Kelly's Blog

Feb 06

International Growth of Fantasy Sports - RotoHog

by Kelly Perdew Entrepreneur, Fantasy Sports, Leadership,, Sports

A Wicked (Virtual) Googly The Wall Street Journal

What Fantasy Veterans Can Learn From a New Cricket Game Catching On in India

FEBRUARY 5, 2010, 3:22 P.M. ET

It was only a matter of time before cricket and fantasy sports found each other.

You can now play with an avatar of Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
.Cricket is the second-most popular sport in both England and Australia, and tops in India. It’s wildly popular in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, and a host of other British Commonwealth nations. Only soccer can make an airtight case for being more popular around the world.

India alone has a population of about 1.1 billion people, and its cricket madness reaches heights that even the most fervent American football fan could never understand.

“India shuts down when there’s a cricket match,” says Swetha Iyengar, a 25 year-old television producer in Atlanta whose parents emigrated from India. “It’s big in a way that no sport here can compete with.”

It’s only natural, then, that a fantasy cricket game would emerge. How it happened should have Americans taking note. In its first eight months, fantasy cricket site has, according to chief operating officer Yashraj Vakil, signed up over 450,000 registered users, enjoyed up to 9 million page views per month, and users are spending an average of 16 to 20 minutes per visit on the Web site. According to Internet tracking Web site, Dream11 has more monthly page views than,, and (It still trails by a healthy margin).

These numbers are even more impressive when one considers the myriad roadblocks to marketing fantasy cricket as a viable gaming option.
Cricket itself has no set season. It’s a year-round sport, with a focus on international play, so Dream11 had to build its game around the individual matches and ditch an “overall” type of scoring system (like in baseball or football), instead focusing on individual tours or matches. There are also several forms cricket takes, ranging from test matches that can go on for up to five days — sometimes without a result — to the more compact T20 matches, which can last around three hours. To make this game practical, fantasy gamers are limited to picking 12-player teams (their so-called dream 11 plus an alternate in case someone doesn’t play) from two squads or clubs competing against one another, across multiple formats during a particular tour.

Once the minor rules of tournament eligibility were ironed out, there was still one obstacle to overcome – few in India had any idea about fantasy sports. But the country’s computer-users do play plenty of online games. Using Adobe’s Flex software, Dream11’s engineers specifically designed their system to mimic online strategy games that Indians were more familiar with.

They are presenting fantasy cricket to the masses as a strategy game, complete with graphics and tutorials. But at day’s end it is the fantasy game we all know and love: the only way a player scores points is if his real-life counterpart scores them.

Not exactly intimately familiar with all the rules of cricket, I decided to give the game a try. I selected 12 players in the Australia-Pakistan T20 match for this weekend, staying enough rupees under the salary cap. When I selected a wicket keeper, that keeper was then represented on a screen by a digital rendering of a player in his country’s uniform. Eventually, the entire pitch fills with these avatars. The final product ends up looking more like an old Nintendo game on pause, but this offers a foundation that American designers should build on. It’s hard to believe that, in the land where fantasy was born, this hasn’t caught on.

The game’s 12th man wrinkle could also make a splash stateside. Each year, more and more fantasy football players shout expletives at their laptops after learning their running back was declared inactive just five minutes before kickoff. The 12th man solves this problem. If a wide receiver is declared out, no problem. There’s a sub already designated and ready to go.

Mr. Vakil hopes to someday expand the portfolio of Dream11’s fantasy offerings to include more sports than just cricket. His angle, he says, is to continue with the philosophy of selling fantasy as a strategy game, and hope that the consumers see it in that light. For the immediate future, though, cricket is key to the site’s success, and Mr. Vakil is banking on the growing number of Internet users in India to help the numbers climb. He points to the estimated 60 million Internet users in 2009, up from 2 million in 2000.

Mr. Vakil can only expect more potential customers. India will have the third-largest Internet user base by 2013, according to Forrester Research, with China and USA first and second, respectively. This growing international market provides an opportunity for American-based fantasy games to explore the overseas markets, as well.

In March 2009, raised $2 million in Series B funding and successfully created fantasy soccer games for media companies in Brazil (in Portuguese and English) and for Fox Sports International (in Spanish and English). Their platform is even designed to deliver in multi-lingual capability, including Mandarin.

“I absolutely believe that international is a huge growth opportunity for fantasy sports,” says RotoHog CEO Kelly Perdew .

Several other companies are exploring the same possibilities. A company like Dream11 may not successfully move out of the fantasy cricket niche, but it may not have to. If just 5% of Indians decide to try fantasy cricket, the number will double North American fantasy sports participation.

Conversely, it may take a while for Dream11 to catch on in America. But if it works in India, there are plenty more potential customers in England, Pakistan, Australia and other cricket-crazy countries. Either way, it’s a game the big boys in this country should be studying.


Leave a Reply

Copyright © Kelly Perdew 2004-2009 | Log in