Man, these days are always tough. Coming off the extreme high of one of the best game 7s in World Series history to know that we are now in day one of about 160 for the Bunt offseason. Considering everything we went through this year, Im actually kind of regretting that its over until next year.
To be fair, Bunt started off with its fair share of issues. Some of those issues plagued the game for a large part of the first half of the year, and one could argue that things didnt exactly rebound as high as we thought they would. A few of the glitches prompted things to happen that have never been necessary in the apps before, although I believe the team did a good job handling the immediate damage control.
I think that in terms of content, there were a lot of reasons to be EXTREMELY excited about Bunt this year. Marathons like Signature Series and others looked the best they have ever looked, and many of the chase sets were insanely well done. Even though things were a mess on the contest side, the rest of the goods were well packaged and looking fresh. Some of my favorite cards ever made in Bunt were made this year, and the art team went above and beyond in making up for some of the gap.
As we moved into the playoffs, and got the new app build, im still not 100% convinced that it does everything better. However, it corrects so much of the slowness and massive data file size that the rest seems insignificant. Although we have yet to see some of the cool upgrades like the video cards in Skate, im pretty sure they will be coming to commemorate some of the historic things that happened last night.
Looking to Next Year
When the app goes into planning for next year, I think there are some major things that need to be on the road map to ensure long term success for Bunt’s future. Some of the things are building on what is already in the works, others are literal rip and replace type of stuff.
App structure – the last time the app significantly changed was back in 2014, when we got our first taste of the current platform in Bunt. Since then, there have been movements upwards but I havent seen the real initiative taken to add something that wasnt there before. I want the team to really sit down and find out what the long term play is here. Will Bunt (or all the apps for that matter) exist in their current state with minor variations that improve with technology, or is there a larger goal in the works.
New User Experience – Right now, a new user hopping into the app on day one of the new season is a very difficult experience to undertake. It was why I started my site back in 2014 and it really hasnt changed all that much. Because of the direction of the app, they are immediately flooded with everything that they dont quite understand. There needs to be a huge focus on new user onboarding, otherwise Topps will be left to the dwindling cross traffic of users that already are part of their app. I know that attracting physical collectors is a big deal, but considering how difficult it is to get up and running, good luck.
Existing User Engagement – This has been something that we need to see Topps get back on the horse. They used to be very active both inside and outside the apps, now its become maintenance with the community instead of engagement. Topps has even moved away from capitalizing on the competitive nature of the user base, as we havent had a place to display our best cards for years. Highlighting what makes the app’s user groups awesome is something that has been sorely missed, and it cant just be FOTW once per week that qualifies as the user engagement from the team.
Cheating – I have talked about this recently more and more, but the app needs to put a stop to users that are taking advantage of gaps in the app’s code and functionality to gain an edge – either for eBay sales, or general participation in Bunt. This is a huge problem, and has turned off a lot of individuals from participation in certain things because they know that the users who exploit those methods will always outperform those who dont.
Contests – This needs to be started from scratch. Its gotten to the point where I have grown largely uninterested in playing along, because I feel like the whole play mode has become relatively stale. Physical prizes are awesome, but that is few and far between, and not likely cost effective to roll out widespread. I feel like the team doesnt believe in the impact of a great play mode, and doesnt see the revenue they can generate, so it exists solely just to exist. Its hard to keep things fresh day to day for a 162 game season, which is why there needs to be a change. Play mode IS the unique benefit of Topps Sports apps, and the reason most of us got going in the first place. As it stands today, the apps have shifted to more of a content based delivery system, even though we have seen nice improvements in offering some AMAZING stuff for the winners. Problem is, as mentioned above, im not sure everyone feels like its being managed in a way that doesnt prevent some from taking advantage of the lack of true policing of the user base.
Content – As much as I want more of a focus on rejuvenating the contest scene, Content has remained a strong point, and that is a good thing. At the same time, I think this strength can continue to get stronger, and it is almost entirely dependent on the team to think of new and innovative ways to deliver it. The Bunt physical product was amazing, but it also had a major snafu in the app that broke some of the promises delivered in the sell sheet. Things like that leave a sour taste, which is more disappointing considering how cool the idea was. Execution is just as important as anything, and I am confident that they will find a way to make this part of the app even better than it already is.
Either way, thanks to the Bunt team for a very fun year. In starting a new job in a new city, I havent had as much of an opportunity to spend the time on the app that I wanted, but its clear that they are really putting in a lot of effort to address what they can and make things awesome. Cant wait to see the weird wild stuff that is on the way, and hopefully we will get to see exactly what this new direction can bring.