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Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage
aka: Promotional Powerless Pieces Of Garbage
You've seen it. A special trading card gets released. There's only one copy of it in existence, it's got flashy holofoil all over it, it's worth millions...the question is, is it actually useful in the card game? Hell, no. That million dollar card or item or whatever costs a lot and is a prime collector's item, but it's useless.

Promotional Powerless Pieces of Garbage are one of the more infuriating types of Revenue Enhancing Devices when they are sold and purchased in Real Life.

On the other hand, if all of the Revenue Enhancing Devices are like this, cheapskate gamers may appreciate the subversion of Bribing Your Way to Victory.

See also: Bragging Rights Reward and Power-Up Letdown. Compare CCG Importance Dissonance. Contrast Power Equals Rarity. If it's obtained infrequently at random instead of as a special promotion, it's a Junk Rare.

Examples

  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has plenty of em'.
    • The Card of Sanctity banishes every last card on your field and in your hand, all so you can draw a measly 2 cards. Yeah, that's useful. It had a much more useful effect in the anime: both you and your opponent draw cards until you have 6 each.
    • The "Blue Eyes Shining Dragon" who can only be summoned by sacrificing Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon, who in turn can only be summoned by fusing three Blue Eyes White Dragons. The kicker? At the time it came out, you couldn't even summon it, since BEUD didn't come out until almost a year and a half later. After that it did turn out to be marginally useful but that does not excuse the time when it was useless.
    • Tongue Twister, a TCG-only card created in a contest with weak stats and an effect that lets you draw two cards...only after it leaves the field after it was successfully Tribute Summoned. To quote another duelist, this fills players with DUELIST RAGE!
    • Victory Dragon - if you defeat an opponent with it in any one round of a tournament-standard "two out of three" game, it counts as winning all three rounds. Unfortunately, the rules allow your opponent to forfeit the round to you just before it attacks, making its effect worthless.
    • The original "God cards" were literally powerless, thanks to the text right on them that said they can't be used in a game, and essentially blank ATK and DEF values for two of the three. Regardless, at the time of their initial release in the states, they were being thrown around for $30-50 each, mostly thanks to the poor kids who wanted them for... you know, playing against their friends. At least one card shop owner refused to deal in them, because he felt too many other dealers were basically exploiting gullible kids with those.
    • The promo card you got when you went to see Bonds Beyond Time, which had a limted theatrical run to say the least? Malefic Red Eyes Black Dragon. Which is better than most of the cards above... but the problem was that it was released after two more powerful Malefic promos in Shonen Jump and a mass-release pack full of stronger Malefics, meaning better options were all-too-readily available. To make matters worse, Malefic Red Eyes Black Dragon was also in said pack, just printed in a different rarity... Which makes it both a Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage and a Junk Rare!
    • For Europe, a lot of the Shonen Jump magazine and manga promotional cards have now been deemed illegal for use in TCG events due to a new ruling by Konami saying that only cards that have been printed in that country can be used. Several years ago when the TCG first came out, cards from the American boosters were banned outright in tournaments until Upper Deck/Konami removed that ruling. Long story short, atop of other things it means that the Legal God Cards are now banned in Europe until Konami prints them in a booster pack.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the first generation, Porygon costs 9999 coins (6500 in the Blue version... lucky bastards) to buy. And the only way to get a lot of coins is to gamble them or buy them (1000 yen for 50 coins). All this for a generally useless Pokemon. Porygon later got two evolutions added to it which are significantly more useful, but by then you didn't have to buy it for obscene amounts of coins anymore (in Platinum you get one for free).
    • Also in the first generation, Farfetch'd, who is useless (except for being taught HM moves so they can be used out of battle), but there's only one of him in the whole entire game, except in Yellow, which has them in the wild south of Lavender Town (though it isn't that common of an encounter). About as much use as you'd expect a duck wielding a leek to be. At least it's easy enough to get a Spearow to trade for it. For what it's worth, this was intentional; as Farfetch'd is based on a Japanese proverb about a duck carrying a leek, both ingredients in duck soup. The proverb can be taken to mean a lucky opportunity like finding duck and leek together (being able to get a rare Farfetch'd for an incredibly common Spearow), or being a sucker like the duck that's just begging to be eaten.
