Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Early spring is perhaps the busiest time of year in the sports and entertainment space. It features high impact events like the Oscars, Sweeps Week, “March Madness,” the beginning of the MLB and MLS seasons, and the NFL Draft. All of this is in addition to the improving weather outside (except in LA!) and a bigger focus for most of us on family commitments, which makes time management a challenge for everyone, and forces all of us, including the highest impact brands and properties, to find ways to cut through the clutter and achieve strong personal and business objectives.
Here is a look at our latest developments in sports and entertainment:
Major League Soccer. There is perhaps no faster growing sports property in North America than Major League Soccer. Their highly successful franchises in Seattle, Philly and now Vancouver and Portland, have made them the envy of all sports leagues in terms of launches in the past 20 years. Their cornerstone franchises in New York and Los Angeles are also mirroring the expansion franchise growth, which makes for a very exciting time. One of MLS’ biggest areas for activation remains in the digital space, and we are pleased to work directly with the league to develop and launch two fantasy games that we all think will help them expand their fan activation platforms and continue to make them a leader in brand growth - the MLS Salary Cap game that allows fans to compete in free and cash competitions (http://games.mlssoccer.com/scm), and the League Manger game that allows fans to participate in a “draft and trade” fantasy game featuring their favorite MLS athletes for the first time ever (http://games.mlssoccer.com/lm). The MLS project was just featured in Technorati, here is the link: http://technorati.com/sports/article/mls-kicks-off-into-the-digital/
American Idol. We all know what a game changer American Idol has been in popular culture. Everything Idol has touched has been a success, yet there is always a need to attract and engage fans even more. Therefore we are proud to have worked with Fox to create and launch a new engagement platform for the show that allowsfans to predict winners and answer trivia questions over the course of the American Idol season. We think this will help make a great property even better, and set the standard for fan engagement in entertainment. Please check it out at http://apps.facebook.com/idol_predictions/ and see if you can predict who will be safe next week!
Fortune League for Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). In January, we launched our first meta-game for a major MMOG based on SOE’s EverQuest II game. By creating a “snackable” game accessible inside of Facebook, we have created a way for fans to interact with the EverQuest brand in short bursts when they are unable to engage in full usersessions. We have also opened up new revenue streams via virtual goods and have created a way for sponsors and advertisers to connect with EverQuest users in new ways. Perhaps most importantly, it re-engages existing users with opportunities to earn rare and unique prizing that they can use inside of the “actual” EverQuest world. The game is live at http://apps.facebook.com/fortuneleague. We also received a nice write up on the site “Inside Social Games” at http://www.insidesocialgames.com/2011/03/21/fortune-league-fantasy-sports-league-everquest2-style/
The NFL. Even with talk of a lockout, football remains king in the world of fantasy sports. From NCAA spring football to the coming NFL Draft, no athletes have put themselves on the year-round map more than those who patrol the gridiron on fall weekends. As a stand-alone offseason event, the NFL Draft has morphed into a multi-faceted, all encompassing three-day sports and entertainment extravaganza. The interest in the draft pulls from fans, brands and all levels of media, as stars are born and franchises altered. To capitalize on this obsession with the NFL Draft, Fastpoint has partnered with “First Round Exchange” to provide a unique, draft-based fantasy game. Unlike other draft prediction games, First Round Exchange will let fans “in the know” capitalize on their knowledge of underrated and overrated draft prospects, and will certainly enhance the draft experience for all who play. The game can be found at http://football.firstroundx.com/scm
March Madness. Our work would not be complete in the spring if we didn’t continue to refine our engagement platforms with the NCAA Tournament. This year marked the second time we launched enhanced bracket games for MySpace, again helping the property offer enhanced content to its strongly engaged audience. The link is http://www.myspace.com/myspacebracket. And my Kentucky Wildcats are still in it!
MLB and Facebook Migration. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are making our core fantasy sports games available andplayable on Facebook. This will give every one of our partners a tremendous edge in being totally integrated with a global audience who are using the world’s most popular social networking platform for engagement. Please check out our Salary Cap Baseball games on FB at: http://apps.facebook.com/baseballsalcap/
All of these elements again show the fluidity of our business and the ways we can engage multiple partners on different platforms that best suit their needs. Whether they are established media properties like US Weekly and the Bachelor or entities that are just beginning to see significant momentum, like Major League Soccer, Fastpoint Games can not only provide a unique solution, we can provide the best solution, on budget and with measurable results. And those results will help whomever we work with to effectively cut through the clutter.
