Friday, September 11, 2015

New Coke

Remember when Coca-Cola decided to up and change the formula for their semi-iconic soft drink?  I don't, because I wasn't born yet, but America was up in arms over "New Coke," with such distaste not seen since Bob Dylan went electric.

Now, was it even actually different and not just a marketing scheme?  Did it actually taste that bad?  I'll never know because I never took a sip; however, there is another modern revamp of an old concept that recently hit shelves that I'd like to take a look at.  This one has nothing to do with teeth-rotting, bubbly drinks; but, it does involve a Coke .

It is called "Platinum Series Baseball:"

This Coke didn't last very long in Chicago either and people shuddered at the thought of Phil Coke just like they did with New Coke.  Still, he now has a card that lists him as a Cub, so I had to have it.

Like MLB Showdown or Topps Attax before it, Platinum Series Baseball endeavors to provide a viable table-top, collectible baseball card game that accurately simulates America's pastime.  Baseball wants their Pokemon moment so very badly.

Each card provides ratings and statistics that determine the value of the player pictured to the game.  The front shows things like fatigue rating (shortened to a rather rude-looking Fat) and durability, while the back gets much more detailed:

I'm not even going to try and get into all of that - that's a lot of numbers and text.  Maybe if I ever someday have the opportunity to play the game, until then....

As you can see this product is unlicensed by MLB; but, it does have the blessing of the Player's Association, as notated on the bottom-front of the card.  Thus, it features a lot of obvious, and often gratuitous, airbrushing; however, without that airbrushing, I would have never gotten to "Cubgrade" Phil Coke, since he was here and gone so quickly earlier this season (I guess a 6.30 ERA out of the bullpen will do that to you).  So, my CATRC is thankful for Platinum Series Baseball anyway.

You can buy the starter kit, which comes with a game board, dice, scorecards and a starter pack of 12 cards, 12 card packs individually or a full wax box.  Since I am really only interested in the cards and just a few of them at that, I was happy to find a single Ebay vendor who was, thankfully, shilling singles:

The full checklist for the cards is over 600 people deep, which makes me love this product even if the game itself is less fun than playing gin rummy with my grandmother.  It harkens back to the glory days of Topps Total, so that guys like Coke and Justin Turner can get baseball cards too.

This is Turner's first card as Cub and though it is airbrushed, it is at least obvious that it is a home Cubs jersey (unlike Phil's now blue Tigers shirt).  Turner has spent the entire season on the disabled list, which is unfortunate for him since the club has been desperate for back-end starting pitching all year.  Still, he's young and has upside, so maybe he'll be of use next year.

Oh, by the way, here's the back of Justin's card in case you were curious about how the game values him:

The cards themselves are not at all what I expected.  I imagined that they would be just like your typical playing card/Showdown card:  rounded corners, standard size, flexible, thin and durable.  Not so.

Instead, the cards are slightly taller than standard size (they just peak out of the top of a nine-pocket pouch) with the thickness of your usual baseball card.  However, the paper that they're printed on is more like the old "Action Packed" brand of days gone by; very unusual.  The corners are still round though, so there's that.

Other Cubs in the checklist include Rizzo, Castro, Bryant and the names you'd expect; however, it also includes guys Like Jason Motte, David Ross, Chris Denorfia and others who haven't had a Cubs card yet.  I chose to get only the two above though because I figured the rest of them had a pretty good chance of being a part of Update, while the two above had absolutely zero chance.

The full set-up for a game of Platinum Series Baseball
Image courtesy of their official YouTube account

I first discovered the existence of this card set/game courtesy of Wrigley Wax and his quest for Darwin Barney's likely last baseball cards.  The concept was funded entirely through IndieGoGo and started shipping out their product in July.  As of now, it is only available online; that said, they are currently working on deals with big-boxers such as Target to get PSB on store shelves too.  It's an encouraging, grassroots story.

Maybe if they can stick around, MLB will be impressed enough to issue them an official license too.  I can dream, right?

The odds are against them though, MLB Showdown's shining moment was quite brief and Topps Attax went over like a lead balloon.  Meanwhile, card games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh aren't quite as culturally pervasive as they once were.  Only time will tell if this go-round will be any different.

