First Impressions of the New 2015 Topps Bunt App

If you guys have been following along with my site, you will likely know my affinity for the ever growing community of Topps Digital apps. The biggest of the 4 games is Topps Bunt, which combines fantasy baseball with card collecting in a digital arena. The game is an absolute blast, and yesterday, they released their build for the upcoming 2015 season.

As expected, there is already a pretty active secondary market for the cards:

2015 Topps Bunt Clayton Kershaw Super Rare Gold Base Card

2015 Topps Bunt Mike Trout Team Spirit Insert Card

2015 Topps Bunt Rusney Castillo Gold Base Card RC

2015 Topps Bunt Adrian Beltre T206 Mini Insert

As you can see, the cards mirror the 2015 Topps series one cards, including the look and feel, but digital has made a niche for themselves by creating some pretty stunning exclusive insert cards only available on their apps. If you havent checked it out yet, this is definitely the time to do it.

For my other site, digitalcardcentral.com, I wrote a pretty extensive breakdown, and I think its worth sharing here, just in case a few people want to read up. I would also check out this article for more information, as well. If you want to see more articles I have done on this site regarding the world of digital, its all here in this search.

We are less than a day into the new season of Bunt, but I have already spent a number of hours tooling around in the app to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Let me start off by saying things are different but similar. I know that there are a lot of people who will say that because its different, its terrible, but I urge you to give it a shot. Here is a breakdown.

Home Screen

There are some nice changes to the home screen that I like, and some that I absolutely hate. As for the good, I think that putting the bulletin box in the top left corner will work well so that everyone can see immediately if they have a message. Additionally, moving the games on tap down near the bottom is nice, as not many people use that box anyways.

Here is where one of my biggest gripes of the new layout exists, and it is going to greatly impact the way I interact with the game. Instead of the flag icon at the bottom representing the fan feed, it is representing the contests screen. The fan feed has been moved to the bottom of the home screen under social, which normally would be a good thing. It causes one specific ripple effect, which I absolutely hate – you can no longer toggle between the fan feed and the trade screen with single clicks. You have to back out of the feed to access trades, which will be very annoying. It seems like a little thing, but for someone like me that loves to go back and forth, its going to take some getting used to.

4

Now, as the contests become more a part of the every day usage of the app, this could change. I have a feeling the layout was deliberate in that fact at the moment, but until the contests get going, this is the way I am going to feel.

Store Screen

If you havent been playing along with Star Wars Card Trader, this new type of structure is going to be very foreign to people. Its also going to cause a few unhappy people who have transferred from last year, as the card availability is one of the bigger changes.

Here is the way it works. When you open the store, you will see 3 packs at the moment. These packs are the 1, 3, and 5 card pack. The first pack only contains commons and uncommons, the second contains the first two levels, plus a 1% shot at rare, and the third contains the first two levels with a higher percent shot at rare. Last year, all packs contained all cards, which made it easier to buy cheaper packs and get the top cards.

To get access to the Scarce Blue cards and the Super Rare Gold cards, you need to buy a bundle of coins with real money from the store. It can be the .99 cent bundle, but you will need to buy to see the best packs. The new packs will be a 5 card pack with a 5% shot at blue, and a 15 card pack with a 1% shot at Gold SR.

2

This is the way it is in Star Wars as well, and to be honest, it wont be as bad as you think it will. From what happened in the other game, the inserts were available to everyone regardless of purchase status. They usually got their own pack, and no one missed out on those cards. Once the inserts are live, they will become the more valuable cards, and golds will be more readily accessible. As the season goes on, the golds will not sell out and more people will be apt to trade them.

Free players and even some of the lower tier pay players will be upset that they are not going to have the same kind of access they did last year, but that shouldnt come as a surprise. If you dont pay to play, your existence in the game is less important than those that do. I understand that last year was different, but I get this change.

There are also significant changes to the play structure that should lend itself more to ensuring a more equal playing field in the gameplay element, so its a bit of a tradeoff. Bottom line, free players are tolerated, but not catered to, and that shouldnt be a shock to an app that needs to make money.

