My Biggest Problems With Topps Huddle Release Strategy

When I first really started spending a lot of money on Huddle, it was for one reason – things were fun. I had so much fun playing along with and writing about the apps, that I actually developed a pretty good relationship with people at Topps who were looking for ways to improve the user experience.

Once Star Wars became what every hoped it wouldnt become in the Summer of 2016, the community venom towards the SWCT team was so hot, it unfortunately spread to the other apps who werent necessarily approaching their game the same way. In the middle of 2017, when Topps finally decided enough was enough, they swung the pendulum back so far the other direction, that it took away a big part of why we played the way we did – the ability to separate yourself as a collector. More importantly, it swung everything for EVERY app, not just Star Wars. Problem is, apps like Bunt and Huddle didnt need that drastic of an adjustment on the way set construction and release strategy was outlined. They needed help with logistical and functional parts of the game, but the sets were good still.

Unfortunately, someone decided what was good for the goose was good for the gander, and here we are. Basically, Variants (or Parallels) went away, save a VERY select few protected ones. Similarly, set size dropped so vastly, that the fun experience of collecting a big box was gone. Because sets were so small, many more copies of the individual cards needed to be available for that all to work out in the revenue side of things. This would be fine if the price of those releases was adjusted as well, but none of that changed – naturally.

In Huddle, the app functions almost independently from all the others. Instead of being driven by set collecting maniacs and player/team collecting hooligans, there are really only two types of people who stay on Huddle – contest players who only chase heavily boosted cards for playing along with the live apps, and velvet rope whale spenders who just want to get the rarest collection of cards they can find.

When Topps decided to change the strategy, Huddle’s main contingent of players were all asked to adjust the way they continue to collect within the game, and it cost them a lot of the big whales that drove revenue within the game to support the cost of app continuity and licensing.

Here is the thing, Topps might say, “well, this new way has increased X or Y in terms of traffic or money.” What they dont seem to get is how much potential is being left on the table by not customizing the strategy of each app to match the crowd that they themselves cultivated within the individual communities. Its a gross misuse of strategic direction to go the way that they did, and I think things changed to a point near the beginning of 2018.

In Huddle, they finally decided to increase the set size and increase the amount of limited content that was released in higher dollar sets. Now that Bunt has relaunched for 2018 and Huddle has launched again for 2019, I see the strategy is back in force.

Topps is wasting our time in a lot of ways, and I am so sad it has gotten to this point. They may say that approval times and design resources are limited, but proper planning is something that can find ways around that. Similarly, if sets that are heavy on limited content are going to be fewer and far between – then PRICE EVERYTHING ELSE ACCORDINGLY! Dont ask us to spend 20 bucks a pack to rip into a set where the average card count in any attempt is 200!

Of all people, this is where their competition has worked wonders. With a smaller team, fewer resources and a community that is much smaller, Panini has released enormous sets, with tons of awesome cards based on their physical products, and climbed higher and higher in the app revenue rankings while Topps has dropped. Although Topps doesnt have the same phyiscal card releases to build sets from any longer, they have baseball physical designs out the wazoo that they can use to be just as effective.

Im not going to sit here and complain without offering a solution:

  1. Figure out the purpose of every set – prior to BUILDING each release, determine which part of the community its targeted at.
  2. If the target market is spenders – there needs to be a worthwhile reason for anyone to spend money on the packs. This means there has to be more than 5 chase cards per release. End the stupid wave approach and really just make an attempt to release more products with more cards. That’s the beauty of digital, the only limit is the time spent designing and building the cards. If the sets have more to them, you can spread out the releases further and focus on delivering targeted content. Most importantly, bringing back some sort of low numbered variant structure can extend release size without adding much in terms of added design resources. Bottom line, if we are spending real money in big amounts, we need to see value at or above where we are spending.
  3. If the target market includes non spenders – there needs to be a pack priced to reflect this. You cant put the diamond pack at 10 bucks a rip if the majority of the cards are unlimited or above 100 in count. For anything in huddle to be worth ANYTHING it has to either have A) a high boost level or B) be below 10 count. Seriously. The huddle team previously made their bed, now they need to sleep in it. Figure out a way to split the targeted sets in a way that makes fucking sense instead of trying to lure in multiple parts of the community with a set that has zero value to anyone that actually spends anything in the app.
  4. Reward your spenders – If someone is spending money, they should get something that is just not attainable for anyone who isnt spending. If I spend 200 bucks ripping packs, I want something amazing. Not a bunch of 800 count cards that arent worth 2 bucks on eBay.
  5. Understand that there is monetary value in the secondary market – Topps can continue to bury their head in the sand, but without a game function to the app that actually appeals to a huge audience, this is where we are. I have written posts in the past that talk about how important adding more game-ified function is to the apps, but they obviously couldnt care less about that. With that, if you are asking us to spend 20 bucks a pack, which happens regularly, its time to deliver extremely limited content with more availability per release. Five cards in a tiny ass wave isnt going to cut it anymore, it just makes us resentful of the strategy.
  6. Add more limited marathons – I loved when Limited was able to include low number guys because there were variants that represented the set piece of the marathon. Now its just high numbered WR and LBs with a few RBs mixed in. Its almost like the strategy doesnt factor in that the most collectible guys in the NFL all have low numbers, and that anything over 10 count is worth nothing on the secondary market. For some reason Topps still thinks its okay to make a set that costs 200 bucks to acquire the card, and not include anything that will hold value for the year. Not cool. Find some way to create a few marathons that will compliment the higher valued content in the app.

I mean, its like Topps is scared to release things the right way out of fear of 2016 SWCT venom. They need to figure out very quickly that not every app is like SWCT and that not every community will fit into a cookie cutter app strategy.

This is why so much more of my spending has moved to their competition.

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