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Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage

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Good luck using a card you can't even read.

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, less wealthy gamers may appreciate the subversion of Bribing Your Way to Victory. Indeed, this is a lot of the balancing factor in making things exclusive to begin with; you need to make them valuable enough that people will show up to get one, but also inessential enough that the millions of people who can't make it aren't going to be annoyed at you. A common solution is making the item only cosmetically different from something more widely available.

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.


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    Card Games 
  • 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.
    • The first promo card released for Vanguard was Blaster Blade (PR/0001). Whilst this would be cool by any other means, this version of the card lacks all of the abilities that the normal Blaster Blade, which at the time you could easily obtain from the Trial Deck of the same name, has. There was also a version of it printed as an English-exclusive promo (PR/0000EN) which features the same art as the TD version, but in place of an ability, it's got a giant textbox with the engrishy wording of "The new era trading card game "Cardfight!! Vanguard" Check the official website!" with the website underneath.
  • Inverted in Cards Against Humanity, where the more absurd a card is, the more useful it is. Depending on the players.
  • 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 movie's second segment (the Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! movie in Japan). 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.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Most aren't money-making promotional pieces but rather one-of-a-kind prizes. 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 silly, Unglued-style foil promotional cards at Christmas. The Magic Rarities page and the MTG Salvation Wiki have good examples, but the best would have to be the DCI Legend Membership Poker Deck, a deck of 52 standard playing cards plus 2 jokers — the card backs are the same, and there's no rule that you can't play them.
    • For the game's thirtieth anniversary, they put out special edition booster packs featuring reprints of some of the game's most powerful cards (including the infamous Black Lotus). However, these cards would not be tournament legal (as their card backs were different from all other cards), the booster packs were randomized (which meant there was always a chance of missing a few cards from this set), and they could only be bought in sets of 4 boosters for $1000 U.S. dollars. While the intent was that people could collect these extremely rare cards without reprints disrupting the speculator market around their original printings, a majority of the playerbase called out Wizards for printing what were essentially very-expensive fake cards.
    • Secret Lair sets feature alternate artwork for existing cards, and can be used to release themed collections of cards with unique artworks and frames, including Crossovers with other intellectual property. These can also include low rarity cards that you can find for cheap. Whether the Secret Lair is worth the asking price will be tied to how much you value these alt-arts, because if you compare them with the regular cards' average price on the secondary market, you definitely won't be breaking even.
  • Magi-Nation came with a promo of Tony Jones, the main character and legendary hero. The card has below average energy for a hero, a weak starting hand, and because it's universal/colorless, you have to pay one extra energy for every non-universal card (other heroes get to pay the printed energy for any universal card or any card of the same color). It does have the ability to pay one less for spells, but that only mitigates the penalty for being universal.
  • Mega Man X: Command Mission came with a promotional card for Decipher's Mega Man TCG — a Navi card of X. Unfortunately, this card has no effect, has the exact same stats as another Navi card (Bass), and does not have any added compatibility with any cards in the game. There is nothing you can do with X that you can't do just as well (or better) with Bass. And that's ignoring the fact that the card game in question tanked.
  • 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.
  • In the Rage CCG, each set has 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, removes 2 of the other 4 Amazon foils from the game... and that's all it does. Despite being a sword, it can't even be used as a weapon! Why it doesn't work on the other two Amazon foils is also a mystery.
  • Pokémon:
    • Ancient Mew in the Pokémon trading card game, pictured above. Holographic foil, special artwork, a tie-in for the Pokémon 2000 movie, 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 is a misprint which can go for a lot of money.
    • The Base Set Charizard is like this, easily going for upwards of 120 dollars for a regular one and over 10000 or 20000 for a first-edition print. Despite that, the card is miserable in play, requiring four energy (which can be mitigated a bit) to deal 100 damage, then forcing you to discard 2 energy cards. Suffice it to say, weakness to Water isn'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), the Charizard from the "Team Up" expansion and, the Charizard from the "Vivid Voltage" expansion and to a lesser extent, the one from the Boundaries Crossed expansion.
