FanDuel, DraftKings Shake Up DFS Industry With New Game Formats

Written By Juan Carlos Blanco on March 25, 2018
FanDuel DraftKings

The old “variety is the spice of life” adage is applicable to countless scenarios, even carrying a bit of a salacious connotation on occasion. Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has embraced the philosophy over the last several months in particular, which could well prove to be an even more prudent strategy in the near future.

After all, the latest hottie in the real-money gaming realm – legalized sports betting — might be strutting down the block very soon in certain states, assuming a favorable decision in Murphy vs. NCAA. Industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel undoubtedly want to prevent a wandering eye on the part of their DFS customers as much possible.

New Contest Types Looking to Recharge Industry?

To their credit, DraftKings and FanDuel haven’t let a slew of challenges – including a failed merger  – prevent them from innovating. That’s a particularly advisable approach to take in an industry that was founded on tweaking an already wildly popular pastime – season-long fantasy sports – and giving it a toe-tingling jolt.

The two companies have rolled out new contest types in recent months that reshape or altogether eliminate the traditional salary-cap format for DFS. A good number seem to have one common theme coursing through them – added simplicity.

FanDuel opted to come up with a snazzy new virtual “wing” of the company where these new offerings are concocted – the appropriately labeled LABS.

Some of those game selections that have made their debuts over the last few months. Most still carry a salary-cap format, except when noted. These include:


  • NFL Super: A contest type that does away with both the Kicker and Defense position. The FLEX roster spot can be filled with either a running back, wide receiver or tight end.
  • NFL Mini: Contest rosters are reduced to five positions — One quarterback, two running backs and two receivers.


  • NBA Starting Five: Rosters mimic a real-world NBA starting lineup (two guards, two forwards, one center)
  • NBA Positionless: All eight roster spots are designated as Utility, allowing contestants to roster as many players of the same position as they wish.


  • Pond Hockey: 5-player rosters with 1 center, 2 wings, 1 defenseman and 1 Utility spot
  • Captain: 5-player rosters consisting of 1 center, 2 wings, 1 defenseman, and 1 captain who gets 2x points


  • 5 A-Side: 5-player rosters with 1 forward, 2 midfielders, 1 defender and 1 Utility spot.

New Game Formats

  • Beat The Score: Participants build a full roster featuring that sport’s typical lineup construction, but their goal is to beat a preset score with their roster, as opposed to competing against the scores of other users’ lineups.
  • Single Game: Participants build a reduced roster based on players from one predetermined game. One roster spot is designated as MVP and awards fantasy points on a predetermined multiplier.
  • Big Game Bingo (used for both Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game): Non-salary-cap game. A virtual bingo card is assigned to each FanDuel user, and the squares consist of potential in-game events that could transpire, as well as a few peripheral occurrences (i.e., the Super Bowl cards had squares pertaining to certain types of commercials that might air during the broadcast). Users who successfully check off an entire row or column on their card can claim a prize.

DraftKings has played it much closer to the vest in their offerings. In recent months, they’ve introduced:

  • Pick ‘Em: No salary-cap game where participants pick one player apiece from six pre-set tiers.
  • Showdown: DK’s version of single-game slates. Six-player rosters based on one preselected game, scoring is the same as the site’s usual classic salary-cap format.

Catering to Both New and Existing Users

Many of these new games appear to be welcoming the DFS novice with open arms. Giving them a DFS “safe space”, if you will.

After all, a long-standing criticism of the industry is that an inordinate amount of time and research is required to consistently profit. However, with their reduced rosters, the absence of any salary cap in certain cases, and even a contest in a format that Grandma would love, these new kids on the block seem designed to woo and retain casual players, first and foremost.

But they’re naturally looking to hook their existing users as well. With the advent of a rapidly spreading legalized sports betting environment potentially around the corner, DFS can’t afford to be cast aside in favor of what could be not just the flavor of the month, but of the foreseeable future. Granted, DraftKings is already taking a proactive approach to this matter with its recent hire of its first-ever Head of Sportsbook.

The Big Two seem invested in the idea offering something for virtually everyone’s tastes will cast a wide enough net of customer acquisition and retention. Whether it’ll be enough to keep plenty of their customers’ dollars even if temptation eventually summons in the form of a local sportsbook will likely start being revealed over the next several months.

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Juan Carlos Blanco

Juan Carlos Blanco has served as a freelance writer for a wide variety of online publications and websites, with an intensive focus on fantasy sports. Juan has provided analysis and comprehensive coverage of the MLB, NBA, NFL, CFL, AAF and AFL while also reporting on news and developments in the daily fantasy sports and online gaming industries.

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