SWCT Prime Bringing Back the Heat to Collecting Marathons?

There are a few beloved names in SWCT that everyone will chase, including a few that have a big enough following to crash the app. Nightbrothers, Reflections, and a handful of other sets are held with such regard, that they have the ability to mobilize the community to chase without question. When the first series of Vintage was in the midst of wave 1, leg 1, it was a similar situation. The app crashed on a few occasions because of the demand for the cards. Since that time, its been tough to figure out a marathon chase that has a similar impact to the sets mentioned above.

Star Wars Card Trader Prime

When the first card for Prime hit, I think there were a lot of people who saw the potential in what it was about. Retro design, tough odds, great subject matter. Since then, so many people have tried to get their piece of the pie that it becomes difficult to open packs when Prime goes live. This isnt a bad thing outside of functionality – it shows the community can still move the needle when something cool hits packs. Seeing that the big thing is a 30 week marathon remains extremely promising.

I have said a number of times that SWCT needs to find a new wheelhouse, as people were getting seemingly restless with the way things were going. Prime might be a good indicator that some of the old dogs still have new tricks. I dont think it puts the conversation of rerouting things to bed, but it shows the importance that good design and format have to a card’s popularity.

My personal list of contributing factors to card value tends to focus on a few major things, and even then nothing is definite. First is card count. when a lower card count set is released, its easier to make the release stick with the community. Second is variants. The fewer the variants, the lower the supply, the more easy it becomes to instill demand. Third is design. With a good looking card and the other pieces in place, a juggernaut can be expected. Last is subject/theme. With good characters and good themes in place, the cherry can be placed atop the sundae. Delivery method can also be a factor, but people want cool cards regardless of how they come packaged.

Prime seems to hit on all these different things and does so in a way that we havent seen for a long time. No variants, low count, great design, great subject matter and a simple delivery method. I hope this means more to come, as it would definitely be welcome.

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The Success of Pokemon Go and Its Potential Impact on Digital Cards

maxresdefaultIf you havent started playing Pokemon, im not sure what you are waiting for. It has taken the nation by storm, and quickly become the most popular game in the history of the app store. With that, I am going to try to compare apples and oranges, so please entertain my line of thought here.

The success of the app isnt necessarily unexpected, but its exponential growth in the market is nothing short of astonishing. No one thought Pokemon Go would ever be a failure, but no one really expected it to explode like this either. I think the same could be said, on a smaller scale for Topps Digital, or digital cards in general. This leads me to question whether or not the full scale adoption of digital gaming could have a positive impact on the card trading apps we love.

Bottom line, it would take a fluke of unimaginable luck for any Topps apps to reach the level that Pokemon has reached. But, as more and more people are willing to spend money on digital goods, like micro purchases in both the Topps apps and Pokemon go, will there be a more stable approach for the way the market sees apps of this nature? I have to say yes, as there is a fervent fear that some day the apps will go *poof!* and be gone for good. I dont think that is a reasonable concept at this point to entertain, but the success here might spell a new era of smartphone market growth.

With SWCT, there is going to be overlap of geek culture and Pokemon culture, as the target market happens to of a similar ilk. If you remember back, no one really expected SWCT to explode either, and yet, it got more coverage in a few months than Topps did all year prior. National news organizations are still looking to cover the rise of that app, more than a year after its initial success, and I have a feeling the attention on digital is only going to get more intense.

Of course, this leads to a genuine sense of curiosity surrounding how much revenue results from that type of coverage, and as we have seen with Pokemon, it can be white hot. As more and more Topps licenses continue to mature, either with new movies or new seasons, or enhancements to the brand, we will get a better picture of how well the company can handle growth. We have seen hiccups in new app development, when its clear the team is spread thin, and errors take place. Hopefully Topps has a plan to bring more resources on board so the eventual market evolution doesnt hurt as much.

Pokemon is life, trust me on that, as it is only one step of many to bring alternate reality to smartphones in the future. I am confident in Topps’ ability to jump on that hype train, and I am also excited to see how the next few months shake out. WWE, as posted earlier, is a huge win. It goes without saying that new attention to the marketplace in which they reside is going to get them more eyes on their product. Now its up to Topps to figure out what to do with those eyes, so that the ventures can reach the potential they have.