      • However, there was a deck with the Base Set Charizard that used an Awesome, but Impractical combo with the Base Set Venusaur. The player would spend their turns building up Grass types on the bench (including the Venusaur), running very few actual Fire energy cards alongside Charizard. Then they would move Charizard to active position and use Venusaur's Energy Trans power to move Grass energy onto Charizard, use Charizard's Energy Burn power to convert it all to Fire, and sweep the enemy team. It was difficult to get off because it took a lot of build-up during which the enemy would just kill you.
    • 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 go the extra mile 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!"
    • 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.
    • The most over-the-top example of all, possibly in any card game, is the Illustrator card, given away to winners of a promotional art contest back in 1997. Only 23 of them were released, making the card absurdly valuable (ones in good condition sell for tens of thousands of dollars). As for its usefulness... it's formatted like a deck-usable card, but it does absolutely nothing. The (Japanese) text is just a congratulatory message for the contest winner.
  • Zigzagged by the 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.
  • 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.
  • The reward for finding incredibly rare cards in the now-defunct World of Warcraft CCG (or buying them for an equally incredible amount of money) is a code that can be redeemed for a World of Warcraft in-game item. However, it is always a novelty item with no benefit to put the finder above the resources available to other players. This was quite intentional, as Blizzard did not want players paying real-life money for advantages in the game, in an active aversion to Bribing Your Way to Victory.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG has plenty of 'em.
    • Similar to the Pokemon example above, McDonald's did a Yu-Gi-Oh! card giveaway in 2002. Most of the cards released were just the dregs of various Japanese sets that hadn't been released in one of the proper booster packs or starter decks yet. The rarest cards were Cosmo Queen and Millennium Shield, who were at least somewhat decent by high-level Normal Monster standards, but even in those days, that standard was looking increasingly shoddy. A second giveaway happened in the GX days, which had some mildly interesting cards originally released as promos in Japan, but still nothing particularly good.
    • The cards released with videogames tended to fall into this in the early days. One particularly nasty case was Metalzoa, the promo card for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom: a card that requires Metalmorph to be summoned, which was released a year prior as the promo for Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories. If you didn't buy that game as well (and keep in mind, they were for different consoles), Metalzoa was pretty much a shiny piece of foil. If you did buy it, you'd swiftly discover that Metalzoa is one of the worst "boss monster" cards ever printed.
    • Plenty of sets use "Token" cards as promos or giveaways, meant to represent monsters created by card effects like Scapegoat or Fiend's Sanctuary. They serve no real purpose, since one of the rules for Tokens is that you can use anything to represent a Token as long as it fits in a monster zone and your opponent lets it slide, with coins being a common pick. They don't even have any kind of text specifying that they have to be used with a given card, though their artwork often connects them to a given Token-generator. Effectively, all they do is make the board look a bit nicer.
    • The Blue Eyes Shining Dragon, given away at screenings of the Pyramid of Light movie, can only be summoned by sacrificing Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon, which 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 become marginally useful, but that does not excuse the time when it was useless.
    • 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. It's also banned in Advanced Format, which translates to being banned from virtually all official tournaments... and where, outside of a tournament, are you gonna find someone willing to play a Match?
    • Victory Dragon isn't the only card with a match-winning effect. Chances are, if you look up a promo card that's given away as a tournament prize, it'll be some stripe of match-winner. Unfortunately, Victory Dragon is by default the best, because all the others are illegal in any format.
    • The original Egyptian "God" Cards are literally powerless, thanks to the text right on them that said they can't be used in a game, essentially blank ATK and DEF values for two of the three, and the back of the cards were colored with each Monster's primary color instead of the standard brown. 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 Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time, which had a limited theatrical run to say the least? Malefic Red Eyes Black Dragon. Which is better than most of the cards above... but the problem is 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 are all-too-readily available. To make matters worse, Malefic Red Eyes Black Dragon is 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 been deemed illegal for use in TCG events due to a ruling by Konami saying that only cards that have been printed in that country can be used. 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, on top of other things, it means that the legal variant Egyptian God Cards are banned in Europe until Konami decides to print them in a booster pack.
