If there is one complaint I have heard from a lot of users on all of the apps, its that its becoming impossible to truly participate in the game without spending a ton of money. Although I think its a bit too harsh of a viewpoint, it does have some merit. Here is my opinionated breakdown of the whole situation.
The Digital Card vs Actual Card Comparison
I have constantly compared both the collecting of real cards vs digital cards over the last few months, and the two worlds continually intersect. All of the issues that are currently going on with Bunt/Huddle/Kick are the same challenges that many card collectors felt during the early part of the 2000s.
Real cards used to be a hobby where 4-5 sets a year were all anyone needed to chase. The cards were relatively cheap, save some of the OLLLLLD vintage stuff, which has always continued to have high value. It was also a different world, with a lack of technology and connecting elements that brought collectors together.
As the hobby evolved, cards became an investment that had extreme monetary value, especially as the 1990s collecting boom hit full swing. By 2000, there was already a shift in play, towards creating more higher end entry points for cards. Since then, it has only gotten more extreme as the collecting base shrunk due to economic downturn and the growth of technology available.
Where it used to be cheap to collect cards, it is now a hugely expensive industry, that for all intents and purposes is forced to operate this way as their target market has shrunk. The Topps digital community is a bit different, as it is growing by the day, but the trend should not be surprising. It will continue to get more expensive to have the BEST collection, but like real cards, its still very possible to participate in the hobby with a very small investment.
From what I understand, it was quite easy to get most of the cards without spending much money last year. Obviously, that isnt a sustainable business model for an app that costs a ton to maintain. You need to fund your wares, and you cant do that without an investment from the customer. Bottom line, the digital games cant exist without us spending. This game will never go back to a situation where it takes nothing to play, as that means the game will be prevented from truly reaching the potential we all are hungry for. The same was true for real cards, and it rings clear in Topps digital.
Although this might mean you cannot have every card any longer, it does not mean that the game will be any less enjoyable if you hone in on your collection targets. Like real cards, this is going to be a very difficult concept for some to grasp – I completely understand.
Can You Play and Not Invest?
I think the answer is quite a bit more complicated than people expect. I can think of a few people who have not spent a dime and are still able to get into the top echelons of point scoring each week. Of course, they spend an absolute ungodly amount of time on the Fan Feed seeking out trades, but they do it.
The question becomes, why are you on the apps? Are you here to be number one? Are you here to have the top collection score? Are you here to just have a way to appreciate the sports you watch in partnership with a fun hobby? The amount of money you need to spend will all be dictated by your answers to these questions. If you want to be number one, or even in the top 50 in points, you will need to spend. There is no way around it. It may not be a constant spend, but enough to get the cards to trade for others that score points. Many of the other users in the top 50 are Black or Diamond VIPs, which means they are in deep. Not all, but most.
If you are in this to have a top collection score – get ready to spend more than any of the other categories. Topps knows that rare inserts drives the trade economy, and they will continue to promote opportunities based on that reality. Points dont fund this game the way inserts do. All the bigger users want the rare cards, and they will usually invest to get them – just like real cards. Although I know its easy to get caught up in the hype, you dont have to get ensnared in the insanity to have fun.
If you want to just have that fun distraction, its all up to you. Just by opening packs for a long enough period of time, you will eventually get inserts, and you will eventually get cards that score points. It will be up to you to trade those cards for ones that can be traded for others and so on and so forth. This is where things can get fun, and also where that frustration over not pulling nice cards can be a huge downer. Trading is an art, as I have said before, but its also an addiction. Same with opening packs. That’s how I got started in real cards, and it is similarly how I got entrenched in Topps Digital.
Are There Valid Complaints?
Yes, yes there are. I know a lot of people are disgusted over the adjusted lower odds that were in place when a recent pack sale was put up. From what I understand, because people were going to buy twice as many packs, the odds were deflated by 50%. Although I dont have enough details to truly weigh in, I sincerely hope it was not a blatant manipulation. If you spend the money or not, you should be able to play fairly alongside every other user. Same thing goes for buying.
On the flip side, complaining that Bunt or Huddle isnt the way it used to be is a bit unfair. Saying that you were able to collect 95% of the cards last year without spending much money, and that this year is bad because it changed isnt really fair either. Things change, especially when you are dealing with an app that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At some point the manufacturer has to make money too, which is why I have never really made any of those complaints on the real side or the digital side. Customers NEVER want to think about it that way, because the value proposition is reliant upon them getting what THEY want out of things. Most people fail to understand that in most cases, goods cant exist in the same capacity (if at all), when the manufacturer makes no profit. I have just come to accept that things will continue evolving and that it will inevitably cost more money. That is the way it is in every industry – not just trading cards.
In real cards, there is a pack of cards that costs 1750 dollars for less than 8 cards. If you told someone in 1995 that this was going to be the future of their hobby, they would laugh you out of the building. Its reality now, and I doubt that is the highest MSRP we will see in the next five years.
Is There A Reason To Spend Real Money?
Yes, yes there is. Topps has made it a lucrative business for people that spend real money. VIP programs provide quite a few perks for those that make their apps profitable, and I think that is a great reason to get involved. Its not the only reason though, as VIP rewards, like the cards on the app, are not tangible.
Similarly, these cards are growing in tangible value, which I am sure comes as a shock for many people. As I have written about prior, many of the digital cards can be sold on eBay for HUGE money, including up to 500 dollars for the best cards in the game. So, your intangible rewards can have tangible output.
When you think about it, vanity is a big reason why collecting is what it is. We want to appear to have the best collection. Its why photosharing sites have become overrun with people displaying their cards. We want everyone else to see how awesome we are. Digital cards are similar, because your card sheet is like your business card. The better it looks, the more status you have. Its why inserts are as popular as they are, even though 99.9% only score at the same amount as a white common card. Spending real money helps you get there.
Overall, things will continue to change, and there is already rumblings of competitive apps in development from other card companies. This type of singular option will not be around forever, and you can bet that competition will spur further evolution. As that happens, the money will change as well. The only thing you should be looking for in the future is more development and adjustments, and though some may be foreign, it doesnt mean they will be negative.