We will have more news in the coming weeks, but I wanted to take a few minutes to update you now, wish you the best as spring arrives, and encourage you to sample some of our new offerings. We would appreciate your feedback on these games, and all of our work, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Thank you again for all the support!
Kelly Perdew | CEO | Fastpoint Games
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were full of joy, merriment and great sports match-ups. Now that we have had a chance to re-energize our batteries, it’s time to kick-off the New Year with some exciting news.
The team at Fastpoint Games is pleased to announce the partnership with Sony Online Entertainment to extend its popular massively multiplayer online (MMO) title, EverQuest II (EQ II), in a brand-relevant way onto the Facebook platform. Together, the teams developed Fortune League, which aims to achieve three key goals.
1. Give existing players of EQ II a new way to engage with the MMO on Facebook, in short, “snackable” sessions throughout the day.
2. Introduce new players to the franchise.
3. Create an additional revenue streams.
Please find the game here on Facebook: Fortune League. Facebook was the platform of choice for SOE for several reasons including user demographics as well as reach. According to recent reports, Facebook was the No. 1 visited site in the U.S. for 2010, beating out Google, and boasts more than 500 million active users, who, according to Facebook, spend over 700 billion minutes per month interacting with the site.
To date, we have not found another MMO franchise that has successfully integrated a casual game on Facebook with the outside MMO environment to the extent that we have in Fortune League. The game allows users to engage with a series of exciting, weeklong quests on Facebook by pulling in live performance data, such as damages, deaths and healings, directly from EQ II. Fortune League rewards players’ abilities to assess quests, hero performance, situational opportunities and disasters and other players’ actions in a live trade market with valuable and unique prizes that can be used in the free-to-play and subscription versions of EQ II. The prizes for the first four-week adventure include AA Scrolls, XP Potions and Tattered Wings.
We hope you will join forces with us today in Fortune League! Build a party or join an existing league and be among the first to test out the alpha version at: http://www.facebook.com/fortuneleague.
We welcome your thoughts and feedback and look forward to keeping you posted on new milestones. This is a huge win for the Fastpoint Games team and we are thrilled to be able to share it with all of you.
And if you haven’t had enough Fantasy Football, please check out our Salary Cap Playoff Game @ http://football.rotohog.com/scm/ and get your team before tomorrow!
Stay tuned for more news about new partnerships and expanded solutions. And, as always, thank you for your support through a fantastic 2010 and we look forward to all the great things to come in 2011.
Whether on social networks, mobile apps or gaming hubs, consumers around the globe are engaging with games. But, unlike the past, most gamers aren’t playing solitary games, they are playing branded games in social atmospheres. Not all games are created equally, however, so brands need to know what works and what doesn’t before they log on.
by Kristina Knight
Casual games brings in more than $2 billion each year with an expected annual growth rate of 20%.
“I think that more people are comfortable with game dynamics, the engagement with Facebook and the social games inside is building that comfort level even more,” said Kelly Perdew, CEO of Fastpoint Games. “Game mechanics are applicable over more than just games. We’re looking at more sophisticated rewards programs, educational elements, training programs. Gamer mechanics drive behavior and large organizations are seeing that now. Content hooks [consumers] and once they see the fun factor, they become even more involved.”
What’s more the theory behind gaming can be translated to work within a number of other revenue streams by sending branded messages through a game to engaged consumers.
Fastpoint Games is the leader in fantasy sports games with users averaging 9:40 and just over 10 pageviews per visit. The company has launched 57 games for 15 clients across 21 sports/entertainment seasons over the past 14 months.
“Right now people are becoming very comfortable using micro-payments to play games,” said Perdew. “We have seen that ‘freemium’ models actually generate more revenue than revenue from people playing premium models. Even though [gamers] are making payments that are 1/20th the amount [of premium players], over the course of the game play, we are getting more revenue.”
So, allowing gamers to play for free is one thing brands need to consider while they are in the game creation phase. Another tip, think about where consumers will play, and make allowances based on screen size.
