Throwdown Primer – BIG GAME EDITION! Your Final Breakdown of Today’s Game Only Boosts!

I cant believe the last game of the year is today. The Super Bowl is a huge deal, but I am so sad that this is it for 2014. Over the last year, I have posted my thoughts on just about every one of the many throwdowns that have gone on, and now is time to close out the year.

Here are my thoughts on today’s Super Bowl, and how I think the game only boosts are going to play out.

Tom Brady – Patriots 30x

Funny how we have gone from 3x at the beginning of the season to 30x now. Brady is going to have his work cut out for him, but with Seattle’s main defensive stars being injured and banged up, it might play right into his hand.

Verdict: Vital Piece

Russell Wilson – Seahawks 30x

If you look at his performance in the championship game, it might have been the worst game of his career and he still won. With the defense nicked up, that is not going to be a possibility today. He will need to play lights out to win, and he is a guy that has done that many times. He didnt play great in the last Super Bowl, but definitely had a good game. He will need to go higher this time around.

Verdict: Vital Piece

Legarrette Blount – Patriots 30x

If there is one player I have zero confidence in, its Blount. Even with Belichick at the helm, I would guess Vereen gets more looks in the passing game than he gets in the running game. Belichick never plays to the strengths of the defense, and Blount is going to fall victim.

Verdict: Low Priority

Marshawn Lynch – Seahawks 30x

Im curious to see how he plays, as the Patriots are no pushovers in the running game during the playoffs. He could have a monster game, as the Pats had a bit of a soft spot during the year when stopping the run. Pick him up for sure.

Verdict: Vital Piece

Rob Gronkowski – Patriots 30x

On Saturday, he won the comeback player of the year, and for good reason. He was a monster, and he deserved the credit. I think that the Seahawks are the one team that can line up against him with success, but Earl Thomas is among the medically impaired this week. Gronk should play well if Brady plays well

Verdict: Vital Piece

Luke Willson – Seahawks 30x

Its going to be a long game and a lot of drives that end in punts or turnovers. Those are the games that Luke Willson always seems to be the survivor that comes out the other end with some huge catches.

Verdict: Worth Picking Up

Julian Edelman – Patriots 30x

When playing in big games, Edelman can disappear and that is a little scary. The thing is, Richard Sherman is going to be hurt, as is Kam Chancellor. This could me a little bit looser around the edges, and Edelman could excel.

Verdict: Worth Picking Up

Doug Baldwin – Seahawks 30x

There are a few players for the Seahawks that could mean the difference between winning and losing, and oddly enough, Baldwin is near the top of the list. He made some bone headed plays in the NFC title game, but also had a game saving reception. Baldwin NEEDS to step up with the physical Pats corners. The problem is that he may only have one big play, thus making this card less valuable.

Verdict: Worth Picking Up

Darrelle Revis – Patriots 30x

Defense is just too tough to play in Huddle, unless they create turnovers. Revis is more a blanket guy who prevents the QB from wanting to throw that direction. In that respect, I am not one to want to chase this card.

Verdict: Low Priority

Richard Sherman – Seahawks 30x

Sherman has had a pick in each of the last two games. I do not expect that to happen again, but crazier things have happened. Sherman has an elbow issue that could prevent him from being the physical bump and run type guy he has always been. Could mean that Brady can pick them apart more easily.

Verdict: Low Priority

Guys, that’s it. Thank you so much for checking in every Thursday and Monday, and I wish you all the best of luck. This is the one time everyone in Huddle should play along, and hopefully you will all have that opportunity.

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2014 Huddle Year in Review – An Obsessive Look At The Best and Worst Pt 5: Closing Out the Season

Since September, I have been heavily involved in all aspects of Huddle. Trading, points chase, collecting, and writing this site has been a part of my daily life for the last months like never before. Football is my main jam, which is why I was so much more invested in Huddle over other apps.

This series is a review of some of MY major threads from 2014, and I will obsessively breakdown anything and everything I can muster.

Part 5 – Closing Out the Season

As we close out this group of articles, its only fitting that we end with a discussion of the final days of the Huddle season. It has been a exhausting year, but easily one of the most fun experiences I have had on any game. Its been so much entertainment that my son has even gotten into it, using his own account to open packs and collect his favorite players.

