With coronavirus putting sports on hold, the fantasy sports industry in India is trying to innovate with new independent game types to retain customers.
With the curbing of outdoors due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the already growing digital gaming seems to be on an all-time high as half of the world’s population is in a self-imposed house arrest.
According to the latest, State of Online Gaming research report on worldwide consumers’ gaming behaviors and expectations from Limelight Networks, Indians are binge-gaming longer than usual with a 10 percent spike from 2019 which is 4 hours and 8 minutes.
The online gaming segment is estimated to be a $1.1 billion opportunity by 2021, according to Google-KPMG. A KPMG report also indicates that India is already the largest emerging market when it comes to gaming app downloads (nearly three billion annually) and is expected to have more than 628 million gamers by 2021.
Despite the growth, another region of internet gaming, fantasy sports is witnessing an opposite reaction. With the unprecedented suspension of global sports leagues, the coronavirus pandemic has left the sports world in uncharted territory. Major leagues across the world including NBA, EPL, La Liga, Champions League & various other cricket tournaments are postponed. The two major football events COPA America 2020 and UEFA EURO 2020 planned to occur in June 2020 are pushed to 2021. Tokyo Olympics, which was supposed to open on July 24 is now rescheduled for the summer of 2021. Indian Premier League (IPL 2020), the T20 cricket league of BCCI, one of the most anticipated Cricket tournaments on the planet is also facing a threat of cancellation. With 7 percent growth in overall valuation to $6.8 billion in 2019 from $6.3 billion in 2018 and with the 15% monumental increase in viewership (1.4 billion in 2019), the 2020 IPL would have been one of the biggest events for fantasy sports gaming companies.
Everything comes at the time when daily fantasy sports is gaining more popularity and online gaming is becoming accessible to more people. Currently, with the most well known season sports on break and the most popular sports events on hold, the fantasy sports industry has been adversely affected by the spread of COVID-19.
In view of IPL being the hottest property in Indian cricket, fantasy sports companies like Ballebaazi, Fanfight, Halaplay, My11Circle, and others have invested a huge chunk in advertising and marketing for the IPL 2020, which would have resulted in getting more users on their platform. The only Indian fantasy sports unicorn startup, Dream11, also signed a deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to become the official partner of IPL. With the rise in popularity of real-money fantasy sports across many smaller cities and towns, the startup has now garnered over 70 Mn registered users.
Dream11 cofounder Bhavit Sheth said last year that they had one million concurrent users in the IPL 2018 and were expecting to handle 2 Mn-3 Mn concurrency in IPL 2019. During IPL season FanFight also witnessed a surge in its total user base. Their user base reached over 3 Mn with a 300% increase as far as daily active users were concerned.
Fantasy Sports business is totally subjected to sports events, and COVID-19 has carried the business to a halt. Companies have started evaluating the adverse situation are altering their marketing plans. FanFight founder and CEO Akhil Suhag believes that the delay in the acquisition of customers is bad for most gaming platforms as momentum is everything in a short peak season such as the IPL. BalleBaazi CEO and cofounder Saurabh Chopra also said that any further postponement will not be good news for the industry. Fantasy sports platform My11Circle owned by Play Games 24×7, also believes that the revenue impact will be huge.
Dream11, the official fantasy gaming partner IPL, ICC tournaments, Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Indian Super League, National Basketball Association (NBA), and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) among other leagues has a huge fanbase of cricket and football. With most of the sports events being cancelled, the platform is losing a lot on the revenue. The companies with diverse fanbase are majorly impacted by the cancellations of sports events.
Other than IPL, games around the world are being delayed or cancelled. This is not only affecting the fantasy sports business but the complete sports industry at large.
In the absence of live sports, fantasy sports companies have started digging deep to come up with strategies to keep their audience engaged. Assuming IPL is not cancelled, various fantasy sports companies are working out on strategies to keep them afloat in the difficult situation. This has led to a major roadblock of user engagement and acquisition for new and existing fantasy sports apps.
Companies are optimistic that the coronavirus pandemic will not last too long. Though the fantasy business is majorly disrupted, but the fans and furor for the game remains undeterred. As the appetite for online games grows, companies should look for alternatives and introduce various game formats that enable sports fans to compete, communicate and win cash prizes from the comfort of their homes.
New independent game types like Quiz and Open Predictions can be offered to the users wherein they can test their knowledge in the field of sports, politics, science or Bollywood. In return, they can win coins by giving correct answers in a limited time which can be further redeemed into bonus or real cash. Quiz and open prediction games can deliver a thrilling experience to the users and help them in building a stronger user base. Also, the user coin balance will lead to user retention and enhance brand loyalty which can be leveraged when things return to normal and sports leagues are back.
Vinfotech believes it is time for sports companies to rethink its social contract with its users; it is an opportunity to strengthen the product and improve customer relationships. We can help brands leverage this opportunity with the introduction of gamification experiences for customers regardless of the industry they belong to. Integration of multiple gaming formats can help brands strengthen their product, improve user retention and increase user engagement.
The important thing to realize is that sports will be back at some point. We will get back the thrills of victory and the agony of defeat. And for the sports fans, they will be more demanding than ever. Together we can offer them an experience that renews their enthusiasm and help them rekindle their love for the game.
Vinfotech creates world’s best fantasy sports-based entertainment, marketing and rewards platforms for fantasy sports startups, sports leagues, casinos and media companies. We promise initial set of real engaged users to put turbo in your fantasy platform growth. Our award winning software vFantasy™ allows us to build stellar rewards platform faster and better. Our customers include Zee Digital, Picklive and Arabian Gulf League.
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