A Nostalgic Longing for an Older Approach – Its Time to Figure This Out

I can literally line out the strategy for every Topps Digital release in the sports apps, and as I have mentioned before, it has kind of sucked the life out of my participation in the apps. Basically, for the last two years, every set has gone like this:

  • Multiple smaller waves of cards – usually at least 3
  • A 10 card base set
  • 2 insert sets of about 5-10 cards
  • A “highly collectible” subset of very limited cards – usually about 5 subjects

Every so often we get something more fun, but its becoming way too few and far between. Its the main reason why Inception sells out literally 5 seconds after its released, people are so desperate for content that brings them back to three years ago, that they clamor for it like nothing else.

I have actually gravitated towards the Panini apps lately because they have such huge sets with tons of limited content. I miss the days when Topps went that same direction. The main reason I am always given for why some of the sets are smaller on Huddle and Bunt is because of the original content that is required to be designed prior to the set’s release. I actually understand this challenge, because Topps has always had a small team to provide the original content for all their apps. Panini has taken to just digitizing all the different parts of a physical set.

Unfortunately for Topps, thats only available in a few of their apps, but it hasnt been embraced at all either. Bunt does release a lot of digitized content, but not enough in a large enough batch. They select a few cards from each product and build a small release, and that’s what I have been so disappointed with.

For once, I am asking them to go back to the old way. I want a real release of TONS of cards, lots of variants with limited runs, and a shit ton of fun stuff to chase. I know the overuse of variant parallels had poisoned SWCT for a very long time, but its been long enough you can go back to that balance. Im not saying that its time to bring back the base variant strategy in all the apps, what I am saying is that its time to bring back a balance, or at least one big set that we can all enjoy.

Topps seems to want to avoid a velvet rope around some of their sets, with VIPs a focus in delivering top limited content, but that is where I think the apps will flourish back to where they at least were a year or so ago. Right now, if you look at the public rankings that show spending trends, they seem to be struggling to reach even a fraction of the consistent highs they were reaching before. Im seeing some leadership turnover on linkedin, as well, something that seems to be inevitable in a downturn. All the people I used to have relationships with are pretty much gone, and Im hoping that the new guard will realize how important it is to build a foundation of the previous years to foster in a new strategic approach.

At some point, we can only hope that they will figure out the balance that is needed to appease the two very distinct group of individuals within the app communities. The first being the spending group, who values action, limited content and perks of spending, vs the free to play group who doesnt want to feel like they are the non-patron at the bar ordering water in the middle of happy hour.

I feel there are very easy ways to find that balance, without also enabling people who cheat to rack up coins in multiple accounts through emulators and farming tactics. Unfortunately, I feel like the current team devising the strategy is only looking to appease their leadership instead of finding ways to engage with the community to figure out what WE find interesting.

Ill tell you this, as someone who has spent a godawful amount of money on these apps, Im pretty fucking bored. I think there are good things that happen periodically, but I am no longer on the apps unless there is a release I want to chase. I feel like my activity is painfully evident of a lack of viable entertainment within the tired platform that only has gotten a visual update from 2014 as of a few months ago. Its time to either A) find a way to recapture some of what we had prior, through compelling content and chases that capture our excitement, or B) scrap the whole approach and start over with a fresh directive that would likely benefit from all the new leadership in play.

I miss the old days in that vein, and hopefully we can find a way to voice enough of a desire to return temporarily for a few shits and giggles.

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My Biggest Problems With Topps Huddle Release Strategy

When I first really started spending a lot of money on Huddle, it was for one reason – things were fun. I had so much fun playing along with and writing about the apps, that I actually developed a pretty good relationship with people at Topps who were looking for ways to improve the user experience.

Once Star Wars became what every hoped it wouldnt become in the Summer of 2016, the community venom towards the SWCT team was so hot, it unfortunately spread to the other apps who werent necessarily approaching their game the same way. In the middle of 2017, when Topps finally decided enough was enough, they swung the pendulum back so far the other direction, that it took away a big part of why we played the way we did – the ability to separate yourself as a collector. More importantly, it swung everything for EVERY app, not just Star Wars. Problem is, apps like Bunt and Huddle didnt need that drastic of an adjustment on the way set construction and release strategy was outlined. They needed help with logistical and functional parts of the game, but the sets were good still.

