John Herson from The APBA Game Company answers a few of my questions

Some time back, I got into a pleasant chat over email with John Herson, CEO of the APBA Game Company.  I took a chance and asked if he would be willing to engage in a Q&A interview for The APBA Blog.  He not only readily agreed but even suggested that we do this on a regular basis. I’m glad I asked.

I asked my inner circle of APBA friends for suggestions on questions and expanded on them.  Here is the interview:


APBAlogoThe APBA Blog: I’m sure the APBA Game Company doesn’t make major changes to a board game lightly especially knowing how much it impacts those who play the game. What is the process the company goes through when these occasional changes are considered?

John Herson: You are correct that  game changes are not done lightly.  The major issue is to make sure that any change does not impact the playability of previously released card sets. Most changes are generated by ABPA fans’ comments and suggestions.

We are play testing a proposed change to the basic baseball game.  This change, if adopted, will require a new player rating.  In addition to game testing the change, APBA has to determine if the required information to calculate this rating is available for all seasons.

 

TAB: How have you targeted young adults and children when marketing your games? How much have video games impacted the bottom line in this matter?

JH: APBA has not a good job of targeting young adults and children.  Beginning with soccer, APBA is preparing a series of videos of children playing APBA games.  Instruction videos are being prepared.  These videos will be available on APBA’s website and You-Tube.   APBA is working to spread the APBA message using the internet and social media.

The old marketing plan of advertising in periodicals does not work.  When I first purchased APBA, we ran ads in the Street and Smith and Sporting News baseball annuals, APBA got a lot of positive responses from fans glad to see the ads again.  However, the advertising cost in excess of $8,000 and generate less than ten orders.

Initially video games did impact APBA’s business.  Unlike the video games, APBA is NOT a hand-eye coordination game.   Right now video games are not impacting APBA.

 

TAB: I know customers will always find something to grumble about but I think they all appreciate how APBA Company representatives (particularly Marc Rinaldi) keep in touch with them on the APBA forum. Will the Company continue to use social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) to increase its presence among the APBA community?

JH: Yes APBA will continue to expand its presence on Facebook and Twitter.  One reason is to attract new fans.  Secondly. many APBA fans are using these new technologies.

One thing APBA fans can do to help APBA keep in touch with them is to be polite to each other.  The tone on some of the threads at Between the Line confuses me.  You “play” APBA.  This is something you choose to do with your free time.  You do not “work” at APBA.  If you are playing, you are having fun.  The tone, the lack of respect and rudeness of some posters on the forum bothers me.  You can disagree with some one but still be respectful and polite to that person.

At the beginning of every year a lot of us customers get anxious (sometimes bordering on impatient) about when the new APBA card sets will be coming out. Can you briefly give us an idea of what it takes for the APBA Company to put out a current set of cards?

This is the timeline for the annual current season set.  in mid-September, Skeet selects the players for each team.  After the season is completed, card preparation begins with the gathering of all necessary statistics and player information.

After the statistics and player information file is completed, the actual cards are prepared.  This process takes six weeks or so.  The card file is not completed until after the World Series ends.  A player’s card will be amended for certain post-season results.  For example, Joey Blanton hit a playoff home run several years ago.  Since Blanton had not hit a home run in the regular season, his card was amended for the post-season home run.

After the card file is completed and reviewed. the card file is sent to the printer.   We are now in mid-November.  At this time, the line-up and master symbol sheets are also sent to the printer.

The printer needs a month to prepare the proofs of the cards, line-up and master symbol sheets.   After APBA approves the proofs, the printing begins.  Since the printer closes for the week between Christmas and New Years,  APBA does not receive any cards from the printer until after the first of the year.

For this reason, APBA now focuses on shipping cards the first week of January.

 

TAB: How does APBA determine what past seasons will become available each year? Do those sets continue to be good sellers with APBA fans? Have any seasons been wildly popular?

JH: APBA maintains a file of all season requests received from APBA fans.  Periodically, APBA will request fan input.  APBA will complete the gap of 20th century seasons.  A new never released season will be offered later this year.  The 1995 baseball season is now at the printer.