“A lot of people think that Brand A can create the same feel from a desktop [ game] in a mobile device, but mobile is a different place,” said Perdew. “Efforts need to be focused on the things that mobile users want to do on their mobile device - not on the whole game, because putting an entire game on a mobile screen isn’t feasible and won’t transfer.”
Perdew suggests that mobile will become a bigger playing on the gaming front as smartphones become more widespread.
“Users want what they want when they want it. If they want to play a game, they want to play at that moment and not later on,” said Perdew.
New offering from one of the world’s fastest growing game developers enables any independent publisher the ability to brand their own high impact fantasy football game at no cost
LOS ANGELES, CA—(Marketwire – August 25, 2010)- RotoHog, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative fantasy sports and entertainment game operators and developers, today unveiled their latest product offering, a syndicated version of their award-winning, Fantasy Football Salary Cap game for independent publishers. The new game is first in a series of sports and entertainment games to be syndicated in the coming months.
As consumer content engagement continues to shift towards niche sites and games, RotoHog recognized the opportunity to extend its games-as-a-service model to deliver a turnkey solution for publishers who search for new ways to engage and monetize their audiences without the expense of licensing or managing a game themselves.
RotoHog has been developing and operating custom and configurable games for some of the world’s leading media and sports companies, and in so doing has developed a highly scaleable, sophisticated gaming platform. “We are excited to be offering an accessible gaming solution for an expanding market,” said Kelly Perdew, RotoHog CEO. “Our syndicated model will provide our associates an engaging, branded game experience and introduce new audiences to the quality of our games.”
The syndicated Fantasy Football Salary Cap game launches this week with SportsFanLive, the premier sports content and social network, dozens of independent bloggers, and Weplay, the leading online youth sports network participating.
Publishers that join the RotoHog’s Associate Program, will have access to personalization and marketing tools to co-brand the RotoHog games and share in the revenue generated by their audiences.
RotoHog is currently accepting applications and inquiries for their syndicated Football Salary Cap game. For more information go to http://bit.ly/clAVJ9 or email Associates@RotoHog.com.
ROTOHOG KICKS OFF BIG FALL SEASON BY LAUNCHING FOUR PARTNER GAMES WITH ITS NEW CUSTOMIZABLE PLATFORM
Fantasy football games with Military.com and Los Angeles Times, an Us Weekly Celebrity Fantasy Game, a new Premier League fantasy game with hi5, as well as a series of RotoHog fantasy football games, all on tap in August
LOS ANGELES, CA—(Marketwire – August 10, 2010) RotoHog, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative fantasy sports and entertainment game operators and developers for major brands, today unveiled the first of a series of new partner games using the SCP(TM) platform. The games, which include a celebrity fantasy game with Us Weekly, a military-focused fantasy football game for Military.com, a casual fantasy football game for the Los Angeles Times, a Premier League fantasy soccer offering with hi5.com and white label fantasy games under the RotoHog brand, represent the most aggressive and widespread use of the RotoHog customizable game platform for partners at one time. The RotoHog-created games will touch over 50 million fantasy and entertainment game enthusiasts by Labor Day.
“This product release is a great example of how diverse the business has become in the last few years, and we are proud to be able to partner with such a wide group of elite brands to deliver a high level experience, whether you have an interest in celebrity, football, or soccer,” said Kelly Perdew, CEO of RotoHog. “ We also recognize that there are so many quality sites out there that are small and looking for content, so we have developed syndicated versions of RotoHog-branded football games for smaller or growing sites to co-brand and offer their subscribers. It will show that no matter who the partner is…major media company or hard working independent fantasy site…we have a platform that can work.”
