If you werent around yesterday in SWCT, the release of the neon parallel base cards was quite the big event for a lot of people. As expected, any time a release like this is built, there is an almost immediate outcry, and I wanted to take some time to discuss. As with any type of thing like this, there are two sides of the story, and ill do my best to talk through both sides as I see them.
What Are Neons?
For the first time, SWCT is offering RARE versions of each base card in a random fashion delivered by buying a 100 dollar bundle that includes one neon card and 100k coins. The 100k usually costs 20 bucks if bought in 50k increments, so this is paying $80 for a card out of five copies.
When you think about how much the pink parallels out of 10 have sold for, this might not seem like a bad deal. However, with apparent dwindling interest in base parallels, as seen with how long the last drop of pinks took to sell out, this might not be as attractive as it would have been back a few months ago.
Another point to consider is that these cards may have a stigma attached because they are guaranteed pulls for spending money, and that could overshadow the rarity to the point of devaluation. We will get to that later, though.
Coming to Terms
First off, SWCT is unique from many of the other apps in that hoarding is a huge deal. People want to have every card of a certain character in some cases, and in many of those cases, hoard piles have reached the tens of thousands. Not everyone participates, but many do.
Cards like neon almost force the completists to buy in for at least one pack to trade what they pull for their target(s), and that isnt sitting well with many people. They see this as an attack on the sanctity of their hoard, but Im not sure I fully agree with their assessment.
When I was a kid, as mentioned in my previous post, I LOVED Kirby Puckett, who played for the Minnesota Twins. I had to have every card of his, and in 1993, that might have been a few hundred cards. I got pretty close, and when I took a break from collecting, I probably had about 97% of them. One card eluded me the entire time, mostly because it was a rare rookie card that costed a ton of money that an 11 year old could not afford. My dad sat me down after multiple asks to help me fund my purchase, and gave me a speech. He basically said that no matter how hard I tried, I only had two choices. Find ways to earn the money and buy the card, or come to terms with not having everything.
Being that the card was so expensive, I didnt see that earning the money at that age was a real option, and I had to come to terms that I was not going to get everything. Its a tough realization, but in today’s market its a forced perspective. Every set released has 1/1s, rare inserts, and even rarer autographs. What I did in 1993 just isnt possible anymore. We are going to reach that point in SWCT too.
For some of you, Im sure you are thinking, “listen, I dont have every card, and I am okay with that. But this seems like a blatant money grab.” Well, that’s the thing. EVERY release is a money grab, down to the very last card. Topps Digital is a business that needs to make money to keep the lights on. If you dont buy coins, SWCT doesnt exist. They are making decisions to generate revenue based on user tendencies, and Neon cards play to the nature of the beast in many ways. They understand the completist nature of many users, and they know that this program will incite purchases to ensure that sets remain in tact. Its not a bad idea, when you think about it. Is it going to make them many friends? Probably not. Will it make them some money? Card counts are showing that the answer is yes. Even though the packs might not sell QUICKLY, they will sell, and that’s all that matters in the grand scheme of things.
I think its clear that things have slowed down since the marathons have ended, and now that we are in an “offseason” mode until new marathons start, this is a way they can bridge the gap and still keep those people in the game. Although there is no doubt that it will upset some individuals, you would be surprised at how many people are either A) unimpaired by this program, or B) ready to buy in.
The fact of the matter is that even with the community tendencies at play, it comes down to that one simple fact – you cant and wont have everything, even less so without spending a lot of money. That’s okay, and its easy to just not buy something if you dont like it. There are people who will enjoy this program, and I think its fine that those people get their day under the (neon) lights.
Additionally, how many times have you spent 100 bucks on the game, walked into the cantina, ripped a bunch of packs and gotten little to show for it? I can think of a few times for me where that has happened. This at least gives you one guaranteed card that only 5 people will have, plus 100k. Comparatively to some of the other situations I have seen, that’s not bad.
In the end, I know some people started the hoarding because they really didnt want to spend the money chasing the top inserts. It was cheap, fun, and had a goal that wasnt going to make them break the bank. It caught on to the point where people started doing it just because everyone else did, and now its a group think situation. Alienating F2P players is probably a small concern, especially if the people who spend at the 100 dollar level a pop do actually see this as a valuable promotion. Topps isnt stupid, and they probably have reason to believe that there will be enough of a buy to offset the negative reaction.
Why Programs Like This Might Not Be a Good Idea
Even though this is a program designed to generate revenue at the cost of the happiness of a few people, the question remains if it is a good program at all? Have we exhausted the base parallels to the point where people just dont care anymore, and will this do more damage to the ongoing valuation of base than it will help the revenue. More importantly, will Neons put handcuffs on other base parallel programs because people will be sick of dealing with the constant barrage?
I mentioned above that I dont think these cards will be worth as much as the Pink cards. The reason I say that is because users have a real chip on their shoulder in regards to TOUGH pulls. If a card is available to everyone, the cheaper the pack and the tougher the odds, the more the card is worth. Basically, people want to put a trophy bass on the wall, and they want to be proud that they beat out the crowd to get it. They dont feel the sense of accomplishment the same way as if they had just been fishing over a puddle, and someone put a store bought giant bass on their hook.
Because they tied the Neons to a guaranteed pack when buying in, the valuation is going to be impacted. If these cards were released another way, the interest may have been different, and generated more widespread coin purchases instead of the 30-40 that have happened so far on the 100 dollar level. Granted, selling base parallels through packs hasnt been as popular as it once was, but there is no guarantee it wont be the case here either. At worst, you can scrap the program early on and not release more if they are unpopular. Here, we are kind of stuck with the whole card sheet full of neons until they all sell out. That might be an issue.
As for the community, the F2P crowd is large for SWCT, and the small spender group is similarly pretty big. Because this type of user is such a big part of the community, is it worth shutting them out? Is it possible that they leave and never come back? All of these answers are probably so, especially considering how many people will return once marathons start back up. It has happened every year with Bunt, Huddle and Kick, and there is no reason to believe it wont happen here as well. The difference is that SW’s biggest even in a decade is happening in a month, and they need more people to be aware of what they have planned to make that event successful. If the movie opens and the app is dead for the “offseason” – that is going to be a recipe for some bad tasting days in December.
Here is the thing. With the Topps apps, some decisions ARE made in the name of revenue over the feelings of the community as a whole. Im curious how much discussion there is around a concept like our feelings of spending versus our happiness of hitting that button. Think about it this way, how much does the team discuss how much of the spending is done out of obligation rather than excitement. Losing users has to happen more quickly when someone spends just because they feel they have to, not because they want to. Obviously no one is putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to hit the button, but its an “Ugh, I really have to get this card or my set wont be complete” type of a feeling. Sometimes the releases generate a feeling like “WOW, this is awesome I have to have it!” in contrast, and that’s where the sweet spot really is. For a lot of the community, I think the neons really do have that obligation spend attached to them.
I have rambled on long enough, but I did want to close with this. I did eventually get that Kirby Puckett card, some 20 years later. Its sitting in my display case right next to a lot of my other more valuable cards. Although I revel at the irony of how easy it was to acquire at 30 versus 11, I didnt get the satisfaction I thought I would have gotten from it back in 1993. Dont get me wrong, I love the card, but it wasnt earth shattering. Completeness is a myth, and the feeling of accomplishment is small compared to the EXPERIENCE of chasing those things. Once you own everything, that chase is gone, and the happiness is fleeting. Its more exciting to chase than it is to own. Trust me on that.