A Plea for Contests: Bring us Back to the Roots of Our Love for Digital

I remember back to 2012 and 2013. I started playing the apps because it combined card collecting with fantasy sports. You opened packs of cards to get players that you can use in a way that coincides with the live games. It was a revolutionary concept for me, and something that really got me interested in digital. Since that point, the apps have kind of broken from that formula, focusing more on deriving value in the cards and less in making gameplay the focus of each of the apps. Im sad about that, and from the way revenue has been performing according to public tracking aggregators, it looks like this might be a way to right the ship so to speak.

Revenue is generated in app from buying bundles. Bundles that include coins or bundles that include cards. Because users get daily coins, spending only occurs when someone wants coins that they dont have. There are a handful of users who will buy cards because they have already broken the normal spending cycles, but for the normal non-whale, spending is about coins, not cards.

Because contests are usually not purchased bundles, the revenue derived from their participation is likely viewed as passive. Im also guessing it can be hard to track, because in a lot of ways, its a multi touch attribution model. User A is participating in Contest A. He buys packs of product A to get better cards. Tying all the As together might be difficult, especially if it can be a lot of different products the person buys.

It can also be as complicated as User A wants better cards for Contest A, so he solicits User B to trade him what he wants. User B sees value in the trade and wants to acquire more bait, so he buys in further to open more packs. Its passive, not direct.

I will say the ripple effects of contests being amazing can be huge. Topps doesnt seem to want to put a ton of effort into the daily contests, as we have seen in Bunt this year. They are much more interested in releasing cards than being innovative with the gameplay, and I believe they are wrong in doing so. Very wrong.

Recently we saw new contest types added, but as I said at the time, that cant be the end of it. With more focus, all those ripple effects are greater, and greater ripples from the contests means more revenue for Topps. Plus, the users are more entertained in the mean time.

For whatever reason, I feel like Topps doesnt think this way. Because they cant see the lift a contest advanced plan would have directly, they dont want to invest. Its funny that this is the case, because contests are literally one of the main advantages Topps has over any competition. I also think the short term plan of trying to squeeze more out of the big spenders instead of creating new ones is horrible idea. Its the same approach that got physical cards into the unsustainable situation they are in currently. You need to grow the pie, not get more out of what you already own. Growth of population, not growth per capita.

I wholeheartedly believe that more innovation in gameplay will have a hugely positive effect. This begs the question, how do you do that?

  1. Rewards – contest rewards have to be better. Reward the effort needed to place high with some great cards. More cards should have signatures, cost to enter should be low or free, and more highlighted content around winners should be in place. The app should showcase the contest as the peak of the mountain
  2. Variety – It can just be the same contests every day and every week. More special contests need to be instated. The app team should have weekly plans to make each day of the week special, and the better the exclusive reward, the better the participation and ripple effects will be in place.
  3. Communication – Blow it up on Twitter. Blow it up in the app. Show the commitment in a way that equates fame with winning.
  4. Embrace criticism – The app should be its own biggest critic. It should also solicit ideas and crowdsource solutions. Let the fans tell you what they want!
  5. Rewards – so important its on here twice. Think outside the box. Physical rewards are not out of the question, but there are enough ideas that havent been used that the team can still save physical rewards for the playoffs.
  6. Rewards – Yup, still that important.

Again, contests are in a funk, and I dont see the team really taking a stance to making them better across the apps. We havent seen what Huddle has to offer, but there is a huge need to take contests and dedicate more time and resources to making them SPECIAL. Trust me, I know that this is a way to bring back some of that magic we have lost in Bunt and Huddle.

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Topps Huddle 17: Five Things Worth Talking About

topps-nfl-huddle-17.jpg

Now that Huddle has launched and there is a lot of changes implemented from the builds of other apps, I wanted to make sure I had a chance to dive in before doing a full write up. I have had some time to get acquainted since Wednesday night, and here are a few things that are worth your time to consider.

#1 – Content

topps Huddle 2016 2017 basetopps Huddle 2016 2017 base 2

Right now, Huddle has no physical cards that they can use for digitization. The physical side is no longer NFL licensed, andthat means digital is tasked with carrying the brand name beyond the post. The base design is our first look at that venture, and it is refreshing to see what the team came up with. Not only did they create a great looking base design, but they found ways to highlight a digital format, instead of building off an existing design and finding ways to fold it into the needs of the app.

