As a card collector, I have seen many cards come and go over the decades. I have been collecting since I was a small child. And even in recent years, I took to collecting some vintage cards of my favorite American sports heroes from the 50’s and 60’s well before my time because some of those players I could relate to. In recent years I have also found that some of the more valuable cards that people have collected are autographed cards, jersey cards and now virtual cards.
As I was searching for something soccer-related that would be a good collectible card, I ran across Futera, a card company that has been producing ‘high end’ soccer cards for the past 20 years. And after reading about them, my first impression was that I wished these were the kind of cards that I could have been collecting all these years. With Futera cards, you just don’t collect them and put them away in a binder; you can actually use them in a virtual online game and ‘play’ with them.
I asked around and found that not many people were familiar with these cards, at least not stateside, but I found out that they supposedly sell pretty well in Europe and Asia.
But for most of us who have never seen these cards, we have already seen the concept — believe it or not, thanks to EA’s FIFA video game series. The Ultimate Team mode was a feature that was introduced in FIFA 09 (taken from the UEFA 06-07 video game) and has been a popular mode with many soccer fans wishing to buy and trade players via a virtual card system and play with online. This mode is a fully fleshed out version of what Futera already has.
Futera’s system is set up pretty simply. You go to their site. You then sign up with or without a Facebook login. And it’s free to get started. You are then given a set number of virtual cards to play with. If you choose, you can also buy virtual packs online to add to your team. As a special bonus for using this game online, you can also buy real-world packs in which certain insert cards (some having pieces of a kit, autographs or even gold plated cards) have a code that you can input into the game for use making that real card that you are collecting for your binder useful in the virtual world.
From there, you can set up your team and formations, create a managerial team, as well as ‘create’ a stadium and thus earn tokens to buy other cards. It’s a great idea. I like the simplicity in that you can use real world and virtual cards to play online.
But there are a few drawbacks that I noticed.
One is that, although you can sort your cards in various ways, when you aren’t in a game, you can’t see how much of a card’s energy has been used. Some cards you can use for an amount of time before its energy is depleted and then you have to find another player to use in its place. Another is that the GUI makes it a bit unwieldy to trade and transfer among friends as well as even adding friends. Perhaps the biggest knock is that with so many modes to choose from, most people who play are only interested in playing the tournament modes and the matchmaking system doesn’t take into account new players or those with ‘lesser’ cards from those who are experienced and also have great cards. One game I played on Sunday pitted me up against someone who spent a fortune on their cards who I had no chance at beating and I was slaughtered 10–0.
Perhaps the biggest knock on the game itself is that this is so similar to the FIFA Superstars app that EA has been trying unsuccessfully to run for the past year or so. You have little to no control over the game, which takes less than 5 minutes to play. The results are based on the strength of your collection versus someone else and randomly determined and even still, there are many lopsided wins and losses.
Another knock I have on the actual cards is that the premium boxes I saw were priced too high. I saw some that were $250 and up. I saw a few less-than-premium boxes that were between $50-$100 on the second hand market.
If you want to buy individual players you can also go to eBay. You can buy some boxes of cards on their website for around $62. But you may not get really good cards unless you are willing to spend. Even still, watching some of the box breaks on YouTube, you get some very nicely designed cards. However my biggest concern is the authenticity of the autos and game pieces that can be found. Unlike American cards, I saw no signs of a certificate of authenticity on the cards and that was really troubling. Most of the card companies in America have been put to task about the authenticity of signatures used for cards as well as game pieces so it may be a reason why these cards aren’t sold here in the US. One can only wonder what measures Futera has in place to ensure that hardcore collectors are getting ‘authentically signed and certified game used’ cards.
All in all, Futera has a pretty good idea going and if some of the hard questions could be answered about the authenticity of the cards, one could only wonder if in the future, EA could partner with them or maybe even another reputable card maker and really evolve the Ultimate Team mode into something that players can enjoy while also collecting cool cards.
Or…It may be time to take another look at Topps Match Attax cards.
As an overall product, I give it a 2.5 out of 5.
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