In the two sports apps I still have a good following of, I have noticed a very interesting trend over the 2017 season for both Bunt and Huddle. It has to do with the way premium content is delivered, and I dont think its something I have seen prior to this year. Each of the non-marathon “box type” sets that are released have very little limited content. It used to be that these boxes were A) much larger in size, and B) offered a subset of very limited inserts that usually incorporated both highly desirable cards that were also very difficult to obtain.
This season, the format in these situations are cookie cutter to a fault in both apps, with a “wave” based release of a larger checklist, so that only a portion of each box is available at once. It is clearly designed to spread out the spending across multiple waves, making more money for Topps along the way. Problem is, the content involved in each wave is both small in number and large in count. This is especially true lately, with high priced packs (in upwards of 10 bucks per pack) offering very little in the realm of super limited content.
Most of the “premium diamond pack” hits are as high as 200 count, which makes me wonder if the team is legitimately trying to avoid this type of card? My other question is why there has been SUCH a dramatic shift.
Let me say, I do support the notion that super limited content had gotten out of hand. It got so bad in huddle that all cards not numbered 1/1 were worthless across most areas of trade value. However, that does NOT mean that type of content needed to be eradicated. It just means the balance needed a bit more adjustment.
More importantly, pack prices are getting MUCH more expensive for the desirable sets, while at the same time offering less content for the money. With a wave approach to set release, there are usually only 2-5 checklist examples of cards at 25 count or less, something that frustrates me to no end.
Its actually gotten boring. 10 base cards, 10 parallel base cards, 5 relics, 5 signatures and 2 limited type cards. Huddle has brought in 1/1s to make things a bit more interesting, but I am starving for the old way. I miss the sets where there were 10 super limited cards per release. Each box had one wave and the varied approach to the configuration always got me going.
Now, if the super limited cards arent up my alley, I just walk away knowing how the rest of the content will be so readily available, I can trade for it easily later. That is just boredom for me. I love the thrill of ripping super premium packs, but only when I know there is something valuable inside. Because so many people still remember the glory days of the app, a card that has a count of 50 is barely worth batting an eye.
Here is my suggestion.
If a pack costs us real money, it should have some element of limited content that dips below 50. If that pack costs SIGNIFICANT real money, most of the pack should consist of content below 25, with MULTIPLE elements of cards below 10, 5 and 1/1.
Similarly, these sets shouldnt be a regular thing. They should be available, but not to the point where we stop caring about the marathons and non-super premium releases.
Its almost like there is very little awareness of how real money works on a digital app on the Topps strategic team. For 99% of the country, buying one of these packs is more than someone is paid minimum wage per hour. For that same percentage, spending 100 dollars on a non-tangible entertainment item is a treat, and should be thought of as such from the Topps team. I spend a lot on the apps, but I am also able to do so. The majority of the app’s traffic isnt able to drop that kind of cash more than a couple times a year, if that.
For that reason alone, the users who do make that commitment should be heavily rewarded for their spending power, and that should be delivered in the pack’s content. When you get bottle service at the club, it comes with perks, or at least an experience that the other club goers cannot experience without spending the same. The people ordering water at the bar also dont expect to have the same experience as those VIPs. The same should be the case for the apps.
First off, premium spenders should get access to content that intrinsically has more worth. What makes digital a golden goose is that the cost to create a premium card vs a non premium card is identical. For physical cards, that isnt the case. The cost to build an autograph card or a relic card over a base card is exponentially more expensive. There is no reason other than lack of time to not build a ton of content for both areas of the club. However, there has to be comparative value in the cards in each situation.
Here is where the discussion comes full circle. Card count, much to everyone’s understanding, is still the largest driver of value. The lower the count, the more potential value a card can have. Its not the only value driver, but its the one that adds value more than any other. Basically, a fire can burn hot without an accelerant, but tossing gas on the fire can cause an explosion. Same thing is true here. Low card count is the accelerant.
If the team is going to go down the path of super premium packs, they should expect to have a large amount of limted card count available in that release. Again, if they expect us to drop a car payment on some of these sets, they need to be shown that this type of release pattern doesnt facilitate a proper repayment of the money we are spending. We pay for the entertainment, and we arent getting that without low count inserts more readily available.
Similarly, if they are afraid of user reactions, they shouldnt be. If the set content is released in BALANCE, the user base will understand the dynamic I explained in the club bottle service analogy. In the same vein, if people arent allowed in the bar without the expectation of getting bottle service, you can see where people would get pissed. That’s the utopian dilemma.
Net net – find the damn balance between premium and non-premium, and give people the value they expect. No more trying to disguise premium content with high count releases. If Topps needs more money out of people, make more cards. Dont try to stretch things into to waves or create high count releases to extend pack availability. Its not fair to the spenders and it creates resentment we have already started to see.