Seasons with a lot of offense are the best sellers.  The  1950s and 60s seasons are the most requested.

The APBA Company is in the process of releasing a Pro Soccer Game. Was this just one more tabletop sport to add to the others or was there added incentive to bring on this particular sport?APBA wanted to offer soccer to reach new fans, domestically and internationally.  Soccer video games outsell American football games in the United State.  Soccer has many important leagues and international competitions to offer as card sets.  Future card sets will including women’s teams.

 

TAB: Are any products or past seasons coming down the pipeline that you can talk about? Any new computer games coming soon?

JH: The 1995 baseball season should be released in late April.

A new golf course Magnolia was released this week.

The 2009-10 Italian Series A and Spanish Primera Division card sets are now available,

A new computer baseball game product,  City’s Best  disk,will be offered in April.  These disks include a city’s best baseball teams regardless of franchise or league. For example, the New York City disk includes a Negro League team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, New York Mets and of course the New York Yankees teams.

I’ve learned the hard way not to discuss future game releases or future computer games.  I can say that APBA is looking at offering at least one new board game this year.  APBA has several software development projects on-going.  At this time. I’m not prepared to say any more on this.

 

TAB: This is a question I’ve always wondered about… do any of the APBA employees play competitively in APBA leagues?

JH: Skeet and Veryl are in a face to face baseball league in Lancaster.  Skeet is also in a football league.  Veryl does many solitaire replays.  Veryl has a special area in the warehouse where he plays games.

I do “what-if” replays.  What if  there was still two eight team leagues.  What if African Americans played sooner in MLB.  What if this player signed with the team that initially drafted him.

 

TAB: Finally, how many at the APBA Game Company know the “secret APBA Card Formula”? IS there a “secret APBA Card Formula”?

JH: There are two people that know the APBA card formulas for each game.  I would like to think the card formula is secret but most of the elements of the card formula have been reversed engineered.


Thanks to APBA CEO John Herson for taking the time to asking these questions.  I can tell a lot of time and thought was put into them.

As I mentioned, he suggested that we do another Q&A on a regular basis.  When the next time comes, I’ll put out a request for serious questions for John from any and all APBA fans.

Posted by: | Category: Interview | Tags: , , , , | 78 comments

  • Captain Ahab says:

    When, on the Game Products page, the banner reads “Order Now – APBA 2009 Baseball Season Card Set & Accessories”, perhaps a website upgrade *is* in order.

  • @Greg
    I appreciate the positive comments about the blog. I enjoy doing it.

  • George Arturo says:

    Nice blog. Can you ask Mr. Herson if APBA is a part-time operation today? If it is it would explain the lack of enthusiasm and poor quality lately from the company. I play Strat hockey so I am somewhat informed on the baseball side of their company. How did the gap between Strat and APBA get so large? Im losing my energy to keep being a cheerleader for APBA. Kind of like my energy to continue being a Pirates fan.

  • Randy Egan says:

    Ahab–

    That, or they just have a lot of 2009 sets lying around! ;-)

    Randy

  • Hank Konkel says:

    A lot of frustration out of broken promises of a new computer baseball game, has resulted in a total abandonment of any future purchases from APBA by me and many other long and loyal fans. For years, on and off, we have seen elaborate color brochures showing the “pipedream propaganda” on what the “new” computer baseball game will offer. We were all told that a “new” announcer would be in the “updated” game. WHAT A JOKE. A very sophisticated on-line league I play in has totally dropped the use of the APBA ratings and exclusively uses the BILL JAMES ratings.
    WE ARE TIRED OF WAITING FOR THE …….”UPDATE” TO 5.5 BBW.
    Since we haven’t played any seasons past 1995 (and have no intentions of doing so, at least I don’t), the use of Bill James has been very adequate.
    I have played APBA baseball since 1970 and can finally say good-bye to a company that provided many years of pleasure, but has turned its back on its long time customers. In an age of computers, where most board game companies have resigned to manufacture computer games (or both), it just astounds me that APBA cannot adapt to the 21st century. Many of my friends, who played APBA for many years have now been purchasing STRATO-MATIC games. ERRRR, I used to shutter at the sound of that company when mentioned in the same sentence as APBA.
    I also just want to say, SO-LONG old friend, K don’t know you anymore.