The positive thing with this is that Golds will be significantly more valuable, and add more of a chase to the game. That is a very good thing, as it was so easy to pick up cards at will. The new structure puts more of a focus on collecting specific targets and really building a team instead of just getting 9 of everything and letting the chips fall as they may. As we will see in the contest screen portion of this post, more of a focus on the fantasy element is a common thread for 2015.

Go check out the situation over on Star Wars, where 10,000 count inserts sell out in a matter of hours. The structure has reshaped the value proposition, and I think if you give it a chance, you will see what I mean.

Contest Screen

This is the biggest change of anything, and I also see it as one of the best improvements for the year. As I explained in my first post about the 2015 structure, users are no longer going to compete against the entire leaderboard every day of every week. Instead, you will be able to sign up for special “contest leagues” that can last from a day to a week, to possibly longer.

IMG_0807

Right now, there are 3 options. The first option is the free league, that can be entered without paying any coin fee. The prizes are listed on the screen, where the top person will win 2500 coins. You can only play Cubs and Cardinals, as it is a one day league, and that is the only game on the schedule. The boost is limited to 175, which means that all your cards can only add up to 175x. At this stage, that is astronomical, but in the future, it may more of a limiting factor. You can basically play a max of 175 cards in this league, as each common is 1x. Each boost above the 1x will take more of the pie, and will limit the amount of cards you can play.

Above the free league will be the All Star League for 7500 coins and a middle league too. Each has different prizes, which includes a 20k pack sent to the winner of the All Star League. These two leagues are not different in play structure, its just about the level of competition.

You might say that the big pay users will just join every league and win, but that is where things get a bit different. You cant use the same cards for each league. Once a card is used in a play deck for a certain contest league, its not available for the others. More of an even playing field for right now.

In the future, there is no guarantee that the Diamond VIP users wont eventually collect enough cards to have enough to use in all available contest leagues, but for right now, I doubt it will be a factor.

There are also a number of league ideas that wont make it so simple as 175x and one game. This contest screen provides a significant opportunity to have a lot of fun with the structure week to week.

Card Sheet Screen

Before I start, Topps has already said in the comments that sort filters will be fixed in a future update. Until that happens, this is going to be a relative mess. The best way to organize cards is by parallel, and that does not give any indication of rarity inside the different parallels available.

IMG_0808

Because sort by rarity is unavailable, everything is sorted alphabetically. For 2015, there are not that many cards and its still relatively easy to follow. But for 2014 and before, the cards are no longer able to be displayed in a way that is easy to follow in any way. Alphabetically just doesnt work, and with every pre-2015 card in the same “Not For Sale” parallel, its impossible to find anything just by looking through someone’s sheet.

Once sorting by rarity is available, this will all be an easy fix, and I dont think its going to be a big deal to wait AT THIS POINT IN THE GAME.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Upper Deck Football

Today marks a sad day, as this will be the last licensed version of Upper Deck football to be produced. That’s not saying it wont continue in some way in thew future, but for right now, this is it. I remember back in 1991 trying to rip through Upper Deck packs with my allowance to pull the triple exposure Joe Montana card, and every year since then, I have always cracked a few packs of the product. Now that the cards are live, its very bittersweet.

Here are some of the cards already listed so far:

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Letter Auto

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Die Cut Auto

2015 Upper Deck Marcus Mariota RC Auto

2015 Upper Deck Hines Ward Die Cut Auto

The main thing that Upper Deck has always done well is the photography for the set. Their photo choice has always been nothing short of dynamic, and this year is no different. Each card has a cooler photo than the next, and as a connoisseur of fine game shots, this product is always a treat. Although I dont think this is as strong a look as it was in 2014, the base still looks pretty good.

Here is what I dont really get, in regards to the use of stickers instead of going for hard signed autographs over the product. With Inscriptions being as awesome as it was, I would have really liked to have seen UD go all out for this set and get the autographs on card. Also considering that the autographs can literally be obtained the MOMENT the prospects sign with an agent, why not have every card done ahead of time so that no stickers are even needed?

There are hard signed cards in the product in the signed letters and a few other cards, and it goes to show that the opportunity was there. My favorite cards in the whole product are the SP Authentics on card autos, which were incredible last year too. These are retro themed inserts, and they strike all the right notes in all the right ways. Some of the better pre-draft cards that exist, even more so than some of the ones from Inscriptions.