Huddle may have started off as one thing and finished as another, but looking back it was worth every minute I spent trading, playing and ripping packs. When the Super Bowl is over this Sunday, it will be the culmination of a year that I dont really want to end, and that is the truth.

I think from a fun perspective, the playoffs have been an experience unlike any other so far. High payouts, awesome looking sets, and a lot of competition. So much so that it has brought out things in us that I never expected to be brought out. Now that we are approaching the final game, things are going to change. Im very interested to see how that turns out, but it will illicit a feeling of loss as well. To be without Huddle now until next year is something that I will have to come to terms with, as funny as that may sound. According to my phone, I have spent weeks worth of time on the app, and that doesnt include the time spent writing this blog. That is a lot of time. Im kind of embarrassed, haha.

Thank Yous

Im not going to close out the Huddle year without some well deserved gratitude paid to the people who have loaned their time and support to this site and my experience in game.

TOPPSCHRIS – We have had a roller coaster this year. I remember back when you told me Huddle would be “mugshot” free this year and how happy that made me. Since then, things have been pretty crazy. Your time dedicated in interviews, follow ups and questions is beyond appreciated.

TOPPSMARC – The man himself. I dont really know what to put here, because I think that it would be hard to explain our relationship in terms that makes sense for everyone else. Your level of effort and passion for Huddle is likely unknown for the general user, but the thanks you deserve cannot be put into words on this site. Your support, patience, and dedication to hearing me out is something I will never be able to repay you for.

TOPPSIAN – I think you are one of the more under appreciated parts of the Huddle team, largely because things have been so busy this year. You were always someone I loved going back and forth with, and the opportunities you provided were something that I will forever appreciate. Its too bad we didnt have the time to do as much on the huddle side as we did on the bunt side, but I know that will change as things unfold for 2015. As I am sure many of my readers will attest, you might be one of the better Huddle traders out there.

My Crew – You guys know who you are. You kept me going, you helped out when I needed it, and you were great for a laugh more times than I can count. Without your help and assistance, my experience in Huddle would have been half of what it was. Thank you is well deserved.

Readers of this Site – I cant say how much you all have meant to me during this year. Your feedback and commentary has been so important to this season that I wish I could repay you all in some way. You guys deserve all the respect I can muster, and I hope you will continue to keep reading as the offseason goes on.

The Future

I will continue to cover both Huddle and Bunt through the offseason, so dont be a stranger during that time. This site will definitely get back into full swing once 2015 Bunt is released, but for the most part this is the end of 2014 for the main two games I play.

Its really hard to believe how much fun I have had with this blog, as it started off as a timewaste more than anything. I love writing, and I love helping people out in the games, so why not offer that in a more digestible widespread format right?

I didnt expect to build relationships with the teams behind the scenes or the readers of this site, but both made Bunt and Huddle that much more rewarding. I am one of those hopelessly romantic people you meet and cant stand, and that is why I have delusions of grandeur surrounding the impact of this site. I want to think it has helped make things just a little bit better for everyone who has followed along. If not, that’s okay too.

Either way, this year has been great, and next year will be too. I expect that things will be better next year than they ever have been, and with new faces and new places for many involved, its going to be a trip.

I hope you all can join me on the ride.

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2014 Huddle Year in Review – An Obsessive Look At The Best and Worst Pt 4: The Community

Since September, I have been heavily involved in all aspects of Huddle. Trading, points chase, collecting, and writing this site has been a part of my daily life for the last months like never before. Football is my main jam, which is why I was so much more invested in Huddle over other apps.

This series is a review of some of MY major threads from 2014, and I will obsessively breakdown anything and everything I can muster.

Part 4 – The Community

Of all the different parts of my personal Huddle War and Peace novel, this is going to be the hardest to write. I think that the community aspect of things with Huddle is a bit different than we saw in any of the other apps, and it goes without saying its one of my favorite parts of the game.