    • Ancient Mew in the Pokémon trading card game, pictured above. Holographic foil, special artwork, movie tie-in, the lot. Except that it's written in runes, the backing is non-standard (so it's obvious which one it is in a deck), and if you actually get it translated, it only has 30 HP and only does 40 damage. Hilariously, translations shows it's just a warped version of a similarly useless Mew card already in existence. And the original print of the card was a misprint which can go for a lot of money.
    • The Base Set Charizard was like this, easily going for upwards of 50 dollars for a regular one and over 100 or 150 for a first-edition print. Despite that, the card was miserable in play, requiring four energy (which could be mitigated a bit) to deal 100 damage, then forced you to discard 2 energy cards. Suffice it to say, weakness to Water wasn't the only reason that Blastoise completely beat it back in the day. Most Charizard cards are similar, with the exception being the relatively cheap, comparatively boring Charizard from the Arceus expansion (now rotated out) and, to a lesser extent, the one from Boundaries Crossed.
    • Could be good if it weren't banned (but not on the game-breaking level that would deserve a banning): the infamous "Birthday Pikachu". 50 HP, and its lone attack costs two lightning energy and does a flat 30 damage, unless it's the user's birthday, in which case they flip a coin and the attack deals an additional 50 damage if it's heads. Apparently, Wizards decided that it would be easier to just ban the thing outright instead of adopting a "proof or it's not your birthday" policy (which would result in all tournaments being won by players born on the day of the tournament).
    • The Pokemon Company decided to actually go Up to Eleven on this trope, and release cards that are literally powerless and useless. Every year the First, Second, and Third place finishers at the World Championships each receive a numbered Trainer card, which simply invites them back to the tournament for the following year. Although playing it would have literally no effect whatsoever on the game state, it is VERY cool nonetheless, and regularly sells for over $7,000. "If you won this card at the 20XX Pokemon Trading Card Game World Championships, you may return to battle the best in 20XX+1...CONGRATULATIONS!"
    • The special Event Pokémon given away at Nintendo events tend to avert this, due to the Pokemon being given away generally being one of two things: a really powerful Legendary Pokémon or a regular Pokémon with a unique move on it (e.g. Surfing Pikachu.)
      Of course, there has been one example of this: the Spiky-Eared Pichu in HG/SS - a baby Pokémon that, while cute, has awful stats, can't even evolve or be traded/transferred to any other games at all, and doesn't even come with any unique features aside from a slightly deformed ear. To further rub salt in the wound, Spiky-Eared Pichu was given out in the United States while the actually-useful and popular Celebi was given out everywhere else. All of these have easily made this one Pichu The Scrappy.
    • From June 17 to July 7, 2011, McDonald's gave away one of twelve Generation V Pokémon trading cards with one of eight toys. However, none of the cards have more than 100 HP or an attack with more than 60 base power. Relatedly, McDonald's also had a give away of the aforementioned Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. All of them were useless at best.
  • The in-game reward for finding incredibly rare cards in the World of Warcraft card game (or buying them for equally incredible amount of money) is always a novelty item with no benefit to put the finder above the resources available to other players.
    • Note that this is actually intentional, Blizzard doesn't want player paying real life money for things that will affect the quality of actual combat, hence novelty is all they'll ever release. An active aversion to Bribing Your Way to Victory.
  • One of the Mega Man X games came with a promotional card for Decipher's Mega Man TCG — a Navi card of X. Unfortunately, this card had no effect, had the exact same stats as another Navi card (Bass), and did not have any added compatibility with any cards in the game. There was nothing you could do with X that you couldn't do just as well (or better) with Bass. And that's ignoring the fact that the card game in question tanked.
  • Holiday items in MMORPGs in general will never be given out ever again past a certain date. Among players, these items are worth millions of gold (or whatever the currency is) since they're so rare, but NPCs will only pay one or two coins for them, since they're worthless.