    • Perhaps the embodiment of this trope: Case Toppers, usually available as preorder bonuses. A line of text at the bottom helpfully says "This card cannot be used in a Duel"... but really, any opponent willing to let you play with one of these is probably crazy anyway. And then there's the tournament-prize Giant Cards...
    • Kanan the Swordmistress was initially only given out to the winner of the 2003 World Championship, and wasn't given a wide release in international territories for nine years. It is... an utterly unremarkable 1400/1400 vanilla.
    • There exists a version of Black Luster Soldier that was given out as a prize for one of the very first tournaments. It is very possibly the rarest, most expensive card ever made. In spite of this, it's actually just a 3000/2500 vanilla, making it basically Blue-Eyes with different typing and almost none of the support. On top of that, it was printed on steel rather than cardstock, which makes it obvious which card it is (and probably makes it annoying to shuffle). But then, a card generally valued in the thousands probably isn't something you'd want to play, for the same reason that you wouldn't use a Rembrandt as a drink coaster.
    • Less rare but barely less impractical is a set of Blue-Eyes cards that were given away for the game's 20th anniversary to contest entrants. 830 were printed on solid silver, 500 were printed on gold. They don't even bother telling you that you can't use them in a Duel.

  • The annual event Record Store Day is known for its own limited edition releases, some of which became instantly collectible. This was initially welcomed by independent record stores as a way of attracting customers. However, several years into this, many stores regret their participation since they end up flooded with things they can't sell - whether this is major label reissues that the market was oversaturated with to start with (often on coloured vinyl), 12"s with badly received remixes, or releases by unknown indie bands who have seized the opportunity to get exposure. The releases that are generally sought after are quite often under-distributed and reach high prices on eBay. To make matters worse, it's quite common for people to queue up for hours only to not get what they were after. Many fans therefore choose to forego Record Store Day and bid on the items online, often driving the prices up even higher.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000:
    • Both games 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 renders it illegal for play, since it has 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 makes them illegal for Fantasy), but are obviously dwarves (which have had no rules in 40k ever since the infamous Squats fiasco). Doesn'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 its 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 for tournament play).
    • Averted [usually] with the promotional Games Day models, most of which are properly based and legal for play.
    • Inverted with the Unmounted Archaeon model given out as a Games Day model. While normally characters have prohibitively high costs for their deployment, Archaeon can mitigate that by not selecting a steed. Unfortunately, the only available Archaeon model is one with a steed. The Unmounted Archaeon model was only available during that promotion, so if you want to use the rules without Archaeon's steed, you have to (with great difficulty) convert your own or track down this model.

  • Convention-exclusive toys usually end up as this by nature - they can't have too many new parts without blowing the budget, they're meant for a very short run, and they can't be too desirable or people would be annoyed at them being limited to attendees or people willing to pay heavy markups. As a result, many exclusives end up being also-ran characters, mild variants of stuff you can find at retail (or even just retail figures with more impressive packaging), poorly built, or all of the above. A good example is The DCU Classics exclusive for San Diego Comic-Con 2010 - The Wonder Twins. Said set sold a figure of Gleek separately, which meant that even the people who wanted a Wonder Twins set were miffed at it. Those ugly, rubbery, poorly assembled Gleeks with about three moving parts can go for over a hundred dollars on the aftermarket!
  • LEGO:
    • LEGO produces a few promotional Star Wars minifigures every year. Chrome Gold C-3PO makes at least some 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?note  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 thousands of dollars 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 the public. These parts were test-cycles to the molds to see if there were some bumps or raspy areas, and normally go straight to cremation because they are... unusual. Examples include a green knight helmet ($7), red Darth Vader helmets ($50), and an orange ghost ($280).
  • Nintendo's Robotic Operating Buddy (usually shortened to R.O.B- the same one who you'll probably know from his appearance in Super Smash Bros. rather than the actual toy), 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 note , and it barely functions.

    Video Games 
  • 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 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.