That being said, the Huddle community can be as unforgiving as any group of people I have ever encountered. Not just with the team or with the content, but with each other. Its kind of frightening at times how cut throat we can all be, and I want to believe its because so much of Huddle is about competition above all else. Put a group of males in a competitive situation, and it becomes a jungle.

Outside of the negative things that have happened, its clear that Huddle also has some of the most awesome, amazing, and generous people in their midst. If you go through the whole season by yourself on Huddle, you are doing it wrong. The people I have had the pleasure of working with all year are people I wish I could meet in person. That’s how passionately I feel about the way many members are in real life.

I think that there is a sense of brotherhood that seems to have emanated from the challenges experienced throughout the whole season, and it has bred a community that is tighter knit than ever before. That’s something we all need to feel very good about.

The Community vs The Huddle Team

No one should be surprised at the animosity that is shown (on a regular basis) towards the Huddle team. Due to historical examples, many of the users feel that their voices need to be heard, some in a constructive fashion, others less so. Its a constant battle of lack of understanding vs lack of information, and the community gets fed up very easily.

I refer to lack of understanding because in a lot of ways the general community will never be privy to how much work goes into the things they take for granted. My favorite is how many people believe it is easy to create and release a card in a matter of seconds. What they might not understand is the amount of work that takes to create the card, create the pack, write the article, build the push notification, etc. Its a labor of love for the Huddle team, no doubt, but it is labor none-the-less.

I dont expect people to identify with that situation in the way I have, as I feel like many people play Huddle and other phone based apps so they dont have to think about it.

In the course of that emotional response comes a really big outpouring of negativity, sometimes to the point of parody. Each new article has a throng of individuals that immediately run to add their viewpoint, many times purposefully ignoring the good things to blast the minor bad things. That’s internet behavior 101, but I feel like its supercharged on Huddle because of the passion and time that people put in on a regular basis. The work put in by the team is concurrently matched by the work many users put in on their end.

The Community vs the Content

From what I see on the comments for each release, the structure of the user base is unlike what I see in Bunt. If I had to guess, there is more of a gap between the top VIPs and the Free players than on other apps, and it likely has to do with the way content is realized and perceived. Bottom line, Huddle looks to be pretty top heavy, and it causes a class separation in the way people react to each card release.

The first group of people are the ones that are excited at a new chase. They dont mind buying into a bundle or two to obtain the card, and they react on the cool factor more than the cost of the release. Sometimes those things will intersect, but for this group, cost is expected and they are as okay with it as they can be.

The second group of people is likely rooted in the free to play movement with Huddle, and they rarely react positively when it becomes clear that something isnt meant for them.  They want access without paying for it, and as someone who is part of the first group, this is a foreign perspective to me. I dont understand how someone can be pissed that a business isnt going to cater to customers that provide no benefit to their bottom line? I understand that the freemium model has to include some elements for free players, but those same people should understand the implications as well. Basically, the free version is never going to be as good as the pay version.

That’s not saying that Huddle shouldnt be more in tune with the middle class, as that is where I think the real opportunities have been missed. There have been wins in that part of the community, but they are few and far between. Unlike Bunt and Kick, being part of the Huddle middle class is tougher than ever. Packs are expensive, odds are long, and its not easy to compete. But, like mentioned above, one should expect a business to give the perks to its best customers. Whether that is access, rewards, or formats, it is what it is.

Im not trying to make this into a pulpit to spew my venom towards people who want the best without paying for it, but the comments most use to describe their feelings seem to be a bit over-dramatic. No one expects the Casino to give comps to the person playing a few nickle slots right? No bar gives a special table to the person ordering water and hanging out with their friends. Its the people dropping thousands on high stakes craps, and the patrons using bottle service. They get the attention and they get the perks. Huddle is the same.

The Community vs the Community

Im going to put this in the context of the Huddle Bowl, because its fresh on my mind, and it is about where I want to go. To put things simply, the community is divided and ruthless in many ways that I never expected.

Some context is necessary, I realize.

When the Huddle Bowl started at 64 participants, there was a clear top 4 or 5 users that were going to skate through. Obviously that’s exactly what happened, and it happened without incident. When it got down to the top 8, of which I was a part of, the community started to have interest in helping their favorite players get ahead.

