically, the code card only gave us the ABILITY to play with Nintendo's cards, versus gave us any RIGHT to claim Nintendo's cards as our own. It would be no different than if I opened my infinite Pokémon collection to everyone and that they are free to use them in various events and decks of your own design, but you cannot take any of my cards form my collection anywhere nor claim that they are yours to do anything with outside of what I allow you to do with. Especially considering that whatever money you may have given me only went towards a ticket to let you into playing with my infinite Pokémon collection and NOT towards claiming ownership over anything within my infinite Pokémon collection.








Thus, in short, we are simply playing with Nintendo's infinite Pokémon collection... it's still their cards, not ours, and because no money was spent to acquire our virtual "collections" (at least none given directly to Nintendo, only indirectly, and DEFINITELY nothing claiming we OWN anything), Nintendo still has every right to set the rules and conditions for allowing us to play with their cards.




Sure other games like Magic TG Online allow you to do what you wish with your cards, but that's because you spent money to acquire said cards AND that money purchased the legal right to do what you want with your virtual collection. However, because the Pokémon TCG Online is a FREE service from Nintendo--specifically, we gave Nintendo NO MONEY to claim rightful ownership of any sort of property within the TCGO--we can't claim that our virtual collection is ours to do as we please, which includes trading cards outside of what Nintendo allows us to do.




Now is this "right" or "wrong" for Nintendo to do? I'll leave that up to you to determine. What ISN'T up to our opinion is the fact that this IS the law of the land at present; maybe Nintendo will change their opinion on this matter, but that would also mean that it would require us to start purchasing Pokémon TCG Online packs SEPARATELY from physical, real Pokémon TCG packs (because at least then we would be able to claim legal right over BOTH our physical and virtual collections).... but I don't think many of us would want to do spent TWICE as much money to maintain both a physical and virtual collection. In fact, that's the reason why I DON'T play Magic TGO and one big draw for me for Pokémon TCGO.... and I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way!




Anyways, just food for thought here... I welcome anyone who perhaps have a logical reason why my position is wrong and full of fallacies (because, for example, maybe the Pokémon TCG Online terms of service actually DOES give us legal right over our virtual collection??)


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1) DMorisoli wins the thread. There are benefits to Pokémon and the players by allowing a hybrid system, where users can choose to purchase cards from Pokémon directly or by using 3rd party outlets (like other users or retailers).


2) Nickfifteen, I think the troubling part is that many people acted and bought code cards anticipating that they would be able to sell the digital cards they might get. While the terms of service say that they may change at any time, changing a vague clause that eventually prohibits players from turning their investment into cash is damaging. Arguing that "virtual property" can't be owned by users is like saying that iTunes could take back your music collection at any time since they were just letting you listen to their infinite music library. "Except I paid for those songs!" Someone also paid for the booster pack, theme deck, or tin in which the code cards came. Precedent was set in the digital marketplace for trading card games that came before (like Magic). Anything that delivers less than users expected will be negative for the reception of Pokémon online. I think getting caught up in legal-ese is really negative. The pro-sales position is generally arguing that it is in the best interest of PTCGO to allow this to happen. If getting caught up in agreements/terms of service/legal text is something that we want to do though, I'd note that it is negative to NOT list on the code cards that there is a terms of service.




For reference, the code card text in a booster reads...


  • Use this code to unlock 1 online booster pack at...
  • www.pokemon.com/tcgo
  • With your parents' permission, log on and use this code to get an online booster pack with 10 additional cards. Instead of typing the code, you can just hold this card up to your webcam to redeem.
  • © 2011 The Pokémon Company International, TM, ®, and character names are trademarks of Nintendo. ENBW3BST01



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I have a lot to say here, but it's generally just the same stuff I wrote before.




The TL;DR version is:



[*]Everyone agreed to the same terms and service to play PTCGO, and those terms and service state that nothing we get in PTCGO is ours to claim any ownership over.


[*]We didn't invest anything in PTCGO, so we really don't have the ability or right to turn our "investment" into cash.


[*]iTunes isn't really the best example to support the idea of owning virtual property because Apple has clear restrictions on their products and services (we can't resell iTunes music, movies and iOS apps, can we?)


[*]Although perhaps these restrictions on the PTCGo may harm it (I'm not claiming that it will or won't), there is plenty of precident of other online games and services which place just as much restrictions--or even more--than what PTCGO does and they are large, thriving and extremely popular online games or services.