The new offerings include:
Us Weekly – For Wenner Media’s Usmagazine.com – the companion website to Us Weekly – RotoHog created the one-of-a-kind Celebrity Fantasy League which launches August 16 tied to a major mobile sponsor. In the CFL, fans get to play Hollywood agent and pick a roster of celebrities to put on their team. Each week they decide who to “start” and who keep in the Dressing Room. Fans score fantasy points when their chosen stars show up in the pages of the magazine, or on the website. Now in season II, the popular game increases migration from the magazine to the website and further engages fans into the Us Weekly brand. Find the game at http://www.cfl.usmagazine.com/splash
Military.com – RotoHog is proud to build on the success of last season’s customized Salary Cap Fantasy Football game for Military.com – a news and entertainment portal for active armed forces and veterans. Players can play in private, public or global leagues for prizes, with branches of service competing with each other for the ultimate bragging rights. Find the game at: http://football.military.com/scm/
hi5 EPL – Season starts 8/15: On the heels of the resounding success with the hi5 World Futbol Challenge (which had over one million participants), RotoHog and the leading social network for games created the very unique Confidence Pick ‘Em fantasy soccer/futebol/futbol game around the English Premier League. The EPL game allows players to use hi5 coins to buy Points Packs and place points on the outcome of each match. There is a global leaderboard, a friend leaderboard and the opportunity to earn virtual trophies and give virtual gifts to fellow players. Find the game at: http://hi5.com/friend/games/Premier_Futbol_Challenge-g2515-Arcade_Games.html?sourceId=5
Los Angeles Times – Pro Football Pick ‘Em – Season starts 9/9: Returning for its second year, and now powered by RotoHog’s SCPÔ, Pro Football Pick “Em, is a weekly casual fantasy football game which complements the enormously popular and respected sporting news coverage and commentary from The Times. The game enables Times Sports’ readers to register a team, create or join an existing league, invite friends and pick game winners. The game will be available at www.latimes.com/football
RotoHog has built some of the most advanced, fantasy games ever, which will soon be available to smaller platforms looking for a turn-key gaming solution to offer and engage their audiences.
The first will be:
RotoHog Salary Cap Fantasy Football: Set up for commissioner leagues, individual play in fantasy cash leagues and global fantasy leagues, the addicting style of the game keeps players involved every day of the week – not just Sunday mornings.
RotoHog builds powerful, award-winning games around any set of structured data (statistics, website activity, appearances on magazine covers, ticket sales, song downloads, etc.) for media partners such as BloombergSports, Sports Illustrated, NBA.com, NASCAR.COM, Turner Digital, Military.com, Los Angeles Times, Pro Football Weekly, AVP, Fox Sports International, UsWeekly and MySpace. Their gaming platform allows major brands and media companies to engage and monetize their audiences via a Games as a Service model. RotoHog is privately held, and based in Los Angeles, CA. Investors include Allen & Co, Mission Ventures, DFJ Dragon and Sports Capital Partners Worldwide.
For more information on RotoHog, or to sign up for league play, please visit www.rotohog.com.
‘Apprentice’ champion turned fantasy sports website into major player by adjusting the game plan.
By Alfred Lee, LA Business Journal link: Game Changer Story with Photos
Monday, June 21, 2010
Today, RotoHog hardly bears a resemblance to the fantasy sports website Kelly Perdew took the reins of in June 2008.
The Westchester company has recently made a name for itself as a creator of fantasy games for other businesses, including Sporting News, NASCAR and Us Weekly. But it was initially launched in 2006 as a stand-alone game site that could compete directly with fantasy sports giants like ESPN and Yahoo Sports.
The 43-year-old Perdew was brought on as the company’s new chief executive two years ago with one main objective: to make it profitable. His resume included running companies such as amateur sports website Eteamz.com, but he’s perhaps best known as the winner of season two of the NBC reality television show “The Apprentice.” He beat other contestants for the chance to work for Donald Trump under a 14-month contract.
Almost immediately after arriving at RotoHog, he put into motion a complete transformation of the company’s strategy.
“I don’t think a lot of people could have pulled it off,” said Kent Smetters, who co-founded the company with his partner David Wu. “Kelly evolved the model into a different kind of company.”
Rotohog.com went live in early 2007 offering fantasy leagues for the National Football League, Major League Baseball and other sports with a twist. To make the leagues more competitive and protect against bad trades among contestants, each player was valued in a unique stock exchange.
However, despite raising about $9 million, the site struggled for nearly two years. The problem? Perdew saw that bigger competitors such as ESPN had a captive audience by virtue of their news content, whereas at the end of the football or baseball season, RotoHog’s users left the site.
“They had spent a significant amount of money to drive eyeballs to the website,” Perdew said, “but there was no path to profitability.”
However, Perdew knew that ESPN and other competitors such as Fox Sports were running their games on older computer platforms that would likely need significant upgrades in a few years. He saw an opportunity for the company to reposition itself from a fantasy sports website to a games provider for other brands, moving from a consumer model to a business-to-business model.