As people were eliminated in the next round, that support was transferred to the next on the list. Everyone got help. Whether it was one card from a friend or 20 cards from an army, everyone got help. Its part of what makes Huddle awesome.

For the top 4 there was a lot of individuals who felt this method was dishonorable or unethical, and it started a flame war that escalated quickly. What people failed to realize was the root of the situation too. No where did it say you couldnt get help, and Huddle is never going to outlaw trading between friends. Like I have said above, its what this game is all about in a lot of ways.

With everyone jumping down each other’s throats, it became obvious that the community was not without it’s faults. We are a competitive group of individuals, and it came out in droves with that debate.

That being said, the response is representative of the investment many users have made in Huddle, and that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

The Future

I expect that over the next months, people will close up shop for the offseason, and move on. They will either return in April to join up with Bunt, or come back when Huddle starts up again next year. Im sad that we have come so close to the end of the year, but its something that I have been preparing for.

I will miss the community aspect I have enjoyed over the last few months, as it is clear that the community has lent enormous support to me and this site in a way I never could have imagined. Comments, tweets, trades, and support came in huge batches, and I cannot thank all of you enough. You all made this year fun – plain and simple.

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2014 Huddle Year in Review – An Obsessive Look At The Best and Worst Pt 3: Awards

Since September, I have been heavily involved in all aspects of Huddle. Trading, points chase, collecting, and writing this site has been a part of my daily life for the last months like never before. Football is my main jam, which is why I was so much more invested in Huddle over other apps.

This series is a review of some of MY major threads from 2014, and I will obsessively breakdown anything and everything I can muster.

Part 3 – Awards

With the exception of yesterday’s subject, I dont think there was any more controversial aspect of the game this year. The payout of the different types of awards was always a hot button topic, and to this day, many users still take issue with the way it was handled Week 1 through the end.

There were some major successes along the way, which I also want to discuss, as I believe that massive amounts of credit should be heaped on the victories the Huddle team had. Yet, with every victory, we saw some struggles along the way, and for some, it drove them away.

The Good

If there was one thing that was constant throughout the season, it was that the team ALWAYS came through. It may have been a little late, or a little wonky in the way it was delivered, but it always happened eventually. Even better, when any real issue went down, they made up for it somehow some way.

The best day, each few weeks, was the day reward cards were delivered. I always looked forward to it every single time, and made every effort to complete as many of the weekly sets as I could. Huddle delivered in spades with each go around, even though sometimes it was late. The second batch for weeks 6-10 came about two and a half weeks late, but they were also delivered as 5x Boosts to make up for it.

When the season long chase was paid out, I almost freaked out. Not kidding. To see that each card was gold foil and had a 15x boost was insane, easily some of the coolest cards of the year. It made everything worth while, all that effort, all those trades, all that coinage. It was delivered very close to the time-frame expected, which was the cherry on top of the Sunday.

Additionally, we saw that coin payouts on collection chase cards increased exponentially as the season progressed. This was likely to help reward the people that were spending the coins to acquire the cards, as we saw odds get longer to match the rewards. More coins is always better, even if it takes more to get the cards. I know some wont agree, but this is bigger than people think.

The Bad

I think that there was a lot of questions at first – especially after the big transition week 2. With Huddle running at full speed to get their game turned over, awards were literally pushed to the back burner. I understand why that was the case, but it caused one of the largest situations in the course of the entire season. From weeks 3 to almost week 5, rewards were not given out.

For a very long time, users were left to question whether the payouts were ever going to come. On this site, I tried to reassure people that things were a complete storm of items that needed to be completed, but people rightfully wanted their coins and cards.

As I mentioned above, everything was eventually paid out. In fact, there were a few surprises too, as the Bowman set, 1984 set and others were provided action shot cards as the last to ever hit the sheet for the whole year.

On other occasions during the year as well, we saw issues with awards coming late. Even though we all knew things were busy and the payouts had to be done manually, people became extremely impatient. Ants were literally crawling into people’s pants, causing a lot of friction between the team and the community.

