With many punters turning away from traditional ‘season long’ fantasy sports, it’s no wonder that the DFS (daily fantasy sports) battleground is becoming increasingly competitive. The two main protagonists, DraftKings and FanDuel, are constantly reviewing their product portfolio after a planned merger between the pair failed to materialise. Now, they are locked in a battle for supremacy!
DraftKings’ latest response to FanDuel is ‘Pick‘em’, a game aimed at the casual DFS gamer with an initial roll-out covering the upcoming NFL campaign. The traditional NFL-based DFS format requires gamers to pick a squad of players that fits into the salary criteria outlined by the individual game. This is where the strategic element of DFS gaming comes in, where analytical or just plain lucky players can earn their advantage.
The difference with the new Pick‘em game is that there is no salary cap: managers are able to draft players to their roster as they see fit from a selection of tiers. Each tier features players categorised in terms of perceived quality, with gamers tasked with picking one from each tier to make up their eight-man squad (as far as the NFL variant is concerned). From here, the normal DFS rules apply.
Each drafted player accrues points based on their performance and the team with the most overall points at the end of a gameweek is declared the winner, taking the top prize. A soft launch of ‘Pick’em’ was expected on August 15 to cover the week’s pre-season matches. A full roll-out is anticipated for Gameweek 1 of the NFL campaign, starting with the clash between the Patriots and Chiefs on 8 Sept.
"This is our most significant release we’ve made in a really long time. It’s the thing we’ve had in mind the most as we were building up the platform. One thing we heard from a lot of players is they thought the salary cap model is a little bit intimidating. It feels like you have to be doing math all the time and pulling up an Excel spreadsheet."
While NFL fans will be the first to enjoy the fruits of the creative team’s labour, Pick’em games for Major League Baseball and football (sorry, "soccer") are also expected to be launched in the near future – it's quite likely that the English Premier League will be used as the launchpad.
The relationship between DraftKings and FanDuel has lurched from bonhomie to grudging respect to outright dislike and back again for the past decade or so, ever since DFS’ explosion in the United States. New product releases like Pick’em are designed to gnaw away at the others’ market share.
DraftKings have some eight million ‘active’ users, according to CEO Jason Robins, and their latest launch is designed to increase that customer base with a relaxed, informal game mode that is easier to play on a variety of devices. In an intriguing twist, main rival FanDuel has gone in a completely opposite direction.
FanDuel is creating a slate of season-long contests called the Championship Leagues. Launching a day before DK’s Pick’em, the Championship Leagues require gamers to draft a roster for the forthcoming NFL campaign that will be set in stone for the whole season, albeit with a limited number of trades available.
Remarkably for such sworn enemies of the DFS circuit, a few months ago it looked as if DraftKings and FanDuel were going to monopolise the industry with a merger, slated for late last year or early 2017. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stepped in to block the merger, citing a market share of ‘over 90%’ as the reason for the action.
A lack of competition would be the likely outcome, reasoned the FTC’s legal papers, with the likes of Yahoo and ESPN failing to acquire enough market share to keep daily fantasy gaming fair and competitive. The two brands withdrew merger plans, with FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles stating:
"We believed that this deal would have increased investment in growth and product development thereby benefiting consumers and the greater sports entertainment industry. We have determined that it is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers, employees, and partners to terminate the merger agreement and move forward as an independent company."
It's interesting that FanDuel have targeted season-long gamers while DraftKings continues to roll out new ‘hyper daily’ contests. Which company will win, if not the DFS war, then certainly the battle? Check out Draftkings or visit FanDuel today, either way you'll get a piece of the DFS action!