[*]There is no need to place disclaimers on the PTCGO code cards because customers wishing to use it either will evnetually encounter those disclaimers, or have already agreed to them.


[*]Finally, the online version is treated as an auxiliary, supplement, accessory version to the real version by Nintendo. Thus, the "restrictions". As such, Gems are simply the best way to spend money to get cards, even if it's done in an indirect manner (like the use of "Nintendo Points").


And now, the much longer, detailed version of the above.








"I think the troubling part is that many people acted and bought code cards anticipating that they would be able to sell the digital cards they might get."



Perhaps Nintendo needs to make that clearer before assuming everyone understands it, or maybe customers should read the Terms and Conditions clearer before blindly accepting them? Because, on one hand, information covering whether or not we own PTCGO cards is tucked away under "[y]ou acknowledge and accept that you have no property or other rights in any content on the Site" in Nintendo's terms of service text... on the other hand the customers DID click on "I agree" and, most importantly, ignorance of the law is no excuse (ignorantia juris non excusat), so it's not Nintendo's fault that people blindly clicked "I agree" without clearly understanding the terms.




Of course, whether that bit in the terms of service is "right" or "wrong" for Nintendo to have, that's something else which I'm not going to cover.








"While the terms of service say that they may change at any time, changing a vague clause that eventually prohibits players from turning their investment into cash is damaging."



But the thing is, we didn't invest anything in Pokémon TCG Online, money-wise. The money we spent on a pack of cards with the free code card went to the pack itself, while the code card itself was merely a "BONUS". For example, the cost of pre-code card packs in my neighborhood was $3.99, and a pack of BW Emerging Powers is $3.99... no difference, and thus no sound claim that actual money was spent to play PTCGO. Furthermore, many post-PTCGO packs did NOT contain a PTCGO code card, and they too were the same price as packs WITH the code card. All in all there isn't much of a claim to say that any money was spent to play PTCGO.




Then there's also the bit that restrictive terms of service covering the non-ownership of virtual property doesn't stop games and services from being popular, but I'll cover that below.








"Arguing that "virtual property" can't be owned by users is like saying that iTunes could take back your music collection at any time since they were just letting you listen to their infinite music library. "Except I paid for those songs!""



There's an issue with your example though, and I don't think it necessarily applies to the Pokémon TCG Online. The thing is, whether or not virtual property can be owned is up to the company giving out the virtual property. As such, the various terms and conditions between the various companies providing virtual goods and services reflect the different philosophies over whether virtual "goods" can be "owned".




In the case of Apple, they do feel that, because you are directly purchasing virtual music, you are also purchasing CERTAIN rights over it... right which include the ability to not have those rights revoked and your music deleted by Apple, as well as the ability to burn your music onto music CDs and to allow your music to be linked to at most five separate computers. On the other hand, Apple also doesn't believe that customers should be allowed to have COMPLETE rights and ownership over their virtual music, which means you can't have your music on MORE than five computers, nor can you transfer or sell your license to another iTunes music (which means there is NO way to purchase "used" iTunes music). If you think about it, Apple's restrictions--despite what rights we've purchased--basically state that we DON'T own our iTunes "property", simply because we CAN'T do EVERYTHING we want to do with them just as we could with other property which we do legally own.




Nintendo, on the other hand, believes that, because we are NOT purchasing any cards from Pokémon TCG Online (or at the very least are purchasing them INDIRECTLY via proxy), users have do not any rights over the virtual cards we earn from in the game. As such, they place restrictive terms over using Pokémon TCG Online, which basically means that we are instead only "paying" for the right to play with Nintendo's "infinite collection" rather than the right to claim that anything we receive in Pokémon TCG Online via our code cards as our personal property to do what we wish.




Then also consider that many other music services that shut down also did take their music with them. A perfect example was both MSN Music and Yahoo! Music; people paid for their services under the assumption that all the music they bought was theirs, only to later lose access to ALL their music when both MSN Music Yahoo! Music shut down their DRM servers. The same thing happens when various MMORPG games go offline, like Phantasy Star Online Ep.1/2 and Matrix Online; in all these situations, the money customers spent only went to purchasing the right-of-access of that service, not the right-of-ownership over anything associated with their account. People may be upset over this, but, again, if they didn't clearly understand the terms of service disclaimer for their good and service and simply blindfully agreed to them, they only have themselves to blame.




