National Video Games Examiner Patrick Hickey Jr. chats with Chris R. Vaccaro, Director of App Production, Topps and Michael Lewis, Sr. Product Manager, Topps, who chat about the 2016 edition of their popular “BUNT” mobile game, discussing the new gameplay changes and what it means to have reigning AL rookie of the year Carlos Correa as their cover star.
Hickey Jr.: What was the development cycle like for this game?
Michael Lewis: For development, because in part we view our app as a SaaS model (software as a service), with each season we try to be iterative on the app instead of reimagining it each year. We want our returning Fans to both be excited with the new release, but also, feel a sense of comfort- where they already know how to use the app when they start. We are creating a new platform for an old past time and want both veteran and new collectors alike to feel at home in BUNT. That being said, we like to introduce one or two major features to the app each season. We generally start planning these in the fall after we have gotten HUDDLE up and running for the season.
Hickey Jr.: How has the game changed from last year?
Lewis: For 2016 we have added two major features we are really excited about. The first one, named Card Exchange, may be recognized by fans of Star Wars: Card Trader. It is a place in the app where fans can trade cards into the system for other cards. We think of this activity as single player trading. One major difference, though, is that when cards are traded into the system, they are deleted permanently. We think this is really cool because it can make the card economy much more dynamic. People usually think of digital collectibles as permanent, but with card exchange, we introduce the idea that these can get destroyed. Card values can go up based on the activity of fans with the card exchange.
The second major feature we have implemented is the ability to gain experience points (XP) and level up over the course of the season. For anybody familiar with gaming, this idea will be immediately recognizable, though for collectors or fantasy sports fans- this may be a new idea. We want our fans to feel a sense of growth over the season and leveling up should play a big role in that. Fans can gain XP for a variety of activities such as getting certain cards in packs as well as for playing in our real-time fantasy contests. By gaining levels, fans will get access to better cards and more competitive contests. Fans may not know it yet, but we are going to store the level they make it to each year so that they can have a history of their progress every season.
Hickey Jr.: How does it feel to have Carlos Correa as your cover athlete?
Chris R. Vaccaro: Carlos Correa is the new face of the game. We’re thrilled to have one of the top young players and reigning American League Rookie of the Year on the cover of our product. He should have a bright career ahead of him and we’re proud to have such a gracious, and hard-working athlete as a partner of Topps. Watching him help lead the Astros to the postseason last year was just a taste of what’s to come for Carlos. More importantly, we’re looking forward to commemorating more of his top moments from the 2016 season on digital cards in BUNT.
Hickey Jr.: With so much competition among major sport on mobile devices, what makes this game stand out the most?
Vaccaro: Topps MLB BUNT is the only real-time, real-world Major League Baseball digital trading card game. If you want to play in real-time as big league players are performing on the field, BUNT is where fans come to compete and have fun. We launched BUNT in 2012 as a simple idea and it has morphed into a major part of digital sports culture for baseball fans over the past few years. Not only do fans play along and root feverishly for their player cards to earn points, but they also collect and trade with great passion and use the app to track the top stories in baseball. We have an aggressive operational calendar with new cards and designs released 365 days per year. When something memorable happens on the field, we aim to release a card to commemorate that moment very quickly. Our operations team is top-notch in telling stories and bring a journalistic approach to every card design and release.
Hickey Jr.: What’s next?
Vaccaro: We’re always looking to get bigger, stronger and faster. We hope to continue improving our platform, and stay ahead of the curve with features, content and designs. We want baseball fans to come to BUNT to follow games, and make baseball and digital trading cards a part of their lives. As the season is just kicking off, we’ll have a full slate of releases, so look out for new and exclusive inserts, designs and content that will relate to the game’s top moments and players.