Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It's Impolite to say 'Bunt': Why Topps Bunt is the Wrong Future of Collecting

I pulled this in one of my packs of 2016 Topps yesterday. It appalled me for a few reasons.

1. If people are saying the photoshop jobs are obvious in the 16T flagship, then they should get a load of these, especially the Correa insert. No effort to dial it back.
2. This brings forward an especially horrifying notion, one I'm going to talk about in this post.

2016 Topps has been criticized by literally everyone on the blogosphere, and for good reason. One of the most frequent criticisms is that the base design looks WAY too simple. Like, smog notwithstanding, it's just an MLB crawl and some shiny. There's not a ton to it.

And, as some people have pointed out, there's a reason toward this. Topps has realized that their business is coming less from people buying actual, physical packs of their products (you know, the way it should be), and is coming more from people using their digital app, Topps Bunt. So, in order to remedy this new direction of sales, Topps has made their base design simple enough that it can be reproduced for Bunt. Matter of fact, 2016 Topps is the first Topps Baseball Card set designed for the sole purpose...of NOT being collected as baseball cards.

It's painstakingly obvious. The lack of foil. The lack of originality. The zooming in of all of the photos. The even-more-boring inserts. The indistinguishable parallels. Topps has mass-produced and collated this set merely as an afterthought, knowing that they're only doing it for the older generation. Topps, who were so focused on attracting the younger demographic five years ago, through physical cards, have given up entirely, and have gone to just winning over that demographic by becoming something they very clearly are not.

Oh, sure. I talk so much shit about Topps Bunt, how it's detrimental to old-school collectors, and how it's ruining how Topps produces its cards. But I haven't even talked about how the app is from the inside, how it works, what it does. So I'm certainly one to talk.

(Clears Throat)

I was an avid user of Topps Bunt for approximately one month. I joined around January 2015, and deleted the app sometime around the middle of February 2015. I wanted to see what the fuss was about, so to speak.

Topps Bunt nearly derailed my savings account and damn near ended my blogging career. So yes, I am one to talk. And talk I will. Until my lungs freaking burst.

Like I said, I joined in January 2015, during the offseason. I had no choice but to start accumulating as many packs as I could, but there was no easy way about it. In-app credit was generated on a day-to-day basis, with a special bonus every Wednesday, and that was no way keep nabbing packs regularly. So, more in-app credit could be purchased with actual money. Now, Topps got this from other apps, I assume, as Temple Run or Angry Birds would sell things like hints, or more saves, or little extra items, for a couple actual dollars. But they weren't things that were invaluable to the game, like...all of the cards you were supposed to collect.

If Topps wanted people to actually collect the set without breaking the bank, they would go for the 1970's route, and put 20 or 30 cards into a 99 cent pack, or put 12 cards into a 3 dollar pack with parallels in it. But the Topps people, obviously, are not fools. They know that kids aren't buying physical packs, and they want money. So what they do here, which is genius and infuriating, is they stock packs at 5,000 coins, or 10,000 coins, or even 15 or 25,000, which is the equivalent of 25 bucks, so that the only way that kids can keep collecting the ultra-rare inserts is if they constantly have to borrow from their mom or dad's debit card, and keep feeding money into the cash cow that is Topps Bunt.

Now, replace mom and dad's account with a newly bolstered debit account, that I was saving for textbooks, and replace a 10-12 year old kid with a 19 year old kid who hadn't realized anything was wrong yet, and you have the makings of a disaster.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I had developed a small-scale gambling addiction. I would feed money into my Bunt account, at the promise of being 'with the times' and ripping digital packs just to have the latest insert sets completed, and then keep trading the rarer ones away for newer stuff, while keeping the autographs I would pull (on occasion) ultra-safe and locked. This process kept going on. I'd stomach the younger (or even older) kids who would ridicule me for "not knowing how to trade", even when I was trading my unwanted goods for their unwanted goods, which was, by Webster's definition, exactly what a trade means. I just kept going, kept getting more cards, and keeping in the bubble.

