The Difficulty of Being a New User

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.

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5 Responses to The Difficulty of Being a New User

  1. Don says:

    These are only a small portion of the problems beside technical/stability issues, crazy odds, some boring/poor card design/set, etc. I’ll leave apps soon as it’s an aggravation to deal with all of their issues and my old device will not be supported soon. I appreciated your website when I started.

  2. blevins26 says:

    I posted a similar topic on the Blowout forum. The Huddle app is really frustrating for a “casual” user. The cards are meaningless in-and-of themselves. The weekly fantasy contests make for a fun way to “play with” the cards you accumulate except for the fact that they lump all users together and that makes it impossible to actually win anything. Topps needs to figure out that if you are using the “freemium” model then you have to figure out a way to make “gameplay” fun for both payers & non-payers alike. Otherwise, the non-payers just get bored/frustrated with the app and stop using it.

  3. DrugZone says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you, all your points are very valid, but I feel the team at TOPPS is totally reluctant to any critics and they’re not willing to listen to any feedback.

    New Users:
    You’re completely right on most of the apps there’s total frustration and negativity and new user are almost poised for a bad start. When I started a few years ago I was lucky that many people were helping me in terms of trading and card value and I was helping later new users myself. Today I’m also one of the frustrated ones and I’m not more helping and giving low star rating on bad trades. The communities which were build up in the first years of the apps are falling apart and new users have no chance, but it’s the responsibility of TOPPS to guide these new users and also to care and support the existing community. Both hasn’t been done recently …

    Communication:
    This is just horrible, a company want to emerge on the Digital Market and they’re not communicating to their users? It’s just ridiculous that they’re not communicating in a proper way. Huddle for example is completely anonymous by Topps, beside the announcements at Twitter on new card releases that app could be run by a robot as there’s no communication at all. That’s one of the reason that the original Huddle community is almost completely gone.
    Toppsmike tried to communicate on Skate, but he was also cherry picking on the questions and was bypassing really critical remarks. Skate might be a bit better, but the articles are nowadays also full with Cross Traders and a community isn’t really growing, that app is doomed to fail as well.

    Odds:
    Everyone knows that the whole card business is a huge gamble, but those odds on the TOPPS apps are just super fishy and new users are experiencing this usually very fast. There’s obviously an algorithm behind it and when the odds are 1:10, for every card you pull you’ve a 1:10 chance to get this card, so if this is the case you can easily end up to open 20-30 packs to get this specific card. You might be lucky to get it earlier, but chances are you’re left behind with a lot of frustration.
    I talked to people on e-pack whom were also trying Skate, they definitely liked the design and as physical collectors they were also open minded to Digital cards, as the e-pack platform is already doing both (though focus still on physical). Main point of critics was also the huge frustration level, cards with difficult odd they also felt that they had to spend a lot of coins (money while on e-pack you always check secondary value for every hit), but here you might come up completely empty, when you open packs, boxes or cases. While on e-pack you might also don’t get a hit you get at least something in return (even if the inserts are only worth 0,30$), but you’re not left behind with just “Digital Base Cards”! I somehow agree with them, the customer experience is usually very bad when you chase coin packs.

    Secondary Market:
    Digital Cards do have secondary value, even if it’s by far not that much than on the physical site, but the eBay market for all the Topps apps is growing very fast. People have very well noticed this and so called “Farmers” and also many “Cross Traders” have found out that people are willing to pay for Digital Cards (especially right after release). Nevertheless, due to farming and cross traders getting daily free coins, they don’t value them very high so cards are sold for just a few bucks. So when you bought coins, you might have paid quite a high amount of money for it (e.g. Huddle still wants 99USD for 900k coins!), means you’re individual card will have cost you much much more than the value you see them sold on eBay. With the above mentioned odds, this is just yet another way of frustration left behind for Digital Card users. I totally agree that F2P must be a main point of focus to attract more user and make the app more popular, but it must be also attractive for people who actually want to spend money?
    For myself, I still love to collect Digital Cards as I think the TOPPS Design looks just awesome and I love to have them on my phone or iPad and really enjoy browsing in my collection. I like the new Skate app as well as I’m a hockey Fan and I’ve already a very nice collection, but I didn’t spend a single Cent on the app for coins or cards! Lessons learned, I know very well that’s hurting TOPPS a lot here, but I’m not more willing to go through an unreasonable amount of packs for just the thrill of pulling them myself. It’s not more worth it for me!

    Collection Score/Awards/Presentation:
    As you mentioned so often, the way of the presentation of your cards and collection is just lousy. The awards of chases or contests something special? No one cares about it at the TOPPS apps and one have to wonder what is actually the goal for spending a lot of time and money on the TOPPS apps? In the article below you’ve already mentioned that Upper Deck found a way of doing this, you’ve a lot Rankings at e-Packs, Dashboards, Leaderboards, Chases and now even a very unique Quest with amazing prices (some people must have already spend 30k-40k USD for Ultimate packs to get these!!!).
    Upper Deck does definitely not do everything right with their products, but in the moment I like e-Pack way more than all Topps apps and I spend a lot more time and money on there. There’s a community, there’s communication, there’s a nice atmosphere and there’s way more excitement (though you most likely also blow your money with little secondary return).