The Ugly

Its really a funny thing that the awards became such a point of contention through the whole season. Because of a shift to one time payouts, it almost made the job of paying things out harder than it had to be. There was no reason to take away the instant payouts, other than ensuring that fewer coins were floating around. Obviously that’s actually a pretty damn good business decision, but at the cost it presented Im not so sure.

The worst part of this WHOLE situation was not the lateness or anything like that. It was that the users had no information as things were happening. That was bad. To be late with updates from the team would have been tolerable for much of the community. They wouldnt have been happy, but they would at least have been without any questions.

Transparency was a fault through the whole season, even though Huddle was easily the most detailed of any of the three apps. I know how meticulously every post was planned out, just so that questions could be minimized. I appreciate that to no end, but it cant be a substitute for leaving people in the dark.

Customer service across all apps has been a black eye that many within the team will even acknowledge, and one of the main reasons an investment of additional producer roles have been added. With the award situation what it was, there needed to be a calming voice sounding the “EVERYTHING IS OKAY!” alarm more often. It didnt need to be obnoxiously over-present, but enough to calm people down.

I have an unpopular perspective on a lot of things when it comes to the amount of work that I know the team puts in regularly. TOPPSMARC has to be one of the most insanely busy people I have ever communicated with. He is always on, as is the rest of the team – 365/24/7. They have a lot on their plate, so I am more forgiving than the average user. However, with some of this stuff, I have to light them up. They need to do a better job, and I know they would be the first to admit that.

The Future

I think we are in for an interesting year next year, as they have grown on a very fast pace over the course of the year. With the Huddle team being newer to the community to start the year, they have had an education during the last few months. We can point to the growth, as things that they didnt find important before are now top priorities. That’s a good thing.

Similarly, I am confident that the team in place right now has all the right pieces. They are more in tune with the community than one could imagine, even though they seem absent.

Next year, I would love to see instant award payouts come back, with elements to please both sides of things. Keep it a one time payout for each card, but make it instant upon pulling the insert. Basically, tie the coins to the card instead of to the person. If the card’s coins are paid out – its done. If not, it can be traded to someone who wants it. Should be a nice compromise and remove most of the back end work that has to happen with each release.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series tomorrow!

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2014 Huddle Year in Review: An Obsessive Look At The Best and Worst Pt 2 – Boost Mania

Since September, I have been heavily involved in all aspects of Huddle. Trading, points chase, collecting, and writing this site has been a part of my daily life for the last months like never before. Football is my main jam, which is why I was so much more invested in Huddle over other apps.

This series is a review of some of MY major threads from 2014, and I will obsessively breakdown anything and everything I can muster.

Part 2 – Boost Mania

Im going to start off this post with my experiences in Bunt, used only as a barometer for the experience that people have had in Huddle comparatively. In Bunt, Black Boosts were some of the more coveted cards in the game. Even more coveted were the 4x fire boost. When Huddle started this year, I believe that the plan for the year was somewhat similar. In fact, boost culture was so foreign to Bunt, that when the Post Season card chase started, there was a hugely negative reaction because of how few boosts existed at that point. It literally turned the points chase upside down.

The first of the Black Boosts released in Huddle came with a huge bang, as Jamaal Charles hit the sheet early Sunday in the first week the 2014 bulid of the app was live. I remember distinctly thinking how cool that card was, knowing that Huddle might end up following the Bunt model and making these cards some of the better ones to chase. It was a tough pull at 250 copies (which was EXTREMELY low per Bunt model standards), and led me to think that we would be in for a treat every time one of these cards hit the sheet.

In Week 1, Calvin Johnson exploded for 2 TDs in a nationally televised game, and no one was surprised when he became the first major chase of the season. Huddle released a 100 count black boost, which remained one of the rarest in the game, and the mammoth Teal boost, which scored 3x points, but also delivered a  huge coin reward based on his production the following week. For the first weeks of 2014 Huddle, that card was the best in the game. Every one wanted it, no one wanted to trade it. Looking back, it was the first card I really dove in head first for and came up empty. It was a bad feeling because I knew how important that card would end up being. Funny enough the Teal Boost remains the only of its kind in the game, and is still highly coveted just for its status as an action shot boost with no copies.