  • Sam Jones says:

    Hank,

    You are absolutely right. The once proud APBA company is just a shadow of its old self. Continuing to promote and provide BOARD games is an obsolite proposition.
    With so many JOKE baseball video games out there, APBA has totally missed a generation of young people. A market that would have carried APBA into the next realm of production, instead of an old market that is literally dying off.
    APBA obviously has no vision for the 21st century and apparently doesn’t care.
    Either sell out to some enthusiastic owner, or vanish into oblivion.

  • Captain Ahab says:

    Yo Hank Konkel,

    You said “Since we haven’t played any seasons past 1995 (and have no intentions of doing so, at least I don’t),…”

    Then you said “I also just want to say, SO-LONG old friend, K don’t know you anymore.”

    So…you’re still playing BBW…but because you only use the Bill James encyclopedia, you’re not a current customer…and yet you’re saying so long to APBA? Didn’t you do that a long time ago? Even if they came out with a new computer game you wouldn’t be buying it anyway, since your league plays seasons prior to 1995. So what exactly are you bitching and moaning about?

    Yo Sam Jones – (loved your shots off the backboard btw) – APBA makes most of their money off of board games. Why should they abandon them?

  • Hank Konkel says:

    Captain Ahab,

    You are obviously a shill for the APBA game company.
    Are you that stupid that you can’t understand what I am saying about APBA?
    You must be, therefore I will not even comment further on your message.

  • Captain Ahab says:

    I’m crushed you won’t reply to this! *L* Re-read what you said – or what I said. You’re not even a customer…but you’re leaving! *L*

  • Dave Miller says:

    Hank:

    Which I am sure is not your name. In a recent survey of SOM computer game users less than 5% had ever played BBW. Most SOM players feel that APBA is inferior. As a point of fact, if you were to take the time to look around you’d find that the SOM fans are down on their computer game and in fact it seems that DMB has some folks upset. Nothings perfect.

    As for you Mr. Jones, APBA is a board game company. Sales of their Board game products have increased every year for a decade. Just like the TV didn’t put the movie theaters out of business, computer games have not killed the board games. I certainly hope they never do.

  • Stephan Williams says:

    For all of those who use this forum to continually complain of the quality of the product, the path of the company, the “disrespect” that the company has been showing towards you ” the loyal apba customer”,, why don’t you all pool together, buy the company, and make the changes OR stop your incessant whining and complaining. Its one thing to voice an opinion, it is another to continually complain without trying to fix the problem.

  • Richard Hubbell says:

    Interesting stuff. Have just gotten back into playing APBA after taking 30 ( ! ) years off. Don’t know anything about all the drama. Could someone inform me what the “throwaway card” was and what the Atlanta debacle was about? If you don’t want to post on here and get yelled at, my email is richardhtemp@comcast.net. I would appreciate being informed.
    Thanks,
    Richard

  • bert the cop says:

