Star Wars Card Trader Pack Structure Changes and My Thoughts

Over the last few days, the way inserts have been available in the app has changed drastically. Its a move that many people expected to happen, but it didnt mean that the eventual execution of the transition is any less difficult to work through.

So far, we dont have all the details, many of which will depend on tomorrow’s Vintage release. Once those details become available, it will be more clear as to the direction. I do have some thoughts to run through, and I encourage you to add your comments as well.

Why Was This Expected?

I think this was in the cards for a long time. Its hard to offer the best of the best in the cheapest packs. Up until this point, it was easy to get every single one of the cards that drive the app’s economy in the Mace Windu 1000 credit packs. From a business standpoint, that makes little to no sense, as there is no incentive to spend more money on the higher priced items, unless you have objectives for collecting cards that arent weekly based.

Because Topps is a business first and foremost, they need to make money and make enough of it to support these apps and their ever growing staff. They also need to turn a profit, just like every business, and if the Mercedes is the same price as the Kia, well that wont work as well. That being said, because the best was cheap, the community was strong and fun, and less about the cost of collecting like we saw in some of the other games. It was a trade off that was definitely weighted to favor the users at first, but you cant function like that forever. Eventually, you gotta sell something.

Similarly, Thursdays impacted all three games. Because the Vintage cards were released at a specific time that everyone was made aware of, the users could load up the server bandwidth like I have never seen before. Being that they just added a crowd of new Android users, things were not going to continue functioning without major changes.

Although its clear that no one really loves this change at all, it should be a bit clearer to you why it had to happen.

Reasoning

I think that people fail to see why its not about greed or nefarious attempts to screw people over. I see the words money grab or greed thrown around a lot, only because the community is focused on the community aspect. That should be expected. Similarly, they expect this to be a relative non-profit structure, and that a business would not look to capitalize on a money making opportunity.

Furthermore, free players are complaining that they are being left behind with this new structure, another thing that should be very much expected considering their lot in the game. Free players are tolerated. They are only targeted as potential new pay players in the future, many of which eventually make the jump. Topps definitely has conversion numbers, and these types of transitions are calculated and very well planned out. They arent looking to drive free players away, as the community is important, but at the same time, they arent going to cater to them either.

I also mentioned the server space above, as the bandwidth for releases can be enormous because of how many people are playing along with this game. These apps already cost a metric ton of money to maintain, and adding server space to accommodate one of the games is almost impossible without huge costs. Bottom line, they needed a way to lighten the load without devaluing the cards with higher counts. This new structure accomplishes that objective, and doesnt exile people from pulling the cards.

Most importantly, it provides incentive for big spenders to spend more, and medium spenders to become big spenders. You might be thinking, that you personally would never pony up the dough to continue all the cards, but you would be in the minority in that respect. They know what raising pack prices will do, just like they have a good idea of what it will mean to approach the packout the way they are. They have more data than you could ever imagine. If things dont work out the way they expect, and that’s a possibility, they will make adjustments like they have in the past. They want to find the balance between making the most possible money, while losing the fewest possible people.

I wouldnt put much stock in what people say in the comments either. Threatening to leave is as common as a rainstorm in Florida, but rarely do people actually completely walk away. The games have an appeal that is hard to leave from.

Reaction

Am I excited at this new structure? NOT A CHANCE. It adds cost, and adding cost is like raising taxes.

Do I understand the need for the new structure? YES. I have no issues with them trying to make more money.

Will the community pitch a fit? OF COURSE. They always do, even when good things happen.

Here is the thing guys, the general community wants their fix and they want it in the cheapest possible manner. Remember when Bunt went from a structure where every insert was in every pack to separating things out? Remember how bad the reaction was? Now what is it like? People move on.

More importantly, this does have an upside in a lot of ways that no one really wants to think about. First off, you almost had to be online within 1 hour of every single release of a weekly insert or you were out of luck. In class or a meeting, or hell, on the john? Too bad. Now, the inserts will be in packs longer, and that means that they might build up for better pack pulling odds in the Boba packs. Up until today, there were never more than 1 insert in the packs at once. For the first time yesterday, both Bounty and Galactic Moments were both live at once. As things build up, it will give more time to pull the cards you want, while not having to be on standby. Vintage will be the true test.

The other part of this is that the games werent built for every user to own every card. Its a fact that we need to part ways with very early on. Pare down your collection and really determine which of the sets are going to be your targets. If you want to spend the money, thats up to you. If you dont want to pay in to pull, you can also buy the cards on eBay pretty easily. I doubt the prices will increase more than a few bucks.

As for the communication piece, I know there are people who are upset that this shift wasnt explained earlier on. Although being transparent with your business plan can improve your customers’ happiness level, it may prevent some new users from spending as much as they would have. Topps has always been very close to the vest with plans like this, and for good reason. Fewer people would buy in if they knew the sets were going to be hard to complete. They may be upset when the transition happens, but history shows they dont stop buying.