Im not a fan of signed swatches in any way. The ink bleeds, and the cards rarely look good. This year is no different, even though the letters are a bit larger in thickness. I wish that they had taken a page from basketball, and layered the cards with acetate, so collectors can still try to spell out all the weird shit they love, and you dont have to deal with all the issues from signing so small on little pieces of fabric. They have also had rookies sign the side of the card too, either works better.

Overall, I still wish Upper Deck had their NFL license. I still wish Panini hadnt bullied their way into a CLC (NCAA) exclusive to take over what UD has built over the last few years. UD still makes great looking cards, and this is a shame we cant have them in the licensed market in some fashion.

Your Watch List of Hobby Items: 2015 MLB Collecting Storylines

Over the last few years, I have become more and more engrossed in the NFL with each passing year. However, I still love baseball, and I still pay pretty close attention to what happens each year. It helps that Topps Bunt is around as well, as my interest level has spiked since going full scale into the digital world of collecting. That being said, there are a few story lines to check out, and they have hobby implications along with them.

Watch List #1 – Rookie Crop Takes Center Stage

Whether its some of the new Cuban players to come over to the bigs, or some of the bigger prospects that are going to finally get their shot, the 2015 crop is strong. Rusney Castillo got a taste of the show last September for the Sox, and he projects to be one of the top guys this year for cards as well. Of course, there is also guys like Jorge Soler for the Cubs, and Joc Peterson for the Dodgers, who will all have to compete with young masher Kris Bryant – should he be called up. All of these guys have had cards for a few years, and they will be making MLB fun for all the prospectors out there.

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Orange Refractor Auto

2012 Bowman Chrome Joc Pederson Blue Refractor Auto

2015 Topps Heritage Rusney Castillo Real One Auto

2012 Bowman Chrome Jorge Soler Orange Refractor Auto /25

Watch List #2 – Will Jose Abreu and Jacob deGrom Be Sophomore Sensations?

If you opened a box last year, it was likely you were looking for one of these two ROYs. They both had some great stats as they exploded onto the scene in 2014, and there will be many watchful eyes as they try to replicate success from last year. Abreu put up some gaudy numbers for a team with very few other bright spots, and now that they have added some FAs around him, maybe this year he can find his groove again. Interestingly, deGrom really didnt have much until later in the year, but then Topps got him into a few sets. This year, the Mets need a big year, and deGrom will have to be the man on the mound again.

2014 Bowman Chrome Jose Abreu Red Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Chrome Jose Abreu Gold Refractor Auto

2014 National Treasures Jacob deGrom Rookie Auto Patch

2014 Topps Supreme Jacob deGrom Rookie Auto

Watch List #3 – How Will Madison Bumgarner Follow Up His World Series Domination?

There was no bigger performance of the year in 2014 than what he was able to do in the World Series. It might have been one of the best pitching performances of all time, and collectors really took notice of what he did. However, without more of a dominating stat line during the regular season to match his post season winning tendencies, he may not get the continued love from the hobby that he definitely deserves.

2008 Bowman Chrome Madison Bumgarner Auto RC Refractror

2014 Topps Tribute Madison Bumgarner Auto

Watch List #4 – How Will Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout perform?

In the grand scheme of things, Trout is a much bigger deal than Puig. In the hobby, Puig may have more to prove as well, especially when Topps flooded the market with his cards two years ago. So, with Trout now an exclusive for Topps and Puig entering another year, will both continue to perform on a level that makes them among the hobby elite? It would be easy to say that Trout should have no problem putting up another MVP caliber season, but there is no such thing as a sure thing. Puig, a midst questions of his maturity, will need to step up. As for Bryce Harper, he is the one of the three that I am just not sure about. The thing is, he is SO young, that his career hasnt even hit the beginning of his prime. Harper has had his moments, but never really filled the shoes that were put in front of him to this point.

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2013 Topps Chrome Yasiel Puig Gold Refractor Auto

2011 Bowman Bryce Harper Auto RC PSA 10

Watch List #5 – What Will Life Be Like Without Derek Jeter?