Unfortunately, someone decided what was good for the goose was good for the gander, and here we are. Basically, Variants (or Parallels) went away, save a VERY select few protected ones. Similarly, set size dropped so vastly, that the fun experience of collecting a big box was gone. Because sets were so small, many more copies of the individual cards needed to be available for that all to work out in the revenue side of things. This would be fine if the price of those releases was adjusted as well, but none of that changed – naturally.

In Huddle, the app functions almost independently from all the others. Instead of being driven by set collecting maniacs and player/team collecting hooligans, there are really only two types of people who stay on Huddle – contest players who only chase heavily boosted cards for playing along with the live apps, and velvet rope whale spenders who just want to get the rarest collection of cards they can find.

When Topps decided to change the strategy, Huddle’s main contingent of players were all asked to adjust the way they continue to collect within the game, and it cost them a lot of the big whales that drove revenue within the game to support the cost of app continuity and licensing.

Here is the thing, Topps might say, “well, this new way has increased X or Y in terms of traffic or money.” What they dont seem to get is how much potential is being left on the table by not customizing the strategy of each app to match the crowd that they themselves cultivated within the individual communities. Its a gross misuse of strategic direction to go the way that they did, and I think things changed to a point near the beginning of 2018.

In Huddle, they finally decided to increase the set size and increase the amount of limited content that was released in higher dollar sets. Now that Bunt has relaunched for 2018 and Huddle has launched again for 2019, I see the strategy is back in force.

Topps is wasting our time in a lot of ways, and I am so sad it has gotten to this point. They may say that approval times and design resources are limited, but proper planning is something that can find ways around that. Similarly, if sets that are heavy on limited content are going to be fewer and far between – then PRICE EVERYTHING ELSE ACCORDINGLY! Dont ask us to spend 20 bucks a pack to rip into a set where the average card count in any attempt is 200!

Of all people, this is where their competition has worked wonders. With a smaller team, fewer resources and a community that is much smaller, Panini has released enormous sets, with tons of awesome cards based on their physical products, and climbed higher and higher in the app revenue rankings while Topps has dropped. Although Topps doesnt have the same phyiscal card releases to build sets from any longer, they have baseball physical designs out the wazoo that they can use to be just as effective.

Im not going to sit here and complain without offering a solution:

  1. Figure out the purpose of every set – prior to BUILDING each release, determine which part of the community its targeted at.
  2. If the target market is spenders – there needs to be a worthwhile reason for anyone to spend money on the packs. This means there has to be more than 5 chase cards per release. End the stupid wave approach and really just make an attempt to release more products with more cards. That’s the beauty of digital, the only limit is the time spent designing and building the cards. If the sets have more to them, you can spread out the releases further and focus on delivering targeted content. Most importantly, bringing back some sort of low numbered variant structure can extend release size without adding much in terms of added design resources. Bottom line, if we are spending real money in big amounts, we need to see value at or above where we are spending.
  3. If the target market includes non spenders – there needs to be a pack priced to reflect this. You cant put the diamond pack at 10 bucks a rip if the majority of the cards are unlimited or above 100 in count. For anything in huddle to be worth ANYTHING it has to either have A) a high boost level or B) be below 10 count. Seriously. The huddle team previously made their bed, now they need to sleep in it. Figure out a way to split the targeted sets in a way that makes fucking sense instead of trying to lure in multiple parts of the community with a set that has zero value to anyone that actually spends anything in the app.
  4. Reward your spenders – If someone is spending money, they should get something that is just not attainable for anyone who isnt spending. If I spend 200 bucks ripping packs, I want something amazing. Not a bunch of 800 count cards that arent worth 2 bucks on eBay.
  5. Understand that there is monetary value in the secondary market – Topps can continue to bury their head in the sand, but without a game function to the app that actually appeals to a huge audience, this is where we are. I have written posts in the past that talk about how important adding more game-ified function is to the apps, but they obviously couldnt care less about that. With that, if you are asking us to spend 20 bucks a pack, which happens regularly, its time to deliver extremely limited content with more availability per release. Five cards in a tiny ass wave isnt going to cut it anymore, it just makes us resentful of the strategy.
  6. Add more limited marathons – I loved when Limited was able to include low number guys because there were variants that represented the set piece of the marathon. Now its just high numbered WR and LBs with a few RBs mixed in. Its almost like the strategy doesnt factor in that the most collectible guys in the NFL all have low numbers, and that anything over 10 count is worth nothing on the secondary market. For some reason Topps still thinks its okay to make a set that costs 200 bucks to acquire the card, and not include anything that will hold value for the year. Not cool. Find some way to create a few marathons that will compliment the higher valued content in the app.

