The official definition of fantasy sports games has already been mentioned above, but if you are still wondering what this is all about, imagine a group of friends or random people that are competing within their own mini-league. The competition is based on selecting different real-life players from various teams and seeing how they perform and amass different stats like goals or assists and turning these stats into points. These real-life players can be transferred or exchanged and, in some sports (like Fantasy Premier League for example), even made captain to score double the points. The winner of each mini-league is the player with the best score/most stats/most points.
The origins of the game are based in North America where the first fantasy sports games in basketball, American football, ice hockey and baseball were offered by Yahoo back in 1999. Other portals like ESPN or CBS followed shortly. Nowadays, there are millions of people around the globe who are playing some modality of fantasy sports game. According to Nielsen, overall participation in the US has grown significantly in recent years. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of fantasy sports games players went from 8 million to 15.5 million. American football, in particular, has positioned itself as a leader in the fantasy sports games market.
What is behind this massive growth? This kind of interest aroused plenty of curiosity in all types of media, which resulted in various fantasy sports TV shows, newspaper columns, blogs, forums where “experts” forecast the upcoming trends.
Even though the whole “madness” of fantasy sports games started far away from Europe, major events like the FIFA World Cup, Champions League and particularly Fantasy Premier League increased interest among European football fans.
Watching or following sports through the fantasy games lens brought many new fans that had never been fully immersed in supporting a club, or been regular followers of the game. The overall concept of this game is based on “outsmarting” your opponent, using your knowledge of the chosen sport in combination with obtaining the unique experience of competing year by year, and the overall excitement where the only thing that counts is the final points total. As a result of this, as more followers/fans were attracted to the game, it created interest among different stakeholders such as leagues, clubs, sponsors and media. The emergence of this phenomenon provides the additional spark for many players as they feel empowered by having the option to be something more than just an “armchair” general manager and, based on their own knowledge, experience and study of the game, they can either beat their friends or even win some financial reward. That’s right, the possibility to monetize this massive boom resulted in the diversification of the game in different modalities.
What are the principle types of fantasy sports games? There are two main types:
- Free fantasy sports games
- Daily or weekly fantasy sports games
The free fantasy sports games are based on the above-mentioned principles, where a group of friends or colleagues compete among each other in the selected sports. There is no official entry fee required to set up your own mini-league, but that does not interfere with the fact that there is often a small “unofficial & friendly” cash prize for the winner at the end of the season.
Nevertheless, the daily or weekly fantasy sports games are a different kind of animal because these games are based on daily or weekly results instead of waiting till the end of the season, they require an entry fee (the fee can vary depending on the importance of the league) and they are played against thousands of unknown players instead of against friends. Each fantasy sports platform offers its own paid leagues, but there are two market leaders that offer lucrative financial rewards on a daily basis and that are accumulating millions of players—FanDuel and DraftKings. Through daily fantasy sports games, both companies are still offering a kind of “legal” form of gambling in the US & Canada but, after a New York State judge ruled on October 29, 2018, that daily fantasy sports games are gambling and not friendly contests, the future of both could be in jeopardy.
Going back to the pilot research conducted on fantasy sports games, it is interesting to see the responses to the following question: “Do you play free fantasy (season long) sports games or paid daily fantasy sports games?”
Almost 87% of the responses show that players prefer to play free fantasy sports. Obviously, these data are based on pilot research and the majority of the respondents come from Europe where daily fantasy sports games are not that popular (70% from Europe, 25% from the US & Canada and 5% from the rest of the world—Asia & Africa).