And then there are OTHER services like Netflix which also don't allow their customers to download or claim ownership over any of the movies their money most certainly allowed them to watch. That is to say, just because someone pays for the ability to watch a certain movie as many times as they want as if it was a movie in their own personal video collection (and are even listed in their Netflix watch list), it doesn't mean that they are entitled to claiming that it is theirs to do as they wish, which includes selling their rights to that movie to another user. .... Of course, it doesn't help that every Netflix user has the same access to the same movies, but it's more like a Netflix user "selling" "their" movies to a non-Netflix-using person.




Basically, the issue is over whether the money spent on an online good or service simply purchases a "right to access" of that service, or if it purchases the "right of ownership" over the specific products and services within that online business. My understanding is that, concerning the PTCGO, what money we spent on the PTCGO merely purchased a "right to access" the services and products of PTCGO, and did NOT purchase any rights over the individual cards our code cards products. And this is not my opinion but is based on the terms of service of activating a Pokémon Trainers Club account.








"Precedent was set in the digital marketplace for trading card games that came before (like Magic). Anything that delivers less than users expected will be negative for the reception of Pokémon online."




Precedent for the reverse has also been set in the digital market place by other games and digital services, such as the aforementioned iTunes and Netflix, as well as in various online games such as World of Warcraft and Farmville. In all those services, it is against their terms and services to "sublicense, rent, lease, sell, trade, gift, bequeath or otherwise transfer your Account or any Virtual Items associated with your Account to anyone" (quoted from Zynga's TOS). Despite these restrictions, it hasn't stopped these services from exploded in popularity and become some of the most widely used--if not most popular--services online.




Of course, it may also be that these companies don't really enforce their rules against trading, and THAT is why these services have exploded in popularity; as such, it may end up proving that the PTCGO IS taking the wrong route by restricting "players from turning their investment into cash". As such, the only REAL way to show anything for certain is to have Nintendo continue to do things they way that they feel is best and let reality prove things one way or the other.








"If getting caught up in agreements/terms of service/legal text is something that we want to do though, I'd note that it is negative to NOT list on the code cards that there is a terms of service."



The thing is, in order to use the cards, you have to use it through your Pokémon.com Trainer Club account. If a customer don't already have one, then they can't use the code card until they sign up for one; this would mean that they will also need to read and agree to Nintendo's terms and services, which does state that users don't own anything associated with their account.




If a customer already signed up for a PTC account before they use their PTCGO code card, then they already agreed to--and are thus supposed to be aware of--those terms and disclaimers. As such, I don't believe that Nintendo needs to place any kind of disclaimer on the code cards because customers wanting to use the code card EVENTUALLY will run into the disclaimer, if they haven't already agreed to--and are thus aware of--them.








The whole point of this, again, was just to point out that we don't own anything on PTCGO, by virtue of the fact that we all agreed to the same terms and service specifically stating that we don't own anything here, as well as that we simply CAN'T do anything with what we have on PTCGO (as opposed to what we have to own in real life).




The thing is, we already HAVE a version of the Pokémon TCG where we can claim ownership over our collection and do anything we want with them--sell them, burn them, feed them or our pets, etc.; it's called "Pokémon TCG" and they're sold in packs of 10 cards for about $3.99 MSRP. If we want that right, we'll stick with that version of the game. The online version is simply an auxiliary, supplement, accessory--and most importantly, FREE--version to the "IRL" version, and thus isn't treated as a separete and indepenent game from the "IRL" version by Nintendo. Thus the "restrictions".




Is it a good or bad idea that Nintendo doesn't treat this as an independent version of the game and completely separarte from the main game, as opposed to how Wizards treats Magic Online (as Magic online has its own sets like "Masters Edition")? I'm not here to argue that. I'm simply pointing out the reality of the PTCGO, which is that it is NOT a unique and separate entity and that nothing we acquire here on PTCGO is ours in the sense that we truly OWN them. We don't, and I feel that if anyone wants to argue the "Ownership Question", they should really argue for changing the terms of service first before arguging for the "right" to sell our online collection to someone else or other concepts which involve purchasing Pokémon TCGO cards directly with money.




Yes, Gems are coming, but I feel that's simply enough because people can simply just treat gems as a proxy... it represents the card they want later on. Like, I'll buy a Gem and trade it for a Yanmega Prime. Someone else will take that same Gem and trade it for a Donphan Prime. Then THAT someone will take that same Gem and trade it for a Charizard. Just because the END result of a Gem means a hat or other item for your avatar, it doesn't mean that it can't be used in an infinite number of trades before it's finally used. Basically, Gems will be the "Nintendo Points" of PTCGO, and for that matter it's just as good as money.