    Variant Craziness:
    They’re really not getting at TOPPS, all users hate Variants! It kills trade and secondary value! I can understand that Variants have a legitimation in the physical world as that’s cards for thousands of people and though I also think that many product suffer a overproduction I kind of can live there with some variations and parallels.
    For the Digital world, with still so small communities (beside SWCT), there’s no room for variants in the moment. The Huddle app is almost dead after massive Physical to Digital Release in the offseason (Fire, Musem, Supreme, Triple Threats) and a continues variant craziness after season kick off (Bowman had 10 Variants!?!?) a complete oversaturation happened.

    I’m a pure collector, so I’m not into contests, but what I here on the sports app doesn’t really give a lot of motivation to even try.

    Digital Cards have definitely a future, but TOPPS is on the wrong path currently and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and that they’re even interested in fixing it. The competition is still behind, but Upper Deck seem to have good ideas and you never know if Panini might also wake up …

  4. Ron Berry says:

    I used to be a high spender on several of the apps, even hitting Diamond on a few occasions, but I moved to freebie a few months ago for several reasons related to brown promises and HORRIBLE support.
    1) Broken promises on the physical BUNT product. The sell sheets and even the packs said the loot packs cards and contests would all be exclusive to the codes, but BUNT decided to have cheap packs that had the base, parallel and inserts so they could pull out extra money from the product. After being ignored for months by both the physical and digital teams, I decided that they didn’t deserve any more of my money
    2) When their bundle packs don’t work, they tell you on twitter to contact support. Support ignores you for several weeks and then offers you a small amount of coins (the same as if you bought that coin bundle). They give you a “take it or leave it” and then ignore you. Coins are worth VERY little in the ap, especially when the bundles are available for an insert
    3) Several other support questions were simply ignored for weeks and then the request would close and I would get a message asking me to rate my support (which was ignored)
    4) Making cards unttradeable. What is the point of having a nice card if no one can see it and I can’t trade it???
    5) Having packs where you have 1 / 20 odds of pulling ANY insert are extremely poor and not worth the money. To me, if an insert set is released, all of the cards in the set should be available at once (with tougher odds for some of the cards in the set), but you should be able to pull a set together for a reasonable price. But this isn’t possible with devalued coins.\
    6) The decline and demise of the VIP perks. In the old days, VIPs had real perks. They had VIP packs that were loaded with inserts. I would spend thousands on these and trade the cards off for older cards I wanted. They then moved to making VIP packs into series 2 red base cards. I remember the response I got when I complained about that from Hanford. “Red cards are very valuable. We asked a lot of VIPs and they said they preferred this.” Then VIPs were promised early access to packs, but that only lasted a few weeks. Then the boxes were added. These were a great perk and made it worth spending $100 to get a free box, but Topps couldn’t get these right with glitch after glitch and being unable to deliver them on time, so that is being cancelled so they can offer more VIP perks. The only VIP “perk” that is left is a few coins and access to pull a high count signature at 1 in 200 odds. I compare the current VIP program to the champaigne room at a strip club. It’s not really a big perk, it’s just a way to get spenders to overspend on something that they wouldn’t normally consider buying normally.
    7) The milking the value out of premium cards. First they started over releasing low counts. Once the milked all of the demand out of them, they moved to signatures. Once they milked the demand out of those, they moved to 1 of 1s. They took their three big money makers and destroyed each of them one by one by overselling them – one month I counted 350 different signatures being made! The digital team learned nothing from the junk card era of the 80s and went about destroying the value of the stable money makers in a few short months.
    8) Contest prizes are worth less than the entry fee. Why collect boosts and higher base when you win a pack of 5 white cards for finishing in the top 100?
    Another big issue is the farming and emulators. I think there is an easy, but painful solution. Instead of daily coins, you get a daily free pack. The first 6 days are base packs and the 7th day is an insert pack that Topps selects (that changes each week). Then the pack odds don’t need to be as high and you can actually get some value for your cash. People that don’t spend will complain, but the people that spend will be much happier.

    Personally, I don’t think the existing model of ignoring new users and then ignoring the big spenders until they leave is a very sustainable model. Eventually, you piss off enough of the people that spend money through broken promises and ignoring their requests so that there is no one left to support the product and no effort is made to bring in users to replace them.

    With the damage that has been caused in the past year, it may be time for Topps to rethink their focus and try to win customers, rather than assume the customers will come

  5. Steve says:

    I am someone who joined Bunt this summer, and I agree that Topps does not make it easy to enjoy this app. After I signed up, after getting some free codes in flagship packs, I was shocked that there were no directions for how to do things in the app. I still don’t fully understand how the contests work, and at this point I’m not sure I even care anymore. I just login each day to get my free coins and wait for them to release something interesting. I’m sure at some point soon, I won’t even care about that. It’s too bad, as I wanted to like the app.

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