So far, the app has been at the forefront of everything to do with the new movie, generating mainstream coverage from news sources all around the internet. Considering how much visibility that brings to what Topps Digital is doing, the question now becomes how they capitalize on it. Here are some of my predictions and thoughts.
Next Few Weeks
Right now, the movie will continue to set records world wide, likely becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time. It already set weekend records this past week, and will continue to do so with so many people loving the film. The app will likely mirror this sentiment as much as humanly possible, all while maintaining the bare minimum of non-Episode VII content.
Marathons will have to continue and the release of Series 3 base will provide some engagement for the three people who dont care about the new film. Outside of that, the only other stuff I expect has to do with the holidays, which should have a good mix of old and new.
Entering the New Year
Early in 2016, Bunt will launch their 2016 build, and for the first time ever, they might be the second app to launch. Opening Day for 2016 is on 4/3/16, and I fully expect SWCT to launch a new build sometime before that. This might also be the first time that we see things distanced from the sports apps, maybe looking to set SWCT on a path that better defines the universe. When you think about it, there is very little reason to continue modelling the app after Bunt, Huddle and Kick, other than to promote user familiarity. Considering that user acquaintance has already completed, its time to make SWCT its own thing.
That’s not saying its time to go off the deep end like we saw with Kick in 2016, but I hope SWCT 2.0 is not going to continue to be Bunt with some tweaks.
Additionally, the launch of the new base set will open a lot of doors for the app, especially when so much of the user base still finds interest in hoarding and programs surrounding that element of the game. I have to believe that any new build and any new base programs will have been adjusted to account for this part of the fan base, and that should be interesting to see how it plays out.
To be clear, I thought we wouldnt get new marathons until the new build was launched. Now that we are a few weeks in, I dont see them waiting for 25 plus more weeks to reconfigure the setup. Although the set releases arent going to stop, I am very interested to see what they do now that the interest in marathon sets has waned. Where the app used to live and die by the release of Vintage and Widevision, many are seeing some stale aspects to the setup itself. Value has dropped as people focus on their hoards, and though some continue, its not what it used to be.
Im also not saying this is a bad thing, as the adjustments in a mobile world need to come fast and furious. To think that a game can be based around the same elements for more than a year is just ludicrous in the app store, and should be considered a HUGE victory the way things have gone to date.
After this set of Marathons is done, I think its time to figure out what is going to change, and how to keep users going without a gameplay element to keep people busy. Base variants are not what will get the new users to the app either. Its all about fun original content, and it has to be delivered in new and creative ways.
If there are changes that will be coming with the new build, I do have some additional thoughts on what I might do to cater to the way the user base functions within the app itself. Some of these have been discussed before, but in terms of starting from scratch, this is what I would do.
Hoarding as Recognized Gameplay
Hoarding needs to have its own little part of the game, and it needs to be fully supported by the app’s functionality. Any miss here is a huge opportunity wasted.
- Card Count Leaderboards – Hoarding is a crowd-sourced gameplay element to the app that is extremely powerful. Incentivising the fans to get involved is a great way to get people excited. If there is no gameplay that is being developed, this is a way to take advantage of the competitive characteristics that many collectors are driven by. Seeing live updates of your competition’s hoard will only drive the app to the brink of insanity, with so many users looking to be the top XXXXXX collector out there.
- Card Count Awards – giving out special bonuses to people who achieve certain levels is a big deal. Whether its coins or special cards, adding further incentives to the hoarding aspect will be a great thing. Recognize the effort it takes to get the trades done.
- Publicly recognize top hoarders – Outside of putting names on the back of a monument card, its a very good idea to show that the app producers care that base cards still mean something. An article in the feed would go a long way.
- More Trading Slots – doing 9 for 9 trades to get your hoard up to snuff is not ideal. As base cards go up in count, it would be great to be able to add more cards to a trade.
Trading as a Primary Driver
Like with hoarding, the trading element is a huge part of the game’s allure. Being able to interact with users in this fashion, gives the community element a lift where it wouldnt go without being able to trade. Legitimizing more of the trade economy is a big part of what I would do.
