To celebrate Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, exclusive cards are being packaged into McDonalds Happy Meals. Unfortunately, it’s turned into a mess.
Late 2020 saw the beginning of the Pokémon Trading Card Game‘s resurgence in popularity, and early 2021 is revealing the less savory elements of this rise. On the back of celebrities dropping unfathomable amounts of money on vintage Wizards of the Coast cards, the modern TCG sets are seeing renewed mainstream attention as well.
With ballooning prices and rampant shortages, Pokémania on the TCG side of the franchise has seemingly returned. However, it’s mainly being propelled by the wealthiest of adult fans with the disposable income and means to hunt these cards. For a while, it was innocuous, albeit frustrating, behavior. Now though, a Pokémon McDonalds promotion has come into these collectors’ crosshairs, and it feels a lot less fun.
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The promotion itself is a standard fast-food collaboration. To celebrate Pokémon‘s 25th anniversary, McDonalds is including special TCG packs in its Happy Meals. This is a fairly common practice. Nintendo is holding a similar promotion at Burger King, giving away toys based on popular Switch games, from Animal Crossing: New Horizons to Luigi’s Mansion 3.
But, that promotion isn’t happening in the same context as the Pokémon promotion. With exclusive designs and holographic cards, collectors are preying on the Pokémon craze to flip a major profit on these Happy Meal toys. Now, adults are showing up to McDonalds and clearing out entire locations, reselling the packs online for ridiculous sums. It’s manipulative behavior that’s not only trying to capitalize on a trend, but capitalize on the fact that McDonalds isn’t prepared to counter this.
Fast food toy lines tend to become collector’s items, but they’re rarely strained to this degree. While some stores are trying to regulate people’s Happy Meal purchases, it’s a losing battle. If dedicated retail sites are unable to stop the rampant scalping of PlayStation 5s and Xbox Series units, expecting McDonalds to reign this practice in is unrealistic.
Scalping in the gaming industry has become a massive issue recently, but it’s always been a problem where Nintendo is concerned. From hardware to amiibo, fans have become unfortunately accustomed to these practices. But scalping is especially pernicious and ubiquitous right now. As COVID-19 continues to impede production of various goods and components, scalpers are nefariously bottle-necking already throttled goods for absurd profit.
While it’s infuriating for boutique consumer electronics to be scalped, it’s downright sad for this to happened with a promotion aimed at children. Pokémon is a series that all ages can enjoy, but it certainly skews younger. Many of the adults feverishly buying up these cards fell in love with the series as kids themselves. It’s during these early years that Pokémon feels the most magical and exciting, and it’s during these years that getting a Happy Meal after school is the best end to the day. The only thing that could make it better is getting some Pokémon cards with your chicken nuggets.
However, that experience is being yanked away by adult collectors. Not everyone is scalping, of course. Some fans are buying the cards in bulk to get full collections because they love Pokémon, something that is a lot more justifiable and a lot less nefarious. This behavior still cuts against the spirit of the event, though. What should’ve been a fun anniversary celebration for younger fans has become a scalping disaster, which is a total shame.
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