When Riot put a halt to their League Fantasy game a couple years ago, they promised an eventual return, with improved features and added playability. What they didn't know is that it would be made externally, nor that it would have a $100,000 prize pool in its inaugural season.
Esports One is an esports data company, meaning they're perfect candidates for building a simulation league based around real stats and data. Compared to Riot's original version, Esports One's Fantasy gives their players more meaningful choices and ways to interact with their team. There's a salary cap, champ select, research station, and more.
But for a relatively unknown company to pull this off, they needed a strong launch campaign with as many incentives as they could offer, so they got creative. Esports One decided to offer shares of the company to the top referrals of the product and limited the sign up to 10,000 people. The idea is that restricting the player limit pushes fantasy-hopefuls to sign up AND share, further spreading the playerbase and simultaneously making sure the most eager and engaged fans secure their place in the league.
Leading up to the official launch this upcoming Friday morning (PST), we spoke with the Esports One COO, Sharon Winter, and Lead Product Manager, Nick Lesac, about their design process, launch incentives, signature features, and more. Here's how the young startup pulled this together and what their plans are for the future.
To COO, Sharon Winter: What is the overall goal of the company?
We're an overall esports obsessed team - building solutions that create the most impact for the community. We founded Esportspedia six years ago to make esports knowledge more accessible online. With the creation of Esports One, we drove our mission of building the most comprehensive stats and data warehouse to reality using community resources and enhancing it with advanced computer vision tech, machine learning, and the best data scientists in the field. Now with ground beneath our feet we've set out on a mission to bring fantasy to life (and make sure it never goes away).
To COO: You ran a campaign for the launch, offering stock to the winners, how did it go and do you think it's worth trying for other startups based on your experience here?
Absolutely! It truly takes a village to take something from just an idea to reality. We knew we couldn't do it without the fans and the greater community, we wanted to find a way to give the opportunity to community members who want to get involved and truly reward them for participating in spreading the word, just as if they were part of the team.
I'd absolutely recommend others to try this if there is truly a passion within the community for what you're building - provide your audience with the tools to get involved! The best part is we are now in touch with our top 50 referrers and have been working with them for product feedback, and we've really gotten to know them and what they're excited for.
To Lead Product Manager, Nick Lesec: As someone who worked a bit closer with the actual product, what is the most exciting thing about your version of fantasy?
To me, the most exciting thing we're doing is building the first all-in-one esports fantasy platform. We're giving our users everything they need to play fantasy, from competing to researching. You can read articles written by fantasy experts, dive deep into comprehensive stats, and set a winning lineup.
I'm also really excited about our plans for the future, namely real-time fantasy. With our Computer Vision technology, our users will be able to see how their lineups perform in real-time, as they're watching live games. Something like this has never been done before in esports, and we're excited to make this a reality.
To Lead Product Manager: That definitely seems interesting. How else is it unique, why should people play it over others that got released this year?
Besides being all-in-one, we are the only esports fantasy platform to leverage aspects of the game to make fun and unique features. For example, we're integrating the drafting phase of a League of Legends game into our product by asking our players to predict what champion they think their team captain will pick. If they predict correctly, their team captain will get bonus points for that game.
My personal favorite feature is the ability to pin players or teams in the stats dashboard for easy comparison. With this feature, I can compare them side-by-side, which really helps me make those tough calls when setting my lineup. We're able to come with these kind of features because we're gamers ourselves. We're constantly thinking of ways we can incorporate the parts of games we love most into our product. Also, you can win a lot of money in prizes, which is nice. Hahaha.
To Lead Product Manager: What is the plan after this first season?
Oh man, where to start. I already mentioned the real-time fantasy features we have planned, but by far the most requested feature is the ability to make small, private leagues with your friends. This is at the top of our roadmap, and we have lots of our own ideas on how to do this. However, what we care about most is what our community thinks.
Lots of people are already asking for traditional fantasy leagues where you draft a roster at the start of the season and pit them against your friends each week. We want to build a product that our community will love, so we actually made our roadmap completely public AND interactive. Anyone can submit their ideas, vote on features, and add their comments by going here. Do you love esports and fantasy? We want to hear from you!
To Both: Is there anything else we can expect in 2020?
COO, Sharon Winter: Sure! Private leagues, fantasy for more titles, and we're turning to the community to tell us what more they want to see... the rest of our plans are a shhhh.
Lead Product Manager, Nick Lesec: Yeah absolutely. We will be adding more free Esports One-sponsored leagues win huge prizes as well as the ability to make your own leagues like I mentioned.
Also, we are already looking to expand into other games and leagues. We're thinking Counterstrike right now, since it has a regular series of tournaments throughout the year (great for fantasy) and also because it's one of our personal favorite esports to watch.
With only a few days left till the official launch (Friday morning PST), there is still time to sign up and clinch your spot in the inaugural Esports One Fantasy season. They're giving access to their beta Tuesday morning, and anyone with at least one referral will get access, so go sign up, invite your friends, and get ready for a new and improved Fantasy experience in 2020.