Many of us are slaves to nostalgia, and that’s ok…
Nostalgia is a powerful force. Nostalgia is the reason why we still listen to songs that could get their driving license if they were a person, why we sometimes eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast instead of something nutritional, and the reason why we enjoy TCGs like Digimon based on the shows we watched growing up.
Reboots of older shows and movies often do well, or at least pique the interest of those who watched them the first time around. The reason why we love revisiting shows we watched cross-legged on a Saturday morning is because it reminds us of our carefree childhood days where the only thing we had to worry about was which starter Pokémon we were going to choose. Anime series like Digimon, Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh! were all incredibly popular in the 90s and early 2000s and became huge parts of our lives. Now, in 2021, we have been presented with gateways to revisit our favourite franchises. Pokémon never really went away, managing to gently transition to appeal to each generation that followed. Some franchises, like Digimon, weren’t so lucky and fell into the depths of irrelevancy. Over a decade later, however, that was all about to change when Bandai saw the positive reception of the Dragon Ball Super series and the TCG that came along two years later. When rebooting Digimon, however, Bandai didn’t waste any time in reestablishing the franchise, opting to release the TCG alongside the rebooted series that is yet to be dubbed in English.
The cycle of sentimentality…
Choosing to focus primarily on the first series of Digimon wasn’t just done out of strategy but rather necessity. To make sure that Digimon hit the ground running, like someone who just got a whiff of a Sukamon, Bandai decided to focus on their best-known mainstream series, which was a huge success in the United States, despite initially being called a rip-off of Pokémon.
Now, as the Digimon TCG celebrates its 1st Anniversary, the game is moving into different territory and focusing on other series like Frontier and Adventure 02. Although some fans may rejoice at seeing new characters in the spotlight other than Omnimon, it does run the risk of alienating those who dropped off the original anime after the initial Digimon Adventure series. With that being said, the inclusion of other generations adds contrast and introduces new digital monsters into the card catalogue.
The newest Digimon series, Ghost Game, began airing on October 3rd in Japan and hits the sweet spot for the older demographic as it has darker tones. The series also acts well as an entry point for younger audiences who may not be familiar with the franchise. If the 9th Digimon series is a success, then it could act as a fantastic way of welcoming new players/collectors to the TCG and may even one day become nostalgic to them – keeping the cycle of sentimentality spinning for years to come!
Old dogs with new tricks…
Using nostalgia as a powerful marketing tool for Digimon depends solely on the triggers that make people think back to the good old days. Bandai implemented a number of visual triggers very early on in the Digimon TCG, which included several cards that directly referenced the iconic Hyper Colosseum game that was hugely popular in Japan around the same time the Pokémon TCG launched and was ported to English in the form of the Digi-Battle game. A good example of this is the Alternate Art SEC MetalGreymon that not only shares the same artwork as the Hyper Colosseum variation but also has the original card layout redesigned to look incredibly similar to its predecessor.
Even the packaging for the Digimon TCG wasn’t spared a retro overhaul that shared similar aspects to the Hyper Colosseum/Digi-Battle products of the early 2000s. An excellent example of this is the Promotion Pack Ver 0.0, which was mainly distributed through the most generous sweepstakes competition in history, which seemed to give everyone who signed up the folder containing six promo cards based on the original Digimon companions. The cover of this folder was heavily inspired by the booster pack artwork of the first Digi-Battle booster packs, with only minor changes like the Digivice in the center and the placement of some of the cards coming from it.
The Classic Collection, which releases in December for the English game, will utilise the instantly recognisable Hyper Colosseum/Digi-Battle cards by using the same artwork on new Digimon TCG cards. For those who grew up with Digimon in the late 90s, seeing these cards again will most likely spark that warm feeling of nostalgia – maybe even memories of rummaging through boxes of Golden Nuggets or Shreddies to find the promo card hidden inside!
Nostalgia is good business, and business is boomin’…
Nostalgia is like cooking a prime cut of ribeye – you must wait for the optimal time before plating it up. If you serve it too early or late, you run the risk of it not being as appetising as it could be. It is by design that we are now seeing rebooted cartoons, superhero movies and video games from the 90s and early 2000s. The reason for this is simply because those who were children 20 years ago now have disposable income and a hunger to reconnect to their childhood, and what do we do when we get hungry? We feast!
Bandai isn’t the only company that has realised this, with the Pokémon Company returning to its roots to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise amidst the backdrop of a pandemic.
Pokémon TCG’s success throughout 2021 has been fuelled by eager anticipation of what the company would do to celebrate its 25th birthday. Just like Digimon, Pokemon turned to reprints of popular cards from throughout its trading card game history in the form of Pokémon TCG: Celebrations. The set, similar to 2016’s 20th anniversary XY: Evolutions expansion is aimed at capitalising on this new wave of interest in the hobby brought on by finding home comforts when facing a global struggle. People need nostalgia to soothe the hard times and provide relief to happier moments in life. Pokémon booster pack openings provide the same feeling that a lot of us had as children and in times when there are very few happy experiences going on, this sense of excitement from nostalgia is almost priceless.
The impact of Pokémon TCG: Celebrations on a wider audience will be interesting to see. We’ve had the 2020 boom fuelled by celebrities running YouTube channels and influencing via social media to their target audiences of millions. Logan Paul, Logic, Steve Aoki, Justin Bieber have all expressed their interest in Pokémon TCG and as such their followers dived on the opportunity of investment success.
Now, after the storm has settled this will be the first time that Base Set Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise will be obtainable for the masses. The same could be said for XY: Evolutions Charizard, however, that card and the set was blown out of proportion as old Pokemon fans returning to the hobby flocked to the next best thing.
For many, Pokémon TCG: Celebrations will bring an accessible opportunity for old fans of the franchise to collect again thanks to its small set list and high pull rates. Pokémon, just like Digimon and other TCGs not only fills a nostalgic void that helps make the days a little brighter in the ongoing global pandemic but gives a great opportunity to understand supply and demand, collect some of the most beloved characters in media history, and have fun in positive communities all at once.
The revived interest in these older franchises couldn’t have come at a better time, as those who were young in the 1990s and 2000s are now all grown up and have the one thing they always wanted when they were kids – money to spend on lots and lots of shiny cardboard. It was no doubt concerning for Bandai when the launch of the Digimon TCG coincided with a worldwide pandemic, but if anything, the decision paid off. Digimon, just like Pokemon and other TCGs not only fills a nostalgic void that helps make the days a little brighter in the ongoing global pandemic but gives a great opportunity to understand supply and demand, collect some of the most beloved characters in media history, and have fun in positive communities all at once. When it comes to the Digimon TCG, it seems the appeal of a brand new game based on one of their favourite childhood franchises was the ideal time to step into the hobby.
by Mathew Parkes – Journalist
& John-Anthony Disotto – Editor-in-Chief