Upper Deck’s Entertainment division has been going through a variety of changes, but now the company is preparing to release a mix of new products based primarily around the Marvel brand. Trading card game (TCG) and Marvel fans have a lot of questions about what the staff at Upper Deck Entertainment has been up to lately and what they can expect for 2011. We sat down with Upper Deck’s Vice President of Marketing, Jason Masherah, to ask him the questions our fans have been wondering about.
Question: What is the state of the Vs. System Trading Card Game and will you be bringing it back?
Jason Masherah: “While we certainly appreciate that there is a loyal following for the Vs. System TCG, it did not continue to perform at levels strong enough to sustain it. Basically, we had some very passionate fans, some players who loved the Organized Play aspect of it, but not enough casual players to reach sales numbers we ultimately needed to support the game. We do not have intentions of bringing it back at this time, but I can’t say we haven’t explored that option because we do appreciate the fact that there is a following for it. The best way to qualify it is to say that game is on the shelf for now.”
Question: Would you be willing to sell the Vs. System to another company who would get behind it?
Jason Masherah: “Well it’s not entirely accurate to say that we didn’t get behind it. We spent a tremendous amount on the Vs. System Organized Play program, promotional items, tournaments and much more. To answer the question, however, we do not have any intention of selling the Vs. System TCG at this time.”
Question: What happened to the World of Warcraft TCG?
Jason Masherah: “Our contract with Blizzard Entertainment ended and unfortunately we were not able to come to terms on a new agreement. I would call it an amicable split.”
Question: Many Upper Deck employees ended up at Cryptozoic, which is now producing and distributing the World of Warcraft TCG. What happened there?
Jason Masherah: “Personally we wish those former Upper Deck staffers all the best. But professionally, we now view them as competitors.”
Question: Upper Deck was testing a new Marvel TCG less than a year ago. What happened to that and will Marvel fans see a new TCG any time soon?
Jason Masherah: “Our plan is to release a Marvel TCG in 2011. We have been in the development phase for quite some time of what that TCG will look like. We are excited to release details on it, but we do not want to have a situation like we had last time where we spend time and money promoting a product that’s just not ready. We will share details on the new Marvel TCG when we are close to releasing it, hopefully later on this year.”
Question: What is the status of your Organized Play division?
Jason Masherah: “When we release the new Marvel TCG we will announce details about our Organized Play programs. I will not put the cart before the horse, however. We’ve got to have the TCG ready before we share details on Organized Play. And it is a critical component of the success of a TCG, it’s one aspect of the business we will not neglect.”
Question: Interest in the theatrical release of Thor is on the rise. What can fans expect from your Thor trading card release?
Jason Masherah: “We are very excited about the release as well, and I know people are really loving the first looks they are seeing through movie trailers and online exposure. Great photography will help bring the movie home for fans so that’s first. More importantly, however, is that there are plenty of great chase elements that will have collectors very excited. We’ve got some awesome sketch cards from top artists that will be included. We have autograph deals with Chris Hemsworth (star of Thor who also played George Kirk in Star Trek); Kenneth Branagh (Director of Thor and three-time Oscar nominee); Clark Gregg (plays Agent Phil Coulson, a reoccurring character in both Iron Man films and the upcoming Marvel films The Avengers and Nick Fury); Tom Hiddleston (plays Thor’s brother, Loki); Joshua Dallas (plays Fandral); and Jaimie Alexander (she plays Sif). There will be movie memorabilia cards as well. Where else can you get a card with Natalie Portman’s movie-worn pants on it?”
Question: There was quite an online controversy over Upper Deck cutting up movie props of Loki’s knives and Thor’s Hammer. What did you decide with regard to how those pieces will be used?
Jason Masherah: “Yes, and I want to thank all the fans for the passionate feedback we received on that discussion. We really took it to heart and listened to what our customers were saying. At this point we made the decision NOT to cut these pieces up and use them for trading cards. That is not to say we may not do so in the future. Our business is trading cards and these items would produce some very unique and collectible memorabilia cards most fans would really enjoy. We can appreciate those purists who hate the idea of seeing them cut up, so for now they’ve been granted a stay of execution, so to speak.
“It is important that those who were against us cutting these props up realize this was not the only hammer Thor used in the movie. In fact, it is a stunt hammer. Not everyone can own something like this so it is a unique opportunity to give several people the chance to own a piece of the history like this. We’ve brought a lot of smiles to people’s faces by producing memorabilia cards and that is not going to change.”
Check back early next week where we share Part 2 of this interview with Jason Masherah where he talks about other Marvel releases coming down the pipe, asks fans to share their thoughts on a sketch card question and discusses the past and the future of Upper Deck Entertainment. Don’t miss it! Also, if you’re a fan of Marvel or Upper Deck Entertainment products, make sure you are following us on Twitter and Facebook.