This week the BBC have released a new product that sees one of the networks most popular shows turned into trading cards. Unfortunately it’s almost imposable to collect. The Top Gear Turbo set is more than a little reminiscent of the successful (read popular) GE Fabbri part works, “Doctor Who Battles in Time” which was a great money spinner for BBC Worldwide. These new Top Gear cards are apparently NOT made by GE but in fact by the commercial arm of the BBC itself yet they still suffer from the same problems. They have even maintained GE’s price point (£2.50 per Magazine issue which comes out every two weeks and £1.50 for each additional pack of cards). These are aimed at the youth sector (The 7-14 year old market), and make no mistake the object is to hook as many children as possible into collecting these cards.
Issue 1 (pictured above) became available on the 6th Jan 010 and as an introductory offer it is reduced to £1.50 and comes with 2 packs of cards (instead of 1). Lets cut to the chase, the magazine is 24 glossy pages, mostly photos, two pages of comic strip featuring the Top Gear presenters, a Stig spot the difference, a word search and some posters. There is not a lot to it but the target audience will love it, the cards on the other hand are a little on the weak side. The set is comprised of 276 cards (that’s a big set) and they break down as follows: 220 common cards 33 rare cards, and 22 super rare cards. In addition to this there is an ultra rare unnumbered Stig card.
This is the interesting part, the odds on this set are so astronomical as to be insane. You get 7-8 commons per pack which is fairly standard, the 33 rare cards drop in at one per pack, so that’s not bad, the super rares of which there are 22 on the other hand pop up only one in every 24 packs, which we can only describe as scandalous.
It’s simple mathematics to work out that assuming for perfect collation which is so improbable it might as well be imposable, it would cost £792.00 in packs to complete this set. We can tell you now that it will be a lot more than that because to put it simply the collation on these cards is a mess. We know of several box’s that had no super rare cards at all but lots and lots of the same cards… and in fact the two packs we opened on the front of the magazine suffered from this problem. Not only was the rare the same in both packs but so where three of the common cards. That’s a 22.2% margin on just two packs…
Perhaps it’s just those two unlucky packs on the magazine then… So to make sure we split 15 more from a single box and assumed that the duplication would drop, sadly the duplication percentage went up! After 15 packs we found 28% duplication… That means 2-3 cards in every pack will be duplicated in any other another pack… unlucky box perhaps? It would seem not, I have had reports from all over that this is typical and in many areas it is worse. This duplication makes it an even harder set to complete and realistic for your average 7-14 year old it will not be possible to finish the set. This is detrimental to the slow but steadily growing card industry in the UK, and it will put off not only parents but also future collectors.
It is very cynical to market a product directly to children with the advanced knowledge that it will cost close to £1000.00 or more to complete (we added the extra £208.00 in to adjust for the poor collation of the set and high duplication percentage discussed above. We still feel that this is a conservative estimation in fact 28% would have given you a figure of £221.76). Expecting 7-14 year old children to spend this sort of money is ridiculous, and we wanted to offer the BBC the chance to respond to our article. We asked them how they could justify the cash outlay needed to complete a set which was intentionally aimed at children.
About an hour later I received a phone call from a very pleasant young woman named Tara Davies a spokesperson for the Top Gear show, she was calling to inform us that the question had been passed to her in error, and that she had forwarded it to Anna Kingsley a communications manager for BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) who is responsible for this area. I would like at this stage to point out that none of the people associated with the Top Gear TV program have anything what so ever to do with these cards, they are purely a commercial enterprise by BBC Worldwide.
Later in the day Anna Kingsley did respond to my question via email and this is what she said:
In response to your question, the core proposition of Top Gear Turbo Challenge is about offering a great value offer for children: a magazine with great gifts, a great website and packs of trading cards in each issue. The trading cards are designed for children to swap with their friends to build their collection and we would never expect that they spend the kind of sums you suggest.
What Anna Kingsley seems to be missing is simple, I am not suggesting anyone outlay the sums of money needed to complete this set, all of these figures are biased on the statistics that BBC Worldwide published on each and every pack of these cards. THEY are suggesting this sort of cash expenditure to anyone who wishes to complete the set. She seems to be saying they never intended for anyone to BUY the product in the hope of completing it… Thats an interesting business theory.
We felt that was not really an adequate response.. so we followed up with some more detailed questions which I will now reproduce:
The figure of £792.00 is a very conservative estimate assuming that no duplication was found in the packs purchased which I am sure you will understand is statistical improbable to say the least. Exactly how much trading do you anticipate is going to happen when when the ratios for the top cards mean they have a statistical value of £36.00 each?
Do you accept the premise that BBC Worldwide have created a set of cards that it will be nearly imposable for a child within it’s target demographic to complete?
More over do you even accept the premise of a numbered card set ultimately is to complete it?
Are you really happy to defend the statistics on set completion as published by the BBC Worldwide?
Who made the decisions as they relate to set composition and insert ratios?
and we held off on publishing until we had a response. It came and it says:
We stand by our previous comment that Top Gear Turbo Challenge is a magazine proposition with great added value for children in the form of gifts, website and the trading card element. The trading cards have been designed with children’s enjoyment in mind, in each pack is a rare card that activates new content on the website and there are an array of games that children can enjoy from collecting just a few packs of cards. Following successful testing last year, we feel confident that we are offering children the chance to enjoy and engage with Top Gear in a variety of different ways with Top Gear Turbo Challenge.
So that clears that up then…. BBC Worldwide have NO intention of answering detailed and legitimate questions about a product they expect our children to buy. Its a shame, because this could very easily be a great product. The cards are nice, and they have a great interactive application, once you register on the top gear turbo website you can input the codes from some of the cards and it will enable you to play enhanced versions of some on-line flash games. The games are interspersed with sound clips from the folks on the show and fun even if a little basic.
You can also have your own “Cool Wall” on the site full of the cars you have collected on the cards. This is great and innovative stuff, and had the super rares been 1:6 or even 1:10 with marginally better collation this could have been a very memorable set, as it stands at the moment however it is one to avoid if you can because completion is going to cost more than any other basic set in recent history (if not ever) of to complete. If you don’t care about completing the set then have fun. Personally I would hope people would pass on this just so that they don’t carry on with these crazy ratios. The BBC should really know better.