Fans might not be able to take part in physical conventions just yet, but that isn't stopping Topps from putting together a one of a kind virtual event. Topps kicked off its first DigiCon yesterday, a virtual convention that celebrates collectors from all fandoms and will interact with all of Topps digital card applications. The convention is live right now and will run through Sunday, August 30th, and will feature exclusive digital collectibles, cool watch parties, special announcements, Q&A sessions, and panels on Topps Digital's DigiCast Twitch channel. ComicBook.com had the chance to chat with Gino Ferrazzano and Marc Seal of Topps Digital all about the event, its origins, and why fans of Disney, WWE, Marvel, Star Wars, and more should definitely tune in.
It's unfortunate that fans can't all gather together in person, as that's a big part of card collecting and trading. That said, Topps wasn't about to let that deter them, and when they saw that a physical convention was not viable right now, they started planning this one of a kind celebration.
"As everything started and we saw that the conventions were closing, that's something that we lean into a lot," Seal said. "That's a huge part of the collector fandom. That's where you get all your exclusives. That's where you build up all your hype for major releases throughout the year, whether you're into collecting cards, or you're into collecting figures, or comics, or anything else, that's the time. So myself and one of my coworkers, Gabby, who is a cohost on the DigiCast and the product manager for our Disney team, we had been talking along with some of our other coworkers about wouldn't it be great if we could find a way to bring that convention feel to people who were going to be home?
"Gino has been a huge part in helping make sure that things are organized and set up in a way that it really feels like a convention," Seal said. "So one of the big portions of this is what's called the DigiCast, which is something that myself and Gabby started. We did our first stream maybe only a couple of weeks ago. It's a Twitch stream, and the entire idea, even outside of DigiCon, was to have a hub for people to come in and see what's going on throughout all the apps and properties that we work with. Now for DigiCon, we're going to be leaning on that as a guide rail to tell people, and treat it like you would at a convention where you have panels."
All of Topps digital apps will be involved in the lineup, and the DigiCast will guide them through each special event as if they were on a show floor somewhere.
"So we're going to have guests on," Seal said. "We have a Disney master artist coming on named KJ. We have celebrity guests coming on and we'll be discussing the releases. We'll be featuring two apps each day, so we'll talk about the releases that are coming out and those apps, what exclusive content will be available for a given day. We have programs throughout our entire portfolio of applications, and we'll be using the DigiCast as a means to guide our attendees right through this experience as if they were there on the show floor, experiencing on the screens that are usually up high, or the stages that are there, where to go, what to check out, what's coming out. So we really are leaning into to that as a means to guide people, and using the DigiCast as a way to engage people throughout and make it feel like one coherent event across all of our app properties."
"Yep, and to build on that, like a convention we'll have live interviews, we'll have prerecorded segments with two WWE superstars, which should be a lot of fun," Ferrazzano said. "We had fans submit questions for a couple of those interviews so they feel that they are involved and excited to see if their questions got picked. We have a few cameos, and then we also have what we call watch parties, where we ask our users to press play on either movie or series of episodes at the same time as us, and then we actually release content in real-time in the apps as those scenes unfold of whatever they're watching. So we're doing that for episodes of the Mandalorian for our Star Wars app. We're doing watch parties for Marvel, for X-Men, we're doing one for Disney for the Little Mermaid. So a lot of watch parties during the four-day event."
Day one of the event featured lots of Star Wars and Disney, including a Mandalorian Watch Party, but it doesn't stop there, and Topps is getting incredibly creative with their upcoming collectibles and sets.
"So for Disney, we have the John Ratzenberger collection coming out," Ferrazzano said. "We worked with him and captured an inside look into him working with Pixar, doing voice acting. We had them do 10 voices in 10 seconds, and we converted that footage and audio into collectibles, and so that collection is the first of its kind. If he's talking about a specific character, it'll be a video card, and it'll go to concept art, or the characters will montage through as he's doing the voices. So it should be a really fun set for Disney fans, and hopefully, there'll be more to come there. We are releasing a really highly anticipated Topps comic set in our Baseball App, where we contracted a series of Marvel artists who basically superhero-fied six MLB players, and it looks like basically a Marvel comic cover art, so that should be a really big hit."
They've also released SummerSlam sets for their Topps Slam App already, which were made in real-time as things happened during the show, and that wasn't an easy feat. "I mean, I feel bad for our designers, but I think it will be fun a fun experience," Seal said.