....but anyways, that's what I think, for what it's worth.


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nick, I think everyone here would agree TPCi can make rules to prevent people from selling cards, but the issue is should they? There are certain expectations people have when they buy trading cards. Don't call these online boosters free - they aren't. A lot of players (including myself) bought boosters because they had online codes.




This policy not only hinders the growth of the game, but its very difficult to enforce and it leaves a sour taste in peoples' mouths. Trying to stop virtual property being sold is one thing...but when that virtual property is TRADING cards it becomes a bit invasive. Then, go a step further and not allow customers to trade PTCGO Cards for Real Pokémon cards and you have a lot of unhappy people.


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I did not buy booster packs but bought the codes straight from an online seller on ebay. Were those free Nick? I bought 100 codes for $115.00. They were not free. Had I bought those in actual booster packs it would've cost $400. I know people who have bought that many booster packs just for the codes that wouldn't have if there weren't any codes at all. So basically the codes provide incentive to buy more boosters than one typically would and therefore they're not free. It would be interesting for pokemon to release the data pertaining to sales of booster packs before and after the codes were included. I can almost guarantee sales have increased and so have pokemon's profits. Not to mention maybe the price per booster pack hasn't increased, but the price of a case of pokemon cards increased by nearly 10% once retailers realized people wanted or could make money off the codes.




However, none of this or what you were talking about is really the point. The point is that pokemon will suffer from this decision because it will hurt the game. You can argue that "we don't know that that's true" but everyone who plays the game knows. This is because they *** a sick feeling in their stomach knowing that they'd have to buy physical or virtual booster packs (in the future) just to simply have a terrible chance to *** the cards they want.






I myself have purchased nearly 500 code cards and do you know how many Yanmega Prime's I came away with? One. Do you know how many Magnezone Prime's I came away with? One. What if I wanted to assemble the Prime time deck featuring multiple copies of these cards? At least 1500 packs of virtual cards. It's nearly impossible to play a competitive deck let alone the one you want without infusing a lot of cash into this game that you say is "free". It's not free. Without the secondary markets people don't have the choice to play with the decks/cards they want. They are forced to use what they have or spend a lot (and I mean a lot) more money. If our freedom of choice (to buy single cards to create the decks we want) is taken away, consumers will grow frustrated and annoyed with the game and ultimately leave.






All of the other online games that have had success have done so because there's only one way to play/participate in the game, online. But, pokemon is not restricted to just the online realm. Pokemon has the physical card game, redshark, playtcg, etc...There are other ways people can play the game that are a lot cheaper. This calls to mind a post I read on this thread earlier that in Japan, Pokemon is saying "Kids, kids, kids" and that seems very likely. By destroying the secondary market, you are giving up the market of people age 18 and up. The problem with this? They are your big spenders!! They keep the game going. Is a child's parent going to buy a lot of boosters? Yes. Is the child's parent going to buy a booster box? No. Is a child going to write an article, make a video, post a decklist about pokemon? No, no and no. The older players are pokemon's unsung heroes. They market the game like mad, increase interest and increase people's investment in the game. How does pokemon reward these players? They ignore them and focus on the kids. Well I would like to personally thank Sixprizes, onehitko, pokebeach, pokegym, pokemandan, jwittz, Pooka etc... because you guys do everything for this game and are getting the short end of the deal when it comes to the PTCGO, as are all of us.






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'FUTURE PLANS: In November 2011 the TCG Online will introduce Gems into the store. This allows the user to purchase gems, which can be used to get Avatar Items and in-game accessories. That is pretty cool in itself but after that, we will introduce Gem Trading. Ahhhh, you say. Now you get it. Trading gems to get the cards you want in a safe and fraud protected setting within the TCG Online game? SCORE!'




First post needs an update, lol.


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Problem with all of this is, you can't possibly track cards, at least in a rational, legal and cost effective way.




Unless you guys plan to sell the digital versions for scrap I strongly suggest PTCGO implements digital card buying fast as the longer you wait, the more popular code buying will get, which in turn will force you to match the price of code sellers if you want things to kick off.


There is also the fact that you are really inconveniencing players that have a problem getting physical copies, like myself. Ordering packs from NA/UK is both costly and time consuming.


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