Celebrating 2 Years of Star Wars Card Trader and Looking Forward

I remember getting the heads up that Topps was going to be releasing an app that had no gameplay component. It was quite jarring to think that a digital app could prevail without some sort of reason to come back every day, and I had no idea it would turn into what it did. In fact, I would go as far as saying Topps Digital may never have survived without SWCT’s boom in March 2015, but you never know.

Now that we have seen the roller coaster ride reach two years, I find myself continuing to look back on the beginning with a longing desire for a simpler time, but I know that I have similar feelings about physical cards in some ways too. Its a natural evolution in a lot of ways, and I can guarantee that these ups and downs are not going to stop any time soon.

I do have to give a lot of compliments to the staff, both on design and production this time for doing whatthey can to reclaim some of the glory that was lost during the dark times of 2016. We have seen a much more cohesive way that the app has come together, and the birthday celebration is a perfect example of how far things have come in a short amount of time. Although clear that the app still has a long, long way to go, I am confident that this bump in quality overall should eventually get back on a track where there is a future for the long term plan.

Topps Star Wars Card Trader CelebrationTopps Star Wars Card Trader Celebration Jyn

I absolutely love that they brought back the original base design for Rogue One and that the favorite sets of the original run were highlighted too. It really served as a reminder of why the app was so much fun, and I hope that this isnt the last time we have an opportunity to celebrate in this fashion.

At some point we do have an overall question that needs answering, and it has to do with how the team plans to keep things interesting. We are now almost six months into Rogue One content, and its clear that Episode VIII will have a similarly long road map. It gets to be long in the tooth at this point, where people are just sick of another set.

Im constantly curious how the entire scope of digital cards continues to evolve and improve, because it isnt going to be infinitely fun to chase the same cards, with the same set formats, in the same app. There has to be a change on the horizon or this long term plan cannot be as long term. I have to believe the team has had a ton of conversations over where to go next, but we havent really seen much product development during the last year. Smuggler’s Den is now a distant memory, and there has really been no commitment to making that type of feature work.

Right now, I get they are in the middle of a reclamation project, but I cant continue to call for new game features and updates without feeling like they arent listening. Something as simple as adding a showcase has been promised for almost 18 months, and yet, here we are. I get that Topps needs to deliver content regularly to keep the lights on, but the team needs to dedicate resources to improving both user experience and features, and not just for SWCT.

Things have gotten better since Rogue One really started ramping up, and the change in direction has felt very good overall. I just want this celebration of a huge landmark to renew the commitment to making things better over the next two years as well.

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Parallax Arrives in SWCT

Its been almost 2 years, but we have something new today that a lot of users have been waiting for a long time to see in SWCT. The release of the Holoscreen marathon signals the first Parallax card in the app, and the first Parallax card in a long time for any Topps Digital App. I really think this is an underused technology when so many users have iPhones, and Im glad to see it make its debut.

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This isnt the first time Parallax has been rumored for release, as a mine of the back end code for the app revealed a potential Parallax version of the Kylo Ren Episode VII preview cards as something that never really made its debut.

I am curious to see if this is used more often going forward, outside of the 15 cards that will be available in this chase. I reached out to Topps and they werent ready to share plans just yet, but I can assume this isnt the last time we will see the effect in use.

The usage of Parallax highlights even more of a need for a user showcase in the app, something I have been campaigning for over the last few years. As it stands, this marathon will be buried and underappreciated, especially with as many cards that are released every day. Users need a way to show off their favorite cards, and right now, that doesnt exist.

So far, I think this is one of the better rounds of Marathon chases in a while, even though Im still not 100% sold that marathons are the best way to go.

 

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What Sets Should Huddle Do for the Offseason?

Ahh yes. The time of the year where nothing is happening in football and the draft is still 2 months away. Then, after the draft, there is another few months until the rookie premiere. It all is a barren wasteland of football-less boredom, and Huddle needs to find a way to fill the void. Luckily, last offseason, in between events, the physical sets were there to save the day. Hopefully that happens in 2017 as well.