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. Gamestop preorders and the European Limited Edition came with a free DLC plane — the F-4E Phantom II, almost always the first, statistically-weakest plane available to the player in every other game of the series. In a game where you start out with the F-16C Fighting Falcon, and other DLC planes include superfighters from previous games like Ace Combat 6's CFA-44 Nosferatu.
  • The Battle Cats has several cats exclusive to promotions which are rare, but completely useless. Their main use is as fodder for traps early in the Underground Labyrinth, so you can save your actual useful cats for the later floors.
    • Capsule Cat, Cat Bros, Squish Ball Cat, and Toy Machine Cat were given out through a promotion with real-life gachapon machines. All of them are next to useless in battle, so players who missed the promotion don't miss out — Capsule Cat is a One-Hit-Point Wonder with mediocre damage and a long recharge time, Cat Bros are a strictly worse version of the already-bad Bird Cat, Squish Ball Cat has low and unfocused stats, and Toy Machine Cat is just a bad version of Eraser Cat. Blue Ninja Cat also used to be among this group, but was later made available in recurring seasonal capsules.
    • There’s also Gummy Cat, a cat that was created to coincide with the release of The Battle Cats themed gummies and is one of the only cats in the game that can only be obtained by using real money. However, in battle, he’s useless since he has terrible attack and, while he has a ton of health for his cost, has 1000 knockbacks, meaning that he gets knockbacked after taking 1/1000th of his hp. He can’t even be used for a Zerg Rush since he has a long cooldown between spawns.
    • For the Shakurel Planet crossover, there are a total of 3 packs that you can buy that give you a unitThose being  along with a decent amount of Catfood (the game’s rare currency). The units themselves are terrible because, as detailed in this video, while all of them have good stats, fast attack rate and the ability to do Waves (extra attack that damages all enemies in range), it can’t make up for their melee range, long cooldown and the fact that there are cats that are leagues better at doing their roles, meaning that they’re only really useful at the early parts of the game. Not even their Wave Attacks, normally a game-changing ability, could save them.
    • Other crossovers aren't immune to this trope either. Collab events don't tend to come back very often, if ever, so the units from them are quite elusive. However, their power level varies a lot — the Neon Genesis Evangelion ubers are both rare and desirable, but the Metal Slug Defense ubers, despite their rarity, are some of the worst ubers in the game. Non-ubers get hit with this a lot harder — Pikotaro and Betakkuma may be very rare to see, but they're also next to useless in battle.
  • 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 have the exact same stats as the guns they replace, basically making them reskins, and the fact that their in-game models are a lot bigger than normal means having the original gun is better as it won't block the screen so much.
  • Diablo III. The bonus for pre-ordering the Deluxe Pack of the "Reaper of Souls" expansion? A pair of wings, a zombie dog that doesn't do anything and some recipes to make your items have visuals like the final boss. Also, there's the fact that you have more slots to create characters, which is a plus, but they really could do much better than measly visual things.
  • 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.
  • The preorder bonus character for Fate/Grand Order was Artoria Lily. Though treated as if she's at four-star rarity, her statline is abnormally low, being on par with most three-stars, and her skillset is almost completely unremarkable. It also wasn't initially possible to upgrade her Noble Phantasm, since you only got one copy of her ever. The "Saber Wars" event was one big lampshading of this, though it did finally allow players to max out her NP and gave her a Balance Buff to it as well, which moved her from "godawful" to "can at least fulfill some kind of purpose in a party."
  • 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).
  • Hearthstone released two special Legendary cards during its beta; Gelbin Mekkatorque and Elite Tauren Chieftain. A golden Gelbin was awarded to players who spent money during the closed beta, and a golden ETC was given to attendees at Blizzcon 2013. The cards cannot be opened in packs or picked in Arena, only crafted, and the golden versions cannot be obtained at all anymore. Both of them are nearly-useless Joke Characters with amusing but random (and often detrimental) effects, leaving them as nothing but bragging rights.
  • For Hellgate: London multiplayer subscribers, Flagship Studios touted a rather small selection of pets that can Randomly Drop. They have marginal to no use, and amount to Sidekick Creature Nuisance who make annoying sounds.