How do you all feel? Is this something you'd be interested in?  Would you actually like to learn how to play the game or are you just all about the cards?  Or, since it's unlicensed, do you revile them like many do with Panini products?  I'm curious.

Should Platinum Series Baseball stay or should it go the way of New Coke (or Phil Coke, for that matter)?


  1. "Now, was it even actually different and not just a marketing scheme?"

    It did taste different, but it was a marketing scheme. At the time Coca-Cola "decided" the revamp their formula, it was still outselling Pepsi. Granted, over the previous years, it's lead was eroding, but it was still over 50% market share. So why, with the majority of a market share, would you change you recipe to taste like the competition. That would be akin to McDonald's scraping the Big Mac and changing it to taste like a Whopper.

    What the big change did was generate a SHIT Ton of free publicity for New Coke, as well as free publicity when they magically brought old Coke back and labeled it "Coca-Cola Classic".

    It was a scam that most of the country bought into, and many still believe that it was a failed plan by Coke. In truth, it worked out perfectly. Coke introduced a rival in attempt to steal consumers from Pepsi, with a Pepsi clone (that sucked, btw), and they paid practically nothing to do it. Sure, there were TV and newspaper ads, but it cost $0 to get the front page headline on a paper, which is what is secured on too many of the big publications.

    So New Coke failed, only in the sense that people didn't want to drink it and not because people loved the old Coke. Then Coke suddenly had two flavors on the market.

    1. Well, I've reviewed your essay on New Coke and I give it an A+; it was very informative. Seriously though, that did help fill me in quite a bit.

      Also, I've come to realize (upon even further research) that I have actually tasted New Coke. I did not realize that the short-lived Coke II was just New Coke by a different name. It used to pop up in Target around here until the turn of the century or so. That said, I have no memory of how it tasted, just that it was very odd to see and thus I had to try it.

  2. I'm intrigued by Platinum Series Baseball, and I wish them success where others have failed, but I know very well how the deck is stacked against them. I would like to get some of the relievers and backup catchers that they seem to include, but I do wish the cards were a little more attractive (with or without logos).

    I was also going to explain New Coke to you, but JediJeff did a fine job, so there you go.

  3. I'm definitely interested by these Platinum Series cards. MLB Showdown is still my all-time favorite board game, and I'm more than willing to give others a shot. I'll have to see if I can pick up a starter pack on the cheap.

  4. Because I can't resist, in spite of JediJeff's response.

    "Now, was it even actually different and not just a marketing scheme? Did it actually taste that bad?"

    Yes and no and yes. I was not only alive but nearly 30 when New Coke arrived. It was the eighties and New Coke was soooo 80s. It was different and it was awful. My recollection was it was too sweet for one thing; it was like drinking out of the sugar bowl (oh, c'mon, like you've never done that). I've always presumed it was a marketing scheme, though Coke denies it and most reporters seem to believe Coke rather than the CT dudes.

    Just to add a few contrary facts to JediJeff's account... Coke actually spent quite a bit marketing New Coke. There was a whole buildup campaign and, when it finally launched, you couldn't find a commercial break on the tube that didn't include an ad for New Coke. Cosby was the spokesperson. So, absolutely, there was LOTS of free press coverage, but their own ad buys were far larger than their usual. And Cosby didn't come cheap in those days.

    In spite of the overall public backlash, a lot of people actually liked New Coke. The new formula had been tested and, in blind tests, was preferred by an overwhelming majority of taste testers. Problem is "brand loyalty" is a real thing and we older people who liked Coke didn't want it messed with. But, anyway, as you, yourself, note, New Coke continued to be manufactured and sold alongside Classic Coke for many years. If you were doing a scam, would you still brew and sell the "fraudulent" product for nearly 20 years? For all I know, its still being sold overseas.

    The prevailing opinion seems to be that Coke committed a huge marketing blunder (not deliberately) that somehow worked out incredibly well for them.

    Now let me tell you about SoHo Soda, a remarkable and all natural soft drink that was taking off so fast, Seagrams (of all people) bought the company and the formula so that they could insure it would never be sold again. Now that's a scandal. (God, I miss Soho Soda).