Back in 2014, I started this site for one reason, and one reason only. I wanted to offer a resource for people who needed to learn about Bunt and Huddle. At the time, there were only two apps, and the outline for onboarding was pretty simple. Join up, rip some packs, trade some cards, play in the weekly contest. Now? If I started this whole thing today, I honestly wouldnt even know where to start. That is such a tremendously enormous problem, that it might be why there has been such a downturn in the apps recently. Bottom line, it takes a lot for someone to get going on Topps apps, and if you want to grow the user base, its going to be more challenging now than it ever has been.
I want to boil it down to something as rudimentary as the simplicity of things is gone, but Im thinking that is just the start of it. I say that because simplicity isnt just a matter of ease of use, its a concept for which all the functionality is based. On top of that, the official resources that support the apps are absolutlely non-existent, and Topps’ use of social media to answer user questions is poor. I dont necessarily fault them for that, as their producers are tasked with so much that adding community management to their plate would add considerable bulk to their responsibilities.
As an exercise in determining ease, take a look at the state of any of the apps from a brand new user perspective. Not talking about cross traffic into another app you dont play, but really think what it must be like for someone who stumbles upon Star Wars from the app store. If you didnt already know what you do, would you be able to figure out how to have fun in the app? More importantly, would you have enough fun to want to spend money and support the business? I think the answer for some is a resounding yes, as we have found out. The thing is, you might already be part of the market that is prime for the apps. What about that person who just saw Rogue One and wants to dive a bit deeper into the Star Wars universe? Would they be someone that can really become a part of the community in a meaningful way? Im not sure that question is as clear.
Even more importantly, how does the negativity displayed on social media and in the articles resonate with you if you are a new user? If you can even figure out how to get to the comments and what people are talking about, would that type of experience hold any water? Im not sure it would for everyone, but it adds a variable to the whole mix of things. At this point, they have to see the app, download the app, open the app, register in the app, understand the functionality, and now avoid all the negativity. We arent even to trading yet, which is always a fun adventure.
Every Topps Digital app is built on user to user communication and interactivity, even though some have divested from that plan over time. For us, its still why the apps are fun. It creates competition and it offers an opportunity to pass the time inside the app. With no resources, we found our way, but couldnt you say that it isnt as easy these days? In Star Wars especially, there are so many different variants and types of releases, combined with changes in pack mechanics to really understand from the get go how to trade effectively without losing your ass in a lopsided deal. Again, this isnt impossible to overcome, but it can get you nasty notes in trades, and might sour users for good if they realize their best card was traded for nothing. I have seen that happen so many times I cant even count.
Im not detailing this all for fun, because that really serves no purpose. Im outlining the different scenarios for a few reasons. First, in the hopes that Topps can really invest time in making the new user experience positive. Second, that we all see that its important to bring new users along instead of flaming them into destruction. Lastly, to see if I am really looking at this from the wrong lens. Its important to mention that objectivity in this exercise is essential. Sure, you made it through the fire and are now a contributing member in some fashion. Do you ever think back to what you had to go through to get to the point you are at? What made you want to start and keep going? How can Topps replicate that in a constructive fashion so that more users join the app community?
Considering that Topps is also making a push to convert physical collectors over to digital, there are even more reasons why that audience is a lost cause than trying catch casual fans perusing the app store. I have seen such vitriol towards digital because physical collectors cant distance themselves from the intangibility of the content on the apps. They also feel bitter that digital is getting more attention, which they feel detracts from resources being dedicated to the side of the hobby they love. If this is truly an overwhelming sentiment, imagine what their experience as a new user could turn into!
There are a lot of questions in this post and not a lot of suggestions. I have made suggestions in the past, but I dont think they were really determined to be a viable use of resources. Now that the trajectory of membership has gone down in many of the flagship apps, a blind eye can no longer be turned to new user acquisition.
Even further down the path is user retention, which I feel is something that really hadnt been a focus until it had to be. Once you get someone going, do you really have the methods to keep them around if they have an issue? Is it worth it to keep them around if they are going to continue to be a negative influence? All good questions.
Overall, I am interested in a community discussion about these topics as I feel this is one of the parts of the app where the existing user base has a hand in the direction of the trends.