A new genre of online sports games tickle the imagination of gamers
Avijit Das Patnaik, project manager at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, has just two things on his mind — the lofty targets his bank sets for him and his football team’s performance — and each brings equal amounts of sweat beads on his brow. No, this banker does not own a football team but manages a virtual team of 15 players and invests almost eight hours a week strategising for his team. Patnaik along with 50,000 other gamers belongs to this latest genre of gaming — online fantasy games.
For the uninitiated, fantasy sport is a game where the gamer chooses his virtual team comprising real life sports players. For example, in the case of fantasy cricket game, if Harbhajan Singh takes five wickets in a match, then the gamer scores for his virtual team. Simply put, the performance of your fantasy team depends on real life performances of players.
Football remains the most popular sport in the fantasy genre. The official English Premier League (EPL) portal’s fantasy game has over 38,000 managers from India — spiralling the game in the top 10 fantasy sports titles in terms of number of participants. All these managers are vying for the top prize of two tickets to the EPL along with a host of other goodies. About 6,000 Indians are hooked into the UEFA Champions’ League game and another 10,000 into the ESPN’s fantasy league.
Take the example of Nitin Prakash, who works with Marico. Prakash spends about six hours a week discussing players’ performances with his friends, so that he could get maximum returns from his team. And this discussion — mindless to many — helped him land a Sony PSP gaming console in the UEFA Champions League fantasy game as he was the best team manager of the month with the highest points.
Harsh Jain, founder and CMD, dream11.com, one of the latest cricket fantasy gaming portals, claims this new gaming genre is a huge market globally. “Considering the packed, upcoming cricket calendar, we believe that the time is just right for Indian audiences to connect with fantasy cricket games,” he says.
The rise in popularity of the fantasy genre is credited to the advent of T20 and Indian Premier League (IPL) in the country. Before IPL, the only fantasy game used to be Super Selector, which faded into obscurity after a few great seasons. But with dedicated marketing initiatives, both by brands and teams, fantasy cricket has picked up.
Take the case of Indian Fantasy League, which has also introduced fantasy games on cricket, tennis and golf. At the peak of its popularity, ESPN’s Super Selector fantasy cricket had over 3.5 lakh people playing the game and in 2003, the channel turned it into a paid game for a nominal fee of Rs 100 rather than the free model adopted all over the world. But soon the broadcaster had reverted to the free-to-play model as users like Ashish Singh, a sales manager with Bharat Petroleum, found the idea not too appealing. “It wasn’t about the money, as initially I did pay up the fees, but gradually the interest started to wane and it didn’t seem worth it,” he says.
Today, enthusiastic gamers use social mediums like Twitter or Facebook to keep themselves updated with the latest sports news. Even Facebook runs a fantasy game called “Fantasy Challenge” and has over 20,000 users plying as football managers.
It is estimated that worldwide there are over 60 million active players, some of whom have been playing the game for over nine years, spending nearly six hours every week, managing their teams and “thinking” about fantasy sports. Meanwhile, Jain of dream11.com hopes, “This seems to be just the tip of the iceberg and we will see enormous growth in the genre.”
Sport fans for sure won’t be complaining.
What is fantasy gaming?
Fantasy gaming is a genre where users can create a team of their own in the virtual space. The fortune of the team depends on how well players perform in real life, which is what makes the game interesting. For example, if you play English Premier League’s (EPL) Fantasy football game, then you can have players from various clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. If you pick a player from Chelsea and he scores two goals, then you get more points. All in all, you have to choose players according to how well they are playing in real life.
Which games to play?
For cricket lovers, the Indian Fantasy League offers one of the most popular fantasy games and allows you to play the game all year round.
For football fans, the EPL fantasy game is one of the best and the most competitive games around. It even offers tips on which players to pick.