Watch this short interview with Adam Zucker, head of international business development for Topps and come back to get my thoughts and share yours. Go ahead, I'll wait.
It's real easy to say the market was too crowded now that you are the only one allowed to produce MLB licensed trading cards. I agree with his argument to some extent with regards to the retail market but to make a blanket statement about The Hobby as a whole, to me, comes off as highly arrogant.
Retail is the primary distribution channel that will first attract a child to the sports trading card market and if you look at the shelves of Wal-Mart or Target, there is a lot of product. However, part of the confusion comes from the merchandising display of the product to begin with. While store managers and employees do their best to keep the shelves organized, inevitably, shortly after opening, those shelves are in disarray. And forget the pack searchers, I am primarily talking about Blasters. What needs to be done to correct this is to have partitioned spaced, physically divided by sport.
Also, if you notice, the TCG category is equally crowded between WOW, Magic, Pokemon and the various entertainment related, non-sports trading cards so to lay blame to an overcrowded and confusing market is an excuse and not the problem. The real problems as have been discussed many times on this blog run far deeper than "over saturation" or product selection. Their is a significant demand for a kids money and time, and in all honesty, tiny pieces of cardboard can't compete against a Facebook, XBOX, MTV, ESPN culture. Kids today are too savvy to be placated with "kid-friendly" products and actually resent the condescending marketing tactics that treat them like kids.
Why the hell would a kid want to play any version of Topps Attax, when they can play a video game? Motion controlled devices like the Wii or later this year XBOX's Nano are a gaming experience that Topps cannot begin to compete with with a TCG. If Topps is banking on trading card games and kids to help lift the trading card market they are in for a big surprise and utter failure.
So what is their solution besides re-positioning the category to misguidedly appealing to children? They are turning their attention on the international market to pawn their crap on the rest of the world. Zucker sites Topps licensing deals with various European soccer leagues, and a desire to enter the Asian and South American markets. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't one of the reasons the sport of soccer is immensely popular outside the US, is that the equipment needed to play the game is very inexpensive in relation to football, hockey or basketball? That leads me to believe that there isn't a whole lot of discretionary income in Indonesian 3rd world countries for such a trivial product as trading cards. Whatever, good luck with you marketing expenditures and product development in Fiji and Timbuktu.
How sad and infuriating that Zucker is spending company dollars to go to Indonesia on a business development discovery trip when REAL collectors like you and I have to put up with a continued lack of innovation, citing cost factors as being prohibitive to implementing the many, many ideas the blogsphere has developed and implored the trading card manufacturers to employ or at the very least experiment with.
WE, YOU AND I, the collector have become irrelevant because Topps knows that they can spoon feed us the same gruel year after year and some people will buy it.