Amid the seismic and rapidly evolving changes the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on life around the globe, one word has increasingly been used to describe the new, temporary normal: “surreal.”
Therefore, it seems fitting one of the only ways to currently engage in a DFS/sports betting-style sweat in the early stages of the Great Sports Moratorium of 2020 involves video game simulations.
In a current landscape where the “athletes” in one of the only forms of DFS contests available this past weekend were septuagenarian debaters Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, DFS/sports betting subscription site Awesemo.com has stepped up to the plate.
The Chicago-based operation announced its free-to-play $15,000 NBA2K Simulation Challenge on Monday. The name actually serves as an umbrella-type designation for two separate contests the site will be running from March 16-April 3, based on the 2020 edition of the popular NBA2K video game:
- Daily Contests: Contest participants will have a chance to win valuable prizes daily. The “Opening Night” haul was a 55-inch 4K UHD Smart TV. For example, by providing as many correct answers as possible to 10 prop bet-type questions pertaining to a nightly simulated NBA2K 2020 game between two championship-caliber teams from seasons’ past. Questions will include which team will win the game outright, whether the favored team will cover a predetermined spread, which team will be the first to score and which team will make the first 3-point basket.
- Bracket Challenge Contest: Prior to Monday, March 23, participants will also have a chance to complete a bracket for a virtual tournament on the NBA2K 2020 platform, which will include winning teams from the first week of simulated games and another 11 classic teams preselected by Awesemo’s staff. The Bracket Challenge will consist of 15 games overall and the contest participant who’s deemed to have the winning bracket will garner $10,000 cash.
Necessity – and desperation – becomes the mother of invention
The NBA2K Simulation Challenge is the brainchild of three of Awesemo.com’s content providers/analysts: Dave Loughran (@Loughy_D), Ben Rasa (@JazzrazDFS) and Josh Engleman (@JoshEngleman). Reeling from the aftershock of the NBA suspending play for an indefinite period the night prior, the trio birthed the idea on a Thursday, March 12, edition of their NBA DFS strategy show that had a rather free-flowing format with no actual games to break down.
“Initially, we just tossed the idea around on the stream, but after further discussion following the show, we decided it could actually be a practical solution,” remarked Loughran, who serves as Awesemo.com’s director of NFL and NBA content. “Since Thursday morning, we’ve been working around the clock to get everything set up, and it’s been an all-hands-on-deck approach from the entire team, in front of and behind the scenes at Awesemo.”
Continued engagement for countless sports/DFS/sports betting aficionados currently suffering through a legitimate cold-turkey-like period seems to be as much a driving force behind the idea as anything. Particularly for those used to having a stake in the outcome of a sporting event 365 days a year, it’s not an embellishment to say a nagging void, at minimum, exists in their lives at the moment.
“There’s no doubt that all of our routines were dismantled with the news of the sports hiatus, and it’s our hope that we can maintain some feeling of normalcy during these unprecedented times,” added Loughran.
Lucrative array of cash/prizes available
However, one look at the prizes at stake makes it clear this concept isn’t just designed to throw the DFS/sports betting community a bone to tide them through a rough patch.
For example, Alex Baker (@AwesemoDFS), Awesemo.com’s founder, confirms the daily contest prizes following Monday night’s HD TV will be of a similar caliber. Beyond the lucrative aforementioned $10K top prize in the bracket challenge contest, those finishing anywhere from second through 85th place will receive Awesemo.com subscriptions varying in length and value. The top two runner-up entries will score a year-long platinum subscription to the site, valued at $999.95.
Engleman, one of Awesemo.com’s NBA analysts, confirms the aim of developing the NBA2K Simulation Challenge was putting something together that would satiate that desire to have prizes of significant value tied into a sporting event, albeit virtual.
“Our premium subscribers were vocal about looking for something to fill the void, so we were confident this could have some widespread appeal. By having a free contest, with $10,000 to first place, along with a slew of additional daily prizes, we wanted to give everyone something to be invested in every single day,” Engleman said. “The daily fantasy sports community means a ton to us, so we wanted to make sure we were doing something big enough to get people excited.”
A betting-based twist on an established pastime
At first glance, the concept of “wagering” – the NBA2K Simulation Challenge contests are free to play but based on prop betting and bracketology. Plus, there are cash and/or prizes at stake on a virtual sporting event that might seem a bit ludicrous to some DFS and sports betting enthusiasts. However, some of that so-called stigma has been eliminated in recent years with the advent of concepts such as virtual horse racing.
The extent to which a video simulation of a sporting event can entice might also prove somewhat surprising. For multiple generations that have grown up on increasingly realistic sports-based video games featuring team logos and player likenesses, there’s already intimate familiarity with how competitive playing against friends, family or strangers online for simple bragging rights can be.
Rasa, an NBA, NFL and PGA analyst for Awesemo.com, confirms the excitement ratchets up several notches when there’ more to be gained. He recently found that out first-hand while helping put the contests together.
“Having the computer simulate each game provides that same feeling and sweat that most of us have during each slate in the DFS world,” he said. “While testing out these games, it’s amazing how fast you forget this is a video game and start to become invested in the outcome of these matchups.”
NBA2K Simulation Challenge, at a glance
Following are some of the pertinent details surrounding Awesemo.com’s NBA2K Simulation Challenge and its two contests:
- Daily Contest Dates: Monday, March 16, through Friday, April 3. “Play-In” week is considered March 16-20.
- Bracket Challenge Contest Date: Monday, March 23, through Friday, April 3.
- Daily Challenge contests will “tip-off” daily at 7 p.m. EST. A pregame show will air at 6:30 p.m. EST. All games will stream with commentary from Loughran, Rassa and Engleman on Awesemo.com’s YouTube and Twitch channels.
- All games will be played on NBA 2K 2020, utilizing six-minute quarters.
- For Daily Challenge contests, no changes will be allowed to prop selections once games begin.
- A Twitter poll @Awesemo_Com each night will determine the matchups of classic teams in the Daily Challenge contests.
- No purchase necessary to play or win, meaning those not currently subscribed to any of Awesemo.com’s packages can simply create a free account and participate.
A full breakdown of the structure and features of both contests can be found here.