I mean, its like Topps is scared to release things the right way out of fear of 2016 SWCT venom. They need to figure out very quickly that not every app is like SWCT and that not every community will fit into a cookie cutter app strategy.

This is why so much more of my spending has moved to their competition.

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Bunt 2018: Release Day and My Wish List

Spring is here, and so is Baseball. Words that many of us look forward to every day of the long and cold offseason. After the unlikely victory of the Houston Astros last year, there are high hopes for the 2018 season, and that’s just the start. Bunt 2018 will also be releasing this afternoon, and with it, digital cards for the year will begin.

DZV14eIWsAMWHrkEach year, the Bunt redesign tends to set the tone for most of the sports apps over the course of the year. We already saw Kick go through another round of testing when it comes to gameplay and user experience, and Im curious how that might impact Bunt. Hopefully a lot, as the app has been generally the same since 2014. When you look over the other apps on your phone, how many remain as similar to even 2016 as they exist today? Likely none.

Bunt and Topps Digital have really banked heavily on the fact that they own a considerable part of the marketplace when it comes to digital cards, and though there are a lot of competitors that have come to the table, few of them have posed any real threat to Topps’ dominance. Its quite disturbing really, because almost every other one has built some amazing functionality, and few have seen the enormous reward they should get.

So, as we enter into Bunt 2018, I come with very low expectations. I just cant continue to sit idly by as the app continues down the path into boredom I have seen it go down for the last few years. The addition of Batter Up and Prize Wheel are interesting concepts, but honestly they add little to a user experience that has been severely lacking since the original redesign took place for the 2014 season.

Here is my pie in the sky wish list, hopefully some of this eventually comes to pass.

Collection Display

Right now, we all buy packs of some sort, and we all have cards we cherish – whether they are from 2012 or from 2017. As it stands currently, there is ZERO vehicle available to show those cards off. The older the card, the more buried it is on your sheet, and the second 2018 goes live, 50% of the app will no longer care about the thousands of dollars spent on 2017 cards.

The reason this is the case is because few people have a way to truly display their wares for all to see. I have been banging this drum since the 2014 redesign, and honestly my arm is getting tired. To think that all the other apps have found ways for people to showcase the fruits of the money they spend, makes Topps look silly.

More importantly, Topps Digital clearly doesnt understand how collectors work. We have an innate sense of vanity that is at play for every purchase we make. We want to have the best collection, we want to be the top collector, and we want to be recognized for it. Without offering that outlet, Topps is missing the boat by a mile.

Contests

Much like collection display options, this is another point I have been harping on for a long time. Bunt encompasses a 162 game season, with active games every day of every week, and a long postseason to boot. The way the game works now, after about Day 30, many users bow out of contests due to sheer lack of desire to participate. Its just a grind and without contest variety and better prizes, people just give up. Im usually done by the time the NFL draft rolls around, and I would guess im one of the last casual contest players to leave.

That should never happen. 

Its a shame there isnt more fun to be had in contests, especially when you see how popular fantasy baseball has become. Adding more value to the prize pool, figuring out fun contest structures, and involving a better function based user experience would give Bunt some legs it hasnt had since 2014.

Collection Recognition

Ill say this right now. Collection score needs to go. Its a worthless number that means nothing at this point, and there is zero reason to keep it around. Instead, the product team needs to figure out a way to better recognize those with awesome collections, and make that information available for the entire app to see.

Incentivising competition among users needs to happen and happen now. People leave because they spend a ton of money and find that it does very little for them other than a quick dopamine rush when they open the packs.

More importantly, if I pull a rare card I want to trade, there is no way to find out who would be the best person to approach to move it. There are no wish lists, there are no collecting leaderboards, there is nothing that gives anyone any way of navigating the vast landscape that is essential to a trading app.

