Force Tip of the Day: Reviewing the Challenges with Vintage

Let me start this off by saying how impressed I was with the response we got from the team after last week’s horrible situation with the Vintage release. I feel like the team was put in a really unfortunate situation with the server crash, and they did everything right. They refunded coins, they took the card out of the chase, and they apologized…profusely. All good.

That being said, there is still a huge issue that comes around every Thursday. Vintage is the Sig equivalent in the game, but its more than that. So much more than that, I would actually go as far as saying that there is no more important card series in any of the four apps. When Bunt puts out a new sig, the app doesnt crash. Many will want it, many will chase it, but it doesnt do what Vintage does.

When you see the reaction that people have to Vintage, it has to do with the fact that every user in the game has no other outlet for their presence in the app. Collecting is all there is. As a result, the best series cause a lot of traffic that Topps needs to be better prepared to handle.

Once Vintage Han and Obi Wan Kenobi WV both started creeping up over 100 dollars in value on the secondary market, the release traffic increased. When people figured out you could pull the best card in the game from the cheapest pack in the game, everything changed. The entire user base planned their Thursdays around Vintage, because the best was easily attainable. Could you blame them? The set is the best selling example in the Topps Digital Universe!

When the pack switch happened, most users had to make a choice. Either spend a lot of money chasing all the sets like before, or pick a favorite and focus on that one. Guess what most people chose? Topps likely felt that the pricier chase would discourage enough people from opening that the servers could take it. At the same time, they decided to release a Vintage card that only had 1250 copies, which brought all those people back in. How could we not try for the lowest count card in the marathon? Everyone who decided to leave the chase was sucked right back into the riptide.

The difference of last week versus prior weeks is that you also had a new load of fresh meat from the Android launch that also wanted to get in on the action. That meant that even if some people had left the chase, they were likely replaced by the new users.

Overall, Vintage is a beast that needs to be planned for, and I hope there is someone at Topps who is trying to work through a strategy. In fact, they may not want to take all the frenzy away, as that is part of the allure of the set. Maybe they just need enough relief that it doesnt crash the game. How do you do that?

Around the time the slowdown started happening around the release of the Jawas card, something changed. It further changed a week or two later as well. They started announcing when the card was going to hit. I remember seeing TOPPSSTEVE tweet out that Vintage was dropping in such and such minutes for the first time, and loved it. No longer would I have to sit there and refresh all day. What I didnt realize, if I can see it, so can everyone else. It created some major traffic just from that.

Then when Master Access was granted an hour early, and announced in the app, the rest of the users saw what the twitter users were seeing. That was the first time opening a pack took 30 seconds per swipe.

If I am Topps, I dont announce it. I forgo the Master pack access in the name of server strength. Just drop it without warning, and there wont be traffic until everyone sees the article/push. Traffic will spike regardless, just not the the traffic jam from before. The servers should be able to withstand it.

Another main issue is the card count. There is no reason to continue card counts at or around 2000. Vintage will have value regardless, so its time to start increasing things for the sake of the game. Each card until week 10 should have a minimum of 3000 copies, even though these examples wont be as valuable as the older cards. I think it also goes without saying that even at 1500 copies, these examples wont be as valuable as the older cards. Why even try to recreate the magic, when you can have thousands more fishes trying to get a bite? It might also open more time for the big spenders to have an opportunity to do what they do best – spend money. The lower the card count, the less amount of time the card will be in packs. More time in packs means more bundles purchased. The card has enough popularity that a 3500 count will still encourage the same behavior.

I believe that the count contributes as much as the notification methods, and its a big reason why everyone needs to consider the best way to deliver the goods. Hell, offer a lottery if you want. Have people buy entries into the contest over the course of Wednesday. 5000 a ticket, and you can buy as many as you want. 3000 tickets will be pulled, and those people get the card(s). Its not even close to a favorable situation, but it prevents last week from happening. It also gives a chance to reward people in other ways. Include coin prizes and other card prizes in the giveaway. Who knows?

Overall, I dont like the Vintage release and I havent for weeks. Its stressful, its frustrating, and it takes more patience than should ever be necessary. My nerves are shot after its over, even more so if I get shut out. I dont feel like that is an experience that should have to happen in an online game. There has to be a better way, and I challenge everyone and the Topps team to find a way to make it work.

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