Before the pandemic, the Indian mobile gaming platform was dominated by fantasy sports. But as COVID-19 hit the surface and started spreading all around sporting events were either cancelled or postponed. This has led the fantasy sports to face the diminishing curve. During this period many fantasy sports platforms started introducing new strategies to engage the existing audience on the platform. Some became active on the community tab, some expanded with a new game of skill games on the platform, some conducted webinars with the fan favourite sporting stars to engage the fans and to spread the message that due to halt in sporting events they might be temporarily not conducting matches but it will soon resume functioning once they commence again. During this period many sports fans tried playing new games and many underdogs started taking part in gaming tournaments and started playing games out of boredom during the pandemic lockdown. This has given a decent rise to the gaming and esports industry, and in midst of it, a fantasy esports platform Profeud was launched in June.
Speaking about the launch with AnimationXpress Profeud co-founder Robin Dhar shares, “ProFeud is India’s first fantasy esports app combining the excitement and rewards of the daily fantasy sports model with global esports events. We started out in June 2020 and currently offer CS:GO matches on our platform and we are the first ones to do so in India. Almost all of the international matches are covered and all matches have paid as well as free contests. With the rapid growth of esports in India in terms of participation and engagement, we saw an opportunity to give the fans a platform to create their fantasy teams and win at the same time. In addition, we also have twitch streaming links of live matches which makes it a cohesive platform for esports fans.”
Fantasy esports might sound new to many in India but the market has been existed globally for quite a some time and has been a crucial part of the esports market. Recently Sleeper has raised $20 million from investors include Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin, retired NBA player Baron Davis, and NFL wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Recently Esports One has started fantasy esports platform and has shown support for the LCS (North American) and LEC (European) regions for League of Legends, the goal for them was to support a wide range of esports titles.
In India according to Dhar the platform functions similarly to Dream11 but for esports. Similar like fantasy sports, fantasy esports can be considered a game of skill and not gambling as users create their fantasy teams and enter with cash in one of their many contests on offer and based on the players’ performance, and thereafter the users are ranked on the leader board with bigger winnings of cash prizes. Every match that is listed on their platform also has free tournaments with no cash prizes where users can practice and hone their skills until they are ready to enter the cash contests.
It is true that pandemic has dipped down the fantasy sports business as it is dependent on real-time sporting events. Understanding that when we asked should Indian fantasy sports platforms also introduce esports to their platform and not just be dependent on realtime sporting events? He replies, “When we actually started building out the product, no one could’ve predicted what was to come and when we were right in the thick of development, the pandemic hit real hard and we were a bit apprehensive as well with regards to how it would affect our start. But as it would be, most off the esports tournaments were shifted offline which is being played remotely rather than in an arena. This ensured continuity of matches and in fact, during the pandemic, esports events were one of the very few who were not majorly impacted. Could other platforms have put it in? Sure, but then again it depends on their target audiences as well as their estimations about the restart of other sporting events.”
According to a KPMG report, the number of fantasy sports users is set to rise up to 100 million during 2020 (up from 50+ in February 2019) and the esports audience to grow to 10 million by 2021 (up from 2 million in 2017). Not only that international esports organisations like Fnatic have started setting up teams in the Indian esports scene. As the participation of players started increasing therefore an increase in viewership was also followed. Thus “In our first month, we’ve already had people playing in the cash contests, and many others join our free contests which give us hope,” he added.
Currently, the platform has CS:GO listed and they cover almost all of the global tournaments and matches. Apart from that, there are a few other games which they are exploring like the recently release Valorant, PUBG, Dota 2 and Rainbow Six Siege. “Our aim is to become a cohesive esports platform with news, discussion boards, products, and so on all under one roof, he added.”
They have partnered with a premier esports data provider through which they have access to all the matches being played and the scores for it which are accordingly updated to their platform. Currently, They have bootstrapped their fantasy esports platform and they are at their initial stages of the venture. On the other hand, they have also received interest from a few people with whom they have shared their pitch.
When we asked that whether they are planning to rope in brand ambassador/s for their platform he replies, “We certainly hope to do so in the medium term but if a favorable opportunity arises, we are definitely open to it.” In the coming days they are aiming to evolve constantly into a better platform with bigger contests, the addition of more games and aims to host other features that are currently being under process.
After understanding the concept when we were curious to know whether fantasy esports is the new normal for fantasy sports he expresses, “I think it’s too early to call this the new normal. Yes, major sporting events have ceased across the world but we can see football restarting in Europe and cricket being touted as well in England. All these events would restart eventually but that would not diminish the esports audience. We are creating a platform for a niche that has never existed in the past and I think there is enough room for all fantasy sports players and fans to co-exist.”
Wrapping up we would say that the good days of fantasy ‘game of skill’ sector will be- where fantasy sports and fantasy esports are growing side by side.