APBA Soccer for Kids & Strat-o-Matic Baseball Express

I recently was able to ask John Herson a few questions about the future of APBA Soccer over on the APBA – Between the Lines forum.  I was lucky enough to get this response:

Soccer game: I’m glad you like the game. We do follow the comments of the community. We are testing several of the suggestions right now. We will be offer older seasons in 2012. We also plan to offer All Time Great Teams. We will be offering the MILS season after their playoffs conclude. We have plans for an internet version of the game. Right now we are focusing on APBA soccer. We are play testing a very quick version of APBA soccer for ages 4 to 7.

Thank you for your support of APBA soccer.  As I’ve said before I’m committed to soccer.  My goal is to have baseball, football and soccer  each be 25% of APBA’s sales.  This goal includes growing the baseball sales.

There’s a lot of tasty info in that little blurb, but APBA Soccer for kids jumped out at me as something I wasn’t expecting.  Especially that it’s not only something that “we plan to offer” but, apparently, the game itself is already in the play-testing phase.

I am a father of two, a 4-year-old and a 3-year-old, both little girls.  They both play soccer and I’d love to find a game like this that could draw their interest at some point in the next couple of years. 

Finding a niche audience within the youngest generation strikes me as the paramount issue for tabletop sports sims at this time, and both APBA and Strat-o-Matic seem to be recognizing it.

Strat-o-Matic released their “Baseball Express” product earlier this year through an exclusive distribution deal with Toys ‘r Us.  Anecdotally, it appears to be a success.  Reports are that the game has sold out in many TRU locations, and due to the limited availability, the game was recently selling on ebay for twice it’s retail value (until Toysrus.com began to stock it).

The Baseball Express product is a perfect initiation to the Strat-o-Matic game engine.  It plays just like the Basic version of the game, except with very few charts.  I would have LOVED the game as a kid.  I can imagine that these cards would’ve been more precious than gold to me at age ten or so.  As I said over on StratFanForum, I wish I could go back in time and give this set to my 10-year-old self, and that is the absolute truth.

I haven’t found any hard evidence, but I, for one, would be willing to bet that the median age for Strat-o-Matic or APBA players is well over 35 years-old, and that a significant – if not majority – portion of the demographic is eligible for the senior price on a Denny’s French Toast Slam.   I’d also be willing to bet that players coming to this hobby in adulthood is the exception rather than the rule.  If these assumptions are true, then the future longterm success of these game companies will be dictated by how well they engage the youth today. 

There is a common misconception – especially among that senior demographic – that tabletop sports games are competing for the youth market against the glitz and glam of video games.  That is absolutely false.  Tabletop games fill a different niche, and offer a wholly different gaming experience.  It’s like saying that book publishers compete with film producers.  Not true at all.  I think the misconception comes from the old guys who just don’t get video games – or kids – and think that imagination has disappeared because kids can see action unfolding on screen in front of them in their video games.  That’s ridiculous.  Kids’ sense of imagination today is as great as it ever was.  EA Sports didn’t kill the ability of kids to picture their favorite player hitting a home run – if anything it enhanced their ability to imagine it.

The problem facing APBA and Strat is not that kids won’t love the game if they give it a try.  The problem is we’ve got a bunch of old guys who are the keepers of the hobby today, and they’re yelling “Get off my lawn!” at the neighborhood kids.  Those old guys are responsible for convincing kids to give these games a try.  And they’re pessimistic about those pesky kids.  Consider me in the optimists camp, I’m optimistic that there are more like me out there, who think that this generation will LOVE tabletop gaming once properly exposed to it.

Strat had a great Father’s Day promotion last year where they offered a 50% discount if you took a picture of yourself playing one of their games with your kid and submitted it to their Facebook page.  Brilliant.  Speaking as a member of the over-35 crowd (barely, but still), assuming all is lost with this Call of Duty-playing generation is the worst possible way to ensure the future of the hobby.  Play it, talk it up, have fun with it, and do it with your kids and/or grandkids.  It’s the only way.

I look forward to APBA Soccer for Kids.  I think Strat-o-Matic’s Baseball Express is terrific.  Mostly, I’m happy to see that the fellows in Glen Head, NY and Alpharetta, GA are as concerned as I am with the future of the hobby and are trying to reach out to the next generation of bone-rollers.


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One Comment

  1. Not a big pro soccer fan. I most likely wont buy the APBA Soccer Game though I’m a lifetime APBA player. That said, Herson’s is probably making a good move with this. It’s no secret to him that APBA’s demographics show his customer base is getting older and older.
    From a business move, it makes a lot of sense.

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