We are going to get a lot of BRAND SPANKING NEW DESIGNS from Huddle this year, and from what Neil Kleid was saying on Twitter, they might not be giving up on those fan favorite set names. If we will get new takes on old favorites, im completely on board. Things like Inception, Fire, and Museum all deserve to be carried on, so why not build a digital brand out of the history we love?

At the same time, physical football is gone. I sincerely hope Topps Digital is not going to come around and say “FOOTBALL IS STILL HERE!” because that isnt the approach I would take. Make digital into the brand it has always deserved to be. Invest in creating an experience that preserves the history, but doesnt try to recreate it.

#2 – Levels

2017 huddle greats

We saw the level system in Bunt get introduced, and honestly, I thought it was an AWESOME idea. It didnt turn out to be all that important in the grand scheme, mostly because it just became an award delivery device.

I think there are a lot of reasons why this needs to be expanded, and the Huddle Greats set that are delivered through this level system is really cool. Its a perfect way to breed exclusivity into leveling up, especially if the players continue to get better as the levels increase.

I just hope that we also start to see level exclusive access to parts of the app that make it worthwhile outside of rewards to chase additional progression.

#3 – Contests

The simulated contests are a fun and interesting way to whet our appetites for the season. It also institutes the potential for a ticketing system that I hope stays around for the rest of the season.

Basically, it would be cool to win tickets that can be exchanged for any kind of loot, especially loot that is applicable to better performance in contests. Think about saving tickets and exchanging for exclusive boosts, or a pack that is built around players who are top point scorers? Possibilities are endless through card exchange.

Similarly, with fewer contest weeks available than Bunt, hopefully things wont be as stale here as they got mid season in baseball. At the same time, contest prizes need to reward effort over luck, and really deliver in a similar fashion to what we saw in the playoffs.

#4 – Communication

Huddle has been notoriously quiet in communicating with the users, and that just cant happen here. If they are the brand for football, they really need to ramp up the engagement on social media.

Topps as a whole needs to get behind Huddle and showcase that digital remains a powerhouse worth people’s attention. We see rankings across all the apps coming down to earth, and I believe its a combination of poor sales strategy and poor communication as a whole.

You rarely see the main Topps account tweet about digital, and that is really unfortunate. Without full support from all aspects of the business, Huddle will not reach the potential it could. Same goes all around. Not saying they need to tweet every release, but definitely showcase more often what digital brings to the table.

#5 – Rookies

Right now, the rookie crop is getting a lot of attention because Dak Prescott is lighting it up in the pre-season and the season is getting closer to launching. Im guessing with Panini in control of the rookie premiere, they likely didnt give huddle the access they probably would have gotten in previous years.

This means rookie content could be sparse until they can pull and process photos from the preseason. I havent seen any rookies in the base set yet, but that doesnt mean they will be absent forever.

Hopefully Huddle finds a way to incorporate the rookies earlier rather than later.

Again, this could end up being a make or break year for the app. If things live up to the hype, they are in for a banner season. If not, its going to fall on the team to figure out how to improve and quickly. The NFL is not a cheap organization to do business with, and Im sure the brass wants big numbers and fast. Based on the offseason setup holding true for 2017, I am confident they can make a splash.

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Topps Huddle 2016: Your Guide to the Coming Launch

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With the NFL season kicking off in September, Huddle has already tweeted out that the new build will launch this week. Basically that means we can all start revving our engines to get ready for what is coming. With this being the first year that Topps will have a digital license but no physical NFL license, this can be a game changing opportunity for the brand. They will be able to build things specifically into the cards for a digital landscape, and that could be HUGE.

NOTE: I call it 2016 because its the 2016 season. Huddle is using the Madden nomenclature and going with the year the season ends.

As we approach launch, there are a number of things that need to be considered. I would love to walk through them all, but I chose the most important things that have made successful over the years.

Old Insert Value in 2015

To be honest, the 2015 insert landscape changed DRAMATICALLY over the offseason. With so many low count inserts, the normal approach might not be successful. It used to be that the sigs and low count stuff like limited would have extreme value, but that might not be the case with the way the 2015 season wrapped up. Things like Fire, Supreme and Museum might not hold the value they had long term, so dont expect to pick up top cards of 2017 easily with a 1:1 trade of that type of content. More importantly, the higher the count on the insert, the more likely it will not be very valuable in the new season. In the 2015 Huddle launch, the change to NFL licensing brought about a significant shift in value. A similar shift will be taking place with the offseason approach, and its going to be very interesting to see how those cards fare. Im not saying to dump all your cards now, but use this opportunity to trade up if you can. Package some cards together to see if someone will be more likely to give you a shot at some really nice inserts. Sometimes, nice inserts will have carryover value because they look cool or are rare enough to make a difference.