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Why WWE Slam Might Be a Diamond in the Rough for Topps Digital

When the team made the announcement of a forthcoming app – an announcement that eventually became Walking Dead, a question was asked to the twitter crowd of what the next app they wanted should focus on. For close to two hours, twitter followers lobbed suggestions at the team, overwhelmingly in favor of a WWE app. Topps already had a physical card license and had been producing cards for years under the WWE banner, so it made sense.

Now that we have what we wanted, along side two very good other apps, I cant help but be convinced that this app could end up being the one that Topps Digital sees is the next flagship type of addition to their portfolio. Im not saying UFC and TWD arent going to have a huge following, but I am saying that if done right, WWE could be amazing beyond anyone’s expectation. Here are some thoughts as to why.

Nostalgia

WWE Slam Stone Cold StunnerFirst off, if you are an American male, you likely know what the WWF was back when you were a kid. You know about Wrestlemania, and you likely hurt or were hurt by your siblings re-enacting what you saw done by the Ultimate Warrior or Stone Cold Steve Austin. Those memories, painful or not, resonate within the cards of this subject matter. The nostalgia is a reason why  so many of us keep up with this sports version of a soap opera. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion for many collectors, and its going to be a big reason why the cross traffic from other apps will gravitate towards Slam, and why new users will see it in the app store and hit the download button.

Fan Base

Wrestling, despite all the changes and shifts in the way the show is produced and run, still draws a huge crowd. Although it might not be the crazy M rated TV show it used to be, they still have a large viewership that tunes in every week. This fan base means that there will be a big target market, similar to UFC that will support the different programs the app wants to run. Fan base is relative, as we see that both UFC and TWD has huge fan bases, but UFC would clearly have the larger base of fans that ALSO collects UFC cards. I feel thats were Slam will have a similar advantage.

Year Round Scheduling

This is where WWE has an absolutely enormous advantage. Every week, every month, there are events, and there is no offseason. Unlike Bunt and Huddle, the app can run all year and have new angles and storylines through the whole calendar. The big events happen monthly, and though UFC has year round scheduling too, its not as important week to week as it is with WWE. With RAW and Smackdown, plus NXT in recent years, the biggest stars are on display at every single event. I cant even put into words how important this is.

Breadth of Content

The great thing about Wrestling is that you not only have a huge amount of main players that you can build around, but the range of content and history is absolutely enormous. Even better, most of the content can be dynamic and compelling with the right approach. Whether its insert sets build around Finishers or Wrestlemania history, or a NXT set built around the best up and coming superstars, its all here. I feel like TWD suffers a bit because of the limits of the character roster, where WWE can go for years.

Existing Physical Products

2016-Topps-WWE-Undisputed-Base-Brock-Lesnar

Like UFC, Huddle, Bunt and Kick, the amount of WWE physical products created each year provides a great digitization background to bring pre-developed content to the app. This is critical generating traffic from the physical side, and also gives a secondary approach to the app’s team. That variety is not only quite fun, but keeps things fresh too.

Licensed Roster 

I was absolutely shocked to see how many superstars and Divas the team was able to bring to digital, and it will do them a ton of favors in creating content. As mentioned above, the history of the WWE is a big part of that nostalgic emotion, and its important to have a roster available that can showcase that. With guys like The Rock, Triple H, Stone Cold, and Flair in packs next to newer superstars like Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler, it provides a reason to keep going on the collector side.

Kitsch Factor

This is where things can get really fun, and I hope they do. Wrestling isnt wrestling without the kitch factor at a minimum of 60% each week. You need to have those fun moments that make the app fit that same mold, and I really hope they dont go all serious with every release. There is a need for that stuff too, but without the wink wink at the camera, things just get too heavy.

When seeing all these factors lined up, coupled with a bunch of others I didnt mention, its clear that Topps Digital has a winner on their hands. Im actually knd of curious why it took so long for Slam to happen. I think they will be very pleased, as long as the right decisions are made.

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BREAKING NEWS: Topps Launches 2016 WWE Slam: Card Trader

CnTGC1BWIAAqa76In an unprecedented move, Topps has released their second app in almost as many weeks, with WWE Slam hitting the app store last night. This is the app that many fans have been calling and waiting for, and one that I would say intrigues me more than the other two released this summer. As a kid growing up, I was a huge Wrestling fan, and though I dont watch week to week, Wrestlemania is still an event with my friends and I.

This app looks to be structured very similarly to the entertainment apps, with a main focus on collecting over gameplay. Being that Wrestling has a live element, its still yet to be seen how the weekly shows and pay-per-views will factor into the apps’ functionality.

Similarly, they have a HUGE roster of Superstars and Divas, and that makes me insanely happy. I definitely more identify with the Attitude Era than anything, and to see a lot of the Superstars represented in that manor is pretty cool.

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The cover athletes span the 3 groups that comprise the roster, with Seth Rollins for current Superstars, Ric Flair (WOOOO!) for Legends, and Sasha Banks for the Diva side.

As for the card designs, it looks like an original concept, with possible inspiration from physical sets out there, although nothing is jumping out at me right now. The base looks great, and I am very excited to see where this goes.

WWE Slam Base Card

More inserts should likely come today, hopefully being able to get going as soon as possible. With a ton of physical sets out there, plus a huge subject matter catalog to pull from, I fully expect this to be incredible with some of the potential ideas and story lines in play.

Overall, this is going to be a huge addition to the strong portfolio that Topps has already grown significantly this year, and I would say that the fan response on Twitter and the like has been enormous.

Here are some more previews from the app store, you can download it here. The twitter handle for the app is @ToppsSlam.

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Bunt All Star Game Recap – Tons of New Stuff!

Now that the all star game is over, I want to spend some time breaking down thoughts on some of the sets that were released during the last week. Some were definitely among the best looking cards this year so far, and the Bunt team has to feel good about the way everything turned out.

All Star Game Set

Bunt All Star Game Base

This is a set I have put together for the last three years, and each time it gets better and better. I absolutely loved the design in 2014, and 2016 is definitely a step above that. I also loved that they separated out the expansion cards, so you didnt have to go diving through a sea of duplicates when you are filling out the set at new players being added.

All Star Live Moments

Bunt All Star Live Moment

Another awesome idea from last year, and this year I think it was just as good. The gold separation design did a good job of separating the live cards from the original set, which was a point of confusion last year. There was a good share of great moments from top players, so this was something that I hope gets brought back during other events too.

Home Run Derby Set

Bunt Home Run Derby

For both the pre-derby and post-derby sets, I loved the design, and the photo choices were spot on. The Giancarlo stanton relic card for the post derby set was especially cool, and like last year, the relic stands above most of the cards released for the entire all star weekend.

Live Signatures

Although there was a bit of outrage about the list of people who ended up getting a copy of one of these cards, the live signature videos with Noah Syndegaard was worth all the headaches that came after. I really liked seeing how the digital team got these cards taken care of, and as I mentioned in my article prior, I hope we see more of the live signature concept.

All Star Fire

Bunt All Star fire

This was probably my favorite set of the weekend, and I absolutely love seeing the different designs Tyson Beck comes up with for Bunt. He is getting some major traction with the community and his sets, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the future. Even the parallel concept worked well for this.

Retro Archives Set

Bunt 1992 all star dual

The dual cards and retro all star cards from past years was a fun treat, and I always like seeing cards like this that were in a binder when I was younger. Although the checklist was a bit dated because of when the cards were released in the early 1990s, you just have to appreciate the content.

Unique Unis

Bunt All Star Unique Unis

This was a no brainer to me, and I loved seeing all the different jerseys that were featured in the set. Some big names also, and the award card was freaking sweet. Overall this one probably got lost in the shuffle a bit, but it definitely deserved any hype it got. Love this set.

As mentioned in prior articles, the ASG is probably one of the biggest events of the year for Bunt, and 2016 was definitely no different.

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Do Live Signed Digital Cards Bring More Value With a Novel Concept?

The newest thing that Topps Digital has brought to the landscape is live signatures, or players using an iPad to sign the digital cards with an apple pen. Basically, the Topps team presents a photoshop document of the card, and the player “signs” his signature over the layout.

With the All Star Fan Fest in full force, Topps has put a crazy rare offer together of Noah Syndergaard personalizing live signatures to fans who pull one of the tickets. Obviously, these tickets are about the toughest pull in the game right now, so its clear that they would have value regardless. The question is, if Topps has a way to get most of their autographs “live signed” will those carry more value outside of the rarity and prestige already associated with the card.

