The release of 2016 Topps Bunt Physical is a big deal, even if you arent in the game of physical cards. Long have physical collectors chastised the digital arena for not having any tangible evidence of money spent, and now that has changed considerably. At the same time, the release was clouded with some major issues, and that hurt the potential I feel this had in a lot of ways. Here are some thoughts.
What Worked Well
First off, it should go without saying that seeing Bunt take on a physical form was really cool. The base design is awesome, and the inserts are even better. Building a product around the digital format is a great opportunity for digital collectors who havent opened real packs to do so. That in itself is a win, considering how the physical hobby has been shrinking in direct contradiction to the growth we have seen in digital for years.
The redeemable inserts and cards in the loot packs are going to be prized in the game, or at least they should be. They look great, they have great concepts, and the checklists are pretty good too, and if you walk away with 13 loot cards per box, these cards are worth redeeming them for.
Price point on the physical boxes is as good as the card design, with packs accessible to just about everyone under the sun. They could have gone another direction and price the boxes at 70-100 dollars with more physical content, but it wouldnt make it as digestible for the age groups that make digital successful.
What Didnt Work Well
I dont know what happened with the release of this product on the digital side. The sales sheet promised exclusive content to the physical product that seemed to be lost on the digital team. Packs of the insert cards from the product were released into mass circulation in the app, and it came within a hair of ruining the value around every part of the physical product.
Luckily, the cards were pulled after a few hours, but what seems to be the lack of communication between the two sides of the Topps business, really hurt what this product could have been. Instead of VERY low count cards from all aspects of the physical product, many of the parallels are now much higher in count.
In the same vein, it seems like the boost levels on the cards associated with the product dont really fit with the boost escalation patterns of the app. I was expecting the topaz and platinum cards to be a minimum of 3x, but seeing them at 1.5x and 2x is a huge bummer. It doesnt provide much reward for people who pull the cards.
Content in the product also leaves a lot to be desired. Autographs are 1:10000 or so packs, and there are no redeemable physical cards that are less than 1:1400 packs. Although more autograph content would have increased the product’s price per box, more physical redemption content should have been included. This was hugely disappointing in that respect.
I know that digital wants to protect their revenue, but they also cant look at this from a one product slate. There seemed to be huge opportunity to do something like a physical product more often if this was successful, but nerfing the content seemed to seal the deal that this could be one and done. More redemptions, more content designed for the loot packs, more exclusivity should be a focus, and give people a reason to engage BOTH parts of Topps’ offering. There should be a seamless partnership in place for a product like this, and I just dont think that happened based on the way the release went down.
I am someone that loves both parts of the hobby – physical and digital – and I want to see that both remain a part of the landscape. I dont think that the app loses much if some awesome stuff hits physical packs, and I think there is a possibility to gain users if they can showcase the fun of the digital arena in a way that makes sense on the physical product side. If content sucks, and release is botched, all that goes away.
Personally, I dont see this release as the nail in the crossover coffin as some other users have flamboyantly claimed. There is still a big reason why stuff like this should be done frequently and with a focus on optimization.
We have a SWCT physical product on the horizon, and I think there should be lessons learned from this release too. Communication with the customers, communication between the teams, and follow through on content is all paramount. Without top notch representation of those elements, it will fall apart in a similar fashion to what we saw.
Next time around, I would even consider digital packs with physical redemptions to make it beneficial revenue wise for both sides. If you can get real stuff out of digital packs that arent available on the physical side, that is a huge attraction to bring physical collectors into digital to buy.
I would also toy with the idea of live signature content to be delivered in physical packs, with the first ever opportunity for Topps to showcase their new toy to a broader audience on the physical side.
Lastly, treat this like an event. It cant be just one article the day of release. It has to be marketing on both sides, especially to foster that crossover traffic that makes this product so big a deal.
I hope that Bunt takes the lead on this, because digital is looking more and more like a the horse to pick in the longevity race for sports cards. Products like this can do essential service to education of the hobby population, and my opinion is that this wasnt treated that way.