    board games are alive and well and ever increasing against the computer’s dull predictability. the dice probability remains a major factor agaist the computer’s unseen ‘tandomness’. and things aren’t so great at Strat. has anyone noticed the complaints against them in blogs all the way to YouTube? Strat has problems with BLANK CARDS(actual players cards left nameless as Barry Bonds for several years) and this may be due to a problem between Strat and MLB and MLBPA. i have played both Strat and APBA and love both! APBA is progressing better than Strat in more sports markets as Strat has buried it’s head in the sand with the same old 4 sports. anyone with sight can see that demographics are changing more than ever and that soccer(real football) interest is gaining . as for a computer game, i will play MLB THE SHOW over anything out there,it’s pure entertainment and that is the basis for computer games. if i want a ‘true’ replay, then i rely upon the dice probablity and a boardgame, same as for military reenactors on the ‘war’ board games. if i want to blast 1500 enemy combatants with a m-16 and clip of 20 rounds( amazing how those weapons never need reloading) and destroy 10 heavy tanks with a grenade, then i will play a computer game( and they all grow old and dull after a while). i do agree that Mr. Herson needs to make an appearance at the convention and answer questions from the APBAites. due to my occupation, i miss several events with my family(sorry Herson,flimsy excuse,especially when YOU are the CEO! i don’t believe Seitz ever sacrificed APBA for ‘family fun’, either sell the company to an APBA devotee who will give 100% to the company or CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE). as for Atlanta, their broadcasters are amateurs and i avoid that pathetic city as much as possible. i have noticed that on the new APBA charts that a FIELDING 2 PITCHER CAN NEVER BE INJURED with the DH in use! it can only happen to fielding 1 and fielding 3 pitchers with runners on 1st and 2nd and with 38 rolled.the only way that a fielding 2 pitcher can be injured is in the NL as a baserunner. please APBA, if you are having problems, then address them and correct them, STRIVE FOR PERFECTION. one thing that i do appreciate about APBA over Strat-O-Matic is that APBA personnel are friendly and cordial about answering questions regarding the gameboards and such whereas the Strat people can be downright rude. PLAY BALL!

  • bert the cop says:

    a major reason for people switching to Strat from APBA is that Strat is consistent, especially with its board games. whereas APBA has really tinkered with the Seitz product after death(13 is no longer just a strikeout, the R rating is now involved. also, there are K and ZZ. instead of leaving the basic game as it was from the early 1980’s, the new APBA guys(no Seitz,died in 1992) had to mess further with the Basic game and make it more cumbersome and a whole lot of reading across the charts(after first reading that a play was a groundout, at the end of it all, i discovered that it was a strikeout; in Strat, a strikeout is a strikeout and agroundout is a groundout). i played APBA because the STEALS were built into the game and made it easier to play solitaire and discouraged overuse by certain players, but now that is factored out against the new changes and discovering that a fielder 2 pitcher can’t be injured when the DH is in use,just no way! it was fine and fun as it was, just as the BASIC Strat game is fine and fun. if APBA wanted to tinker further, then the new guys (NO SEITZ) should have done it with the Master game as Strat does with its Advanced and Super Advanced games. BACK TO THE FUTURE APBA!

  • bert the cop says:

    and one final item…. a major complaint against Strat has been the lack of proper individual fielding ratings for certain players. there have been complaints that many players have been overrated in the field whereas others have been underrated. perhaps 2 players in the back room at APBA game testing is better than the 1 person at Strat who is responsible for all of the ratings and final cards and that is the truth. according to business reports, Strat has 10 employees and APBA has 4 or 5. Strat hasn’t disclosed financial reports but APBA has released theirs and the reports show that APBA made over $1,500,000. thios does make me wonder what Strat may be hiding because their have been rumblings about Strat’s death or total disfigurement after Hal Richman dies because his children are not interested in the company. i hope this is not the case because we need both companies to flourish in competition.

  • bert the cop says:

    sorry,but one other final item. where are the brochures? Strat has finally released the baseball brochure for printout(after all of this time) but their site still states “football, basketball, and hockey brochures coming soon”.Just what is soon? it seems as if it has been 2 years now. as for APBA, there are no brochures, less than stellar game descripitions. there was a time when APBA had the best brochures in the business and very explanatory(the included card was a plus along with the testimonials with actual names and addresses) and was much better than the Strat brochures. APBA, please offer online brochures as Strat!(there are those who are inquisitive of how the game is played when visiting the site and may choose you over Strat, but Strat has the brochure explaining their method of play) it is much easier and faster to maneuver through the APBA site than the Strat site,but Strat does have the better illustrated site,especially for their products. however, i don’t understand Strat’s ‘handling fee’. i desire to see both companies succeed beyond even their wildest expectations and neither needs to become complacent or satisfied with incompetence,mistakes, and failure. PLAY BALL!