Basically the draw of the inserts is so great, that enough people will increase their spend to offset the people that leave and then some.

Moving Forward

My suggestion is to determine how you feel and pick your targets, as mentioned above. If you want to leave, it makes sense, but that really wont accomplish anything but your personal exit. The show goes on. I would encourage you to reach out via twitter and tell them how you feel, but remember honey attracts more flies than vinegar. Be constructive and make your case, they have a history of taking feedback to heart when logistically possible.

Lastly, understand the landscape of this. Your goal is to have fun and get a big collection. Their goal is to make money while you do that. Both can coexist, and but there will be give and take. They need to communicate as much as they are able, and we need to see the pitfalls ahead without cues.

This is still a brand new app and a brand new community. Although Im sure they were unhappy about needing to piss people off, this is the first of many decisions that will likely have a negative impact. Get ready for more, I can guarantee that.

Even though more are coming, that doesnt mean you cant continue to have fun along the way. Its a game, and they have done quite the job getting me to dive for the bait of new cards, hook, line and sinker. I love Star Wars and this has become a great way to bring back the nostalgic feelings of experiencing the movies for the first time. Its going to be tough to walk away from that.

I hope you all feel the same way.

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13 Responses to Star Wars Card Trader Pack Structure Changes and My Thoughts

  1. Smada says:

    Great overview – the change will get more top inserts in the hands Pay to Play. I could see Ebay prices going up as less cards will be in the hands of sellers. The people willing to pay will still be able to get them cheaper on Ebay, so I wouldn’t be surprised if VIP will be rolling out soon as incentive to keep money in the app.

  2. Dave says:

    I agree with your takes on this. It was hard to pursue every set before without spending money, but now it is impossible. If you want to play without paying, you will have to be very limited in what you pursue. Topps is a business, and they need to make money. Most will be limited to chasing one or two weekly sets unless they spend money.

    One correction to your post though is that this isn’t the first time where more than one insert was available at the same time. I believe this has happened several times before. It definitely happened last weekend with the connections from Friday and the widevisions on Saturday. The Lando connection was still available at the beginning of the release of the That’s No Moon widevision. I pulled them both when opening packs Saturday.

  3. Teresa says:

    My current issues are with the community as a whole. No one wants to trade you an even trade everyone wants you to trade your entire collection in order to get 1 rebels card or one galactic moments card. Another issue I see is with the awards. For cards like elite soldiers, hoth and soon to be geonosis they will have ZERO trade value once awards are handed out. I like the fact that they do awards but there has to be a way to keep these cards holding value and worth trading. I am not sure how to fix this stuff but I can say that it is very frustrating as a free player to make any trades when The community won’t accept base dupes for anything and that is all the trade fodder you have because the cost is too high to have multiple inserts.

  4. Jim says:

    Ok I see someone brought up hoth and the likes not holding their value well honestly your wrong. Leading up to the award these traded high because of the award once the award comes out all the value from those cards now goes to the award card. That is how it always works not to mention people always over pay for set cards that have an award because people want that award. Now that the award is out only people who like the creatures (which I can see holding a little value but not much) the droids and vehicles are not collectible. Anyway my main point is your value is in the award card.

  5. Ron says:

    Ok so we get that the company needs to make money. Only thing is you all are not coming out with good ideas. The well is running dry with inserts. Cmon guys this is Star Wars start coming out with fresh ideas….have inserts come out throughout the 24hr day. Yeah some of us will be sleeping but others won’t that’s what makes chasing cards fun. I mean literally shake things up. Please stop with the green cards and when you have an award come out make it extra special. Because awards are not even being traded often. Also come out with Star Wars art that people would like to see on a card. If you don’t do this it’ll be over before the fun can even begin.

  6. nomadfromcincy says:

    First of all, I want to state that I agree — I don’t like it but I understand it.

    Let me provide an alternative strategy for Topps — the Star Wars app is catering to a community. You talk about the costs of operating a game like this and having worked for Amazon, unless they are really bad at managing their costs, services like AWS and Azure have dramatically reduced the cost of operating apps like this. So I believe it is their right to make money if they are providing something that people want… but I think they have very short-term perspectives. It seems like they are trying to maximize revenue this year, instead of the long-term. Their communication strategy kind of proves my point — by not owning their decisions publicly, they appear embarrassed. This has always been my issue with ToppsMike — instead of saying, “my goal is provide you guys with a game where you want to spend money”… he says, “I do this for the fans.” I just want them to be honest. I want them to say, “we hope everyone enjoyed the game for the first couple months; with the huge number of excited users, we decided to increase the cost of collecting. This means that free-to-play users won’t be able to pull as many inserts and you will need to prioritize which sets to chase.”