Once the transition to head shots happened in week 2, everything changed. In the article describing the new direction, there was a mention of the new focus on gameplay, which struck me as a warning for the coming tidal waves of boosted cards. I thought there would be some nice cards coming, but I really had no idea.

Black Boosts and Their Impact

Throughout the season of Huddle, you could pull an insert and feel like you just hit the lotto. It was that tough sometimes. With the release of the first wave of Black Boosts, you could walk in with 20k to 40k coins and walk out with some major fire power. There were times where the triple boom was dropped, where each of the three cards in the pack were all black boosts.

That wasnt even the best part, though. For each set of five that were collected, a 5x Orange boost was delivered along with some coins.  To give you all a sense of nostalgia here, 5x cards were still very playable into the playoffs. They were nothing to shake a stick at, and really still arent. That just shows how important of a shift this was in the game. Almost overnight, the only thing anyone wanted was boosts.

I wish I had saved a series of screen shots I took where it was literally just post after post of people ditching other cards to pick up the black boosts. Huddle had discovered a gold mine, and within short time, they started to use it to make sure that people stayed engaged on a weekly basis.

Game Only Boosts Change the Dynamic of the Points Chase

In week 2, we had our first throwdown as well. For a long time, I had said that one day leagues with a buy in were a great way to keep things interesting. To see that they had come up with the throwdown format to make use of this concept was awesome. What I didnt expect was the way Game Only boosts would affect the scoring mechanisms for the whole season.

When the Steelers and the Ravens GO Boosts were released at 10x and 5x prior to ANYONE owning a card above 4x was insane, and user after user talked about how much of a bad idea that was. Thankfully they came back to earth with 3 and 5x cards the next week, but it became a precursor for things to come.  At 10x and 5x, we all thought that these cards could impact season long points chase numbers because of how powerful they were. Even though it was only one game, someone who stocked up could really set themselves apart. I was RELIEVED when they went to 3x and 5x the following week.

During that same time, the ebay market ramped up for Huddle, as big ebay sellers loaded up on buying packs knowing that the base could be sold and the game boosts would help them gain some pretty enormous coin rewards to pay back the investment. To this day, boosted examples are still the most costly card to purchase on eBay.

Over the season, the game boosts became very much intertwined with the fabric of the app, and I am proud to say that I participated in every last throwdown offered over the entire season. With 2 per week, its kind of crazy to think about how many game boosts that was.

New Boost Levels Injected Weekly

This is where many users felt like things were going in the wrong direction. As soon as we were about 75% of the way through the Black Boost chase, Huddle released purple at 3.5x. The counts of the Purples were similar at 500, but the pack cost slightly more and the boost level of the reward card was increased to Sky Blue at 5.5x.

I actually didnt mind a new boost level, but to see that they were A) the same amount of cards and B) released simultaneously, was really hard to stomach. Eventually we got used to it, but each time this happened, there was significant backlash from the community.

Considering that this was only a few months ago, it seems like a lifetime. The game has changed so drastically because of the boosts, that our game consciousness flows at an accelerated rate in that respect.

Insert Levels

When Huddle started, Inserts followed the Bunt model of remaining 1x for collecting purposes only. Through the season, it became clear that 1x inserts were just not going to cut it. In a matter of weeks, the inserts rose to 2.7x, capping out as high as 17x with the most recent releases.

I think this was actually a welcome change, as it gave value to cards that were dramatically under purchased until the decision to boost them. With new insert boost levels, collectors could still compete in the chases without sacrificing their pack buying approach. It was a good change.

Similarly, the Best of Huddle cards also got bigger boosts, which was drastically different from Bunt. Of all the changes to inserts, this was the best, as it gave value to your card trophy more than in Bunt. I never understood why Bunt didnt take more of this idea, as points players rarely care about any card that cant help them every week in the points chase.

Playoff Boosts Cap The Chase

We were all worried about the playoffs. Deathly afraid to say the least. The reason is that we saw what happened in Bunt and how the post season cards nerfed the regular season to the point of not being playable. If we were already at 8x to end the season in Huddle, what would playoff cards be?