We already got the announcement today that Stadium Club will be making its football debut, which means there should be others to follow. Which physical sets are ripe for Huddle? Here are my thoughts.

Definitive Collection

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This was the final physical premium set Topps did before losing its license, and it was a BEAST. Not only were the cards ornate and incredible looking, but the checklist was stacked with some of the craziest dual autos available. I could see this being amazing for a digital format, especially if the super premium nature of the set is upheld.

Topps Platinum

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I loved the jumbo patch autos that Platinum was known for, and if they can capture the refractor color patterns and parallel structure correctly, this will be a great set to highlight the technology that Topps used for this set.

Topps Chrome

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For whatever reason, I dont think Chrome has ever worked out in Huddle, and that is a HUGE disappointment for my favorite Topps set. Its pretty simple in the way its built, and the refractors and signatures are the reason it produced the most valuable physical card of the year. Superfractors finally made their way to Huddle around thanksgiving, and now we need the set that birthed them too.

Supreme

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At the end of the offseason last year, Topps Supreme was released as an afterthought, almost. I think it needs to be brought back, and it needs the attention it deserves. Since 2010, it has been one of Topps’ fan favorite products, and I would like to see it get another shot. The cards have always looked great, and with a digital friendly design, it could be even better. Great spot for booklets too!

Strata

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In Bunt, the team found a way to make the shadowboxes work, and I think Corey could make these cards even better now that he has the opportunity to start from scratch. If there was a way to incorporate the Parallax effect that seems to be lost on the apps lately, it would be a great opportunity to get some quality and fun content into the app.

Museum Collection

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Again, another set that hit the sheet as the offseason came to a close, and I think a fresh look at this set would be awesome. Framed autographs and jumbo patch autos would be really nice to see again, and hopefully the multisigned cards can be a focus as well.

As mentioned before, there are so many ways to incorporate the redesigned physical sets that worked so well with Inception this year. I would love to see a big focus as things play out leading up to the draft.

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Quick Thoughts on New SWCT Marathon Structures

We are starting to get another wave of marathons in SWCT, something I wasnt quite sure was in the cards for the future. In fact, Im kind of surprised that the marathons are still a thing, even though they have been a staple of all Topps Digital apps for the last few years. Value in the cards have made them more of a collecting quest rather than a way to get premium goods into your collection, so it becomes more about the fun than the actual money the cards are worth. This isnt necessarily a bad thing at all, just different than what originally got me so interested in chasing down every last set during the initial waves in 2015.

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The difference this time around is not just in the set themes, as we are seeing major structural changes as well. I actually like that the SWCT team is going a different direction, as it shows that user feedback isnt going unnoticed. Instead of a 30 week marathon, the new sets are only 15 weeks – the biggest change of the lot. Additionally, there are no longer card count limitations on weeks one and two, with each pack getting a timer instead.

Length Changes

I love that things are only 15 weeks instead of 30. By the end of some of these 30 week sets in the past, I was left gasping for a change. It became as much a chore to track down cards I had lost interest in than a joy, and that should be mitigated by this change.

Similarly, it gives shorter timeframe for new users to wait, especially if they join mid stream. Instead of being left chasing down crazy amounts of cards from previous weeks, the task is now much smaller.

Content should also be much more attractive, as it was clear that the team was stretching to fill subject matter for cards near the end. Boiling things down to 15 weeks will help tremendously with that situation.

Packout Changes

Nothing, and I mean nothing, incited a battle like a week 1 marathon hitting the sheet. Everyone knew how many people would be looking to get the new cards, and there are coin farmers who would go out and literally drain their gardens to suck up as much of the card count as possible. Without a limitation on the card count for week 1 and week 2, anyone who wants to dedicate the coins can get a copy of each card. That is both good and bad.

Good because it creates opportunities for new users who dont know the history of marathons to get on board. Also good because coin farmers suck, and I fully support all efforts to eliminate their influence. If this was a measure to lessen their impact, im on board. If not, still doesnt hurt.