    In the end, ToppsMike and SenatorSteve are community builders. If they build amazing communities, people will pay to play. If they don’t, they will just have their hard-core audiences. My $0.02.

  7. Dave Curry says:

    You know the saying, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was covincing the world he didn’t exist”? Well, that’s what Topps has done. Their greatest trick is convincing users that these cards have MONETARY VALUE. It’s an argument that no one wants to fully explore because to do so means admitting they’ve been taken by Topps and others smart enough to exploit it.

    Forget the issue numbers. Forget the amount of money you spent on credits. That has nothing to do with their value and everything to do with the deception. The reality of it is that we have digital pictures on our devices. We can never hold these cards in our hands. We could screen cap them and post them, but legally, we don’t have the right to do that because they’re not our images. They are still property of Disney, Lucasfilm and Topps. We don’t own them. How can we have value in something we don’t own? I’m surprised they aren’t all over the eBay sellers at this point.

    I’m wondering how the reaction will be when the high rollers who have spent hundreds, or thousands of dollars on their digital picture collections realize that their investment has gone south. That day will come. All it will take is Topps to decide that the Star Wars Card Trader app has run its course. When it’s gone, their valuable cards will be too.

    • SCUncensored says:

      I dont buy the digital goods argument, because its implied. We know that the cards arent “ours,” but digital goods have proven to have value on any number of platforms.

      There are games, currencies, and communities that are built on digital goods that have found their calling. It may not be what everyone is used to, but that doesnt detract from the legitimacy of the value.

      • Dave Curry says:

        What “digital goods”? Are you still referring to digital cards (Kick, Bunt etc.)? Those will end the same when their apps are gone too. If you’re referring to “digital goods” other than trading cards, and I assume you’re not given this blog, please, enlighten me.

        Please don’t take me as hater of SWCT, because I’m not. I love the cards. They’re fun. Trading is fun with the right people. It’s a return back to our youth. We didn’t place value on cards by how many were issued because no one knew how many were made. Funny how the card companies got that going in the late 80s when card sales slumped isn’t it? We traded for cards based on who or what we LIKED. People can’t do that now.

        Think of some twelve year old out there who loves Han Solo. Maybe all he wants is to collect those cards. What chance does he have of trading for a Vintage Han? Zero unless his mom and dad are crazy enough to put $$$ money into the app. Personally, I’m a Yoda guy. If that kid had a greem Legends Yoda, I’d trade him a Vintage Han for it, but people would think I’m nuts because there’s a 4500 difference in issue number. That’s the part of all of this I don’t care for. Talk all you want about your perceived value. Unless you’re ruthless enough to go beyond the game and sell the digital pictures you don’t even own through eBay, Paypal or private transaction to some gullible user who’s a prime candidate for SCAM ALERT messages in the forum, I’d say you still have nothing of value. Does anyone even remember that all of us have ALL OF THE CARDS any time we want to look at them?

  8. YoureNotJonesy says:

    I am a paid user. I can’t say I toss in with the big boys, but I’ve spent over $250 on this app since release. I was contemplating buying ANOTHER $100 credit bundle the evening before the change, and most likely would have the very next day. Lucky for me, I didn’t, and I won’t be buying credit bundles at all going forward.

  9. CzarO says:

    Admire the attempt to apply reason and business models, but offer a few thoughts. Never had these issue with collecting, cards or Topps until now. Have played many online games that offer extras for $, it’s expectations, methods and context that are confounding would be evangelists.

    TapJoy is a mess, where ads pay out sometimes and limits are not explicit. Topps marketing and sales would line up more paid supporters if it were organized.

    Server costs are inflated b/c spam floods Fan Feed and checklists and filters are incomplete, so users scroll and reload endlessly. Terms, awards and counts are changing too often.

  10. swerve says:

    If it really does cost a “metric ton of money” to add servers, they’re doing it wrong. I imagine you’re just speculating, though. Probably the actual issue is poor architecture on the technical end, which may very well cost a lot to fix as it might entail replacing their entire backend. Or it it could be poor communication with the software team that implemented or is maintaining it. Or possibly they have been told it would cost a lot, but I can assure you it really wouldn’t, particularly just spinning up more servers for peak pack release times. In any case there’s really no excuse, you know you’re working on a billion-dollar+ property. Same for support – I lost access to my account over the weekend, it’s been 5 days since I wrote and haven’t heard a thing. No other app I’ve spent money in has had a wait time on response of over 24 hours.

  11. Bruno says:

    I agree it’s a business, and they need to make money. Ther are many ways to make money and more than one business model available. The frustration comes from the fact that they are not willing to innovate, and simply gonna “buntify” swct. That is sad and shortsighted.

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