“So I said, OK, we should become a platform that could basically replace their entire back end,” he recalled.
Not only that, Perdew moved for the company to expand its games beyond sports to broaden its appeal to other industries that want to use online games to interact with their customers.
After selling RotoHog’s board on the idea, Perdew had the company hunker down for a year while it developed a new Internet platform that could serve as the template for scores of websites.
Within the first three months, he had let go of 25 of the company’s 40 employees, many of whom had been hired to build content for a website that was no longer the focus. But the head count went back up to about 30 as he hired a new team of software developers.
“Don’t mention that time to any of the guys here,” he said, referring to the turmoil.
In September 2009, after more than a year of development, RotoHog launched its new platform. In the 9 months since, it’s developed 37 games for other companies, including those in the entertainment, consumer brands and gaming industries.
Among the games are one developed for ABC reality television show “The Bachelor,” which features trivia questions and gives out sponsored prizes, encouraging users to go back and watch old episodes online to get the answers. Another for Us Weekly allows fans to guess who will be featured in the magazine.
“I think more brands and more webites are looking at different ways to engage readers, and gaming for a certain demographic is interesting,” said Romina Rosado, executive producer of UsMagazine.com.
The company has also been working on a fantasy game on Facebook for newly launched Bloomberg Sports, which sells sports analysis to fans and fantasy players. The game will challenge users to pick successful hitters and will go live by the end of June.
Bill Squadron, the head of Bloomberg Sports, said the idea behind the game was to encourage users to buy the company’s baseball analytics for a leg up on the competition.
“Hopefully that’ll both let them know about it and drive sales of that product, and at the end of the day that’s the real goal we have,” he said. “You’re going to see a big number of major brands experimenting with this in different ways.”
RotoHog hasn’t yet reached profitability, but Perdew said the company is “this close.” Competitors such as Fanball also provide fantasy games for other companies, but Perdew claims no other providers cut across as many industries.
Another edge appears to be Perdew himself. He said the recognition from being on “The Apprentice” has helped the company get exposure through media coverage and speaking engagements. It’s even helped get meetings with potential investors.
“We’re pretty much able to get to anybody we need to talk to about stuff,” he said. “It’s a nice icebreaker for discussions. People are always asking me what’s up with Donald’s hair. I never answer that question.”
CORE BUSINESS: Creates and manages online games for varied clients.
EMPLOYEES: 30 (up from 15 in 2008)
THE NUMBERS: More than $1 million in revenue in the last 12 months.
I hope this note finds you well. It has been some time since we updated you on the progress we are making with RotoHog and our new partners and applications, and with three of our newest partners launching games two in last two weeks for World Cup and one in the very near future for baseball, we wanted to provide you with an update on our continued progress as one of the world’s fastest growing and most efficient developers of white label games for high level media properties both in sports and entertainment.
When I last wrote, we had just launched two very successful games in the entertainment field, one with US Weekly (Season 2 is starting soon: http://bit.ly/bQnAc1) and the other for “The Bachelor.” Those games have been very successful as brand extensions both for the magazine and for the reality show series, and they have led to another series of games that will be announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
However as you know our biggest focus has been in the sports world. Our continued work in producing games for NASCAR.com, Pro Football Weekly, Turner Digital and NBA.com has led to more work in the space, with the afore mentioned new partners. In the last few weeks we have been able to secure a deal to develop a Facebook game for BloombergSports, the recently launched consumer arm of one of the world’s most successful business data analysis brands. This new game, which will be launched in the coming weeks, will take Bloomberg’s new consumer baseball analysis product and give all the data a new fan-friendly platform that can be used by millions of followers and fans of baseball on Facebook. It will be a fun and very easy application that we think will expose this high functioning and very elaborate product BloombergSports has created to a new, wider level of engaged baseball consumer, and we are very proud to be working with them on the project.
Our other two new developments are for the coming World Cup. The first is another Facebook application, this one with Sports Illustrated allows fans to handicap their favorite countries throughout the World Cup draw, giving a new legion of digital soccer fans the ability to enjoy the world’s largest sports spectacle online like never before. You can play it here: http://bit.ly/91NADw.