The change is bad because it will hurt value of cards that were some of the more valuable cards in each period. Obviously, there will never be another Vintage Han. Its just not possible anymore. On the other hand, this does nerf whatever value was left. Adding higher odds doesnt necessarily offset this change all the way, and furthers my point that there is no value left in the app’s primary draw.

Im curious how this update to Marathons will be received, as it seems pretty positive so far. With more and more changes coming to SWCT, its clear the team isnt giving up on fixing some of the issues that plagued the app prior. There are a ton of things on that list, but I love that they are committed to listening to user ideas as mentioned in a post from a few weeks ago. If all we do is complain or stay silent, nothing will ever get better. If we bring feedback in constructive ways, things can change.

 

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Valuing and Trading for Sequentially Numbered Huddle Cards

I love this concept, and have wondered how Topps Digital would find a way to number cards past 1/1 and still make them extremely attractive. We have seen a few examples of these sequentially numbered cards hit the sheet, both from two runs of Inception, a few live signatures, and the mammoth Brady Super Bowl MVP Signature Relic. I have yet to be disappointed with the execution of the design, even though I havent been all that happy with the way the pricing/odds have been set up on the packs.

The question I have seen people ask more and more frequently is the value of the cards themselves, and whether they should all be considered 1/1s in the grand scope of the game.

History

It has been about 4 years since the first 1/1 was released in Bunt, given to the champion of the postseason challenge. In the years since that first card, we have seen the designation run wild within almost all the Topps Digital apps, even given as rewards for diamond VIPs in Bunt and Kick.

In Huddle, where the designation has taken on a life of its own, the team has gotten pretty creative with the cards, offering them as contest rewards for Thursday Throwdowns or as pack pulled gems that crashed the app in 2014.

Every year, a new crop of users joins the fray, looking to complete their player collection and giving up anything and everything to get their hands on a card only they own. I have seen some users get taken to the cleaners because they want a 1/1 for their collection, and dont care what they have to give up to get it.

As someone who has played Huddle since day 1, I own more than I can recount clearly, without going back through all the years on my sheet. Like the rest of the community, my ears perk up every time a new batch of super premium 1/1s hit the sheet, and if there is a player I collect in the crop, look out.

Trading for the Cards

This is where things get dicey, as value is such a volatile thing in an app where more people play the contests than really collect on a hardcore level. Huddle went a bit nuts since thanksgiving, releasing Inception’s silver signature patch autos, Superfractor sigs, and a second batch of gold signature patch autos all within a month long period. Combine that with the platinum sigs and other 1/1 programs, and you can see how things got super saturated very, very quickly.

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People have a history with Inception, and I think that is why the cards for players like Dak, Zeke, Brady and Rodgers are top valued cards and will likely remain as valuable as 1/1s released through other programs. The other players, all the way down to Demarco Murray and Adam Vinatieri, not as much.

Right now, the top card in the app is likely the 1/1 Super Bowl MVP signature relics, as they are the first sequentially numbered cards to have different patches in each one of the examples. Considering all 5 are on lockdown at the moment, its going to be tough to find one to even trade for. Even if you locate a user that has one, prying it away is going to be very, very difficult. I have seen offers floating around of some of the bigger cards available, and that’s just the start.

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The worst part about trading for these cards is you cant see which are available unless you go one by one from the master sheet. Because each is technically a 1/1, you cant blind trade for all 10 copies or 5 copies at once. It makes it pretty difficult to find ones that arent locked at that point, and it only adds to the allure.

Value

For cards like Inception, you are going to need some major firepower to get even close. We are talking about either 1/1s from other sets, below 10 count awards and limited, or things like Gold Sigs, or rare Dak/Zeke cards. Crazy rare Brady inserts go a long way in Huddle, and now without boosts being valuable at all, its even tougher to build a case that can give pause to a user that owns one of the cards.

