Now that 2015 is over, I remember when the world series ended last year and I felt like so much had gone on in Bunt. It was like walking around in wet clothes after jumping in a pool, carrying around all that extra weight of the experience from the whole year. To be completely honest, I feel like that all over again, but the volume feels 100% different. Just for the record, that is a good thing and a bad thing, as I feel like this was a year of Bunt that was unique from any other over the course of the many I have played. Ill try my best to detail my thoughts, and tie as best a bow as possible on the 2015 Season.
Things to Look Back On With Love
When you consider everything that has happened since late March, there is a lot to love about 2015 Bunt. Even though the general interface of the game was relatively the same, the app had a fresh feel and some great adjustments coming into the season. There were a lot of reasons why the app was going to be great, and for the most part, Bunt lived up.
First, the design team did an absolutely amazing job this year. Better than any other year of Bunt. Not only were there some great crossover sets from the physical side, but the original content was TOP NOTCH. As recent as a few weeks ago, Neil, Dan and the team were cranking out some of the best looking cards of the year, which were echoed by the collectors who clamored for each new release.
Sets like Stubs, World Series Rings, Legendary Stubs, Future of the Franchise, the All Star relics and MVP cards, Post Season Heroes, Pennant Chase and Skylines were just stunning looking, and that’s just the stuff off the top of my head. There were so many more that I could sit here and write thousands of words on, and likely will chronicle in an upcoming post. They went above and beyond in many cases.
Like the quality of designs, the events that happened during 2015 were well beyond my expectations. I cant remember another year where I was so involved with the All Star Game, and I credit the content from Bunt for that run. The sets were fun to collect, the per pack guaranteed All Star inserts were so much better, and I wanted every one of them.
In terms of programs, the crossover cards from Topps Baseball Series 2 is something that I would love to see again next year. Although Im sure the codes were a hassle, and the program was a beast to manage, it provided a huge opportunity for digital card collectors to dive deep into physical cards again, or in many cases for the first time. I would hope that a growing partnership between digital and physical will result in some amazing things, and I cannot put into words how curious I am to see what they come up with.
The 1990 draft pick box setup was easily the most fun I had ripping packs this year. Although there were some glitches in the initial release, the results speak for themselves. Not only were the cards AWESOME with the rare signature variants, but people literally clawed and fought trying to get the ones they wanted. It wouldnt work with every type of set, but it worked in a crazy wonderful way with the one they chose.
I also think that the app team did quite the job keeping people up to date, and staying active on social media when things went south. There were a few times during 2014 where they boarded up the windows and shut down for a while, but that didnt happen at all this year. ToppsMike stood his ground in partnership with ToppsHanford, and on twitter, you could see that people responded well. They may have been lightning rods when an issue popped up, but its clear that everyone appreciated the back and forth when it was civil on the part of the users.
Then there was the Post Season Challenge. I want to dedicate its own paragraph to this contest, because it was a beast unlike anything Topps Digital has ever done. EVER. The prizes were amazing, the setup for the contests was amazing, and everything about the way the post season went down was nothing short of amazing. As many moving parts as there were each day, the level of fun and excitement was palpable. They did an absolutely tremendous job, and from what I saw, people were more into the gameplay than I have seen at any point in any year. Even if you werent a fan of the teams still alive, the way Bunt came alive during the playoffs was something to behold.
There are a million more things I could talk about now, and probably will sometime, but we can all probably still remember the times during this year that we loved coming to the app each day.
Things to Look Back on With Disgust
Not everything in Bunt this year was rainbows and unicorns, unfortunately, and for some this section will ring much more true than anything in the previous section. We all have our gripes, and we all have our things that we wish could have gone better.
The biggest thing that I believe should have gone WAY better was the contest setup from the get go. There were so many reasons why contests should have ushered in a new era of gameplay with the app, but it never caught on. Nothing about contests really worked the way it should have, from the points fiasco all the way down to the prizes. The fact that they basically forced everyone to play along with the 10k challenge, just to get a daily bonus, reeked of desperation. It wasnt pretty.
When the scoring data provider changed their setup, everything went haywire, and something that was already bad got exponentially worse. Thankfully it was fixed (mostly) by the start of the playoffs, but during that period, it was bad. When Topps Digital needs to go into damage control, it usually doesnt work out well, but they somehow made it through and still had a great run to close out the year. I think that playoff run would have been THAT much more of a winning note without the downtime on the record, but we can only speculate there.
Contests as a whole needed prizes that reflected the effort that was expounded to win them, and we just never saw that work on any level. We were promised all sorts of fun setups and quirky rule sets, and instead we were left with bland slates day after day for almost six months. I dont think there was anything so disappointing, and I would guess the Topps team feels exactly the same way we do.
The contest situation was such a dark mark on a bright year, that the rest of the complaints that I have seem quite minor. Pack odds were a lot tougher in a lot of cases than they should have been, but the argument could be made that it was to offset the lack of interest in points play. Without people building their collections around points play the way they did in 2014, the 50% usually dedicated to collecting became something like 80%. Not a good situation. Although more guaranteed insert per pack sets were released than ever, that wasnt always enough. Many sets took millions of coins to complete, and didnt really deliver value that would reflect the cost to collect. For every set like Stubs, there were others that people gave up on because they were just too tough to complete.
Looking to the Future
The offseason is a funny place in any Topps Digital app. This is a time where the producers use the people who stick around as guinea pigs to see what works for the next year, and I get pretty pumped for that. Weird is a great adjective to describe some of the sets, and just because the season is over, doesnt mean content is done.
We should get a lot of great cards for the Royals, as we did this year with the Giants. Once that is done, its all about moving onto next year, where Bunt will need to determine the best way to keep us going for another year. It used to be that Bunt’s setup and build would dictate the setup for the other sports apps, but im not sure that will be the case anymore. Now that Topps Digital has grown considerably, this could be the first time where a new Bunt in 2016 is its own thing.
That’s not saying it will go the direction of Kick, but it could have features that are 100% unique to it. We saw the Smuggler’s Den take hold in SWCT, and I could see them test some new dedicated features like that in Bunt as well. Now that Huddle is also NFL licensed, it could be that we have a portfolio of apps that all have common threads, but unique formats that play to the strengths of each community.
Bunt was also the first app to have a dual producer setup, and from what we saw, it worked exactly as it should. ToppsMike became the mouthpiece, and ToppsHanford stayed behind the scenes, which prevented a lot of confusion and dilution of the company message. Its pretty clear that Mike and Hanford work well together, and I would be interested to see how things play out in 2016. Now that a dual producer setup is par for the course, and redundancy is available, im sure there may be consideration for how that could be presented to the community in a way that furthers the engagement people have with each app.
Overall, I had a blast with 2015, and right now, im still trying to process how I want to remember the experience. I feel that despite the situations on the negative side of the ledger, it was a successful year as a whole. The exclamation point provided by the Post Season Challenge helped a lot, and I expect further fireworks as we move into 2016. To say that I expect things to change is an understatement, and I am just hoping that its for the better.
Ill have content coming up that will detail some strategy for the long winter, so stay tuned. Bunt content on Digital Card Central is far from done.
Lastly, a HUGE thanks to Mike, Hanford, Dan and the rest of the Bunt team. The access and feedback they have provided to me on behalf of the readers was nothing short of incredible. They knew you guys were thirsty for a look behind the curtain, and were always happy to give DCC a peak. Congrats on a strong finish, everyone.