Fantasy Sports and IPL Suspension, the Aftermath

Fantasy sports experts discuss what IPL suspension has brought on the table for the fraternity, the blessings in disguise, and also the future ahead

With BCCI’s expulsion of IPL this year for an indefinite period after the credibility of bio-bubble was pricked when a number of players and staff members caught the virus, the expectations of the gaming companies were also wrecked. The country’s fast emerging pace for fantasy sports, propelled the online gaming industry to bet big time on IPL, which was a hit amongst the advertisers this season, being the only big event happening in the country after a year. Also, the magnanimous growth of fantasy sports in India can be credited to IPL, which is most popular league with the sector.

However, the adjournment, didn’t shudder the industry, who was at least ready for the worst-case scenario; thanks to the unforeseen ordeal of pandemic last year. While the fantasy sports sector can see a hindered growth this year due to IPL suspension, the industry experts are hopeful to bring back the falling numbers soon.

Cancellation and Reverberation

Just the number of fantasy apps advertising themselves during this IPL is a testament to their growth and how they have impacted cricket. Speaking on the partnership and growth opportunities IPL has provided so far, Abhishek Madhavan, Senior Vice President, Growth and Marketing, MPL says, “Our partnership with IPL has provided many opportunities to engage with our users in an interesting and consistent manner. Owing to the huge fan following that IPL enjoys, we have seen a steady increase in not just the number of users onboarded on our platform but also the engagement among our existing user base.” MPL witnessed steady traction for both fantasy sports and gaming titles as well.

The suspension of IPL14 will have an impact on brands and platforms across, since the IPL is always the best time for user acquisition and activation. “We were in a good space in terms of acquiring new users and scaling up the revenue growth due to IPL season. The suspension will slow down the momentum a little. But all said and done, health is a priority at this moment and we do support the suspension of IPL for now,” Mitesh Gangar, Co-founder & Director, PlayerzPot opines.

There are multiple platforms that hosts multiple games. While the cancellation of IPL came as a disappointment to players as well as the gaming companies, they were able to sustain the overall growth from other product offerings. Srinivas Athota, Director Operations, OpenPlay Tech agrees that IPL has immediately impacted the fantasy games as “our contests were directly dependent on Live Matches”. He says, “Our unique IPL promotion offering ZERO platform fee was very well received by our customers and we saw a massive increase in fantasy participation. However, we believe the health and safety of the players and IPL support staff is paramount.”

Namay Kedia, Founder, Sports Inddex, bewails the cancellation of the event and shares, “It has definitely affected our plans for this year as IPL is critical for fantasy sport operators and as we were looking to launch our app during the IPL for which we had already hired resources and spent a bit on marketing as well. With the suspension we have to push our launch to a later date. We look forward to the rescheduling once the world is in a better place from this pandemic.”

There were some experts from the industry who disagreed with the complete dependency on IPL for traction by the gaming industry. “It is not true that game companies are fully dependent on IPL. During any major cricket tournament, cricket games see better traction, like during IPL. The impact of cancellation will definitely be felt to the extent of the growth spurt being scuttled during the remaining 20 days. But we may also see people spending more time on games because they are missing out on the IPL, we have to wait and see how this pans out, since it is only a few days now since cancellation of the league,” believes Next Wave Multimedia CEO P.R. Rajendran.

Chaos versus Contingency Plan

The development to many or most did not came as a surprise. With corona hitting the masses last year was unexpected, it was much contemplated this year. The fantasy sports companies even though put their faith in the event, couldn’t ignore the probable series of events that may occur. This attributed to a contingency plan.

HalaPlay provides a wide variety of real money gaming (RMG) options to users. It not only provides fantasy platforms but also rummy, quiz, etc. which the app users enjoy playing 24*7. “Since the IPL got postponed, we are now planning to increase our base for other RMG games. People are spending time indoors. With this, the screen time has also increased quite significantly. We are operating the mentioned games since quite a long time and the beauty is these games provides a lot more flexibility to user to play at their comfort. During these times we have seen an increased participation from users in these games,” speaks Phalgun Soni, VP Product, HalaPlay.

OpenPlay Tech have plans to engage players with other product offerings. Athota says that the IPL organizers did whatever best was possible to preserve the bio bubble. "Considering the way this pandemic has ravaged the world, we had our backup plan in place to engage players with other product offerings so this came massively useful for us when the news finally broke out we were able to act upon it immediately,” he speaks.

The past year has taught the gaming companies some valuable lessons on the uncertainties of life. Gangar says that this was expected and hence the company was always careful in planning the marketing activities. He further avers, “We were majorly focusing on all the digital assets and collaboration. Last year when India went into the first lockdown, we had immediately launched casual games on our platform and that started to show traction in those tough times. Similarly, this year also, we have shifted our focus in promoting the casual games like quiz, sheep fight, ludo, etc. This will also help us in gaining female users on our platform.”

Future and More

With the chaos going around, the fantasy sports community have also planned for the remaining 2021. Sports Inddex, who was just starting off, focused only on cricket with the IPL and World Cup which were supposed to be held in India within a span of 6 months. With the IPL called off, the company will now look at sports like football, which are being played regularly in Europe. “We will look at the global T20 leagues, the likes of the hundred, and CPL coming up in the following weeks but none can compare to the IPL. The suspension might play out as an advantage for us as the remaining matches will be held later. By then we will be better prepared with a bigger user base,” the much hopeful Kedia responds.

HalaPlay will be looking to launch more RMG options on its platform which will be peer-to-peer in nature where users could play the game anytime they want. 

Besides, OpenPlay Tech is teaming up with the best technology to give user an epic gaming space. The future campaigns are going to be a game-changing experience for the brand, as stated.

While on the other hand PlayerzPot have few ongoing series in other parts of the world. The traction in IPL could not be compared, but still those series will help the company to run the business smoothly.

Gangar talks about the focus on casual gaming. “We have also started casual gaming section for the users of PlayerzPot on the app. We currently have games like snake and ladder, ludo, sheep fight, housie quiz, general quiz games for our users to keep them engaged.” He further hints at league associations which will happen on the basis of their execution.

On Next Wave Media’s plan, the company is positive on the future of gaming and expect the industry to grow fast, since it is in the beginning of the growth curve in terms of revenue and users. Rajendran shares the company will continue with all planned game production schedules as the lockdown does not affect their work schedule.