Brian David-Marshall, founder of Interpop, on why Web3 is the future of trading card games

Interpop founder Brian David-Marshall on upcoming Emergents TCG and the evolution of trading card games.

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Brian David-Marshall

4 min read

Brian David-Marshall, founder of Interpop, on why Web3 is the future of trading card games
The Emergents TCG launched on August 11th as a public beta

Do you remember when you first discovered trading card games? For me it was in 1994, not very long after Magic: The Gathering first came out. At that point, there were just two main options if you wanted new cards; you could trade within your playgroup or you could hope to crack them out of packs.

It wasn’t long before comic and sports card shops started stocking cards, and a secondary market sprung up – you could go to those stores to buy cards, complete your collection, and then trade or sell any cards you didn’t need. I still remember the feeling of empowerment, and the joy I felt at the combination of strategy and creativity that was a hallmark of those early games. It was about self-expression.

That creative space which opened up around TCGs also opened up a wide variety of roles for me within the physical trading card game world. I owned one of the first-ever stores dedicated to playing card game tournaments, and I went on to run organized play events for Magic, create organized play programs for other games, and work as a webcaster for high end tournaments. Eventually, I started world-building and designing games myself.

In the past 20 years, inevitably, games have been moving into the digital world, and increasingly into the so-called ‘free-to-play’ space. But all too often, ‘free-to-play’ is a misnomer. If you want to really succeed in those games, you usually need to spend money.

Free-to-play has made game publishing companies billions of dollars, but it has never returned a dime of that to the players

When you acquire a card in a free-to-play game though, you can’t do anything meaningful with it outside of the game. You don’t even really own the card, you just gain access to it. You can't sell your cards, and you certainly can’t trade them. You have no control over your digital collection. So the game stops being about self-expression and empowerment, and becomes an exercise in optimizing your spend.

Free-to-play has made game publishing companies billions of dollars, but it has never returned a dime of that to the players. It creates no autonomy or empowerment. It’s a very one-sided, very cynical model, in my opinion, and one that needs to change.

Interpop founder Brian David-Marshall, interviewed at SXSW, 2022

Interpop is a Web3 entertainment company that I founded to create comics and games on the super energy-efficient proof-of-stake Tezos blockchain, and reinvent the way people experience their digital collections. Everyone here comes from the world I just described, of physical collectables and real-world product experiences. We want to use our passion for those games and experiences to create a new way of playing which captures the best aspects of both the physical and virtual worlds.

Our goal is to create what we call a ‘Web 2.5’ experience: something that feels very comfortable and familiar, but where players also have autonomy, and the ability to control their digital experience, which they just don't have anywhere in the free-to-play world right now.

The development of Web3 technologies like NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which enable true ownership over digital collectibles, is a literal game-changer

I think that a lot of players feel just as frustrated as I do with free-to-play games. Up to now, in the translation from a physical game to the digital game, the one piece that's been missing has been that feeling of autonomy, that opportunity to be smart, and the empowerment that comes from buying, owning, and selling cards in your collection. That’s not possible with Web 2.0, but the development of Web3 technologies like NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which enable true ownership over digital collectibles, is a literal game-changer.

I’m really proud of our game, The Emergents TCG (Trading Card Game), which is based in the Emergents Superhero Universe. It’s being built by some of the best game designers I've had the pleasure to work with, during my many years in the industry. We’ve created a marketplace where we will buy cards back from you the same way a store would, but for a significant portion of their market price. You’ll also have the ability to go to the secondary market and sell your cards yourself, or – *gasp* – trade them with a friend. You can even level your cards up, add some really cool chrome, unlock variant art versions and then sell them. You have the power. We want you to have the ability to play our game the way people have played Magic, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Pokemon for the last three decades in the real world. Go into a store, buy the cards you need, sell the cards that you don't want, then enjoy yourself.

I want our players to feel excited and empowered, and to feel ownership, like they’re really participating in something, not just paying for a transient experience

To mark the launch of the Emergents TCG Public Beta on August 11th we did a special drop, which we called The Super Booster Flash Sale. Packs contained exclusive art versions of cards that will never be available anywhere else in the game, including early access to cards that won’t be released more widely for months. There were special one-of-a-kind "1st minted" editions of every card, and digital comics, alongside digital cosmetics like avatars and playmats, all of which can be used to customize your game experience. You can even go to secondary markets like Objkt and Rarible and sell the components off individually – just like you can with physical games.

As part of the same drop we also gave away two dozen pieces of original comic book artwork from the comics we've produced around the Emergents Superhero Universe. Winners received an NFT, redeemable for a piece of original, unique, physical, artwork – the original one-of-one collectible.

With experiences like this, I hope that the Emergents TCG will bridge the gap between the physical trading card experience and the virtual world of the game itself. I want our players to feel excited and empowered, and to feel ownership, like they’re really participating in something, not just paying for a transient experience that has no life outside of the gameplay. Exactly like I did, playing Magic, all those years ago.

I hope to play a game of The Emergents TCG against you real soon. I have a sweet Tinkerer deck I’m dying to play!


Brian David-Marshall has been working in the world of trading card games and comic books since the 1990s. He is the founder of Interpop, a Web3 entertainment company that creates comics and games on the energy-efficient Tezos blockchain. Interpop’s latest game, ‘The Emergents TCG’, was released as a Public Beta on August 11th.

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