I feel like I am outlining so many OBVIOUS gaps, ones that have been around for years, and Topps has done little to nothing to bring a solution forward. Recognizing users used to happen through Fan of the Week in a very small capacity, and that has since been canned. Things like that have been a focus of Topps’ competition, and its a reason the other apps have such a rabid fan base. They feel appreciated as users, and those apps seem to recognize how important a good user experience is to the bottom line.

User to User Based Features

Right now I cant talk to someone without offering a trade. In an article, there are no ways to search out your name or specific words. This is so backwards it makes me want to scream. The fact that users in every other app can communicate directly is a huge plus, and creates community relationships that are essential.

This point should be so blatant that Im not even going to spend a lot of time writing about it. We need better user to user features, and my head hurts as to why things like Batter Up and Prize Wheel are prioritized over table stakes like this.

Basic functionality is missing. BASIC. Topps has swung and missed.

In closing, I know Topps’ has done a pretty poor job staying on top of app day to day maintenance, and that is as big an issue as anything. I didnt really put that on this list because it is literally what should be done without me saying it. I see a lot of complaints about mistakes and botched drops, but that’s not what I am referencing here. Im talking about grander concepts that are sorely missing from the game.

Hopefully this year turns a leaf. I have seen some turnover in department leadership that doesnt make me feel good about the prospects of improvement, but hopefully they prove me wrong. I want this to be successful. Im a passionate follower of the Topps apps, to the point where I made this site. I stopped regularly updating because I wasnt seeing much to write about. That should say something in itself. I want that to change.

Good luck this year everyone!

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Reliving the Huddle Glory: Super Bowl LII Mega Pack Bonanza

I have beat a drum about super premium content in Topps Huddle all year long. For the duration of the 2018 season, it seemed like Huddle (and the other sports apps for that matter) had stayed far away from delivering crazy premium content, save a few examples. When those examples, like Inception, hit the sheet, they literally sold out in minutes. Not figuratively, literally.

We were so starved for this content that it became more about getting the strategy team at Huddle to understand the need, rather than just begging for some sick looking cards. I had emailed them a few times, talking about the desire to bring back the previously abandoned strategies of 2016 and 2015, at least in a way that was in balance with the new way. It cant hurt to appease all levels of participation in the app, and with digital content delivery only limited by the time it takes to design it, there isnt any demand on stock to actually make the set structure work. I mean, its not like you have to have players sign more cards or procure more game used jerseys like the physical team does. The only drain on any resource is time.

Over the last two weeks, we have seen them appease my requests a bit, dropping an absolutely AWESOME set in Valor and a pretty incredible Super Bowl base set. Yesterday, however, we got the fireworks display we have been waiting for all year.

The Super Bowl Mega pack delivered on every last little level of my complaint, and brought back some tremendous cards from previous years along the way. It also delivered some incredible live signature content as well, all with super low counts and a shot at some of the best 1/1s you can get in the app.

Booklet Cards

Drew Brees Topps Huddle In the Name

Lets start with the booklet cards, which are easily some of my favorites. It was great to see them move beyond the Eagles and Patriots, especially to see that every bigger name in the app, save Brady was represented at a pretty good clip. The booklets were dynamic, low count, and stunning collection pieces.

I wish they would do this a tad more frequently, while still saving the design for something a bit more special. I dont want them to go nuts, but for sets like Inception, it would be a great addition. Even more so if they were all individually serially numbered.

Topps Heritage

Todd Gurley Topps Heritage Huddle

This was unexpected and fun. Each team got a card, and the retro look with the signature worked really well. These were a great chase for people who wanted all 32, and considering that a 52 count card was the highest you could pull, that was pretty impressive.

Live Signature Relics

Topps Huddle Adrian Peterson Live Signature Relic

I absolutely loved the idea of adding special live sig content like this. Not only did they choose fan favorite designs, but they were low count and had huge names attached. It was a bit diluted with live signature content being released an hour earlier, but it still worked because of the designs they chose.

1/1 Signature Variants

Adam Thielen Topps Huddle Playoff signature

We already got a dose of these earlier in the year, but adding in the playoff version along side the regular ones was awesome. I love chasing cards like this, and with such a great design this year, was happy these cards were also included.

