With the Super Bowl around the corner, a huge audience of gamers is more interested in the new season of League of Legends. It’s fitting then that start-up AlphaDraft is betting, literally, that diehard eSports fans will dig daily Fantasy ESports. Taking a page from FanDuel, AlphaDraft is adding a new layer of interest to the real season just as the NFL, NBA, MLB and other “real” sports leagues have done in recent years. Focusing exclusively on Riot Games’ League of Legends, at least for now, gamers will be able to strategize with fantasy teams. Matt Reilly, co-founder and director of marketing at AlphaDraft, explains how Fantasy eSports will open up new opportunities for brands and game makers in this exclusive interview.
Matt Reilly, Co-Founder and Director of Marketing at AlphaDraft
How are you working with leagues (ESL, MLG) and game companies (you mentioned Riot in the pitch) in adding real-money fantasy contests to eSports?
Until this point, we’ve focused on the development of AlphaDraft and creating an impeccable player experience. We look forward to partnering with ESL and MLG in the future and contributing to their communities. Having said that, our platform was built with these types of partnerships in mind, and can handle many different types of games from MOBAs to FPS’s to even games like HearthStone or Super Smash Bros.
Will there be the ability to play for free like on FanDuel?
Yes, from day one.
How are you age gating this given the younger demographic that follows eSports?
There are several 3rd-party verification services that help us ensure the highest level of compliance with contest laws.
What types of prizes will be available at first and how do you see winnings increasing over time?
We will start small to test the system giving away $500 to $1,000 in free contests per week. However, based on feedback we see this growing fast and believe we could potentially see several million in prizes paid this year.
Why do you think now is the right time to add Fantasy eSports?
Every other major component of traditional sports exists in eSports. There are leagues, teams, franchises, broadcasters, player agencies, and a huge viewing audience. The only two pieces we see that are missing are a players’ union and daily fantasy sports.
How big is Fantasy Sports in real sports today and what potential do you see for eSports?
Fanduel has stated recently that they will pay out over $540 million in prizes in 2014. That’s a significant number. With viewership for the world championship of League of Legends surpassing total viewers of traditional championships of the NBA and MLB, and with over 50 million viewers on Twitch monthly, we believe we are right on the cusp of something big. Sparks and Honey, an ad agency out of New York, published a presentation recently on slideshare that summarizes my thoughts on eSports — “It’s the biggest sport you’ve probably never heard of.” That is about to change.
Why do you see that changing now?
“We see other companies investing the same types of resources and think eSports has the potential to grow beyond even traditional sports.”
The reason why it is different this time is because of both Twitch and Riot Games. In the past, there was no way to easily broadcast to a large audience. Twitch changed all that. In addition, no company or organization had put together such a regimented and organized schedule into an eSport. Riot Games created the NFL of eSports. The money, time, and overall production quality of all their leagues has allowed for this growth to occur. We see other companies investing the same types of resources and think eSports has the potential to grow beyond even traditional sports.
How will you be marketing this endeavor?
We will approach marketing the same way you would for traditional sports. If we were promoting a product for the NFL, you would run ads on the major television networks like ESPN, FOX, or ABC. In eSports that is Twitch, Youtube, and Azubu. So both display ads and streamers are a great way to market to the eSports community.
What role will Twitch and livestreaming play in this business?
Certainly, Twitch will be a big part of the marketing, and there will be new content created that specifically focuses on our game. There will be streamers who are out there talking about who are the best bargains, or who are the most overpriced stars to choose from week-to-week.
What has the feedback been from teams and pros?
We went to teams and pros early. One of the first was Michael “Odee” O’dell from Team Dignitas. We showed him an early demo and he gave us a very positive review. He is based in the UK and plays fantasy soccer and thought the platform would be a huge success. He gave his feedback on what we should and should not do to appeal to gamers. We took his opinion and others very seriously. You will see that in the design and flow of the game. Design is a critical component of our platform. Gamers expect high quality. You can’t just throw a site up and expect them to only play for money, so our focus has been on player experience first above all else. A simple, clean interface with familiar design elements to other gaming-related content was important.
“Design is a critical component of our platform. Gamers expect high quality.”
What opportunities do you see for sponsors and advertisers?
Because of the game we offer and the audience we attract we can directly market to a very focused market segment — our typical demographic is 18-34 yr old males who love playing games and buying downloadable content — we see us being one of the many ways advertisers reach this audience. One example of how we will bring sponsors and advertisers on board is one of the things we do that is unique to the fantasy eSports community which is provide live stat updates while simultaneously streaming the game for free. You won’t see this in traditional sports as broadcasters limit free streaming of sports contests. This live update screen keeps users coming back and is a great place for a sponsor to reach out to their audience.