Seeing that they came in at 8x to start was a good thing, but the better part was that only a few players per team were featured. In Bunt it was practically everyone. Being that the cards also looked as good as they did made the backlash significantly less vocal.

With the Big Game cards likely being released shortly, we can only guess how that will change the score further, but I doubt it will be anything unattainable.

The Future

Boosts are now a part of Huddle culture, and I have slowly warmed up to the idea. In fact, its gotten to the point now where small boosted cards dont sell, so who knows what is going to happen.

I remain hopeful that Huddle will eventually be fully licensed and collecting for collecting’s sake can be restored. Right now that aspect has withered with atrophy, which is unfortunate. Maybe next year will be different, but I will be ready and willing even if it isnt.

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2014 Huddle Year in Review – An Obsessive Look At The Best and Worst Pt 1: Action Shots Move to Head Shots

Since September, I have been heavily involved in all aspects of Huddle. Trading, points chase, collecting, and writing this site has been a part of my daily life for the last months like never before. Football is my main jam, which is why I was so much more invested in Huddle over other apps.

This series is a review of some of MY major threads from 2014, and I will obsessively breakdown anything and everything I can muster.

Part 1 – Action Shots Move to Head Shots

Throughout the offseason, I had been pestering Chris Vaccaro, Topps Digital’s Editor in Chief, regarding a permanent move away from Head Shots to a more visually appealing appearance in Action Shots. About a week before the 2014 Huddle build launched, he gave me the good news. Little did I know how big that shift would be, as Huddle made it abundantly clear that they were playing 2014 for keeps.

Each base card would have a retouched action shot to avoid conflict with the lack of a full NFL license, and I was thoroughly impressed with what they were able to do. It was clearly a lot of work, but a labor of love none-the-less. Their art department did a great job making the 2014 Topps Football design into a compatible format for huddle, and the new harder pulls for the rarer cards made it look like we were in for a treat for the season.

Then it happened.

The week started off the best possible way. I had just been named fan of the week, and I was thinking that Huddle literally could not get any better. With the previous release of the Calvin Johnson black boost, I was already excited to see what was going to come down the pipeline. That Sunday started off weird. Insert set after insert set hit the feed like a gold rush, and everyone started to buy as many packs as they could. It was a mania like we hadnt seen before, as the Gunslingers, Endzone Marathon, and Inception set all were released in a matter of minutes.

Then a Jordy Nelson and a Jake Locker black boost hit the sheet in a time where boosts were not the norm. Something was up. I remember seeing one post in one article, where someone mentioned that this type of release schedule was not normal and probably not a good thing. That pit of doubt started to creep in, but I had no idea what I was in for.

People cite the release of the full uniform Kelvin Benjamin bowman card as the reason why Huddle did what they did, but I dont think that is even close to the real straw that broke the camel’s back.  It had to have been the general situation that action shots presented, as Topps was basically circumventing the need for a full license with the way the cards were being edited. Being that the photos purchased by Topps were full uniform and being retouched, Im pretty sure the NFL was pretty upset in general.

Either way, the shift was swift and without mercy. Seemingly overnight, my excitement over the huddle year was deflated, and I was left with an empty pit in my digital collecting existence. I wouldnt be completely honest if I said I didnt consider walking away, but I decided to stay the course, and this site had a lot to do with that feeling.

Within 2 weeks, and the release of the first black boost set, Huddle seemed to reroute to remain, changing a business plan on the fly and succeeding in spades. The advent of the Throwdown format really seemed to help a ton, and users forgot about the transition as fast as it happened.

Although some resentment still exists, you rarely see the “TRADING ALL HS FOR AS” types of posts on the feed anymore. There are reasons why that is the case, but overall, I have to give a ton of credit to TOPPSMARC for weathering the storm and being creative in the approach they had to take in a very quick manner.

I would also guess that the Huddle team was as bummed out as we are, as the marketing blitz associated with the 2014 build of the app showed a boat load of excitement over the new action shot direction of the app.

As I was writing this article, I started to think about what it might mean to the playoff chases if the cards were action shots instead of head shots. It would be insane. It would be so cool that we wouldnt know what to do with ourselves. The design work on the cards is so far superior to 2013 that it is a different game, and the head shots bring that down a peg or two. Its unfortunate.