Obviously eBay and cash offers are a great way to get ahold of any card in the game, but with these, its even more of an attractive offer. Because they have yet to be offered in any coin pack, the only way to get these cards is to spend real money and get really lucky. Trading normally available cards for ones of that nature can be awfully tricky, and cash is never a bad thing to use to your advantage.

Overall, TOPPSCOREY has done such an insanely awesome job with each one of these cards, that the value will never be nominal. Just expect the insanity to grow with each new release.

Future

When you consider the things that Huddle has brought to the digital world this year, I think we can assume its only going to get bigger from here. There are so many different directions this can go, that I hope the delivery model changes so people dont get frustrated with the odd approaches on selling access to these cards.

I think that booklets are the next logical step for the sequential treatment, as the community reaction was overwhelmingly positive for the way it was done for the super bowl. Using booklets to deliver ultra premium content is a huge plus, and should create some great reactions as well.

We saw that Live Signatures got a nice little treatment during the big game, with players adding their own serial numbers to the signatures they were signing. If we could get a sequentially numbered inscription card, where each inscription was different, that would be pretty cool.

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Sheild Logo patches are a big thing in physical, and I havent seen them used in digital since Triple Threads. The NFL might be wary of using their shield in this fashion, but to get a version /5 with one style of patches and a version /1 with the shield logo would be amazing.

Lastly, I hope there is a way with future versions of the apps to have sequentially numbered cards not show up as 1/1s within the app. If there was a way to layer the sheet so that the cards function as non unique examples, that would change the app dramatically. Right now, all the cards lay on the sheet as individual cards, and I understand why that is necessary. I want to see the product development go a much different way, with providing a way to serially number the different releases.

I have a feeling the other apps are going to join in on this craze, and I wouldnt be opposed at all. You never know what could be coming.

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Super Bowl Dreams: Recapping Huddle’s Biggest Night of the Year

Its over. Its done.

I need to catch my breath because the game ended up being one for the history books after a relatively boring first half. Luckily for all of us that were playing for points, the game didn’t turn into a blowout, and we got a treat for the ages. Huddle really brought the heat as well, dropping some major goods along the way, including a new “type” of card.

Booklet Cards

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Although there was sadly no new technology used to release these cards, the design used for the presentation kind of made up for it. In the style of the Super Bowl base cards, Huddle released a bunch of awesome signature relic cards, some with up to 6 signatures. The cards aren’t limited to the point where they are unattainable, but good luck trying to track one down for your collection if you don’t have some firepower to give.

This actually opens up a lot of potential for the app moving forward, as they can utilize this type of format to highlight the physical cards that haven’t been able to be used in the app to this point. It also gives a bit more fun to add spice to releases, and hopefully bring more worthwhile super premium content to the fray. If you aren’t a physical collector, its time to go check out what booklet cards are all about, maybe even get a preview of what might be coming as the offseason progresses. Inception anyone?

More 1/1 Sigs

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Other than crazy boosts, nothing gets people going in Huddle than 1/1s, especially when they are built around popular signature sets. Completing the signature marathons in the platinum parallels were a fun chase to add to the booklet release, and had me going nuts buying packs im going to regret later. The previous batch are some of the most valuable cards in the app for 2017, and im sure that is why these are back.

Patriots Championship Card

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In the spirit of the on demand way that digital has made a name for itself, Topps already released a special Patriots champions card that was only available for the people who stayed on through the end of the televised celebration. It was done to match the base cards, much like the booklets were, and may end up being one of the more coveted “base” cards released during the night. Don’t worry though, im sure there will be more variants available as the week progresses, but this was cool to see so soon after the game was over. Great work to have this done ahead of time.

Super Bowl Sigs

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This is where I really was happy to see things go, as I was waiting for the high end signatures to hit in a major way. To see the Ultimate Bundle include some crazy rare and heavily boosted cards in the drop, I would have really liked if it happened a bit earlier. Limiting them to 10 will keep them valuable through the rest of the offseason, and if you were lucky enough to get a good player, hang onto it. The Brady will be hard to come by.

