New Fantasy Esports Platform Looks To Succeed Where Past Innovators Failed

Written By Juan Carlos Blanco on November 29, 2017 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018

[toc]While daily fantasy esports had a quick rise and fall over the course of 2015 and 2016, fantasy contests based on the top titles aren’t dead yet.

The latest example is a platform called Esports For The Win, which will provide its own unique take for fantasy esports.

The early history of daily fantasy esports

While daily fantasy sports has garnered plenty of attention in recent years, the overwhelming majority of it has focused on paid-entry contests based on traditional sports, led by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel. Fantasy esports has tried to tried to stake out its own niche at the same time.

There have been stumbles. Vulcun and AlphaDraft, two entities that once offered real-money daily fantasy esports contests — have come and gone. Both once completed funding rounds that they hoped would lead to growth before closing up shop soon after. While both gained traction initially, they got tripped up in the regulatory and legal quagmire that developed in the US. 

Where does the leave fantasy esports today?

Explosive annual growth= Abundance of new entrants into fantasy esports

However, the esports industry itself continues to experience massive year-to-year growth. Digital marketing firm Newzoo estimates esports will generate $696 million in revenue in 2017 and $1.5 billion by 2020.

Considering the sheer magnitude of those numbers, an array of new operators seeking to translate the genre’s ever increasing popularity into interactive game play – with a few tweaks to avoid the mistakes of the past — is inevitable. The news last week that FanDuel co-founder and former CEO Nigel Eccles is departing the company to found his own esports venture was tangible evidence of the lure the landscape currently holds.

There appears to be no shortage of innovation among the new wave of daily fantasy esports start-ups:

  • Taunt allows players to make real-time predictions about different aspects of esports matches as they unfold (not for real money).
  • HypSports offers esports contests alongside those based on traditional daily fantasy sports, such as NFL and Major League Baseball.
  • ESL Fantasy Gaming allows participants to build their rosters with individual esports players.
  • A site called Skrilla is eyeing fantasy esports via cryptocurrency.

eFTW focused on user experience, ease of play

Meanwhile, recently launched Esports For The Win (eFTW), a fantasy app available for iOS and Android platforms, has its own unique spin. Users build rosters consisting of entire esports teams as opposed to individual esports pros.

CEO Erik Swanson, a former professional esports player himself, developed eFTW as a completely free and user-friendly platform with a minimal learning curve. His target market is the esports enthusiast who’s already a significant consumer of multiple forms of mobile entertainment and immersed in esports competitions based on titles such as League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO and StarCraft.

Recently, Swanson elaborated on the approach he’s taken in developing eFTW, how it fits within the current esports landscape and what is and isn’t on the horizon for the company in the future:

ESBR: None of the new fantasy esports operators seem to be running real-money contests at this time. Is there a particular rationale behind it, i.e. the legal uncertainty that still exists in many states with respect to paid-entry DFS? What is your company’s opinion on why this appears to be the prevailing approach at the moment?

Swanson: Initially, I think the early entrants in the fantasy esports space gravitated towards DFS because of the incredible success the model had in traditional sports. But as we’ve learned, for a variety of reasons, esports is a different market and will require its own solution.  That’s why you’ve seen several new companies launch fantasy esports games in the past year and none are of the DFS variety.

ESBR: Do you feel that a company like HypSports has a competitive advantage by offering esports alongside traditional sports contests? Any plans on doing the same with your site in the near future?

Swanson: Offering the two alongside each other is a fun twist and it will be interesting to see if they can successfully marry the two together to build a stable user base.  At eFTW, we will be focusing exclusively on esports now and in the future. Being a former professional gamer myself, it’s something I’m passionate about and our entire app and reward system are geared towards the esports enthusiast.

ESBR: Any plans for eFTW to get involved in real-time contests, a la Taunt?

Swanson: Our primary differentiator is picking teams versus individual players, so this is something that needs to be done before matches begin. But we are looking at a lot of new features for eFTW. Some are geared towards the social aspects of the app like friend leaderboards, and others are more competition-oriented such as adding new games. In terms of real-time features, we allow people to watch matches live within the app.

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ESBR: What general pitfalls did the failures of AlphaDraft and Vulcun highlight for eFTW?

Swanson: More than anything, I think it showed that esports is NOT like traditional sports.  For starters, there’s no single governing body that pre-sets schedules and matchups — this makes it less predictable.  

Visibility is another major issue. There isn’t yet the level of marketing and press coverage of individual players and teams largely because everything is so spread out geographically, across platforms, game genres, and so forth.  In time, these issues may be sorted out as the esports market matures.

ESBR: Are paid-entry contests on the horizon for eFTW?

Swanson: We don’t have paid contests in our plans. When we built eFTW, there were three major cornerstones of our business model.

First, it needed to be 100% free — no in-app purchases, no hidden fees or monetization tricks.

Secondly, we wanted it to be easy to use — players can jump in, get some free coins, pick their winning teams and be back out within a few minutes.

And finally, we wanted it to be 100 percent mobile. Esports fans have their phones with them virtually at all times so this was a no brainer to us.   

ESBR: What are the current general traffic/participation numbers for eFTW? What are some projections for 2018, if any are available?

Swanson: We just launched less than two months ago so the overall participation numbers are just getting started. However, we are happy to report that we’re seeing excellent growth in our user base week to week. More importantly, there are incredible retention and usage rates. In short, when someone installs the app, they tend to use it a lot.

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Written by
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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