Erik Swanson is the CEO of eFTW (Esports For The Win). The fantasy esports app is available on both iOS and Android and is an game in which users pick teams rather than players across League, Dota, CS:GO and more.
The DFS industry as a whole is approaching something of a crossroads right now, and we asked Erik about the current potential for esports fantasy operators in particular, which has had a tough time in the last couple of years. With more recent entrants such as ESL Fantasy Gaming, HypSports and eFTW, plus others such as Taunt and Blizzard’s Overwatch game coming soon, there are clearly enough that still believe in its potential for success.
Esports Insider: Why do you think the likes of Vulcun and AlphaDraft failed to take off in 2015/16?
Erik Swanson: There are probably a host of reasons – from coming out too early in the evolution of fantasy esports to poor word-of-mouth, but I see it being two-fold. Firstly, esports scheduling probably doesn’t yet lend itself to a daily league and secondly, fantasy drafting was new to the esports scene and educating the audience was always going to take some time.
In this case, being a first mover turned out to be a disadvantage.
ESI: Do you think certain esports titles are better suited to fantasy than others? DraftKings for example has stuck with a reduced League offering whilst dropping all others.
Erik: Oh, definitely. Unlike traditional sports, there is no one governing body that sets specific schedules and matchups for competitions. In that respect, League of Legends (LoL) is pretty far ahead of other esports such as CS:GO and Dota 2.
“In this case, being a first mover turned out to be a disadvantage”
LoL has proper scheduling, sometimes weeks in advance, and the games begin on-time — often with live streams available.
ESI: With eFTW your offering differs to others on the market, and fantasy as most will know it. Players pick teams rather than individuals. Tell us about why you built eFTW the way you did.
Erik: When I designed eFTW there were three driving forces behind the vision.
Firstly, the platform. At the time, all of the esports fantasy offerings were web-based. Esports fans are heavy mobile users so making an app-based game to me was a no brainer.
Second, that it should be free:. And by free I really mean truly free. No hidden tricks, in-app purchases or pay walls. This was particularly important to ensuring we were a “pure” fantasy app and as far away as possible from some of the more gambling-esque options.
Finally, ease of use: Anyone who has ever played fantasy sports knows it can be time consuming. I wanted to build something that was both fun and rewarding, but also required a small-time commitment. In eFTW, you can jump in, pick your winning teams and be back out within a couple minutes.
A former pro player myself, I ultimately built eFTW as the type of app I would like to use. People follow both teams and individual players in esports, but in my opinion the teams are easier to follow.
ESI: What do you think of the other new wave of entrants into the fantasy esports market, such as HypSports and Taunt?
Erik: I think both add a clever and fun spin to the market.
“Things like the lack of a single governing body, unpredictable scheduling, teams spread all over the world, lots of different games, etc., all make esports very unique compared to traditional sports”
By purchasing and leveling up players HypSports has created sort of a game/fantasy hybrid. And when it launches, Taunt will provide a cool real-time bragging-rights element to the matches. That’s part of what is so exciting about the fantasy esports space right now – there are no boundaries in place. It’s like the Wild West and there are now so many exciting ways for fans to participate.
ESI: Do you anticipate more league and tournament formats, such as ESL Fantasy Gaming, to take off and lead the charge for fantasy esports more generally, like Fantasy Premier League has done for fantasy football in the UK?
Erik: I think the fantasy landscape will continue to evolve along with esports.
As I’ve mentioned, things like the lack of a single governing body, unpredictable scheduling, teams spread all over the world, lots of different games, etc., all make esports very unique compared to traditional sports. So if the traditional blueprint does apply, it won’t be for quite some time. Plus, aren’t we all rule breakers by nature anyway? Who would have ever thought that playing games professionally could pay as much as playing quarterback.