Analysis

Hitting the mass market with free-to-play

Free-to-play games are the sports betting spin-off that everyone can join in with. Wedge News spoke with SportCaller to find out more about how they drive players to real money betting.

What’s legal in the U.S., is sports betting related and already has millions of players signing up?

No, not DFS. It’s free-to-play games, or F2P, as they are called in the industry. And if you were thinking FOX Super Six you are absolutely spot on.

But there is more to F2P than Super Six. One of the leading suppliers of those games is SportCaller, a Dublin-based firm with a long pedigree of supplying F2P product to European operators.

One of its biggest contracts is with FanDuel, so Wedge News caught up with Cillian Barry, founder and CEO of the company, to get the F2P lowdown.

Free-to-play to the masses

Barry points out that FOX Super Six has its antecedents in the U.K. with the Sky Super Six.

But that, of course, is a regulated national market and the F2P game helps drive traffic to the betting site.

In the case of FOX, however, the Super Six game is the only betting product that is available in some states.

“Where the FOX Bet game differs from that of Sky Bet in the UK is that much of its audience will be entirely new to gambling and the intricacies that go with it,” says Barry.

So the expectation is that the F2P game is can “educate while it engages” the consumer.

It means FOX is pinning its hopes on driving a wave of U.S. bettors that, as Barry says, “are yet to assemble.”

Low-cost acquisition

As befits a product where players can be sourced ahead of any chance of monetization, F2P is a low-cost player acquisition tool.

Which brings us to the other key attribute of F2P – it helps operators avoid some of the eye-watering bonusing that is at play in regulated sports betting states.

In Pennsylvania, the data suggests that huge percentages of handle are actually free bets. Something similar is likely to have happened in the early days in other states such as New Jersey and Illinois.

“This points to the overwhelming focus being on the now, and immediate returns on significant outlays,” says Barry.

But is this level of bonusing either sustainable or, indeed, actually worth it. Barry says it is an “unanswered question” whether the players brought in via bonusing were coming to the site anyway.

What F2P games do is bring measurable retention play. An average of 68% of players of the SportCaller F2P games on FanDuel return the next week.

Just over 50% of weekly players have played in all of the past three weeks, on average.

Barry says measurement of performance of the games is at the heart of what SportCaller does.

“There would be no longevity to our games, or our business, without a positive return for the client.”

Conversion of new players is the KPI with acquisition of new players. But not with retention. “It is as much a product designed to offer an enhanced experience for active players as it is a means to stimulate bets,” he says.

Innovation from the top

Barry says that “in an industry largely devoid of innovation,” F2P games play a vital role.

Which is why this year’s Presidential elections provided an ideal opportunity to test out new products and engage players.

“While political betting is not legal in the U.S, this gave operators a chance to engage with a different audience.”

Part of the F2P appeal for operators is that it is already popular with a large segment of a younger demographic.

It’s the type of players that Barstool Sportsbook would appear to be very successful with. As Barry points out, the rationale for the Barstool acquisition lay in key data points.

These included such nuggets as 62% of ‘Stoolies like to bet and that 44% bet at least once a week.

“The role of F2P in all of this would be to address some of the missing percentages in those quoted figures,” says Barry.

These would be that 38% do not bet on sports, for instance, or that 56% do not bet once per week.

Offering F2P games to engage players must be executed as part of a strong content strategy at group level.

But, as Barry concludes, SportCaller’s games “have consistently proven with a multitude of operators that F2P allows for a reduced CPA, ensures that players are more active, reduces churn and appeals to a younger, more mass-market audience.”

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Scott Longley

Scott Longley has been a journalist since the early noughties covering personal finance, sport and the gambling industry. He has worked for a number of publications including Investor's Week, Bloomberg Money, Football First, EGR and GamblingCompliance.com. He now writes for online and print titles across a wide range of sectors.

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