1/1 Superfractors

Topps Huddle Aaron Rodgers Superfractor

These cards were some of the most valuable cards in the app during 2016, and Im very happy they brought them back for 2017 as well. More importantly, these cards werent added in the boost section of the sheet, which means they were proudly displayed with all the other 1/1s available. I love these cards, and was happy when I pulled a few.

Again, this type of content should not be forgotten. This type of release structure CANNOT be forgotten. I hope they do something like this around the draft, and at the very least make a huge box release at least once a quarter.

Overall, I think this has been a good season for Huddle, but not a great one. The designs were seriously on point, and the addition of motion cards was definitely awesome. However, the overall strategic approach for this year left me yearning for 2016 and 2015, where the premium content was overkill, but still present. This takes away some of the burn, but man, so much potential wasted by avoiding it until now.

If I were running the show, I would already be developing a strategic approach to the Draft and Combine that mirrored 2016 and 2015, as we saw a huge gap emerge over the offseason this year. Hopefully these challenges dont continue to be a factor, but you never know.

 

 

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Its Go Time: Get Ready for Super Bowl 52 in Huddle

Ah yes, here we are. The last game of the year, and also the biggest day of the season for Huddle. This is always an event, and much like we have seen in previous years, 2017 is likely to go out with a huge bang. This is going to be a marathon, so be careful in the way you approach some of the first few sets of the day.

Rising Boost Levels

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Yesterday’s Super Bowl set brought the largest boosts of the year in 25x, as well as another shot at some very nice 20x sigs. With Brady and Foles being a major focal point for people who are looking to get ahead in the limited switch contests, I would guess more of them are on the way. This is along side some likely boosts that could rise as high as 52x, as we have had some crazy ones in previous Super Bowls at that level. If you are a contest player, save your moves for that reason and keep an eye on the article feed.

Fan Favorite Sets

I have to believe a few things are coming based on my previous experience in the big game, and this year should be no exception. The first is 2018 booklets, which I am surprised took this long to be released. Its one thing to preserve the unique cards for the biggest stage, its another to completely avoid them. Either way, these cards will be among the hottest cards of the year, especially if there are low numbered variants.

The main issue is the conspicuous absence of Tom Brady signature cards. At this point, its all but guaranteed that Huddle cannot make them, which is so bizarre I cant even put it into words. As part of the NFLPA and NFLP licenses, Tom Brady should be included in those deals for use of his likeness and signature. Not sure what happened, but its put a damper on things.

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Hopefully the Huddle team makes up for it with some great legend content and non-super bowl team content, as Foles is just not going to carry the load in that way, even if he throws for 5 TDs.

I would also expect that Brave the Elements, or some sort of motion card comes into play, as its clear that this new feature is one that both the fans love and one that brings a lot of value to the packs. It would be awesome to see some Super Bowl themed versions or maybe even some crazy signature ones that are offered for the first time.

Future Considerations

After the Super Bowl is over, the next few weeks are also quite important for collectors, as we will see a good amount of Super Bowl content that also drops during that time frame.

Things like the Super Bowl champions set and other big collection pieces like Limited for players who have low numbers are usually released during this period. I could also see NFL Honors make an appearance, or at least cards that commemorate the awards given out last night.

Because of player licensing, I dont think the recent HOF class will get a lot of love, which is super unfortunate, but I do expect a lot of legend content and some of the bigger physical digitized sets too.

Bottom line, get ready to rock, as this is one of the most amazing times to be a part of the digital card community. Other apps have great playoff content, but because the championships come in series and not games, it becomes a multi day affair. This is different with a one game winner take all.

Have fun everyone and enjoy the final day of the year!

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Super Bowl XLII: Surviving the Run to the Big Game

Im glad I run a blog and not a podcast, because I have no voice right now. After going absolutely bananas last night, Im dead. That being said, this is a huge week for Huddle, as its clear that everyone has two things on their mind. First is who is going to win on Sunday and the second is what might be coming for releases as we lead up to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and the like. Hold onto your butts, its going to be a lot.

Contest Strategy – Collection Building

Right now, there are 8 teams whose collectors are looking to complete sets now that the season is over. If you are not collecting the set, now is the time to reach out to those collectors and find out what you can get. You are going to have to give up a lot of eliminated players to get cards for the four remaining teams, but if you are short on boosts, this is a must execute strategy to stay in this.