- Chaging Trader Feedback – Traders who are great for the community need to be recognized publicly, and this could be done through a better trader feedback system. Right now, trader rating counts mean little to nothing, and users who have a top trader star rating get no special treatment.
- User Trade Comments – Traders that game the system or straight up scam others need to be dealt with. Not every poor experience gets reported, and giving users a forum to comment will help to curb this. Obviously, revenge and retaliation will need to be watched like a hawk, but the report comment flags can be used here too.
- Cross Trader Reference Page – As part of a user’s profile, it would be great to see references of people who have cross traded successfully with each trader. Since its so difficult to link all the apps together for cross trading purposes, this is the next best thing.
- Punish Scammers – If people are reported and investigated, guilty parties need to be perma banned from trading on the app. Obviously, this can be a tricky situation, but its desperately needed.
- Cross Trade Escrow – I mentioned this previously, but Topps needs to build or sponsor users who will act as disinterested 3rd parties in cross trades. Users should be able to send their cards to these 3rd parties without risk of losing their cards if used properly. It will provide a safe haven for moving cards between two users on the apps.
Collection Score Updates
When it comes to getting to the top of the app, collection score dictates much more than just how much you own. Its a relative living representation of your collection as it relates to every other user. This needs to be a bigger part of the game.
- Pull Back the Curtain – Give people a clear and transparent understanding of the collection score, and what each type of card will do to it. This will give people a reason to chase down certain releases, especially if they pertain to the score’s increasing dramatically.
- Add a Hoard Score – Adding a similar element to hoarding will only add to the affection people have for their hoard. If your hoard target is chosen up front, the game should be able to populate your hoard score in comparison to others.
- Best of SWCT – Like Best of Bunt and Best of Huddle, top collection score users on a weekly basis should be rewarded. There may even be a way to restructure the scores so a weekly count can be derived from the total. Biggest increases over one week is a great way to get people going.
In the new year, Smuggler’s den needs an overhaul. As mentioned in a previous article, it cannot be used as a vehicle solely devoted to pumping out base variants or set awards. There needs to be real content delivered.
- Better Shredding Interface – yes we get that the animation is cool, but it takes forever. It also gets really annoying after the 100th time you see it. There needs to be a better interface that provides dual support to people shredding one card vs shredding 1000 cards.
- Original Content – Entire sets need to be available through the Den. Give people the opportunity to pay for packs with cards instead of coins in these sets, and make the Den what it should be all about.
- Build Process Updates – Make the resources and ships into something other than just getting blueprints in packs. Right now, Topps is using certain elements of timers to create urgency, but I dont agree. The urgency should be in the competitive elements, with top builders getting the spoils of what their armada represents. Offering rewards for building big is much more attractive than timers limiting card counts at this point.
Picking your faction at the beginning of the game should not end your interaction with who you identify with. It also should not be permanent. This should be a way to deliver fun elements to the app, and do it in a way that promotes community and competition.
- Special releases – When the app first started, faction specific releases happened a few times. This needs to come back.
- Faction changes – users should be granted a certain number of free faction changes as part of the app’s functionality. After that, pay to play.
- Faction leaderboards – getting to the top of your faction in terms of your hoard or your collection score should be a big achievement.
Separating SWCT from the Pack
I completely understand the amount of work that would have to go into making these things a reality, but that is the fun of spitballing ideas. The point of all of this, is that Topps cant just sit back and hope the users dont get bored. Significant changes, while keeping the relative soul of the app in tact, would be a great way to keep things fresh.
The sports apps have a major advantage in a gameplay element, but the SWCT community is as big of an advantage as exists. Trying to model the SW round peg into the sports apps square hole cannot continue to happen. When SW was first launched, im not sure Topps really knew the hype that would result. Now that the hype is in place, its time to really branch off and celebrate the advantages a huge community can give you. If SWCT continues to be built in conjunction with Bunt, Huddle and Kick, it will never achieve the potential that exists.