  • bert the cop says:

    ….and Strat is good when using DH, but it uses a grading system for pitchers at bat, the pitchers batting cards and there are only 8 different ones. when playing NL and no DH, APBA is so much better with each pitcher having an individual card whereas Strat still relys(even in its advanced games) on the 8 different hitting cards for pitchers, very generic.

  • Tony Manna says:

    Forgive my lack of knowledge about APBA vs Strat baseball…

    I’m deciding which one to buy, never having played either. In fact, never having played a baseball sim. Earl Weaver Baseball was my game.

    Whichever product I purchase, Strato or APBA, I would want to play the computer version. Is Strato way ahead of APBA in terms of the computer version of their baseball sim? That’s the impression I get from the above posts.

    Should I even *consider* purchasing APBA, given that I’m new to baseball sims AND that I prefer playing via computer rather than on the board?

    • Hi Tony,
      thanks for visiting!

      If you’re looking for a computer sim, someone on here who is more familiar with APBA’s BBW should probably respond. I’m not that up on APBA’s computer game lately.

      Anybody?

    • HANK says:

      Tony,

      Apba’s Baseball for Windows is the most accurate and realistic computer game out there. I just wish they would give us an updated version. They have been promising for years, but nothing yet.

      Hank

  • GG says:

    I just called down to Alpharetta to check on an order I played a few days ago via the APBA Yahoo Store (for the ’97, ’05 and ’08 football seasons), and lo and behold John Herson answered the phone himself. He proceeded to scour what sounded like a LOT of orders to help find mine. I started APBA football in 1980 at age 14 but dropped out of serious playing for about 30 years … but never stopped collecting. I’m excited about a new era for APBA! I really can’t say Madden NFL does much for me, all the cool visuals aside, because of the downright hinky gameplay … it’s not based purely on team ability and talent. APBA still reigns supreme for me.

    Come check out and/or join my APBA football tribute page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/APBA-football/122368517834311

    Geoff

  • Shawn K says:

    I’ve been reading all the comments & understand all the passion involved in APBA games. My dad introduced me to it when I was 7 & I have loved my whole life. Always liked it better than video games & still do. I have been disappointed with products, such as decade sets & the computer game just didn’t grab me like throwing the dice! I loved the idea of drafting teams & keeping stats. I have never played Master game or played a replay. I’m not an authority on the game but it has always held special place in my heart. I have recently begun playing Stay basic dice game & enjoy for the sense of history tht comes with baseball just like I did with APBA. I UNDERSTAND the frustrations that come with disappointments in things you holds dear & I think the one underlying thing tht APBA & Strat have done over the years is create community among fans of a game & the Game of Baseball & make lasting friendships. I hope all table top games like APBA & Strat survive. I want my sons to play. I think Strat has done great job of connecting to younger fans & hope APBA is headed that direction!
    Peace & Go Cubbies!

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  • Craig Burns says:

    My wife has been dinging me about getting a hobby. Fishing and sports are seasonal. I played APBA baseball and football in the early 1960s: whole seasons with complete stats on every player. I also played the championship games between the best teams. Sometimes I wanted to cheat for my favorite teams, but I never did. This was so realistic that I looked forward every year to new cards. Since then, “Life” has taken over and I haven’t played APBA in all these years. This game brings back childhood memories and sometimes what is old is still good. Well, I’M BACK! My wife says, “thank you!” Craig Burns – Clarkston, WA

  • John Higley says:

    I am thoroughly confused. I see Baseball 66 and Master Baseball. Then, I see the 66 Box being opened with cards and envelopes for four teams. Where are the other 28? Further, I agree with the “APBA’er” who wrote that a brochure would be very useful. For instance, as things stand, there is no way to get an understanding of the Master symbols, except to guess that they are used to enhance the basic game to make it more enjoyable for more knowledgeable players. Just how is left to ones imagination.

    • Hi John H,
      Some people, like myself, want to buy the full game without buying the current season. Offering the four teams allows people the chance to try it out at minimal cost to the company (and the customer). I can now use the game to play past seasons without paying full price for a season I may not play.
      That’s my perspective at least.

      As for brochures, most literature is on their website though it may not be easy to find sometimes. :P

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