Also worth mentioning that your collection score will drop significantly once the new cards hit the sheet, so dont be alarmed. Once you collect the base and some of the other releases, it will start to creep back up in direct correlation to the rest of the users in the app. I would guess your score should hover around 80+ depending on how much old stuff you have.

First Day Planning

When Huddle starts up, there will be packs to buy and there will be a crap load of 2016 base cards to collect. However, I am going to urge you to wait to buy packs until the first inserts hit packs. Base cards will rarely ever sell out, which means that wasting coins on empty packs is probably not the best plan. I would guess there will be a number of sets that will be released in the first few days:

  • Kickoff cards (day 1-2 likely)
  • Signature Series (day 2-3 likely)
  • First non-marathon insert set (day 1-2 likely)
  • First marathon inserts (day 1-2 likely)
  • Go Boosts (Wed-Thur of release)

With so much content likely planned, its in your best interest to survey the scene before diving in. You do not want to miss out on a sweet card just because you got trigger happy on the first base packs of the year.

 

Hitting the Fan Feed

Get ready to trade and trade hard. There will be HUNDREDS of people who will jump onto the feed and post “Trading 2015 for 2016” the second the new app launches. Even though you will be one of those individuals, I would definitely find a way to get some trades done. Try to unload 2014 and 2015 cards that have no value to get higher boost cards of players who might not be the top guys. Use the red paperclip technique to parlay them into some trade bait you can use to get some cards of people you actually want. It wont be easy, but it will pass the time until the real inserts hit packs and you can finally dive in. Expect to enormously overpay for 2015, and that should not be a concern. Most people have a TON of 2015 boosts and stuff to unload – even singles – and I would advise giving up what you cant use to get cards you can use.

Scoring

If 2016 is anything like 2015, the contests will launch a few days before that Thursday game. playable Broncos and Panthers cards will be in high demand, and that means they might not be ones you can trade for easily. Remember, this is one game of hundreds, so dont liquidate your collection of new cards to get the ones for this particular game.

If you really want to get ahead, start looking at the teams that have a LOT of nationally televised games. Having a lot of those team’s cards will give you a significant advantage in getting top performance in contests.

Position Scoring Value

Last year, all offensive skill position guys were worth picking up as long as they were starters. Here are how I thought the breakdown went, in order of value:

  1. Wide Receiver
  2. Running Back
  3. Quarterback
  4. Tight end
  5. High tackle count defensive player
  6. High sack count defensive player
  7. Kickers
  8. High interception count defensive player
  9. Punters

Outside of that, its basically a jumble of other defensive guys and players that dont score. Dont get caught up in getting a top QB, because the way scoring was set up in 2015, the receiver almost always scored a ton more points for any nice play. DESPITE what people believe, RBs and WRs are much better for you if you are going to be participating in the weekly grind.

Based on what we have seen, here are my top players at each of the most important positions.

  • QB: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck
  • WR: Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Todd Gurley
  • TE: Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce

Not all of these individuals will have cards from day one, so pick out the ones that will likely be your top targets.

Contests/Boosts

Bottom line, Contests and Boosts are ingrained in Huddle’s culture. This means there will be a lot of boosts to play in the many contests that will be available as the season progresses. Some will likely be in packs, some will be purchase only. It might be available day one this year, but I would doubt it. Basically, if you arent ready to buy into the boosts, dont. I have seen people do extremely well in contests with no boosts, I have seen people win contests because of boosts. Both work. There will be a place for everything, and Boosts are a thing that make Huddle fun

If Huddle 2016 is anything like last year, the contests will have a Thursday contest, a Sunday Contest, a Sunday night contest, and a monday night contest. Be prepared to play as many of them as you can, not only because of the rewards, but also because of how much more fun the game is.

 

Get Excited!

Bottom line, this is going to be a banner year for Huddle if they can do it right, and that means that they will be focused on the parts of the game that drive participation. Being that Huddle is my main app, this is the time of year that I live for. If you have any questions, shoot me a tweet at @SCUncensored or shoot me a message in game.

Looking forward to seeing a big piece of awesomeness this week.

 

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2016 Topps Bunt Physical: What Worked and What Didnt Work

The release of 2016 Topps Bunt Physical is a big deal, even if you arent in the game of physical cards. Long have physical collectors chastised the digital arena for not having any tangible evidence of money spent, and now that has changed considerably. At the same time, the release was clouded with some major issues, and that hurt the potential I feel this had in a lot of ways. Here are some thoughts.