One of the things many think of with Topps is physical trading cards, but they've grown the digital side into a beast over the years, so much so that some might assume the physical side has dipped, but that is far from the case.
"So a lot of people ask us this question, and especially when you tell them you work for Topps, the first thing out of their mouth is, 'Do people still buy those?' To be honest with you, we've actually seen a steady rise in both arenas," Seal said. "People assume that that physical trading is no longer a thing, but it's actually extremely popular. It seems as if parents who grew up collecting themselves are getting their kids into the hobby, both physically and digitally, so we're definitely seeing the popularity twofold there."
They aren't resting on their laurels though, and are constantly attempting to innovate in the space, including bringing blockchain into the mix.
"We also get asked, 'Is there any sort of cannibalization going on? Has the advent of digital collecting moved them away from physical?' and we really haven't seen that," Seal said. "We've actually seen a majority of our collectors that enjoy collecting both in the physical and digital space. They're just completionists at heart, and they just love the idea of a blind opening a pack and seeing what's inside. So I would say we're actually seeing a growth in popularity in both those ways. And then even us innovating in the digital space. We've entered blockchain, we've released Garbage Pail Kid blockchain cards, and so that's the first step on getting these digital collectibles to live outside of an application, and so I think that's the first step for us to do a lot of cool things in that space."
The digital format has allowed Topps to get creative with their approach, but it's also allowed them to inject game style concepts into collecting, something that's taken off with collectors.
"We're innovating on the collectible front, and whether that's motion cards, special effects, video audio cards, but beyond that, we've tried to add utility to a collection, and I think that's what helps separates digital from physical is that you're doing much more than perhaps just putting the card in a sleeve," Ferrazzano said. "We have certain features like crafting, which is combining cards to a more rare one. We have a prize wheel, we are basically gamifying collecting a little bit more, and people seem to enjoy that. In the AR/VR space, in the past, we've looked at digital scavenger hunts, especially tied into some of the major conventions with beacon-based technology where it's a Pokemon Go-type setup where you'd walk around and you'd collect relevant collectible content to wherever they are. We've explored that potentially with MLB stadiums. So those conversations are going on."
While DigiCon was born out of necessity, it is not a one and done event. DigiCon has succeeded in linking collectors from all over the world in a fun and unique way, and you can bet it will be back next year.
"Yeah. I think the goal is to do this every year, regardless of if the events come back," Ferrazzano said. "It's just a way for us to really appreciate the fans, and do it on a global level rather than whoever's in that particular city or can get a past or particular show. So the plan is hopefully if everything goes well, this is an annual thing."
You can follow all the DigiCon fun on the DigiCast right here, and you can find today's schedule of events below.
Topps MLB BUNT
- In-App: The Topps MLB BUNT app will drop a Marvel crossover card set with MLB players Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw, Jason deGrom, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, and Mike Trout recreated as superheroes, inspired by their larger than life personalities.
- 2:30 - 3:00 pm: Live interview with former Disney Imagineer and current Creative Director of MARVEL Themed Entertainment, Brian Crosby. He will discuss his latest Marvel crossover card set for Topps MLB BUNT.
WWE SLAM: Card Trader
- 3:00 - 4:00 pm: Q&A with WWE Superstars Alexa Bliss and Drew McIntyre. The two Superstars will answer questions from fans on the world of wrestling and digital collectibles.
- In-App: Special release of the new superstar spotlight based on WWE Superstar, Naomi.
Topps Garbage Pail Kids NFTs
- 12:30 - 1:00 pm: Fans of Garbage Pail Kids Series 1 & GPK Goes Exotic digital collectibles will be treated to an update on when they can expect Series 2 + special Pack Drop of new content!
- 2:00 - 2:30 pm ET: As part of NFT Day, join Topps VP, GM Tobin Lent for a live Q&A to discuss his earlier panel discussion with CoinGenius & BadCrypto on “Unlocking Alternative Revenue Streams” as they relate to NFT-based collectibles.
Star Wars: Card Trader by Topps0comments
- 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Experience the newest Star Wars show with fans just like you, with The Mandalorian Watch Party Episodes 3 & 4!
Are you grabbing those DigiCon exclusives? Let us know in the comments and you can talk all things Topps and DigiCon with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!