Our second World Cup application is on a more global level with hi5, the largest social entertainment site for games in the world. We launched “The World Futbol Challenge” for hi5’s 50 million global users. The game, which is featured on hi5.com leading into the start of World Cup, is a confidence “pick em’ game, which gives the user the ability to earn added points in a pari-mutuel-like pool for picks they feel are the real value. Make your own picks here: http://bit.ly/bCR7La. Both these games for our two new partners continue to support our plan of global expansion for all of our games.
Soccer is the fastest-growing sport outside the United States in the fantasy space, and by working with these two premier brands to build their games, we are confident that our position on a global basis will be just as strong as we currently are domestically. When the world’s media companies look to build games, Rotohog will be their partner of choice.
Again these are just some of the new projects we are undertaking as the spring continues along. We are having another solid quarter in challenging times, and are looking forward to continued expansion both in sports and entertainment as the year plays out.
As always, thanks for your support and input, it is invaluable as we grow our business and it is very much welcomed. If there is anything we can assist with or questions we can answer please do not hesitate to ask.
Hello Friends and Colleagues:
March is perhaps the most interesting time of year for sports and entertainment fans in general, as virtually every sport or area of entertainment is engaging its audience at some point. From the NFL Combine to the start of baseball, as well as March Madness, NASCAR and soccer in the sports world to the Academy Awards in entertainment, there is perhaps no busier or more exciting month on the calendar. For all of us at RotoHog, the levels of fan interest and engagement at this time of year are never higher, and all the projects we are now involved with are reflective of both what the consumers are looking for and where we have grown as a company in the sports and entertainment space. Here are some great examples of all the fan engagement areas we are touching in such a busy month:
BASEBALL. In baseball, spring training is now in full bloom, which means fantasy baseball is now upon us. Our crowd favorite Stock Exchange Baseball game is available for those of you that like to “play the market” and we have launched our first ever League Manager Fantasy Baseball game here: http://www.rotohog.com/corporate/baseball/ League Manager 2010 offers traditional commissioner style draft and trade products to the fantasy enthusiast at a reduced price and we also offer our first ever Salary Cap Baseball game on RotoHog. All games include cash competitions!
BASKETBALL. In college and NBA hoops, we launched the March Madness NCAA bracket application for MySpace (Go Wildcats!); and we continue to run the very popular NBA Stock Exchange with our partner Turner Sports.
NASCAR. As NASCAR continues to rev around the country, our recently launched NASCAR Stock Exchange game is doing well on Turner’s NASCAR.com platform.
I’m proud to say our team has created, developed and launched 26 games on our new platform since the last football season.
ENTERTAINMENT. We continue our expansion into the entertainment vertical with the March 2nd launch of the Us Weekly Celebrity Fantasy League. The game challenges user knowledge of which celebs will be making or breaking news. To get in on the action, users create a team of 25 celebrities they think will be in the news the most during a given week. Each week players put 10 stars from their team that they think will make the magazine and be featured on UsMagazine.com on the Red Carpet, while the other 15 hang out in your Dressing Room.
Those are just the latest projects on top of all the other work we are doing building and implementing games and applications for our partners around the world. With all this great work and expansion across so many platforms, we have added some new members to our team, including Jeff Daniel, who recently joined us after helping ESPN and FOX Digital build their fantasy platforms. Jeff’s addition gives us another experienced leader who can help us continue to manage and expand all the work we are doing with such a wide array of partners.
As we have said in the past and it continues to be true, we are still just getting started. A recent piece in the Sports Business Journal pointed to the continued growth of casual gaming, an area in which we will be expanding over the next few months. The World Cup and other international events will provide us with some great opportunities to show the versatility of our platform, and we are looking forward to also expanding even more into the entertainment space. We have seen interest growing for games like we are running for Us Weekly and The Rose Ceremony game we just finished with our TV Network partner.
Yes, March is a very crowded and exciting month for the sports and entertainment fan, and we share that excitement from a business perspective. Our recent work has again shown that our model is working and growing, and we know that will continue with more exciting news and new partners in the coming months.
As always thanks for your time and support, and let us know what else we can do to assist you. Enjoy the games!
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
By NANDO DI FINO
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 Dream11.com 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 Quantcast.com, Dream11 has more monthly page views than pepboys.com, celebrity-babies.com, and thejaylenoshow.com (It still trails awkwardfamilyphotos.com 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, RotoHog.com 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.