Live Signatures

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Being that it was Super Bowl weekend, many NFL players and vets descended on Houston to celebrate with the league. Topps took full advantage and got some cool cards done with live signatures to be released in the app. They included some awesome signature relics, and sequentially numbered Inception gold autos that were all really well done. Great idea to take advantage of so many players in one place.

The Huddle Bowl Ends As Close as the Game Was

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Although technically, its not the Huddle Bowl anymore, the Postseason Challenge was decided last night by less than nothing. I would say, with the way the scoring was separated by 400 points, that’s the equivalent of less than a yard in scoring. Absolutely insane that after so many weeks, it came down to that few points in the end. I managed to finish 14th after missing a few games during the run, something im pretty proud of. I did end up with some nice contest prizes in finishing 8th in the premium contest, but nothing like the two guys that came out on top. Both got a 1/1 Gold Sig, with Bishop_Eli getting the Brady gold for his collection. Amazing stuff.

Overall a pretty amazing night with some sadness in tow. Football is over, and its now onto the draft, my other favorite time of the year. Hopefully we continue to get some amazing stuff that way as well.

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Unlocking Star Wars Potential: Is It Time To Be Bold and Go a Different Direction?

Of all the apps, Star Wars gets the most attention. It seems to have the largest user base, even with a year of downturn, and as more movies are released, it has the biggest potential to continue to be a flagship app for the brand.

The problem is, it remains a stagnant outline for everything the app has stood for since its launch. Outside of Smuggler’s Den, ne Card Exchange, we really havent seen anything come to Star Wars that changes the way we look at the app. If anything, the damage done over the course of 2016 hasnt really been undone, just refocused and remedied by extra attention to the things the community enjoys. There has been a shift back towards center, which was ABSOLUTELY necessary considering the state of the app prior to Rogue One’s release. That is a very good thing, and something that should get recognition.

That being said, Im not as confident that the app has a long term future anymore. Any of the apps for that matter, more as a function of innovation than anything. When this app first started we saw a huge runway for where things COULD go. However, without any real changes to the way Star Wars functions, that runway has become increasingly smaller by the day. Im not even sure the producers have control over this either, as it relies on product development more than any release or any set.

This issue begs the question of whether a complete reboot might be necessary at some point in the future, not just for Star Wars but for all the apps. I still dont understand why Star Wars is structured exactly like Bunt and Huddle, where the purpose of the app is completely different than what we get in SWCT. If the potential to really grow and get back to where we started is a continued focus, the current structure of the app’s function may need to change.

At the very core, I want to see the app focus on the things that make it great from a holistic perspective. Adapting the app to highlight things like hoarding, set collecting and other areas of the method users have somewhat “crowd-sourced” the way they engage. I also want to see custom work for the collecting apps that provide different action points of interest that are different inherently from the sports. Obviously continuity is a concern, but if you look at some of the other developers in the global app marketplace, they have found ways to make that work.

Topps has seemingly tried this before with Kick, albeit unsuccessfully, and it was more because it was a shift in what the game was all about. Instead of trying to bend the app to the desire of the existing user base, it seemingly went in a completely different direction. That’s not what I want here. I want to see specific features developed and introduced that facilitates a better user engagement process.

I also want to see more spotlight shone on the community and how the fan base has remained one of the most loyal of any available license there is to be had or bought. Finding ways to either let the community position themselves to be recognized, or organically creating recognition methods, will serve to change the dynamic. Similarly, we have already seen a large focus on getting back on track with limiting mistakes and delivering outstanding content. It isnt 100% there, but the difference has been palpable. Now that this is heading in the right direction, its time to add additional focus to these other items.

I was never in the bucket of people that was ready to walk away, I still find a ton of entertainment in SWCT, especially now that the open items are starting to fall into place. Hopefully with a renewed commitment to the way the app is delivered to the users, there will be changes in the way the functionality is adjusted as well.

Maybe others have some thoughts on this, and what they would like to see within the app.

 

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