The problem was I didn't have time for many other things around that time. My blogging around that February slipped (just as bad as this February, only this February my excuses are "there was nothing worth blogging about" and "class fatigue"), because I had no real interest in writing, or picking myself out of BuntWorld. I collected some physical Topps, and I loved the 2015 set, but part of me was secretly wondering what it would look like in the Bunt app.

I honestly forget what caused me to delete the app, but I imagine it was a sudden realization of what it had done to me (and, more importantly, my bank account). I had allowed Bunt to scrounge itself into my brain and stay lodged their until I had no choice but to claw it out from the inside.

The main problem with Topps Bunt is that there's no moderation. There's no limit. A person can feed a lot of money into the app every day, and get more cards for themselves everyday, because there is nothing stopping them. There are packs available to buy everyday, with new and exciting bonus packs appearing at some times, and special, more expensive packs showing up randomly.

In real, physical life, there is a limit to how much Topps cards you can buy, because getting Topps cards involves going to a card shop, or a Target, and getting some cards, in moderation, and paying for them at the register. Topps Bunt didn't have that. There wasn't a register to pay for everything at once. You just pay whenever you want something, and there was nothing to stop you from wanting to buy the packs, because there was no geographical difficulty to getting more packs every day.

If I went to Target every day and bought $50 dollars worth of baseball cards, not only would it render me bankrupt very quickly, but there would be a social stigma about it. Because eventually someone would see me going to Target every day, and getting a lot of cards, and comment about it. In some semi-concerned-but-mostly-observant way, someone would say 'this isn't the first time I've seen you here', or 'welcome back', or 'that's a lot of baseball cards for one week'.

There's no social stigma in Topps Bunt because there are not other people around you when you buy packs. Nobody else in Topps Bunt can see how much you spend, how many coins you have. No one is there to stigmatize you for what you are doing except, eventually, you. And you don't realize it until you have to pull yourself away from the picture for a second, examine everything, and realize how wrong this is. Which is what I did.

Part of the problem is that I've never gambled, or had anything like this, so I didn't know going in that I needed to control what I put in. But, if I remember correctly, there is no disclaimer ANYWHERE in Topps Bunt that says 'remember to spend responsibly', or 'you should probably control how much money you put in.' Because anything that would end in Topps getting less money is bad for Topps.

So, in a way, Topps is promoting gambling, for their own personal gain, without a real care for what happens to people who put too much money into the app, especially if they're young kids spending their parents' money. They do not put thought into this, which is a horrible thing to grasp.

That somebody could go 'Yes, people are losing money, yes, kids are being conditioned to gamble at a young age, but on the plus side, we're finally winning the child demographic, so what's there to worry about?' This breaks my heart.

All of this in mind, Topps is restructuring their organization so that it's more geared toward things like Topps Bunt, and less towards actual, physical packs of Topps, which uses moderation, and is a lot safer for younger kids to get into than Topps Bunt. And yet Topps doesn't understand that it's got the exact wrong priorities, and that putting more emphasis on Topps Bunt is a mistake unless Bunt is restructured to be less of a cash cow and more of a direct simulation of actually buying packs of cards.

Topps Bunt cannot be 'the future of collecting', as Topps is leading us to believe, because if so, the next generations of card collectors are going to learn the lesson I learned eventually, and not want to collect cards at all, be it digital or physical. If this process, the one that I succumbed to, keeps going on unaddressed, Topps is going to lose a ton of prospective collectors, future and current, physical and digital.

They damn near lost me as a customer, and it took some overwhelming response from a grand majority of their products last year to keep me buying. But Topps needs to seriously rethink its priorities, or at least do something about this problem as soon as possible. I know it took me a year to report on this, but I wanted to wait until it would be relevant. It's relevant now, because Topps wants you to believe that Topps Bunt is the future.

Well, if that's the future, I think I'd be better off living in the past.