What Worked Well

First off, it should go without saying that seeing Bunt take on a physical form was really cool. The base design is awesome, and the inserts are even better. Building a product around the digital format is a great opportunity for digital collectors who havent opened real packs to do so. That in itself is a win, considering how the physical hobby has been shrinking in direct contradiction to the growth we have seen in digital for years.

The redeemable inserts and cards in the loot packs are going to be prized in the game, or at least they should be. They look great, they have great concepts, and the checklists are pretty good too, and if you walk away with 13 loot cards per box, these cards are worth redeeming them for.

topps bunt stadium heritagetopps bunt physical stadium heritage

Price point on the physical boxes is as good as the card design, with packs accessible to just about everyone under the sun. They could have gone another direction and price the boxes at 70-100 dollars with more physical content, but it wouldnt make it as digestible for the age groups that make digital successful.

What Didnt Work Well

I dont know what happened with the release of this product on the digital side. The sales sheet promised exclusive content to the physical product that seemed to be lost on the digital team. Packs of the insert cards from the product were released into mass circulation in the app, and it came within a hair of ruining the value around every part of the physical product.

Luckily, the cards were pulled after a few hours, but what seems to be the lack of communication between the two sides of the Topps business, really hurt what this product could have been. Instead of VERY low count cards from all aspects of the physical product, many of the parallels are now much higher in count.

In the same vein, it seems like the boost levels on the cards associated with the product dont really fit with the boost escalation patterns of the app. I was expecting the topaz and platinum cards to be a minimum of 3x, but seeing them at 1.5x and 2x is a huge bummer. It doesnt provide much reward for people who pull the cards.

Content in the product also leaves a lot to be desired. Autographs are 1:10000 or so packs, and there are no redeemable physical cards that are less than 1:1400 packs. Although more autograph content would have increased the product’s price per box, more physical redemption content should have been included. This was hugely disappointing in that respect.

I know that digital wants to protect their revenue, but they also cant look at this from a one product slate. There seemed to be huge opportunity to do something like a physical product more often if this was successful, but nerfing the content seemed to seal the deal that this could be one and done. More redemptions, more content designed for the loot packs, more exclusivity should be a focus, and give people a reason to engage BOTH parts of Topps’ offering. There should be a seamless partnership in place for a product like this, and I just dont think that happened based on the way the release went down.

I am someone that loves both parts of the hobby – physical and digital – and I want to see that both remain a part of the landscape. I dont think that the app loses much if some awesome stuff hits physical packs, and I think there is a possibility to gain users if they can showcase the fun of the digital arena in a way that makes sense on the physical product side. If content sucks, and release is botched, all that goes away.

Future Considerations

Personally, I dont see this release as the nail in the crossover coffin as some other users have flamboyantly claimed. There is still a big reason why stuff like this should be done frequently and with a focus on optimization.

We have a SWCT physical product on the horizon, and I think there should be lessons learned from this release too. Communication with the customers, communication between the teams, and follow through on content is all paramount. Without top notch representation of those elements, it will fall apart in a similar fashion to what we saw.

Next time around, I would even consider digital packs with physical redemptions to make it beneficial revenue wise for both sides. If you can get real stuff out of digital packs that arent available on the physical side, that is a huge attraction to bring physical collectors into digital to buy.

I would also toy with the idea of live signature content to be delivered in physical packs, with the first ever opportunity for Topps to showcase their new toy to a broader audience on the physical side.

Lastly, treat this like an event. It cant be just one article the day of release. It has to be marketing on both sides, especially to foster that crossover traffic that makes this product so big a deal.

I hope that Bunt takes the lead on this, because digital is looking more and more like a the horse to pick in the longevity race for sports cards. Products like this can do essential service to education of the hobby population, and my opinion is that this wasnt treated that way.

 

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2016 Topps Bunt Physical is Here: What You Need to Know

The day has finally come for the Bunt crossover product, and I could not be more excited. For those of you who arent aware, there is a physical card product that is being released in Hobby stores and retail tomorrow that will have connection to the digital app we all know and love.

Setup

Not only are there physical versions of the cards from the app, but there are exclusive base cards, as well as loot cards that function as digital redemptions for in game packs. Worth adding that Topps has a checklist of autograph content that adds real signatures to the digital designs.

Capture

In all honesty, what makes this product so attractive is the price combined with the digital redemption aspect, in combination with the potential to get some autograph content at a higher odds ratio.

