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Cookie Jar Entertainment conjures up the real from the virtual

June 10, 2008 |  1:42 pm

It's a TV show. It's a game. It's a trading card. Wait, it's all of the above.

Cookie Jar Entertainment, the Toronto-based producer of the children's cartoon series "Caillou" and "Arthur," is jumping into the newly hot trading card business. The cards, slated to land on store shelves in August, will contain codes to unlock virtual items in Cookie Jar's free online game, Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands. The game itself is based on the animated TV show "Magi-Nation," which began airing on the Kids WB channel last fall.

"It's part of our online, on-air, on-show strategy," said Ken Locker, Cookie Jar's senior vice president of digital media.

Before you say trading cards are so last-century, take a look at ...

... who else is dealing them out. Webkinz, a sensation among the elementary school set, sells collectible trading cards that can be used in tandem with its online game. Viacom's NeoPets in Glendale has been pushing cards attached to plush toys -- the cards have codes to unlock virtual items. Nexon, a Korean company that hosts free-to-play online games, has made a small fortune selling gift cards at Target stores, where it is the second-best-selling card after iTunes cards. It also has a trading card game to accompany its MapleStory online game.

"The bigger trend is the marrying of online and physical worlds via toys that work in conjunction with the Internet," said Anita Frazier, an analyst with NPD Group. "This really stems from the realization that kids are spending a good portion of their free time hanging out online, playing. This is definitely an example of the old adage, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'!"

The Magi-Nation cards will be produced by 3 Point Entertainment, a San Diego company that also makes collectible items for World of Warcraft and Dragon Ball Z. It's a minor point of irony that the Magi-Nation brand began in 2000 as a good ol' card game. Unreal.

-- Alex Pham

Image: Magi-Nation TV animation series. Credit: Courtesy of Cookie Jar Entertainment