When 2014 started, I was what was classified as a casual user. I wasnt huge into Bunt, and I only did a “set it and forget it” approach to Huddle. When the playoffs got into full swing for the NFL, that all changed, and all of a sudden, I was hooked. It was a combination of the collecting and competition aspects of the game, and it turned me into a multi-month VIP on both apps. There hasnt been a day in 2014 where I didnt check in to Bunt or Huddle, and it was all because it offered such a pleasant distraction from the hustle and bustle of my life.
When Bunt started up in late april, I was not expecting to dive in head first. I wasnt a huge baseball fan, but I knew it had to be as good as Huddle. I was shocked at the evolution of the app year over year, and after spending some time talking to TOPPSMIKE, TOPPSIAN and others on the team, the passion for the game was clearly present. During the course of the season, there were a lot of hiccups, but the good times FAAAAR outnumbered the bad.
I remember starting off and trading all my pitchers for hitters, because like all the chicks out there, I dig the long ball. Of course, that was ENTIRELY the wrong approach, and I paid dearly for it. I also saw major differences in the way the Bunt community was functioning compared to 2013, but through my own involvement with the boards and feeds on the app, I learned quickly how to hold my own.
I started writing this site as a result of the fun I had experienced, and it heightened my awareness of the help many users desire in understanding the nuance of the game(s) they play regularly. Everyone had questions, and I found a voice in bringing my perspectives and answers as best I could. It was a labor of love, and it has been paid back to me by the readers ten fold. I still wanted to go further though. Mediocre is never enough for me.
Through continued conversation with the digital team, I was floored by the amount of effort it took to run the apps. So much went into picking checklists, maintaining the functionality and keeping people happy. Even though many users will forever be upset with some aspect or another, they would probably have a significantly worse experience without the team putting in the countless 80 hour work weeks they do. Once it became obvious how much they had put into the game, I started to appreciate the fun a lot more.
Around the end of August, the 2014 Huddle release loomed over my head. Having focused so much on the site and Bunt, it was physically overwhelming to think about the effort it would take to start over with a brand new season of football the way I did with Bunt. Thanks to the understanding I had gained through Bunt, I knew I wanted to go hard into the first weeks of the game and decide how it suited me.
What I didnt foresee was how much more invested I had become in Football as my main sport than I had with Baseball. In Bunt I focused on getting enough to be competitive and collecting what I liked. In Huddle, I had to have everything, and I knew it would take more than I ever gave in my previous months.
To see that the Huddle team put in the extreme effort to retouch hundreds of photos for use in the app without a league license was tremendously impressive. Because I had seen what went into Bunt, my gratitude for the choice to go full action shot was that much more immense.
When I was named Fan of the Week for Huddle week 2, I thought things literally could not get any better. I had put in a ton of work to the site, and over those months, I never did it for the recognition, I just wanted to help people. That has always been my nature. When the recognition came that week, I felt overjoyed to be recognized, and that feeling stayed with me for a long time.
Then it happened.
First, Huddle was forced to reroute their entire plan from the wonderful action shots to the less appealing head shots due to a number of challenging situations. That same weekend, my favorite player had just been indicted for an ungodly horrible act, and was immediately removed from the team. It was a double whammy that definitely put me into a very tough situation. I stayed in the game, despite being extremely disappointed in the switchover, and I am glad I did.
Although Huddle never FULLY recovered from Week 1’s glory, the team pulled some pretty big rabbits out of hats, and put together a hell of a season’s worth of cards despite it all. TOPPSMARC is a huge reason why that is the case, as his creativity and desire to deliver compelling content on a constant line is unparalleled. After connecting on Twitter a few times, I built a nice rapport with his Huddle team. Like TOPPSMIKE in Bunt, it was abundantly clear that he has a matched respect and appreciation for what goes on.
Overall, this year was a blast, and my commitment to delivering content here and playing along on the main apps is unwavering. With recent revelations that a new app is on the way for 2015, that commitment may actually need to increase.
My hope is that for 2015, we see further growth in the digital space in ways we hadnt seen prior. If 2014 is any indication, that should be a no-brainer. The community can be rabid and unforgiving, but they are the way they are because of how much they put into their experience. Although I think the team does a great job on keeping us engaged, I think 2015 will be the year of integration. I say that because I think for the growth to truly reach potential, the community needs to be more at the top of the list than it has been in the past.
If TOPPSMIKE (and the person that joins him), TOPPSMARC, TOPPSIAN and TOPPSCHRIS can continue the trajectory they are on, while finding ways to energize the user base in new ways, 2015 will end up being a banner year that we all deserve.
Happy New Year everyone – here is to another great year of good times, community and competition!
I was a HARDCORE sports card & memorabilia collector growing up, but COMPLETELY lost interest around the time high school started (I’m now 39), about 4 years ago as I got to the point in life where I had some disposable income the collecting bug bit me again, mostly vintage stuff, well in the past 4 years I’ve built a really nice well rounded collection…the 1st I heard of TOPPS Bunt was when there was a short artical about it in Beckett this past July. I was intrigued, so I downloaded the app and was really impressed, since July I have built an impressive collection in Bunt, becoming a Diamond VIP in November, in September I started Huddle, and just like you, not a day goes by that I’m not on the app, with the PTS chases, it has totally rekindled my LOVE for Baseball & Football. I watched EVERY game of the MLB Postseason!!! W/O TOPPS Bunt, I probably would have got to watch MadBum’s unforgettable post season performance! The Digital Card Revolution has begun, thanks so much for such an AMAZING website!
You have raised your game significantly over the course of 2014! Nice work.
That said, I think you are being too generous to the Bunt team. They peaked back in May-June, then I think they steadily lowered the quality of the game. While it seems like you have an inside line to communicate with them, I feel like I was ignored and blatantly ripped off at times. And I was a black VIP almost the entire season. I cannot imagine what the experience is like for people who don’t spend money.
ToppsMike pays A LOT of lip service to how much customers matter to him, but if you look at his priorities, I guarantee revenue is about customer happiness on his list.
That said, it is a challenge. There are a lot of totally irrational players on the game that make his job harder. It is probably difficult to find the balance between creating cards with super low card counts to satisfy the uber-collectors and putting out inserts that the average collector can attain. I am curious to see what they do next year. I have resolved to spend less time and money, but I will still follow the game.