CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE PDF OF THE 1944 SEASON OF THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRLS’ PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE (made famous in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own”) for Plaay.com’s History Maker Baseball.
This is not a homebrew set – this is an official HMB set by creator Keith Avallone. It’s really exciting to see a game company offer a set like this for free.
To my knowledge, there is no other game company that embraces these types of “alternative” sets to the extent that Avallone and Plaay.com does.
You might counter that Strat-O-Matic and their all-volunteer “U-Team” – which has been responsible for Cuban Stars, Japanese historical seasons, and Negro League season releases for their PC game in recent years – might be comparable. The difference, however, is that Strat-O-Matic relies on the U-Team volunteers to create computer-only rosters, doesn’t offer anything for free and actively discourages and/or shuts down any attempt to share cards created by some of their most loyal and creative customers.
Most notably, Scott Simkus had a beautiful set of 1933-34 Pittsburgh Crawford Strat-O-Compatible cards that he had created and was offering in conjunction with his weekly digital newsletter, The Outsider Baseball Bulletin.
Intended to be released in serial fashion, 1 or 2 per issue, Simkus was only able to offer 16 of 26 cards before this cryptic note ended up in the May 15, 2013 issue of OBB:
To me, companies that discourage the free proliferation of alternative, fan-created sets are comparable to those baseball owners who argued against broadcasting baseball games on the radio in the early twentieth century. Their out-dated philosophy is – quite literally – counterproductive.
It’s true that a percentage of fans will opt for the free product over paying for the genuine experience, but offering the free product creates brand loyalty and attracts more fence-sitters to the genuine experience than any other paid promotion can. Avallone and Plaay.com are on the right side of history – excuse the pun – here.
Plaay.com publishes the formulae required to create cards for History Maker Baseball and then rewards their loyal fanbase by providing this content free-of-charge.
This open-source philosophy is a hallmark of twenty-first century innovation. I asked Keith Avallone how Plaay.com benefits from giving gamers the tools to create their own sets. His response:
Well, that’s a good question! I guess I’ve always liked to tinker with making my own cards for games, and I figured other people would, too. That’s why I began to offer the “How-To” guides.
This was before the days of the internet, and the original idea was that people would make cards for their own use. Nobody had Adobe Acrobat back then, so the only way you could share your cards was to physically print and mail them to someone, which cost not a small amount of money, especially for multiple sets. I didn’t forsee the internet and PDFs and the ability people now have to create something and quickly get it out there to lots of people.
Still, I think home-brewing does benefit the business in the big picture, but it’s hard to quantify. I feel as if there’s both an upside (goodwill, gamer loyalty, community-building) and a downside (lost sales of card sets, card sets incorrectly made, etc.) to offering people the opportunity to make their own cards. As best I can tell, though, the upside outweighs the downside over the long haul.
I also wondered if Avallone would ever sell user-generated content.
I have been doing some of this recently.
Al Wilson created the ATFG [All Time Franchise Greats] sets for HMB, but Al’s a special case in that a)he knows the game’s inner workings and b)he’s proficient in Adobe Indesign, the app in which those cards are created.
Mostly, I will work with people who have more expertise about a sport than I have and recruit them to help me with a specific game/set. Dave Gambrill put together this year’s CFL cards for COLD SNAP. Dave’s a Canadian and a big CFL fan, and he has been on the inside of the ratings process for several years now as a proofer and editor. This year, we switched roles, although I still formatted the cards in Indesign once the ratings were set.
Another Canadian, Michael Owens, creates the soccer ratings for SOCCER BLAST. We’ve spent countless hours on the phone and over the internet hashing things out. Last year I asked Lenny LaFrance to do the ratings for the 2014 Pro Season lacrosse cards for LACROSSE BLAST, and he did a great job.
Then there’s the ATFG hockey cards, created by Frank Albidone and Vinny Mancini last year–an awesome set. Those two guys have an incredible storehouse of knowledge about vintage hockey.
Currently, Bill Hild and I are working on an all-time great soccer card set, which is going to be spectacular.
In each of these cases, I provided input on the set as the ratings were being created and also formatted the cards into the finished “official” format. But I did lean heavily on these people to make the card sets happen.
I don’t anticpate increasing this practice, though. For one thing, I like doing the cards myself! LOL! But more importantly, I think it’s vital to have a certain consistency from set to set, and game to game, so if it has the PLAAY name on it, I want to be involved. And there are only so many sets that I can be involved with in a given year.