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FanDuel Labs is at it again.
Last year, FanDuel created the new department to reimagine the structure of daily fantasy sports contests. The experiment is about nine months old, and the company seems to be getting its money’s worth so far. Labs has rolled out a never-ending supply of new formats, including another one just this week.
The Home Run Challenge is a free-to-play contest centered around the most exciting play in daily fantasy baseball.
Several of the FanDuel Labs concepts are “short-format” contests with abbreviated roster requirements. Look no further than the popularity of Mini contests for the motivation to offer these.
The Home Run Challenge follows a short format, as well. Users choose just three Major League Baseball players, and there are no salary or positional requirements. Everyone (apart from pitchers) is grouped into the same “Batter” pool. There’s only one statistical category to worry about, too. Each home run is worth one point.
The new format is composed of daily contests running under a weeklong leaderboard. The $10,000 weekly prize provides the primary draw, alongside daily prizes of $500 apiece.
Home Run Challenge contests are live in the FanDuel lobby as of Monday.
It’s important to note that this is a free contest, and FanDuel has no intentions of making it anything beyond that. However, the new format once again underscores a growing shift away from the “traditional” DFS structure. Single-game contests, for example, have suddenly become the trendy offering.
Although there is an element of chance, the predominant presence of skill is what separates DFS from other forms of gambling. And as roster size and the number of scoring plays goes up, skill becomes an increasingly important variable. Deep contests scored across multiple categories give users substantial control over their results.
As lineups become smaller and the statistical scope becomes narrower, though, skill is evidently being removed in favor of entertainment. Big Game Bingo was the starkest example of this, with FanDuel reducing the Super Bowl to a digital scratch card. It was popular, drawing almost 300,000 participants.
FanDuel is in the business of giving the people what they want, and customers seem receptive to innovation along these lines. And these are probably acting as a type of customer acquisition/retention tool. It’s an easy way to get people engaged in DFS.
The ambition of Labs keeps the bar moving for the rest of the industry, too. DraftKings can no longer rest on its laurels as the market leader, rolling out several of its own recent innovations. Perhaps more importantly, second-tier competitors like Yahoo DFS, Fantasy Draft and Boom Fantasy have also invested resources to round out their platforms.
Love it or hate it, innovation is one of the few things driving the DFS industry forward at the moment.