  • Kingdom Hearts χ zigzags this trope. It gives out several promotional items and deals, which may or may not be useful.
    • When Disney releases some form of media (such as a new movie), players will generally be given a costume piece for free to reflect it that plays this trope straight. The free movie giveaway items almost never do anything but look cute, and the few that can do something provide minor stat bonuses at best.
    • Averted with giveaways related to Kingdom Hearts and the game itself. The release day of Kingdom Hearts III saw every player get twelve thousand Jewels for free, and a March 2019 giveaway to celebrate the anniversary of Union X gave every player a number of Medal Draw Tickets equal to their current level.
  • 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 makes the bat open to all players (regardless if they had pre-ordered the game or not) and the weapon no longer spawns at the start of the map.
  • Some of the DLC armors in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are this, especially to players who are far into the game. While the Korok and Majora's Masks are always useful, the Phantom Armor and Midna's helmet, while having higher defense than the base stats of their equivalent base game items, can't be upgraded, making them quickly outmatched once you have the ability to upgrade those items. The Tingle outfit, meanwhile, doesn't even have better stats than the base-game obtainable Dark Link outfit that does the same thing (likely an intentional jab, given Tingle's trope-naming "popularity" and how NPCs recoil in horror when you approach wearing it).
  • 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, gives 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 can, in the right combinations, give you a manual that can 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.
  • Competition cartridges are often the video game version of this trope. Though they are often amongst the rarest and most expensive cartridges in any console collection (with the biggest example being the Nintendo World Championships cart, considered by some to be the most sought-after and valuable game in existence), the games themselves are usually just pared down-versions of much cheaper and more common retail games, with a timer to ensure you can only play a few minutes at a time.
  • No Man's Sky's pre-order ship, the Alpha Vector / Horizon Omega, falls into this because it only has 16 inventory slots (other ship classes can have 30 or more). Until the Path Finder update almost a year later you couldn't own multiple starships, and you couldn't buy inventory slots for your starships until the Synthesis update three years later!.
  • PlanetSide 2 has limited edition "flaregun" secondary weapons which are only sold for a few days each year. Halloween has the Candycannon, New Year's and the 4th of July have fireworks launchers, and Christmas has the snowball launcher. As actual weapons, they're all pretty useless (Candycannon slightly less so), due to poor damage, slow projectiles, and slow rate of fire. The fireworks launcher at least makes a cool light display and is great for "helping" friendly snipers. The Exception Weapons Directive, which grants you the pure black camouflage, requires players to get Auraxium medals on 5 limited-edition guns, which means that some players slog their way through 1160 kills on the miserable flareguns to complete it. They are the price of an actually usable weapon (1000 certs or $7).
  • Pokémon:
    • Event Pokémon given away at Nintendo events tend to avert this, due to the Pokémon being given away generally being one of two things: a really powerful Legendary or Mythical Pokémon or a regular Pokémon with a unique move on it (e.g. Surfing Pikachu). However, said Pokémon are more often than not banned in official tournaments; the latter moreso if it was released in a previous generation in a tournament that only allows Pokémon native to the current one.
    • The Spiky-Eared Pichu in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver - 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 (who was originally obtained in the area Spiky-Eared Pichu is now in) was given out everywhere else. Even if she was useful, she can't be traded to any other of the Gen IV games or transferred to Gen V, so if you got out of your way to get this Pichu, that effort becomes entirely moot. Her one use now is to be the one Pokémon that you're required to have in your party, so you can transfer all your other Pokémon to the later games rather than having to leave a Com Mon behind.
    • Starting with Pokémon X and Y, some event Pokémon have the exclusive moves Celebrate or Hold Hands, which do nothing in battle but display a cute animation.
