Blockchain: Will NFTs change the lives of Pokémon card enthusiasts?

Pokemon game cards (illustration). — F.Brenon/20Minutes

Pokémon are 25 years old, but they can’t stop reinventing themselves. In 2016, the Pokémon Go frenzy captured the little monsters in augmented reality and pushed the reissue of a pack of collectible cards. In 2022, fans of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are calling for the dematerialization of Pokémon cards or derivatives to exchange them online. Even video games based on the Ethereum blockchain, like Axie Infinity, are referred to as equivalents of the Nintendo franchise. But in the end, do NFTs really change anything for Pikachu followers?

Collectors in madness

Since the beginning of the lockdown, collectors have been crazy: on eBay, sales of Pokémon cards jumped by 574% between 2019 and 2020 while in March 2021, a Dracofeu card was sold for the modest sum of 418,000 euros. These transactions have been much talked about on YouTube, where creators have staged their quest and their purchases of rare cards. Last year, for example, the French rapper Lorenzo sold fifteen for 300,000 euros, while in early 2022, the American Youtuber Logan Paul was scammed $ 3.5 million for fake cards. He then spent $5.3 million (€4.5 million) to become the owner of the world’s most expensive Pokémon card.

Among fans of the franchise, not everyone looks very favorably at this frenzy that drives up prices, fuels fraud, or even pushes investors to empty the stocks of specialized stores to the detriment of children. But it fits relatively well into the passion of the French for collections – 4 out of 5 have started one in their lives – whether they are launched for pleasure or to speculate.

On the blockchain, speculation, creation, or both?

It is on these two uses – collection and speculation – that NFTs make it possible to change things, says the founder of the ART GALLERY KAZoArt Mathilde Le Roy. “NFTs are not necessarily accessible to everyone,” she admits, “whether for technical reasons, because some – especially women – project themselves less … But they still come to recompose the markets, “reinvent the role of intermediary between artist and buyer, allow the space of collectible cards to transform. Until recently, panini cards were outdated. And then Sorare arrived. »

The success of the French company, which makes it possible to exchange vignettes of football players via the blockchain, has something to dream about: after its record raising (in France) of $ 680 million in September 2021, it is now launching on the American territory. But doesn’t seem to have planned to venture into pop culture at the moment – it remains specialized in sports. Habsro, the publisher of Magic: the Gathering, another mythical collectible card game, has said he is interested in the possibility of investing in the world of NFTs. On the comics side, Warner Bros. unveiled on April 26 “Bat Cowl“, a collection of NFTs dedicated to Batman. This may explain why Pokémon followers are launching petitions for them to be made available and exchangeable on the blockchain.

Scam risks and gaming opportunities

While waiting for fans’ wishes to be granted, artists have begun to offer their own interpretation of the universe – such as the French Onemizer, which put on sale NFTs of the Pokémon Lugia last December. While this initiative has been rather well received, others, such as the Pixelmon project, have proven to be more incredible. If this one allowed its author to raise 9,000 dollars, it turned out to be composed of… very ugly and pixelated works, far from the aesthetics of Bulbizarre, Salamèche and others.

Finally, perhaps the space where NFTs would be most likely to bring new things to the Pokémon universe is the one from which they originated: the video game. Axie Infinity and Illuvium, two titles installed on Ethereum, are regularly compared to the Nintendo franchise. Called Play-to-earn, these allow you to buy monsters, then make them evolve and fight in the game. The phenomenon is such that in the Philippines or Venezuela, the number of players has exploded, looking to make ends meet. This eventually caught the attention of the central bank of the Philippines, which, after Axie Infinitiy was robbed of $625 million, recalls the risk inherent in any investment made on blockchains.

Nintendo as an observer

If it ensures to follow the evolutions in progress, Nintendo declares for the moment not very convinced by the use of the NFT. In a conference, the publisher of pokémon explained that it had not yet found “what joy it could provide” thanks to the metaverse and non-fungible tokens. All the same: between its former CEO, who has shown signs of interest in Play-to-Earn, and the passage of a former Pokémon Go to the publisher of Axie Infitnity, nothing says that it will never be possible to catch Pokémon on the blockchain.


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