Secondly, the strategy I outlined for getting the bigger cards in previous posts still holds true. If you are playing in the limited move or fantasy contests, you will need the purples and golds, and you will need a lot of them. If you dont have a lot to work with, try to work with Defense as your targets, especially with Jacksonville and Minnesota still in it.

Here are the list of players I would be targeting for limited move contests otherwise:

  1. Tom Brady – duh.
  2. Case Keenum – Not a lot of cards in the game, not many boosts
  3. Nick Foles – See above
  4. Leonard Fournette – Bortles will struggle throwing the ball
  5. Blake Bortles
  6. Rob Gronkowski
  7. Latavius Murray
  8. Jay Ajayi
  9. Brandin Cooks
  10. Keelan Cole

In all honesty, if you ran 5 Brady, 3 Keenum and 3 Foles for the Fantasy lineup, you should be fine. The Jags defense might be the one team that matches up quite well with the Patriots too, which could pose some great opportunities to score points in the 50 move contests. Dont just expect Tom Brady to pass for 500 yards like Roethlisberger. Its going to be a different approach without a receiver like Antonio Brown on the field. Rob Gronkowski is a force of nature, but Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith are fast as hell. We will see.

Content / Upcoming Releases and Setting Expectations

First off, there are still a few more batches of Playoff Signatures to come. Brady will be one. So will Foles and Keenum. That’s a lot to expect, and you should get in on the drop as soon as it hits.

We also saw some semi-limited content hit card exchange today, and it sold out in like 2 minutes. More will come, and I hope its as good as what we got today. I havent seen a lot of playoff branded stuff hit so far, outside of the giant base set and sigs. That means one of two things. Either they are holding back for the next few weeks or they are grossly under-prepared for this run. Both are equally scary.

We know there is a Super Bowl base set on the way. They already said that. We also know that there will be some sort of box drop that happens between now and Super Bowl sunday, as per previous months’ expectations. Same goes for Topps Now and the normal stuff that hits every week.

I would like to see a few things before we get to that point, and I hope they dont think that skating by on the remaining marathon releases is enough. It would be awesome to get a playoff themed box drop. Something like Dynasty or a big name like that would literally blow the roof off the joint.

Additionally, we need some sort of super premium release, and I sincerely want them to do something crazy like we saw with Black Ice in Bunt. Whether its a drop of low number Limited, something like Playoff Legends, or whatever. It doesnt matter as long as there are a ton of crazy low count cards and it looks as awesome as it has in the other apps.

The community is ready to rock with money to spend for this time of year, as we have seen. More importantly, the Pats are primed to make a run at ANOTHER title, and some amazing stories behind the Vikings possibly playing a Super Bowl at home are just nuts. Add in the Minnesota Miracle from last night, and every single person in Huddle is dying for some amazing stuff to chase.

As much as I want to say to save your money, dont. This is the best time of year for Huddle and I think that if you are going to spend, this is the time to do it. Even with that prospect in play, the Huddle team needs to BRING IT and BRING IT HARD. The fact they havent done so quite yet is a bit concerning. At least there is a lot of time yet, but we need the big stuff to drop or at least some sort of breakdown of what is coming.

Survival Mode

If you are just looking to hang on and find a way for it all to work out, there are ways to do that. Not only can you play in contests without risking any coins or diamonds, but you can win some awesome looking cards.

Secondly, the playoff challenge is your opportunity to get diamonds that were never available to F2P users, and that is pretty huge. Through trades and coins, there are a lot of ways to participate, and the fact that everyone can participate free is just enormous.

Dont be tempted by offers that are not in line with your goals – especially if you arent going to spend. Pick a line and stick to it. Either be a collector or a contest player, and get to it.

Lastly, enjoy the run – even more so if your team is still alive. I have never been so excited in my life, and I dont think that is going to change. The same should be said for everyone.

 

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What Pokemon Go Teaches Us About the Need for Product Development

In case you arent someone who pays attention, Pokemon Go was a worldwide phenomenon app and game, but has since found that success isnt easy to maintain. For months, huge demand crashed servers, brought fitness to gaming, impacted home prices near in game locations, and launched a drove of hunters that would stop at nothing to get their favorite Pokemon.

Problem is, with a year removed from this viral sensation, the game has seen enormous drops in participation. Although there are still many players who still partake in the fun, the overall community has boiled down to loyalists, with many of the casual gamers moving on.

