Yu-Gi-Oh and Counterfeiting: A Brief History
by, 01-18-2015 at 03:00 PM (799 Views)
We were all surprised by the recent news of serial numbers tying specific dice to card rarity in the Yu-Gi-Oh set. The move was made without warning and was certainly unexpected.
Just as unexpected, though certainly far more welcome, was WizKid's response to a question from a Facebook user stating that the numbering was going to be unique to the Yu-Gi-Oh set. But why? They did not say.
Well, we have a theory.But first, a little background.
The Yu-Gi-Oh CCG's entry to the US market wasn't too dissimilar from that of another popular CCG - Pokémon. The Pokémon trading card game was distributed in the US not by the company that originated the game, but by Wizards of the Coast via an agreement. Konami's partner in distribution for YGO (I hope that fans of the game/anime/manga aren't offended by that abbreviation, it's a pain to type) was Upper Deck, a company mostly known for baseball cards - growing up, I had many from them in my collection - that has now published a couple of excellent deckbuilding games using the Legendary system.
However, there were soon problems. Konami accused Upper Deck of producing and distributing cards that they weren't authorized to make use of. Konami filed suit; as often occurs, Upper Deck filed a countersuit. Things got a little bit ugly and the battle spread to all markets where Upper Deck was handling distribution.
It turns out that it was no small thing that Upper Deck was accused of doing. Ultimately, in court proceedings, Upper Deck "admitted in depositions to printing and importing to the U.S., approximately 611,000 unauthentic Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG cards, which violated trademark, copyright and unfair competition laws." (Source)
It was also discovered that "employees of the Upper Deck Company, including its Chairman, Richard McWilliam, participated in a 2008 meeting ... where they discussed that the cards made without authorization by Upper Deck did not look authentic enough, and where Upper Deck’s chairman then shredded samples of the counterfeit cards."
The countersuit was tossed.
This was a pretty significant event in the YGO world, as one would imagine. There is even a page in the YGO wiki about the issue. And the counterfeit cards? As you might expect, they were rares. Specifically, they were showcased in multipacks of boosters as an enticement for purchase.
While Konami is far from the only company to deal with counterfeit issues in their CCGs, they may be unique in being victimized by a business partner. This quote from one of the press releases really stands out to me, especially in consideration of the serial number move:
I think it is quite likely that additional controls on the authenticity of cards and dice were a part of the licensing agreement with Konami for this game - just another of the "great lengths" that they will take in order to protect the integrity of their intellectual property. WizKids generally has narrow parameters on what they get to do with the IPs that they have access to. This is why many of their board games specifically involve Clix - many of their agreements limit WizKids access to Clix-related things."This ruling shows Duelists, distributors and our hobby and retail partners the great lengths we will go to protect the integrity of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG and the products that are on store shelves."
TL;DR - In this case, we at The Reserve Pool assert that WizKids is doing what it must to keep Konami happy. It serves their ability to keep relations friendly for the Yu-Gi-Oh Heroclix line, and it enables them to give this set a try.