In fact, I would say two things saved Huddle this year, and I know this might not be the most popular opinion.

Boosts

If you think this game would have remained as fun as it was without the shift to boosts, you are dead wrong. Although we can all argue until we are blue in the face about the WAY the boosts were released and the FREQUENCY of the releases, the concept saved Huddle.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series for more on this!

Design

Around November, there was a major change in the way Huddle looked. Not only did they start toying with the head shots, but they did it in a way that was really cool. The releases of the Street set and the Takedown set were the first to really use the head shot format in a way that was still visually appealing, and that is a victory in itself.  When you see the playoff cards as the culmination, it all starts to make sense.

Ill close with hope for the future. Topps has shown that they are making an investment in digital. They are hiring more people, organizing more within each app, and releasing a new game this year. That means there is a very bright light at the end of this tunnel. The question remains, will Huddle ever get full licensing?

The Future

Its a complicated and expensive question to ask. Apple’s licensing agreement means that 30 cents of every dollar we spend goes away. Huge hit. The NFLPA license is likely another 15% on top of that, and to add another 15 to 20 cents to pay to the NFL (if not more), can be a very difficult pill to swallow.

Bunt makes it work for a few reasons, many of which ONLY apply to the company’s history as a baseball card manufacturer. Similarly, with Panini obtaining a physical card NFL exclusive license, they might start wanting to implement their own programs in the digital world. In Baseball Cards, Topps owns a long term exclusive license already, which plays heavily into their favor.

That being said, there is still hope. There is hope that some how, some way, Huddle will find their own niche in a licensed world and make it work. If not, Im still going to be a fan regardless, and play with the same intensity next year as I did this one.

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Huddle Tip – Non Scoring Cards and Value During the Playoffs

Right now, things are all sorts of crazy as people ramp up for the biggest game of the year. That means that all Seahawks and Patriots are suddenly 500 times more valuable than any other card in the game. However, a word of warning should still be offered, as there is no reason to cannibalize your collection in the name of points if you dont want to.

We all know that it is very likely that 2014 cards will not score next year. You just cant have people walking into a season with a collection full of 15x boosts. It would literally remove any and all new players immediately, and that cant happen. It also would hurt sales in the initial part of the year, so that’s not going to happen either. Bottom line, these next two weeks will be the only remaining time that boosts matter.

There is still a very collectible nature to all the playoff cards, especially the sigs, as they should spike in value back to normal means once the game is over. When no boosts matter any more, every card reverts back to its collection value.

With the recent release of the die cut pro-bowl cards, we can see that there will continue to be a focus on providing high coin reward to incite people to keep buying packs. Im all for it, especially if the sets will eventually be more easy to come by later on. Collections are built, not made, and it seems like there are a lot of people who are forgetting that in the name of the last scoring opportunity of the year.

I have said numerous times that once the next season of Huddle starts, the previous year’s cards will lose most, if not all of their value. There is one saving grace of that situation, as rarity is still a big deal to many users out there. If you were around at the beginning of the season, you saw what happened. All those readily available inserts became interchangeable, and new cards were playing at a premium. There were still some very rare sigs and inserts that remained on lockdown, however.

When Bunt 2015 launches in a few months, pay CLOSE attention to what happens. For the first time, the new cards and their design will likely match the look and feel from the previous year, which could help maintain value overall. If the cards all look relatively similar, it wont matter as much if they cant score for collectors out there. For points players it will be a different story, but that’s for a different article.

Here is my advice.  Come February 2nd, there will be a rude awakening for a lot of players who wish they hadnt done what most are doing right now. Although there will be residual value for cards that are still rare, most will not be as valuable as they once were. If you have any inkling of a collector mentality in your approach, save your nice cards. Use your coins to stock up on playoff cards you need, but dont trade your nice sigs for points cards just because they are boosted 15x.

On the other hand, if you are not a collector, the advice changes a bit. Remind yourself that there is a LOOONNNNG offseason approaching fast, and I would hate to see people dump the game because of it. Hopefully some will start to adopt enough of a collection based approach that it wont be so big of a drop off when the big game is done.

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