Fantasy football: create an imaginary team and play it through the season. It takes skill, a passion for football, and most importantly, time. In today’s world of instant gratification; time and patience are something that a lot of people don’t have, and so fantasy football faces a big challenge to make itself attractive.
Killian Jones rises to that challenge. His new business, PlayON, takes the conventional formula and turns it on its head – with a whole traditional fantasy football season taking place over the course of just one weekend.
A keen traditional fantasy football player himself, Killian found that he and his friends would get bored, lose interest and eventually drop out of the league over the course of the football season. He did some research and found that globally we spend 3 billion hours playing games every week, and that there are four main reasons why: “The first reason is that people like overcoming problems; second is social interaction; third is the ability to get better over time, and the fourth is being part of a collective, something bigger than yourself.”
Taking these factors into consideration, Killian started working on the idea, amalgamating his knowledge and research into a new type of fantasy football site. Two years on, realising that he had something worthwhile, he managed to secure angel investment. Journeys between his Dublin home, his job in Edinburgh and his PlayON developers in London became a regular occurrence, and he has since moved to London to build PlayON full-time.
PlayON launched the first version of the site at the end of last season and in a short space of time, it has attracted a substantial number of active users from 70 different countries across the world. Every week, users are given a budget and have the opportunity to pick a fresh team, using the fixture list as a guide. Each player has a detailed stats page and the site has an algorithm that re-prices the players each week: “If Wayne Rooney scores lots of goals this weekend, he’ll be more expensive next week.”
Team picked, the users can then enter one-on-one games against other users, or enter multiplayer games against their friends, the general public or even against ex-footballers Robbie Fowler, Les Ferdinand and Gareth Southgate. The countdown until the ‘Live Experience’ builds anticipation throughout the week and provides user engagement with the weekly cycle of events. Once the live experience kicks-off, every event that happens in the Premier League matches updates users’ teams in real time so they can keep track of events and watch their points increase or decrease as the action happens. Users can also become part of a collective and join their favourite club, adding their own team’s weekly points to their real club’s total, contributing to the club’s trophy cabinet.
It is possible to play on the site for free, but users are also able to bet small pots of money. PlayON is licensed and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission and must adhere to their strict regulations; however, the regulations have had a greater effect on their choice of platform than initially expected: “We’re not going to create a mobile app version initially; every country has different gambling laws and so can only have an app in the app store where we are specifically licensed and regulated. As we have players already signed up from 70 different countries, we are first looking to optimise our mobile web version, with native apps being rolled out later.”
Killian is now raising finance to scale up, complete a redesign of the desktop version, and also to start adding other global domestic leagues to the site. The site is self-sustaining, but a large chunk of the finance will go towards marketing to make it profitable and Killian believes: “This will keep us going for the next 24 months.”
Luckily for Killian, the site has already gained traction on social media and this has been helped by their footballers challenging their Twitter followers. He says with a smile: “Well… fantasy football is all about bragging rights, isn’t it?!”