Since last year, things have been looking up on SWCT for the first time in a long time. I have posted before that the way the app has changed its focus has made small strides with the community, something I honestly thought was impossible. For almost a full year, the focus of the app was driving direct purchased bundles and card acquisition through any way that involved cash changing hands. Variants were plentiful and hard to follow in many cases. It got to a point where the app seemed to be losing more people by the day, and the flood wasn’t stopping anytime in the near future.
Although many issues persist, things have changed. All that negative energy that once existed has calmed to a point of toleration, which is a victory in itself. To take a group of people with pitchforks and torches to a group of people that has changed to “well, at least I can live with this,” is pretty impressive all things considered. That’s not saying the Topps Digital team is farting rainbows and burping stardust, but its better than it was.
At the core of this transformation is a few specific things that the team has done, which I will go over, and how that might be applied to the other apps.
Similarly, my call for product development and feature development beyond the app’s current structure continue to be as loud as ever. The team will NEVER be able to get through their current woes without some sort of change to the platform on a wholesale level. Bunt may have added Batter Up, but at most, its just a new way to deliver daily coins in a fun mini game.
Star Wars needs to feel like Star Wars. It cant feel like a reskinned version of Bunt. Similarly, Star Wars needs features that bring the rabid and dynamic fandom of the remaining community to light, with a holistic reimagining of the way a user engages with the app. This is a non-negotiable.
Additionally, this app is not all the way fixed. Its hard to take a pile of burning rubble and construct a new way of doing things overnight. Im also not advocating that EVERYONE is happy right now. That being said, the turn in commentary has been significant from my vantage point, and that’s why I want to address this. Its clear the producers behind the strategy have recognized the issues of years past and tried to at least right the ship as much as possible in a short time. Hopefully that continues.
For a long time, it looked like the Star Wars team got a little too conservative on risks they were looking to take with content. Many cards looked like they were just another set that was put together with the same publicity shots and movie stills. Since last year, things have gotten a lot more interesting with released sets, and much of the design work is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was prior.
This could be a dual blame game with responsibility placed on both LucasFilms and Topps, but whatever the issue was, it has gotten much better. Things like switching the signature design, adding more behind the scenes, and choosing more untraditional characters to highlight was really interesting. SWCT needed a facelift in content, and it looks like that went well.
Map for the Apps: Content drives everything. Content for sets, content for gameplay elements, content for the entire Topps Digital Universe. If content isn’t compelling, the users will be bored. Its a process, and reuse and recycling of certain tropes never works out well. Fresh perspectives and designs are insanely important, and no one is going to hit the bundle button unless they MUST have the cards in the article. Topps needs to keep that in mind all over the place.
Increasing Coin Economy Stock
As mentioned before, there was a time where coin packs had almost gone extinct in SWCT, which meant that FTP users were never able to participate in the way they were before. It led to widespread abandonment of the coin economy, which is one of the main factors that drives stability in the app. Coins are almost 100% responsible for new user participation as well, and without a stable economy, onboarding was basically “spend or leave.” Horrible idea for long term sustainable growth.
Right now, direct purchase is still used in a lot of ways, but it is almost 100% used in conjunction with coin packs. There are still special cards that can only be obtained with bundle buys, but I don’t think that is a horrible approach as long as it isn’t the ONLY way to acquire nice cards.
Map for the Apps: Coins are important, and as a whole, Topps has balanced the weight on bundle cards pretty nicely across all their apps. Its fine to use that strategy once in a while, but it should be the exception, not the rule.
Open Edition Inserts Strategy
I hate open edition. Its a crutch, and a poorly constructed one at that. I have been no less than 10 reasons why it was used, and I don’t think any of those 10 are actually accurate reasons why it should be considered. Card counts need to be displayed and cards need to sell out – PERIOD.
Over the last few months, I have seen the use of NEW open edition inserts drop considerably, and I could not be more happy. There is no reason for the team to use OE as a way to stretch production of content, and even less reason to use it as a buying strategy.
I have been very vocal about the way cards are perceived in the market and diluting the pool with this junk is a terrible thing. You want new users to be in awe of what they can have, not have a cheap patronizing knock off to keep a dead set at the table. If something is dead, bury it. Don’t prop it up at the table and try to have a dinner party.
Map for the Apps: Bunt stupidly tried to institute a strategy that was built on many of the tenants I see present in open edition. It resulted in a community wide revolt and a reversal in course (thankfully the team listened!). Open Edition needs to go away and fast. Don’t extend old crap, get the new hotness blazing every day.
Variants and Pack Structure
Oh yes, this is where the controversy really cuts deep. For a long time, variants of all sorts were getting absolutely nuts. Only further complicated by pack structures that made no sense. Lately, its changed by a considerable margin.
Variants still exist, but not 20 at a time. Direct purchase variants on weekly chase sets are only used sparingly, instead of every god forsaken set, and it feels cleaner in just about every way.
Additionally, NO MORE SALES! What used to be a complete slap in the face to any early buyer, sales have stopped. Like most of 2016 SWCT, the strategy behind it was HORRENDOUS, and seems to have been corrected. The community isn’t as venomous with new variants now, as its clear that there wont be an 80% off sale the day of release.
Map for the Apps: The variants are still lacking content other than just a color change, and that is a problem that remains. I would like to see the team go the direction Bunt has gone with their signature series and change pictures or design with variant pulls. Although color changes are done all over trading cards and gaming cards everywhere, it feels wrong with the apps to use that as a way to sell more packs. Give us a reason to buy.
Man, there was a time where there was a SWCT team error every day. Someone forgot to add a card to packs, someone added the wrong card to the wrong pack, any number of things. Errors kill the way people perceive the release, and it happened way too often.
I don’t hear as much about that anymore, as the anal retentive nature of the team has made a commitment to being as close to mistake free as possible. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but man, its gotten better from my experience.
For a card to hit packs and work correctly does take a lot of work, believe it or not, and I have personally come to understand from my discussions with the team how taxing it can be. That being said, they are human and things will be missed. Hopefully its not a pattern anymore like it used to be.
Map for the Apps: Pretty simple, Topps needs to test things before release and spend the time to make sure new content is delivered in as seamless a way as possible. It might be difficult, but the ROI will be palpable.
Im sure I am missing a ton here, but I feel like this is a good start. I spent some time talking with different members of the community, and from what they said, these were definitely on their list of reasons as well. Sure, there is a lot of rope left to tighten slack on a community that was about as toxic as it could be, but it looks like the strategy side of things is catching up. Now we just need the features to come along too.