Sound familiar?

It should, as we saw a very similar spike in digital card trading apps around 2015, only to see the massive traffic settle to where it has been for the last year. This includes a massive launch of two Star Wars movies, a World Series Champion 100 years in the making, and a historic Super Bowl win for Tom Brady.

It boils down to one major driving force in both situations, with a secondary influence that rings true across both platforms as well. Number one with a bullet is product development, or continually advancing the features of the game to foster user engagement. For Pokemon, almost a full year went by without addressing major concerns of the community. In a simple term here, the game is pretty much as it was, with a few extra features bolted on. The second prevailing factor is community feedback, which has been a struggle in its own right. Again, a very familiar refrain from Topps Digital loyalists as well.

If you look back through the last few months of this blog as well, you will see a reduced post count as compared to a year ago, something that speaks volumes about my engagement in the apps. I was also one of those people who dove in headfirst for Pokemon Go, and the app is not even on my phone any longer. Bottom line, my attention span is limited, as is my desire to participate in ongoing engagement for apps that still feel like nothing has changed since 2014.

Although bolt on features like Batter Up, the new Prize Wheel, and Video Cards have made their debut, the app itself is still heavily dependent on features in DIRE need of an update. Things like Collection Score, contests in the sports apps, and overall addition of game like function to the app has been something I have harped on for almost 5 years.

Factoring in that Pokemon is a much younger app, with a much larger audience and team behind it, we should expect that these issues provide a roadmap, especially with such a dedicated community. Pokemon is also a notoriously difficult license to work with, much like Lucasfilms, the NFL and MLB have proven to be for Topps.

At some juncture in the future, the cycle of product development needs to be something that generates real buzz. Topps competition seems to be taking this very seriously in Quidd and Panini apps, with something as simple as group case breaks and pack battles coming out of no where for Blitz and Dunk on the Panini side. Both apps have also mastered serially numbered cards, and have done so with a much more limited resource budget and team available. Regardless of these features, no one has seemed to break through the main question that has plagued Topps since day one.

“How do we get people to care about digital cards?”

The answer isnt that simple, and Im almost positive that there is yet to be a discussion that doesnt devolve into pack mechanics and new content to be released. Much like Topps, Pokemon’s answer has been new content as well, with added Pokemon driving much of the traffic coming back to the app. They still havent addressed the major concerns that bite at the soul of the series. There is no community that is organically integrated into the app, and no trading or teaming available outside of the minimal function already installed. Its hurt the potential of the game, and hurt the revenue generation of the company.

Nintendo stock jumped when Pokemon Go went viral, and Niantic was looking like the next big game developer. None of that has been sustained.

I have posted as recently as last month about the need for more game based engagement across Topps’ stable of apps, even something as simple as recognizing users more frequently, or creating a leaderboard based on a redux of collecting goals. If no one understands how collection score works, why does it still exist? If trader rating has no impact on any access to the game, why does it still exist? If XP and levels dont add much to the user experience, why does it still exist? All of these things have game function that should be tied to them, and yet, none of them actually do anything.

For the longest time, we have all put up with vestigial additions to each apps’ overall function, all with promises of changing the way we engage. Instead, we see each and every new function fall by the wayside, as the team continues to focus on driving new releases and more cards, instead of really augmenting the experiences of the users in a positive way.

Im obviously someone that has fallen for it, continually pumping money into the apps as my daily fix of dopamine needs filling. I will say that it isnt as joyous as it used to be, and that’s the problem. The growing resentment of purchase power has been huge, and we have seen that resentment claim a number of big spenders over the years. People are no longer purchasing because they want to, they are purchasing because of obligation to the existing investment they have already made into an intangible commodity.

Its the gambler’s fallacy in action, and that is tough pill to swallow for most. “I have already spent this much, I might as well keep going. Ill win eventually.”

This overarching theme begs the question though, is there truly a way to win here? Hopefully both Pokemon and Topps find ways to further engage their audiences, especially with how much is on the line. The main difference is that Niantic is a company focused on gaming. Topps is a company focused on physical trading cards. That cannot be overstated enough.

Hopefully, we all get to experience the next stage in what might be coming. I want it to be as glorious as it was back in the beginning of the 2010s, but my patience is wearing thin.

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