We don't know if they'll help sell more baseball cards, but there's not much doubt that Topps strengthened its brand with the generally positive reviews of its two new apps. Some major newspapers and tech websites carried news of the launch.
Somewhat curiously, neither has a lot to do with baseball card collecting. Virtual cards are part of the company's BUNT app but it's more of a fantasy baseball game. The application, available on the iPad, is described as "an irreverent social game" that acts as a companion to the baseball season. With Topps BUNT, casual fans can collect their favorite players, earn points based on how well their players perform, and trade and compete with other groups of fans.
It's a little hard to imagine PENNANT being a huge universal hit, unless you're fascinated by the play-by-play of past games. The application, available on the iPhone and iPad, recreates over 60 years of baseball plays--every team, every season, every game, and every play from last night's games back to 1952. Baseball fans can check out the box scores and play-by-play from games in the 2012 MLB season as well as those dating back to the year of Topps' first big baseball set.
Topps Pennant ($3.99 for a universal app that includes optimized versions for both iPhone and iPad) and Topps BUNT (free for iPad) are available in the Apple App Store.
It's clear the move was aimed at strengthening the company's brand among baseball fans who might have an interest in either the company's cards or future digital products, or maybe both.
"At Topps, we're putting the baseball fan first," said Michael Bramlage, Vice President of Digital. "The original Topps baseball cards of the 50's and 60's were all about connecting fans with their favorite teams and players, and getting them together to socialize, talk baseball, and make trades. Topps Pennant and Topps BUNT are natural extensions of this legacy, bringing core elements of the Topps DNA to new baseball fans on new platforms, like the iPad and iPhone."
TIME magazine columnist Sean Gregory isn't in the "baseball cards are dead" category. His column offers a nice overview of things.