  1. I ,just recently,downloaded the Topps Bunt 2015 app.Out of curiosity.Since It's the off season,there really arent many games to play or competitions so I'm basically just collecting the free coins every other day or so and occasionally ripping virtual packs.I'm not putting any money into it,just passing the time with it.The main thing Is not to feed Into the "GET YOUR CAL RIPKEN ,JR. AUTO NOW EXCLUSIVELY ..." sales pitch.It's not a real physical autograph and they're not real physical cards.Plus,once your phone or handheld device conks out ,there goes your baseball card collection.The only way to get rid of this pay to play digital movement Is to simply,not pay.Unfortunately,the more people pay for these kinds of apps,the longer they will stick around.

    As far as Topps 2016 goes,It's a new design for a new time.If you like them buy them,If you don't then I guess you can buy them anyways and rant about It on your sites.That simple.

  2. You've made a bunch of very valid points in this well thought out post. I started plying Bunt in mid-September and still do to this day but the first month was a very eye opening experience for me. When I finally realized what "autograph" and "relic" cards are on the app it almost caused me to quit! I spent about 20 or 30 bucks trying to chase a Cal Ripken "World Series Ring" card and instantly felt buyers remorse because the card looked so awesome but I realized I'd never be able to hold it in my hand. I had just wasted my money. The thing is that the card looked awesome and I fear that Topps is using its best designs to make digital cards. It makes perfect business sense on their end because they can create the designs just like the always have and deliver it to the customer without having to print, sell, and distribute it to retail and hobby outlets. They only have to pay the guy designing the cards!
    Topps is shooting themselves in the foot buy getting more and more greedy. On January 1st they cut the daily and weekly bonuses by about 75 percent and doubled the pack prices. It has really angered many, many users and they have jumped ship(I've been strongly considering jumping too over the last 2 weeks or so). They have also added pay to play packs that you can only purchase if you buy coin bundles. Even if you buy the bundles you are still only given a chance to pull the cards advertised. The odds get better the more you spend right up to guaranteed pulls for about 100 bucks!

    Another eye opener for me was when I was chasing the Cal Ripken in the "Rookie Sensations" insert set they released. The digital card looks exactly the same as the actual real card you can pull from '15 Topps Update packs. I can purchase the card on COMC right now for .69! I actually spent 30 or so dollars chasing the digital card that I will never be able to hold in my hands. Lesson learned!

    This app preys on people that have OCD and have to "collect them all". Just like the real cards (looking at you Dynasty and Five Star), Topps only cares for people that have deep pockets where people like you and I who don't have tons of money to spend on hobbies.

    So now I only use the coins that are given to me for my daily and weekly bonus but I will no longer spend real money on Bunt again.

  3. Spending real money on fake cards blows my mind.

    Thanks for expressing what I've known about Topps Bunt for awhile but never mentioned because I didn't think I knew what I was talking about having never used it.

  4. The internet allows us to purchase cards at anytime, without any limit on quantity or currency spent and we can the physical cards are delivered and in our possession. Topps Bunt is a scam unless you cherish images of non-existent "autograph" cards. I don't understand the interest in digital cards.

  5. The internet allows us to purchase cards at anytime, without any limit on quantity or currency spent and we can the physical cards are delivered and in our possession. Topps Bunt is a scam unless you cherish images of non-existent "autograph" cards. I don't understand the interest in digital cards.

  6. I never spent money on the Bunt or Star Wars app, but I could feel the temptation from time to time. I was logging in every day for my free daily coins for a long time, but when the Bunt app cut the daily free coins down by half I just stopped logging in.

    As a collecting app it felt a bit hollow. If Topps could make a decent trading card game out of the app I'd probably use the app a lot more. I love the WWE SuperCard app which allows me to collect cards of all my favorite wrestlers and also allows me to do something with them by building a deck and improving it through gameplay.

    There needs to be more to it than just card collecting, because for card collecting I prefer actual physical cards.

  7. This post really lays it all out there. And it's definitely spot-on. I "played" Topps Bunt quite a bit in 2014, even spending $75 on coins at one point. I did grow weary of it, not since I was always missing out on inserts (which are way too scarce in that app), but the Fantasy element just took way too much time.

