Pokémon are 25 years old, but they never stop reinventing themselves. In 2016, the Pokémon Go frenzy captured small monsters in augmented reality and pushed the reissue of a trading card pack. In 2022 the followers of non-fungible tokens (NFT) are asking for the dematerialization of Pokémon cards or derivative products to be exchanged online. Video games based on the Ethereum blockchain, such as Axie Infinity, are also referred to as the equivalent of the Nintendo franchise. But fundamentally, do NFTs really change anything for Pikachu followers?
Since the beginning of the confinement, collectors have gone 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 were widely discussed on YouTube, where the creators organized their research and purchases of rare cards. Last year the French rapper Lorenzo, for example, sold fifteen of them for 300,000 euros, while at the beginning of 2022 the American youtubeur Logan Paul was scammed for 3.5 million dollars for fake cards. He then spent 5.3 million (4.5 million euros) to become the owner of the most expensive Pokémon card in the world.
Among fans of the franchise, not everyone looks very favorably on this frenzy that is driving up prices, fueling fraud, and even prompting investors to empty stocks in specialty stores at the expense of children. But it fits relatively well with the French passion for collections – 4 out of 5 have started one in their life – whether they are launched for pleasure or for speculation.
On the blockchain, speculation, creation or both?
It is on these two uses – collection and speculation – that NFTs allow things to change, believes the founder of the KAZoArt art gallery Mathilde Le Roy. “NFTs are not necessarily accessible to everyone, she admits, both for technical reasons, because some – especially women – project themselves less into them …” But they still manage to recompose the markets, “reinventing the role of intermediary between artist and buyer, allowing to the space of collectible cards to transform. Until recently, Panini cards were obsolete. And then Sorare arrived. “
The success of the French company, which allows the exchange of footballers’ stamps via blockchain, is something to dream: after the record collection (in France) of 680 million dollars in September 2021, it is now launching on American soil. But she doesn’t seem to have any plans to venture into pop culture yet – she still specializes in sports. Hasbro, the publisher of Magic: the Gathering, another mythical collectible card game, has instead declared itself interested in the possibility of investing in the world of NFTs. As for the comics, Warner Bros. presented on April 26 “Bat Cowl”, a collection of NFT dedicated to Batman. This could explain why Pokémon followers are launching petitions to make them available and tradable on the blockchain.
Risks and opportunities for scam game
While waiting for fans’ wishes to be fulfilled, artists have begun offering their own interpretation of the universe, such as Frenchman Onemizer, who released Pokémon Lugia NFT for sale last December. While this initiative has been received rather well, others, such as the Pixelmon project, have proved more incredible. If this allowed its author to raise $ 9,000, it turned out to be composed … of very ugly and pixelated works, far from the aesthetics of Bulbizarre, Salamèche and others.
Finally, the space in which NFTs are most likely to bring novelty to the Pokémon universe is perhaps the one they come from: the video game. Axie Infinity and Illuvium, two titles installed on Ethereum, are therefore regularly compared to the Nintendo franchise. qualified as 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, trying to round up the end of the month. This ended up attracting the attention of the Philippine central bank, which, after Axie Infinitiy was robbed of $ 625 million, reminds us of the risk inherent in any investment made on blockchains.
Nintendo as an observer
If you make sure to follow the evolutions in progress, Nintendo does not declare for the moment unconvinced by the use of NFT. In conference, the Pokémon publisher explained that it has not yet found “what joy it could bring” thanks to the metaverse and non-fungible tokens. Same: Between its former CEO, who has shown signs of interest in Play-to-Earn, and a former Pokémon Go player’s passing by the Axie Infitnity publisher, nothing says it will never be possible to catch Pokémon on the blockchain.