Impact on Physical

Honestly, this product is more of a win for the physical side than the digital side for a number of reasons. I dont really see a huge clip of physical collectors opening this box and being turned onto digital in a way they havent already seen. In my mind, this is basically a way to entice the larger population of digital collectors to rip some physical packs for the first time.

Impact on Digital

This is where things get interesting. Loot cards are hitting at 1:3 physical packs, and these are where the real gems are. Topaz base that are boosted, plus some opportunity to pull even more inserts. The checklist is pretty stacked, and that means that the cards will be that much more valuable in the game.

There are also digital redemptions for inserts in the physical packs, from what it looks like, which might mean even more of a reason to rip this in mass.

Group Breaks

There are a lot of people who will see that group breaks of the product are online with some of the main players in the GB game. These group breaks might be a way to get in on some of the cards if you arent near a hobby shop.  The different formats are random team or pick your team, where you will have the chance to get a lot of different cards from a team you pick or a team that is decided by draw. Word to the wise: read into how the loot cards are being distributed, because these are where things will make or break your participation.

Checklist

If you want to get an idea of who is included on the checklist, here is the link to Topps’ website.

Topps Bunt 2016 Checklist – Topps.com

Words of Warning

Redemption cards and autographs are TOUGH pulls. This set should not be purchased for people that want to hit the big cards. This is cheap fun with collecting the set and maybe getting lucky along the way. Autographs fall something like 1:10000 packs. If you are a Bunt player and want to get the loot cards, plus some fun other inserts, this will be a blast.

Overall – dont hesitate to shoot me a question on Twitter, im going to be ripping quite a bit of this and will be posting the goods online.

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Signatures Awaken – Boyega and Ridley Invade SWCT

This is a time that some have been eagerly awaiting, the addition of new Force Awakens main characters to the signature side of the app. With new deals on the physical side getting signed, the app team now has more and more actors they can play with, including two of the four best names you can have. Although we are still waiting on Harrison Ford and Mark Hammill to be added, we now have John Boyega (Finn), and Daisy Ridley (Rey) on board. The cards are pretty awesome to boot.

Star Wars Card Trader Rey Signature

The first batch of cards rehashed the signature design we have seen now for almost a year, which was a bit disappointing. Although I think the design was good at first, I think it has gotten a bit tired. Adding so many variants to the original batch has diluted the way the signatures are valued, and I was actually curious why they didnt use the design from the pack art instead of the one they chose.

As the moved onto the movie vision, dual signature and signature relic cards, thats when I jumped in head first. Not only was it a fresh design, but the cards reflected a lot of what I was hoping to see. Although the variant count is already starting to increase for the cards, im still loving the direction of the design work for these examples.

Star Wars Card Trader Signature Relic

The signature relic is turning out to be an EXTREMELY tough pull, which is unfortunate based on how awesome the card looks. If you are a physical collector, it represents a very similar approach to what Topps has done in their high end sports sets. I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more usage of this type of approach, especially as more and more physical sets utilize these signers. Seeing that they are also working on a SWCT physical set, I can see a sig relic level of design taking hold.

Capture

Bottom line, having Rey signatures in the app is a very good thing. People loved Force Awakens, they love the new story, and Rey is central to that. There are a few creepier reasons why people like her, but it all goes to the same place in the app. People want more cards that use her character in cool ways. Of course, if they try to milk the ideas dry with variants of existing cards, instead of developing new sets, its going to be as stale as we saw the original signatures get. Rey or no Rey, fresh content reigns supreme. These signatures are definitely in that vein.

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Topps Previews 2017 Flagship – Quick Look at Impact On Bunt

If you are following along on the physical side, Topps has just published the first look at the flaghsip design for their base baseball products. This design, much like 2016, will likely fund the look for 2017 Bunt as well, and I wanted to go through some initial thoughts.

2017 Topps baseball Bunt

First off, I think the design definitely goes down a path that has a retro looking feel to it. Funny enough, retro being 1998, still looks pretty modern, so it looks really cool. I like the metal framework nameplate, although Im not a huge fan of the tilted team logo.

The full bleed photos are back for the most part, and that remains one of the best features of this card. I like they have decided to go borderless for two years running now, and its going to be interesting if the name plate is used to show color in parallels.

For Bunt, they still have a lot of options when building out the design to show boost levels and other variations. This will work better for them than 2016, even though I think that the 2016 design is better as a whole.

EDIT: As was being discussed on Twitter, there might be a reason that Bunt has the desire to develop its own design, especially with the pending release of its own physical product. Curious to see how this shakes out.

Curious to see what people think on their end – comments welcome!

 

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