Right now, both Bunt and Huddle have used the live signature concept, both with quite positive results. Huddle’s live signatures at the rookie premiere might be some of the more awesome looking cards in the game, as the minicamp series they signed were already cool looking to begin with. The players also signed live sigs on less design focused cards, using inscriptions and drawn plays to increase the collectability. They havent been as well received.

Topps Huddle Live Signature Rookie Premiere

Although I think the CONCEPT is a novel one and should continue to be used, Im not sure it does MORE for a card that is not already a part of the value. That doesnt mean the team cant use alternate methods to make the cards more valuable, I just dont think the live signature itself will do that much more.

In terms of Syndergaard, its clear that Topps is looking to involve the fans a lot more in the actual signing of the card, bringing personalization to the table. Although its unclear how it is going to work out when completed, its another cool way to get the fans closer to the cards in their collection.

In the end, its going to depend on the team to deliver compelling content regardless of the signatures themselves. Design and dynamic looks will always be more important to the aesthetic of the card than the autograph, and the real value indicators of card count and player will be the prime factors.

I like the concept as said above, and hopefully the team has more fun planned soon.

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2016 MLB All Star Game – What to Expect in Bunt

CmyQB0jWEAA3DYfEven though the whole “this time it counts” campaign with the All Star Game bugs me to no end, I absolutely love this time of year. In Bunt, the All Star game becomes one of the, if not the biggest “event” of the year, where hundreds of cards should end up being released to commemorate the game.

Last year during the All Star Break, we got everything from the Home Run Derby to ASG history, and I doubt that it will be any different this year. Here are some of the things I would expect over the next week or two.

All Star Game Set

Being that the game itself is the focus of the whole week, Bunt has put out a full All Star roster in set form for a few years now. The cards have ranged from easy to pull to very difficult to pull, and I think that this is one set that many people wait all year to complete.

222015 Topps Bunt All Star Game Texiera

This year’s set should have its share of both easy and tough odds, so its best to figure out how you want to participate and go from there. In 2015, there was a red set at one per pack and a black set that was much more difficult to put together.

The great thing was, if you did manage to scrape together all the cards, the rewards were absolutely awesome looking. With Mike Trout winning MVP, it was quite the fun awards to see. They had a relic version and a non-relic version, and I would go so far as saying they were some of my favorites in the game last year.

Home Run Derby Set

2015 Topps Bunt All Star Home Run Derby Frazier

In 2014, Bunt did their first HRD set, and continued the tradition in 2015. This year should mark year 3 and I am very excited to see what they have up their sleeve. Last year the award was a Todd Frazier HRD winner relic card, and I am almost hoping they take it a step further this year. Who knows, maybe all the HRD cards will be relic based?

All Star History

In past years, Bunt has commemorated past ASG moments with the history cards that focus on the event. These cards have ranged from a few different sets to individual releases, and many times, these end up being quite coveted releases. I really want to see some fun stuff from this side of things this year, especially because my favorite team is so bad.  A cool theme could make up for some of the pain that team collectors have.

Chase Cards

Although we didnt get an ASG sig last year, we did in 2014 and I hope that we do in 2016 too. I could see them really going for it with sigs, relics and limited, and if they were smart, branding them with game logos. Would love to see them go for some of the first legend signature series cards too, but you never know.

Live Content

This was where things got REALLY interesting last year, and it would be awesome if they could pull it off again. During the game last year, as big plays happened, Bunt released cards with in game images in the app. It was really impressive how quickly things got done, and I hope they can one up the performance for this year.

Contest

In Huddle, we saw them run a contest during the Pro Bowl game, and it would be really cool if they did a similar thing for Bunt this year. Even if the only cards you can play are the base ASG set, I would be fine with that. The more we can engage game play around this event, the better.

All Star Fan Fest

2015 Topps Bunt All Star Game FanFare

Every year, MLB puts on a huge convention at the site of the All Star Game, and Topps has been a presence there each time. As the exclusive trading card provider of MLB, they usually send a team there to engage with customers. They also put out a set of cards, and in 2014 and 15, Bunt had them loaded into the app. Pretty fun set to chase, and I hope to get a similar version this year.

Most importantly, over the next few days leading up to the release of the set, save your coins unless there is something you DESPERATELY need. There will be a ton of fireworks and you do not want to miss out.

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