    I still have it installed, and I'll open it up every few days to earn the free daily coins, but I skipped most of their contests last season, and bought way fewer digital cards than in 2014.

    App developers have it down to a science, with the gamification, achievements, virtual currency, time investment, etc.... Really it's not much different from a slot machine. And as a video gamer, this whole microtransaction thing bugs me even more, because it seeps into traditional video games that you pay $20-$60 to buy in the first place. Then there are map packs, DLC, avatars, etc.... At least you'll get way more bang for your buck for a $60 game like Fallout 4, Diablo 3, Call of Duty, whatever. Rocket League is $20 and it's absolutely awesome. You can blow through $20 in coins in Simcity BuildIt, or BUNT, or Clash of Clans, and have barely anything to show for it other than what you'd get by waiting a few hours.

    Anyway, I'd hate to see Topps become the next Zynga. Thanks for your post.

  8. For me it was all about the fantasy aspect and trading to collect the sets. I haven't put a dime into any of their apps and I've been on all 4 for a while. Topps has dropped it's daily free coins in the off season the last couple years probably because of people like me that just log in and collect them and then leave. I'm saving up for the new series and I'll attempt the fantasy play again. I can see how it can become addictive, but busting real wax and be the same. Ask Brian over at Play at the Plate about that one. Bunt, Huddle, Kick and Star Wars were all interesting, but I don't see them as the future of card collecting mainly because you get nothing. I can take a screen shot on my phone and now have the card. In the end Topps will do this until they aren't making money anymore and then it'll go up on the shelf next to eTopps, Topps Town, the Topps blog and other endevors. I have to say the Panini apps are worse those in both quality and ease of use and the new Upper Deck digital app is terrible. But at least there are physical cards involved with it. But the digital cards are just COMC scans.

    It's also interesting I don't know if you've noticed, but this year's Series 1 is plagued with errors and mistakes.

  9. You probably picked the worst time to try it out. If your trial month was April or May, your experience would've been quite a bit different. First of all, you would've gotten more free coins on a daily basis. Secondly, by the time you signed up, everyone had already gotten all of the 2014 base cards they could possibly want, so the inserts were pretty much the only worthwhile thing to get from opening packs. But at the start of the season or right when they released the new 2015 cards on the app, you could've had a lot more success trading base/colors as people tried to complete their sets. Then there's also the whole fantasy-contest part of the app that you missed out on since the MLB season wasn't going on.

    Bunt can be really frustrating. I know I roll my eyes at all of the ugly new chase sets they unleash seemingly every day. And what you'd have to pay for those premium insert packs and stuff, it's really ridiculous. But really it's not any different than what we see in the high-end/case-breaking corner of the "hobby." People are spending unbelievable amounts of cash trying to get the "rare" cards they can turn into big bucks.

    But just like the cardboard segment, different parts of the hobby appeal to different people. Just as there are collectors that spend modestly and build sets card by card, there are Bunt players that log in for their free coins, buy the simplest base packs and trade away their dupes for cards they need. Every once in a while if there's a particular set/card that appeals to me, I might buy the 99-cent coin bundle and try my luck. Conversely, there are those VIPs that regularly drop $100+ on coins to get the hardest to obtain stuff, just like people would drop thousands of dollars on cardboard trying for those special case hits or whatever. It's up to each individual to decide what they can handle.

    It's odd how often you hear people saying how Topps needs to do more to bring young people into the hobby while also decrying things like Bunt that are probably more successful in doing just that than, say, Opening Day. The more people you have interested in baseball, the more likely they are to be interested in the hobby. If Topps can introduce people into collecting with a FREE app that awards FREE coins daily while also allowing them to earn more coins through the daily contests, that's a pretty low barrier for getting somebody interested. That interest could very well lead to buying and collecting physical cards. And even if it doesn't, it's not taking any money out of the hobby. To me, Bunt is a great supplemental program to the traditional hobby we're all plugged into. If Topps is able to milk some money out of it that wouldn't be spent on the hobby otherwise, that just means more potential resources for their physical releases.