And thanks for nothing. Literally nothing.
I gave Topps BUNT a spin this season. Topps BUNT, aside from being bizarrely capitalized like a lot of bad decisions on the internet, is the virtual trading card app from the MLB exclusive license holder. It's not like me to spill a bunch of words about something I don't like (you'll never find me reviewing places on Yelp), but I found this app particularly frustrating because it had potential to be a pretty good time waster.
Instead, I'm afraid BUNT just a waste. I'll issue a caveat here: I am never going to be a company's ideal "freemium" consumer. I have a really hard time forking over actual cash for something intangible. I consider myself a huge music fan, and I can scarcely get myself to buy anything on iTunes. I really like having something I can hold on to, even if that something (e.g. a compact disc) is going to end up in a storage box for 99.99% of its life. I do download free apps and use them on occasion. And while I'm no economics wizard, I do fully understand that something that no one is paying money for is not going to make anyone any money. I do think, however, that this could have been something Topps didn't really need to make a ton of cash on because it could have been a tool to promote their actual, tangible product -- those baseball card packs that we love to tear open.
If you set aside the issue that free-to-play apps with in-game microtransactions are always going to offer a competitive advantage to those that spend, I still found some things just completely wrong with my experience with BUNT. BUNT is, as near as I can tell, a combination between a fantasy baseball game and a virtual collect-all-the-things game. (There's probably a better name for the latter.) Both of these things appeal to me. But neither of these things really fit well with each other and ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. Is it trying to be too much?
Before I go Full Yelp Review here, I'll just lay out my grievances and sign off for the night:
- The points for the fantasy element of the game are heavily weighted towards users with the "best" cards, typically obtained by opening a high volume of (virtual) packs probably obtained by spending actual money, since your daily allowance only gives you enough to buy the virtual equivalent of a 1989 Fleer pack each day.
- There's a trading system in play, but good luck trying to solve that mess. It appears that you need a massive collection to get anyone to deal with you, and each trade is rated regardless of whether or not a trade was actually made. In essence, you can get rated for merely contacting someone about the possibility of a trade. This makes no sense to me. I got "rated" once for having the audacity to send a trade request to someone for a completely common card for another completely common card just to get the hang of how the system worked. I got a "2" out of "5" and now that's on my permanent record.
- As I mentioned, there's a collecting element at play. I've been sucked into "collecting" games before, and they can be mindless fun if they're done right. My problem with this aspect of the game is twofold. One, most people are focused on inserts, which are downright expensive to obtain. And secondly, there's very little organization in the presentation. There's not really a box to put your cards in or some kind of virtual album. I am someone who collected the entire virtual Panini World Cup sticker album, for some reason.
- Rules of the game seemingly change at the whim of the Topps BUNT employees. One aspect of the point scoring system (both the time it takes to switch and number of times you can switch a player in your active lineup) changed from week to week during the first few months of the season, and then abruptly stopped. Then, suddenly the entire scoring system was revamped after the All-Star break.
- Continuing with the above point, players that switched teams (in real life) during the season apparently stopped scoring points when a user activated those cards. The problem is, this was buried in their Terms of Service (or some such thing that no one reads) and they were extremely mysterious about this, blaming it on glitches with the app until they finally unleashed a plan to distribute new cards of players on their new respective teams in just the past week. That should have been embarrassing enough, except they seemingly had no idea how to distribute these cards, and just unleashed them in 10 minute intervals. Users were to buy free packs (as many as they could, apparently?) of the new cards, but they only had 10 minutes assigned in grouped timeslots based on their user name at some point last Saturday.
- I didn't get any of these free packs. Were this the first ridiculous thing that happened to me with this game, I probably could've gotten over it. Supposedly everybody got a push notification (I definitely didn't), but even if I did, do you honestly expect me to be at the beck and call of an app at some random time on a Saturday? If this was some sort of one-off freebie that didn't drastically affect the points earning potential of every user of this app, it wouldn't have mattered to me in the slightest, but quite a few high caliber players have changed teams this season. As a result of all of this, an already disadvantaged player is further hampered.
- Have I mentioned this this app is really buggy? Oh yeah, it's full of bugs. It's the only app I've ever used where you basically have to stare at the screen for several minutes to make sure it's doing exactly what you intended for it to do. And once I tried (with much futility) to get help with a bug and got the same boiler plate email something four times even though it had absolutely nothing to do with my actual issue. (Click image to enlarge:)
In the end, I really just can't get over spending real world money for some pixels on a smart phone screen. It's kind of weird to me. Because the internet exists, people take the risk of going outside the game and actually buy some of these cards on the internet. I could pay bills with that kind of money! (h/t to Gellman who is a true believer and does a very thorough job at documenting his travails in the BUNT world in his digital card focused blog.)
I also haven't really bought any physical baseball cards in a couple of months. I should probably get on that.