    • EVE Online takes this a step further with its zero-damage Snowball Launchers, released around Christmas: they use special ammo of which each player is given a limited amount, and the snowballs all permanently melt at a set date, rendering the launchers even MORE useless. Zigzagged since at least 2012, when some of the free gifts range from worthless inside jokes to useful battlecruisers and valuable implants.
    • Atlantica Online averts it: two mercenaries which are only available in certain events are actually very useful: the Puppeteer can remove stun and freezing effects from an ally without using up her turn, and the Warlord supports your hero and is incredibly effective against enemy heroes or bosses. Another mercenary, the team-supporting Patriot, can be obtained outside of events, but only via one of the hardest quests in the whole game which require you to be level 150 to begin with, so events which offer him as a prize tend to be popular.
    • Ace Online holiday items are less useless off-season, averting this trope somewhat:
      • Old Valentine's Chocolates are eternally edible, and are between A and B type Shield Kits in effectiveness.
      • Thanksgiving Turkeys have equal amounts of eternal life, and will always provide their 5 minute's 5% buffs.
      • Christmas 2008, New Year's 2009 and Bloody Valentine's 2009 Present Components, Holographic components, and Broken Valentines will have their recipes permanently effective. The completed presents and Valentine's Event Mystery Capsules can be opened any time, and the Event-exclusive marks will always work as a decoration.
      • Leftover event components may play this straight, if the leftovers in the server don't make enough to form one last Event Capsule or Mark.
    • Kingdom of Loathing plays with this this: Though are many useless holiday and event items, many of them are actually genuinely useful. Lampshaded with the Crimbo-only Pet Rock familiar, which LITERALLY doesn't do anything. Made an annual tradition with the functionally identical Toothsome Rock, Weighted Companion Cube Bulky Buddy Box, and Holiday Log. And lampshaded even further with the O.A.F., a familiar which could only be gotten for one day by trading 100 of an item. The O.A.F. actually HURTS you in various ways.
  • There are a few in Magic: The Gathering, though thankfully they're not money-making BS but rather one-of-a-kind prizes.
    • Most aren't. Several were given away as promotions with books; all but one (Mana Crypt) fit this trope. One unique card was given at the opening of Wizards' first store in Japan. One was given to the 1997 World Champion. Three more were given to Richard Garfield to commemorate his proposal and wedding and the birth of his first child. Sometimes, Wizards has given its employees Unglued-style foil promotional cards at Christmas.
  • Battlefield 2142 came with some exclusive new weapons that you could only get if you preordered or bought it from a certain store. However these new guns had the exact same stats as the guns they replaced, basically making them reskins, and the fact that their in-game models were a lot bigger than normal meant having the original gun would be better as it wouldn't block the screen so much.
  • MapleStory has a history of both playing this straight and averting it horribly. First, there's playing it straight — there's the Maplemas/Versalmas Hat, which apart from looking funny and giving a little Magic Defense, gave you little else in comparison to other fun hats. Then there's the iTCG (interactive Trading Card Game) — the first few boosters gave little pieces of 'useless' scrap (which could, in the right combinations, give you a manual that could be used to make something AWESOME), but then the later boosters gave you items that were either low-level but high-power for their level (but in turn could only be upgraded by Bribing Your Way to Victory with a PET), really high-level, or once again really crummy and with a very iffy chance of being able to upgrade to something higher (at the cost of some items, and with the chance that the inept Captain Ersatz might actually break the thing — but how do you break a cape, anyways?) . . . and then there's AVERSIONS.
    • Gelt Chocolates. You could only get them at Christmastime by participating in a Hannukah quest where you gathered altar pieces which dropped infrequently. However, you are well-rewarded because these little pieces of candy give you 120 Weapon Attack and Defense EACH, plus it makes you more accurate, dodge more, and able to jump higher. Needless to say, they are some of the most sought-after seasonal items in the game, right up there with a Halloween candy called a Heartstopper which does a nerfed version of this.
    • The aforementioned really high-level iTCG items, some of which happen to be able to be upgraded further. Then there's the items you could get from the manuals you redeemed the pieces of junk to get — such as a Level 20 shield with 20 in both Weapon AND Magic Defense, a real blessing for classes like the Thief, which don't tend to get much in the way of Magic Defense, and the Antellion Miter, a golden hat (that admittedly makes you look like a bullet) that gives hefty amounts of the same stats as the aforementioned shield, with added MP thrown in for good measure.
    • They also did a promotion involving 7-Eleven where if you bought a slushie or something you got a code to redeem in one of Nexon's 3 games — in Mabinogi, you got a set of potions. In another game, you got something even more useless. But in Maple Story you got a coupon for double EXP for a couple of hours. Needless to say, Maple Story got the best deal out of the three.
  • Ragnarok Online got a lot of useless but cool looking and hard to get headgear. For example, there is the Boy's Cap, which doesn't do too much in the line of defense, but is extremely hard to get. The player had to beat a certain boss monster, hoping that it'll drop a certain rare item, and the player must collect five of that rare item, only for a cap that'll make your character look like a badass delinquent. Though, with RO being a sprite based game, the only customizable thing from your character sprite is your head. Each priest will looks like another priest except for his hairstyle, hair color, and his headgear. So RO being a literal Planet of Hats is understandable.
  • Team Fortress 2 has had promotional items for Alien Swarm, Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Left 4 Dead 2, Killing Floor, Monday Night Combat, Poker Night at the Inventory, Worms: Reloaded, Rift, Total War Shogun 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and many others along with items tied to assorted holidays and other events. Trading values vary wildly based on alleged "rarity", from the nigh-worthless-yet-cool-looking (Ellis' Cap, Alien Swarm Parasite), to downright-ugly-yet-expensive (Max's Severed Head, the jiggly Christmas Tree hat). The most ridiculous is the Hat of Undeniable Wealth and Respect, earned by completing every single objective in the Steam Treasure Hunt: owned by only about 500 people worldwide, and each one costing over $400 in Steam games to obtain.
    • The RIFT weapons are particularly notable - they do have unique effects (unlike the other promos), but they... kinda suck. They were a baseball bat replacement that dealt more damage to enemies who are on fire but less to enemies that aren't and can only be used by a class that can't ignite enemies, and an axe that can ignite enemies but can only be used by a class that has an infinitely-better flamethrower. However, you can still get them without buying the game, and the latter is the only way for that class to ignite someone in Medieval Mode.
    • The Shogun and Deus Ex packs avert when it comes to weapons, which all have unique effects, most of which are at least usable.
  • During the early days Neopets had began selling real life products (such as plushies, stickers and school supplies, then later trading cards and other toys), most products came with a promotional note or card with Virtual Prize Codes printed on them, which members of the site can enter to gain a free item of some sort. The problem comes in that the item in question is random, with some appearing for almost every Prize Code while others don't appear at all (one of the more common booby prizes being the Scorchio Bank). Nearly all of these items are completely useless for anything other than to show off or to sell, and with how frequently some of these items popped up, it was much easier to shell out a reasonable amount of NP for the item if you really wanted it rather than buy the real merchandise in hopes of getting lucky. They were getting a little better as time went on and more items could be obtained through the Prize Codes, but not by that great of a margin.
  • EVE Online players who purchased the retail box got the Interbus Shuttle, a gold reskin of the Gallente Shuttle with double cargo room. It's still a shuttle, which means it's useless in combat, and even with the extra cargo space it's 1/5 of the cargo a frigate can carry while still being useful in combat. The Apotheosis shuttle given out for the 4th anniversary event has the same problems, but at least it has a cool original model.
  • Star Pirates creates items for occasions sometimes. These are generally useful, but not as useful as the scarcity causes the market price to be.
  • Some extra-expensive editions of Titan Quest came with special codes that you could use to "unlock extra content". The extra content? Certain armor sets that spontaneously appear at your feet. Sets that require you to be level 30 or above... and are ridiculously underpowered at that level. Looks nice, but... fortunately the codes can be found on the Internet if you want to see what you might've paid good money for.
  • The Tomb Raider CCG has one of these as well. The "Lara Croft: Goddess" card is an extremely overpowered promotional card from the original set (card #000). In addition to being a Power 1 character (thus playable from the start) and having a score of 5 in all four stats (a mixture of 2s and 3s is far more common), the card also satisfies all requirements necessary to upgrade it with further stat-enhancing cards. Unfortunately for the buyer who pays the asking price without fully reading the card, it expressly forbids you from using it unless your name appears in the game credits. Good luck with that one.
  • Inverted by Steve Jackson Games's Munchkin, in which every merchandising tchotchke — even free stuff, even t-shirts and bobble-heads — grant some in-game bonus.
  • The first Digimon CCG, Digital Card Battle, had a set of promotional cards released to coincide with the North American release of Digimon: The Movie. Two cards released were Infermon and Diablomon, from the second movie. Diablomon evolves from Infermon, while Infermon evolves from Chrysalimon; Chrysalimon (and its pre-evolution Keramon) didn't get a card at all until a few expansions later, making these two cards completely useless until then.
  • For Hellgate: London multiplayer subscribers, Flagship Studios touted a rather small selection of pets that could Randomly Drop. They had marginal to no use, and amounted to Small Annoying Creatures who made the Most Annoying Sounds.
  • Runescape has an in-game flagstaff given to everyone who bought a ticket to RuneFest, an event similar to Blizzard's BlizzCon. It doesn't give any bonuses but it can set off fireworks (which normally only appear when you level up).
    • Try mentioning the "party hat" to most Runescape players. Party hats were paper crowns found inside Christmas Crackers that you pulled with another player. The Cracker popped open, and one player got a random item, the other player got the party hat. This was way back to 2001, so as of now, July 2010, the current price of the most expensive color, a blue party hat, is about 530 million gold. As of 2013, the party hats are now in the billions range in terms of cost. Just to drive home how much that is, that's more than the Grand Exchange limit, and several thousand dollars in real life.
    • Averted by the Katana and Lightning Staff, which were given out as a reward for joining the Premiere Club at the start of 2013. The items can be freely toggled between several 'tiers'; sets of stat bonuses on par with other gear of the accompanying level requirement, so players can show to item off and get some worthwhile use out of it no matter their level.
    • Also, lately, Jagex has been putting a lot of cosmetic items on the Squeal of Fortune (Squeal itself resulting in a Broken Base). Things like the Queens Guard outfit, or the Dragon Ceremonial outfit. Completely useless, untradeable, no combat benefits, etc. Worst of all, the chance to get a piece of the set is completely random. It's not unheard of to have players spend real-world money on spins for the Squeal of Fortune, just to get the whole set. The only benefit to having the whole set is that it helps players avoid the Rummage Sale Reject look.
  • LEGO produces a few promotional Star Wars minifigures every year. Chrome Gold C-3PO makes at least somewhat sense, as he is shiny chrome in the movies and the normal edition figures of him are regular pearl plastic, but Chrome Darth Vader? Okay, he looks shiny sometimes. Chrome silver Stormtrooper? Ahem... There were invisible Stormtroopers in The Force Unleashed that sometimes recharged and looked chrome silver-like. 14kt solid gold Boba Fett? There isn't much to do than to show off in your forum with a picture of you and him at a restaurant table or plainly sell him for over 9000 bucks to somebody else to do it for you.
    • The most triumphant example would be the chrome gold minifigure keychain. A regular LEGO keychain gets utterly wrecked by normal use in jeans and loses printing, gets round edges and completely loses joints. Chrome figures lose their chrome just from being displayed on your shelf. If you want to use the chrome gold figure for that it only takes three weeks at best before it regresses back to a tan figure.
    • Not really promotional, only given to die-hard fans that happen to know somebody who works for LEGO, but sometimes first production wave parts get released to public. These parts were test-cycles to the molds to see if there are some bumps or raspy areas and normally go straight to cremation because they are garbage. Now, would you think anybody would give a damn about a green knight helmet ($7), red Darth Vader helmets ($50) or an orange ghost ($280)?
  • Nintendo's Robotic Operating Buddy, which was included with the rare NES Deluxe Set, to promote the system as a "toy" after The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. It only had two games made for it, and it barely functioned.
  • In the Rage CCG, each set had a few foils in it that came one per booster box or so and ONLY came in foil version. The War of the Amazon set was badly underprinted making its foils exceptionally hard to collect. One of them, the Conquistador's Sword, removed 2 of the other 4 Amazon foils from the game... and that was all it did. Despite being a sword, it couldn't even be used as a weapon! Why it didn't work on the other two Amazon foils is also a mystery...
  • Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 both have promotional figures, mainly for gamesday, magazine subscriptions and other events. Most notably are the figures given out for the White Dwarf subscription and the White Dwarf anniversary figures. While the White Dwarf Anniversary figure (which is a statue of the titular White Dwarf being born upon a shield carried by two other famous dwarves from Warhammer lore) does actually have rules, it was released in a plated gold version (which is valued at one point to be 400 dollars by collectors). This however rendered it illegal for play, since it had no basing and only one color (while you could paint it, you can also buy a white-pewter version just for much less), not to mention its rules were unofficial for tournament games anyhow. White Dwarf subscription models often came on round bases (which made them illegal for fantasy), but are obviously dwarves (which have no rules in 40k ever since the infamous Squats fiasco). Didn't help that they tend to have crossover parts with 40k, making them unsuited for Fantasy Tournament play since you'd either have to convert the model so much that it'll be near-indistinguishable from a standard one or buy a normal model.
    • Games Workshop also usually gave out Christmas models to it's higher up employees, and often release in-house rules for these models (most notable is the Ogre Slaver model). However due to the exclusiveness of these models (literally only GW Employees could get them) they are worth quite the premium on the net if they were ever to be sold, but almost no one would have ever heard about their rules (not to mention them being illegal again for tournament play).
    • Averted [usually] with the promotional Games Day models, most of which are properly based and legal for play.
  • The baseball bat in Left 4 Dead 2 was given to players that pre-ordered the game. While it is a decent melee weapon, it is held back by several factors. One, if a player that obtained the bat plays with people that didn't pre-order the game, the bat is made available to the whole group, which kills the exclusivity of the bat. Two, because all melee weapons have the same killing power and are only differentiated by reach and swing speed, the bat isn't anything special and is basically the same as the katana with a different skin. Third, The Passing DLC made the bat be open to all players (regardless if they had pre-ordered the game or not) and the weapon no longer spawned at the start of the map.
  • Hawken has the special Vanguard Cupcake mech, exclusive to players that purchased the Vanguard Initiative pre-order packs. While by no means useless, it is generally regarded as the weakest of the Heavy mechs due to its weapons not complementing each other (its primary weapons are all direct-hit continuous fire, while its secondary fires arcing projectiles).
  • Inverted in Cards Against Humanity, where the more absurd a card is, the more useful it is. Depending on the players.
  • The Etaranger clan in Cardfight!! Vanguard is basically the cameo/promotional clan of the game. It's not that the card effects are bad, but mixed-clan decks carry a whole set of disadvantages and there are not enough Etaranger cards to make a dedicated deck.
  • Zigzagged by Star Trek CCG (First Edition)'s Fajo Collection. It's a premium set (at a premium price), and while some of the cards fall into this category, others are Lethal Joke Items (or Lethal Joke Characters—Spot, anyone?), and still others are very useful in the decks they're meant for. The most decorative card in the set ("Qapla!", which is all in Klingon and looks like it belongs to a completely different game) subverts it by being a powerful card in personnel battle.


Prestigious Player TitleGame TropesSanity Meter
Promoted to PlayableVideo Game RewardsRegional Bonus
Prestigious Player TitleCollectible Card GamePower Creep
Natural WeaponImageSource/Tabletop GamesTarot Cards

alternative title(s): Promotional Powerless Pieces Of Garbage
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