    • Pokémon GO has cranked out a ridiculous number of limited-time hat-adorned Pikachus, and occasionally other Pokémon (usually Kanto starters or Eevee), over the years. Some are literal promotions—one had Luffy's signature sombrero, another was product placement for a fashion brand. Others are promos for ingame seasonal events—Santa hats for winter, sun hats and sunglasses for summer, etc. What they all have in common is uselessness. Many of these promotional Pikas can't evolve, and even if they can, Raichu rarely sees combat in this game, which prioritizes legendaries and pseudo-legendaries for raids and a handful of optimal mons for PvP battles. This goes double for those lucky enough to hatch a Pichu with a hat, or catch a shiny hat-Pikachu, or hatch a shiny hatted Pichu, as all of the above have much higher trade or trophy value un-evolved. It's especially frustrating with certain event Eevee who can't be evolved, since evolution is Eevee's main gimmick and Eeveelutions can be very useful in this game.
  • Ragnarok Online got a lot of useless but cool-looking and hard-to-get headgear, including as promotional items for quests and Cash Shop. While they're nice on your character, their usability, if any, tends to be less appealing, like only adding 1 point of stats and lacks a card slot, when there's an easier to obtain headgear that although doesn't really looks good, adds more stats and has a card slot. 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.
    • It's taken to more extreme level with the recent focus on "Costume" headgears in Cash Shop. They absolutely look cool and pretty on your character, but all of them have absolutely no effect at all, even if they're the "Costume" variant of headgears that DO have effect.
  • Runescape:
    • There is an in-game flagstaff that was 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 in 2001, and as of 2017, 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, based upon bond prices at the time, several thousand dollars in real life. Holiday items released after 2003 are untradable specifically to avoid the impact those old tradable holiday items had on the economy, and when the Old School legacy servers were released, the partyhats (alongside other tradable holiday items that suffer a similar problem in the main game) were given out in large quantities and reissued every year as opposed to being one-and-done rares.
    • 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.
    • Jagex puts a lot of cosmetic items on Treasure Hunter (and its predecessor, Squeal of Fortune, themselves 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 Treasure Hunter keys/Squeal of Fortune spins, 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.
  • Spellstone has the Arcblaze Dragon, an Epic card given out as a promotional reward. Unlike basically every card in the game barring Mythics and Champions, Arcblaze cannot combine with copies of itself to become stronger, so its skillset is pretty much completely useless. Interestingly, the game's code shows that a fully fused version of the card was once planned, but scrapped for unknown reasons.
  • Star Pirates creates items for occasions sometimes. These are generally useful, but not as useful as the scarcity causes the market price to be.
  • The Flash Speeder in Star Wars: Galaxies was given to players who participated in the beta testing of the game's first expansion, Jump to Lightspeed. The vehicle itself is mostly worthless, being slower than a common swoop or speederbike, and its only real value is in its infinite respawnability.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The game 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 are a baseball bat replacement that deals 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, which means the Scout has to steal kills from the classes that can to use as intended; and an axe that can ignite enemies but can only be used by the Pyro, who has many Flamethrowers that are infinitely better at the job. However, you can still get the Sun-On-A-Stick and the Sharpened Volcano Fragment without buying the game, and the latter is the only way for the Pyro 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.
    • The "Isolationist Pack" for scout and the "Isolated Merc" for Pyro, both based off the Alien: Isolation video game, are considered to be aversions. If Pyro is dressed as Ridley and Scout as the Xenomorph, they deal 4x bonus damage to each other with certain weapons (Scout's melee weapons and the Pyro's Nostromo Napalmer). To everyone else they act exactly like ordinary Pyros and Scouts, which is not considered a bad thing in this fandom.
    • Taken to absolutely baffling extremes with the coveted Golden Frying Pan. It's an extremely rare, gold-plated variant of the normal Frying Pan that turns killed enemies into gold statues. It does no more damage than the normal stock weapons, yet it costs several thousand dollars. Similar to this, there's the Saxxy (an Oscar parody given in the Source Film Maker awards for best video made with the engine to teams that participated in its creation) and the Golden Wrench (100 of which were given to random players to promote the Engineer Update). Like the frying pan, these don't do anything special besides creating golden corpses, but are extremely valuable, especially after many of the gold wrenches were intentionally discarded for a charity event.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • During the early years of Neopets' venture into 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 got 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.

Alternative Title(s): Promotional Powerless Pieces Of Garbage