One of the things that has surprised many cricket fans who have been following the IPL 2020 telecast in India is the huge number of advertisements for fantasy league apps.
But, it should not be a matter of surprise, because this year's IPL title sponsor itself is the Indian fantasy gaming app leader. And there are fantasy gaming companies that are among the sponsors of individual teams.
This year, more than ever before, fantasy cricket apps are offering new offers, features in their gameplay and have ramped up their marketing spends.
IPL, with its daily matches for over one-and-a-half months, is the biggest revenue-generator and growth-driver for these platforms. In aggregate total, these companies are expected to spend around Rs 300 crore on ads on Star Sports and Disney+ Hotstar (the official broadcasters.)
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Rapid growth in the last 2 years
Fantasy cricket apps basically give cricket fans the opportunity to put their knowledge to test. The participants form their own teams and earn points based on the performance of the selected team combination.
In the last two years or so, the fantasy gaming platforms have attracted big-ticket investors like Sequoia India, Tencent, Steadview Capital, Go-Ventures.
Further, high-profile cricketers like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag are endorsing some of these companies as brand ambassadors.
Fantasy cricket applications are specially designed to bring entertainment and joy of playing cricket online.
According to a recent study (done by Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) in collaboration with KPMG), there are around 100 million fantasy sports users in India today. The Indian Online Fantasy Sports (OFS) industry has been growing at a rapid pace registering a 212% CAGR in the user base between 2016-19.
About 74 percent of the users play fantasy leagues one to three times a week.
According to the report, close to 20% of the active users on OFS platforms are paid-users while 30-40% users play OFS on more than one platform.
The online fantasy sector operators' gross revenues stood at over Rs 2,400 crore for the FY20 from Rs 920 crore in FY19.
A lot of greys
Fantasy gaming companies, however, operate in a grey zone in India. As there are gaming modules where people play for money, it is seen as online gambling, which is illegal in India.
It may be recalled that ahead of the IPL, in a contentious development, Google pulled out financial services app Paytm and its fantasy sports app Paytm First Games from the Play Store for violating its gambling policies. (They were later restored.)
Further, media reports also had it that Google has asked Disney+ Hotstar, IPL's official video streaming platform, to display a warning before running ads about fantasy gaming apps.
However, it is open to debate as to how Google can seek to have a say in advertisements that appear in a different platform.
There is a general perception among the public too that these fantasy gaming companies are essentially running gambling sites. The argument that fantasy league involves strategy and knowledge is seen as being tenuous.
But be that as they may be. For, these fantasy gaming platforms are here to say. The rules that govern them can be expected to be fine-tuned as they have now become an important part of the sports watching ecosystem, especially among the youth.
Here we have hand-picked five different fantasy game apps that you can try your hand at during the IPL.
It is the most well-known and the only fantasy gaming unicorn in India now. The title sponsor of the IPL this year — it has pumped in around Rs 222 crore — Dream11 has obviously betted big. With around 80 million players as its current user base, Dream11 totally dominates the market, garnering a share of about 80%. It runs plenty of daily contests, and plenty of money is to be made (or lost) on them. Users can also participate in polls and earn bonus cash through referrals.
Indian legend M S Dhoni and leading player Rohit Sharma represent the company.
This is one of the fastest growing fantasy gaming platforms, and has Virender Sehwag and Danny Morrison as its brand ambassador. MyTeam11 is said to have over 12 million players as its user base and is growing fast.
Using the India nationalistic mood in the country, MyTeam11 has launched a new campaign named “India Ki Apni Fantasy App” that emphasises on taking pride in playing fantasy cricket game on a homegrown application. This platform was one of the popular ones during the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League.
The app is looking at scaling up its presence with Sourav Ganguly who took Indian cricket to new heights. My11Circle roped in the current BCCI president Spourav Ganguly as its brand ambassador. This has created a controversy and allegations of conflict of interest.
My11Circle has international and domestic cricket matches to select from on its contest page. The players can select from practice or cash games post registration on the app.
Paytm First Games (PFG)
Paytm First Games (PFG) roped in global sporting legend and Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador. But just a day after this announcement came the news that this app was being taken off the Play Store by Google.
As it happened, that development created more awareness about the new app than Tendulkar, who was chosen to create awareness about the exciting fantasy sports in the country, possibly could.
Dark humour apart, Paytm First Game, a relatively new entrant to the fantasy game field, is expected to create a major splash as it is backed by the marketing machinery of PayTM, which is among the fastest growing and top 10 brands in India. Media reports say the PFG has earmarked Rs 300 crore for investing in fantasy sports and other online gaming events during this financial year.
Mobile Premier League
Mobile Premier League (MPL) is another headline-grabbing company, as it has raised $90 million in investments recently. MPL has a pure-play gaming platform that hosts a range of tournaments. The app, which is said to have around 60 million users, also serves as a publishing platform for other gaming firms. It lets users choose from 45+ skill-based games, including fantasy cricket.
The startup is also one of the sponsors for the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders. Indian cricket team's captain Virat Kohli is its brand ambassador.
Apart from these biggies, there are also apps like 11Wickets, BalleBaazi, HalaPlay and FanFight which are into the Fantasy League. As you can see, there are plenty of choices.
So go ahead and put to use your cricketing knowledge and understanding.
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