I was never a Jeter fan. I hate the Yankees. I also respect a lot of what Jeter is all about. With the Yankees losing another huge piece of their dynasty team from the 1990s, will they find a way to be relevant in 2015? It is almost a bit unclear, because they have a number of question marks in their lineup and their pitching staff. Although Masahiro Tanaka looks to be back, his elbow issues last year should be a huge concern. Without someone stepping up to take the place of their departed legend, the Yankees are in rough waters ahead. Although Jeter hasnt had autographs in a product in years, his cards were still a big part of Topps’ plan last year. This year, someone else will need to take up the mantle.

2014 Topps Derek Jeter Framed RC BGS 9.5

Even though my favorite team is on pace for another massive losing season, I cant help but be excited for the new year of baseball. With Topps already knee deep in their product line for the year, we will finally have the opportunity to see how it plays out on the field.

Is Kris Bryant the Next Big Thing?

If you havent been following along with Spring Training, you are missing some fireworks set off by the newest rookie phenom Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. Hitting home run after home run has made a significant statement as the Cubs battle their way to opening day. As someone who has been among the top prospects in the league for a number of years, collectors have been on the bandwagon for a while. However, since the bombardment began, his prices have gone through the roof. Even his non autograph base refractors are going for nutso prices.

Check out some of these ridiculous prices:

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Orange Refractor Auto /25

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Auto RC

2014 National Treasures Kris Bryant Silhouette Auto Patch /25

2014 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Auto RC

Here is the thing, I get prospecting and I get why Bryant has a ton of value. What I dont get is why he is worth more than guys who have won MVPs and World Series titles. Its clear Bryant has provided a spark in Spring Training, but it is just that. That really isnt what prospecting is all about. Prospecting is more about finding the diamonds in the rough, not buying the diamonds at Tiffany’s. There just isnt a ton of room, especially when he isnt even likely to be on the Cubs opening day roster.

Could Kris Bryant be the next Mike Trout? Possibly. However, possibly is a very large risk to be dropping the price of a used car on his rare Bowman autograph parallels. What started with Albert Pujols back in 2001 and continued with Trout, Puig and Abreu over the last few years has likely found a new torch bearer. As I have warned hundreds of times before, if you arent in now, you have likely missed the boat.

Bryant is a pretty prolific signer, much like we saw with Abreu and Puig, which means his autographs could get flooded as the year progresses. Yet, I completely understand when people would still put the Bowman Chrome above any other autograph out there. Just be careful when dumping money into other cards that arent his Chrome auto.

We have seen a lot of players come and go, some turning into perennial all stars, others still marinating as they try to make a name for themselves. I have never been a fan of paying through the nose unless comparative value is in tact. Right now, that is not the case, so watch out.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Inception Football

I love me some Inception. Its one of the first REAL higher end products of the year, and has a ton of on card content that looks REALLY good. Panini has taken cues from this set and tried to replicate elements in other products, but have mostly failed. Inception is the top of the mountain, and in one of my previous posts, I still say the inscription autographs are some of the best cards of the year.

Here are some of my favorite Inception cards from previous runs:

2014 Topps Inception Teddy Bridgewater Nike Logo Auto Patch 1/1

2014 Topps Inception Odell Beckham Laundry Tag Booklet Auto /5

2011 Inception DeMarco Murray Silver Signatures Auto /25

2012 Inception Andrew Luck Auto Red /25

2012 Inception Russell Wilson Silver Signatures Auto /25

The set even made a transition to baseball a few years ago too:

2013 Bowman Inception Yasiel Puig Gold Auto RC

2013 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Green RC Auto

As we have seen in previous years, the design and look/feel of the cards rarely goes off the reservation. Inception has worked very well now since 2011, and there is no reason to switch it up during the last year of the run. This may even be one of the main products that Topps might be able to keep doing, even after the loss of their license, but that is yet to be seen.

Inception delivers some big boppers in a time where there are literally no cards to compete. This includes on card booklet autograph logos, inscriptions, and all sorts of amazing looking stuff that is better than any other product that is released during the pre-premiere timeframe. Although the box breaks can be hit and miss, the design never disappoints.

This year’s stuff looks good, and I really cant wait to see how everything turns out once the cards have NFL uniforms on them after the draft. Remember, these are just mockups: