Valery Bollier, co-founder and CEO of Oulala Games – answers for EEG Magazine
Following Oulala’s launch back in 2013, we engaged in a discussion with our customers for 2 years with the purpose of adapting our concept in accordance with what they wished for. Additionally, this time was utilised with the purpose of demonstrating and proving that Oulala was indeed a true game of real skill as opposed to a game of luck falsely advertising itself as a skill game. The fundamental factor contributing to our future success is actually delivering on what we promise our customers: “With Oulala, for the first time, you can prove that you know football better than your friends!”
October 2016 saw the launch of the monetised version of Oulala, marking the next logical step in the road for us: breaking into the UK market. This is significant for a number of reasons, namely that besides the strong passion its people hold for football and playing money on it, the English Premier league itself is indubitably the most popular football league in the world. More importantly, however, is the fact that the current fantasy sports leader in the European market is none other than the UK itself. While season-long fantasy football games have long been a cultural activity that people have been accustomed to so far, one can expect the transition into a more appealing daily format to go quite smoothly.
So far, Oulala has successfully attracted over 25,000 registered users (free and monetised). Our next goal to focus on is developing Oulala in BtoB. Recently, we launched a white label version of our game, including a turnkey solution version and an API version. Moreover, we have already begun building partnerships with iGaming operators in numerous countries such as Italy, Australia, France and Cameroon, among others, allowing them the possibility to offer our game to their own customers. The surprising response from the iGaming sector towards our offer has spurred us on into focusing all our energy into our BtoB offer.
EEGReport Magazine: How does the Oulala platform differ from the already competitive market? What are your platforms’ unique points? It amazes me that so many things have happened in the DFS industry, since our last interview.
Valery Bollier: Oulala is currently the most innovative daily fantasy sports platform in the game right now. We put in 6 months of work alongside a team of statisticians in order to create a mathematical matrix that would render the results of our game as close to the reality of a football match as possible.
Our scoring system comprises 70 different football statistics, as compared to the approximate total of 10 to 16 from our competitors. The criteria is weighted respectively based on the player’s position (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and striker)thus producing a total of 275 ways to lose or gain points. These points range from the regular goals and assists to the more complexly detailed shots on target and successful tackles, to name a few, thus rendering it as close to football reality as possible.
Being a European game, playing on Oulala means that rather than only having a limited selection of players in the Premier League to pick from, as is the case in most DFS games, there is also the option to pick players from any of the Italian, Spanish or French league teams. The game becomes much more interesting with a pool of over 2800 players from 80 different teams to choose from.
Furthermore, Oulala is the first Daily Fantasy Football game to be a real second screen game. The customary process involved customers creating their teams before the matches began and then returned post-match in order to see their results. In an effort to bring forth the closest experience to reality, we brought forward an innovative process that enables customers to make live substitutions during the matches.
During the process of building a team on Oulala, there is also the option to pick six players to remain on the bench. For instance, if Lionel Messi is currently playing however his performance after 28 minutes proves to be unsatisfactory, a quick look at the bench offers the customer the choice to sub in someone such as Olivier Giroud instead, who will be playing with Arsenal in 2 hours. Thus, in 2 hours’ time, the system begin to take Giroud’s stats into account from the 29th minute of his match. For this reason, Oulala’s customers tend to be rather active during the matches, constantly accessing their team on our site in order to keep up with the live results of their players and sub players if necessary.
EEGReport Magazine: Another headliner that made the news is that you guys have managed to score a partnership with Premier League football club, Leicester City. This is a big deal for a newcomer DFS website such as yours, how has it been taken?
Valery Bollier: Having already experience a similar partnership with AS Monaco in France last season, we have begun to understand how to effectively form a partnership that will be mutually beneficial for the parties involved.
Certainly, it is imperative that football clubs provide stimulating content for their online fans in order to make visit their site regularly. The partnership that we hold poses a fine example of how a club may engage with its fans successfully. In a strategic move to provide entertainment, fantasy sports games offer real-time, second screen experiences that further encourage fans to watch more sports. Through our offer of a white label version of our game directed at their customers, LCFC is swiftly reaching that very goal.
More importantly, however, is finding the most appropriate business model than will enable clubs to monetise their massive customer database. This is where Oulala can prove to be a highly innovative partner.
Our choice of Leicester for a partner was based on the corporate culture they are immersed in that is very similar to ours. Naturally, we incredibly pleased to be partnered with the current leader of the Premier League, however, we are more impressed by the excellent quality of their management team. Alongside them, we are confident that we are headed in the right direction.
EEGReport Magazine: How do you think the markets in Europe are reacting to DFS in terms of licensing? We see a lot of talks that some countries might categorize it as gambling and grant 1st tier licenses.
Valery Bollier: As anticipated, the market moved at a far quicker pace than the legislators, meaning that Europe’s national regulators have yet to adapt to the new reality coming into place. More often than not, DFS tends to be considered a ‘pool betting’ activity, therefore in order to safeguard our young industry, it is crucial that we push for a legal frame adapted to our specific function from the Gaming authorises.
In a Kafkaesque twist of events, if the goal is to operate a DFS game in the UK then offering your game in the USA will not be permitted. Considering how huge DFS is in the USA, the current situation seems rather ridiculous.
Evidently, our industry requires a tailor-made DFS license, one that should only be granted to companies who are successfully able to prove that theirs is a real skill game. It is imperative that legislators exert caution when selecting operators, basing their decision on the quality of their game and the scoring system, holding the accuracy of a DFS game as the factor of paramount importance.
A DFS license should only enable proven skill games to offer white label version of their game to third parties. Oulala is currently one of the few that offers one available to the market, however other companies will soon follow suit, hoping to launch their game through partnerships.
It is in the interests of both the operators and the players that there is proper legislation in place. This would help the system from following the same path that poker did, in that the system should not allow any unfair advantages to the professional players over casual players.
We have already spoken to European legislators about our sector’s needs. Unsurprisingly, Malta was the first country with a positive reaction towards our suggestions, following up with a specific game license being launched by the MGA later this year. This will be undeniably be a huge step forward in the development of fantasy sports in Europe, also placing Malta at the centre of action for DFS operators.
EEGReport Magazine: What is the current global size of the DFS market?
Valery Bollier: Fantasy sports are an estimated €23 billion industry in the United States, with around 57 million fantasy sports players in the US and Canada. It is anticipated that market leaders Draftkings and FanDuel will respectively pay out over a billion dollars in prizes to fantasy-obsessed players this year while also putting tens of millions of dollars into advertising that will keep building the market. There may only be a small group of traditional players that play daily fantasy sports, however Eilers Research shows that daily games will generate almost €2.3 billion in entry fees this year and continue to grow 41% annually, thus reaching an astounding €12.8 billion in 2020.
The DFS landscape in Europe is only beginning to rise, with the UK as the leading market for fantasy sports in the EU. With the English Premier league as the most popular season-long fantasy sports operator, it gains an immense amount of coverage by newspapers that follow it including Sky Sports, The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.
The total number of players stands at approximately 5 to 8 million season-long fantasy users, a number this is significantly smaller than the US. With only 3 to 5% of these currently playing DFS, the situation presents a potentially substantial market to tap into. As mentioned earlier, other countries have already begun to open their doors to DFS, with the influx of new operators being a direct result of that.
An even bigger market that present itself to DFS is none other than sports betting. Morgan Stanley’s research last year revealed that legal sports betting is valued at over $100 billion annually. Thus, current iGaming operators shouldn’t think of DFS as a substitute to sports betting but rather as a good opportunity.
For instance, our BtoB platform provides a plug and play white label solution for iGaming operators that are hoping to enter our evolving sector by proposing DFS games as complementary products to their own existing operations. I anticipate an abundance of sports betting punters and poker players that will have direct access to DFS through their usual iGaming sites before the year ends. I am certain that the market will truly benefit from this BtoB strategy and will go on to boost the European DFS evolution.
EEGReport Magazine: What is the most popular DFS product for players?
Valery Bollier: American football remains the reigning, most popular sport in the USA with the largest fan base as well as an extensive history. This is the reason behind the increased marketing focused on American football rather than fantasy leagues in any other sport. 2015 saw 73% of DFS players playing Fantasy NFL at least once throughout the year.
Other sports they play also include NBA, NCAA, NHL and MLB. The rising number of soccer players may have leapt from 12% in 2013 to 20% in 2015, however local MLS teams still remain the main focus in fantasy sports.
Nevertheless, when taking DFS on a global level outside the US, football (soccer) undeniably reigns as the number one future sport. Europe remains the center of the world when it comes to football, with the best players from all the over the world playing in European teams. This offers DFS in Europe a major advantage over our American competitors. While they have offer multiple sports in their domestic market, Europe has a unique sport with a popularity that spreads worldwide.
Following the consolidation of the market, other sports such a tennis, basketball and hockey will follow suit. Passionate DFS players in Northern America much prefer their American football, basketball, baseball, car racing and hockey, however football remains the top choice in Central and South America as well as Asia. Another DFS game gradually gaining attention is Daily Fantasy Cricket, particularly in India.
EEGReport Magazine: Demographics wise, is the DFS player the same as traditional online sports bettor?
Valery Bollier: DFS players can be considered the younger generation of sports bettors. They brought up in a generation that emphasised playing video games. Now that they have reached adulthood, there is a strong desire to play in monetised games. However, they also hope to play games that are capable of offering them a similar kind of experience that they had on their own game consoles, thus hoping that rather than eradicating the experience over the financial rewards, they would be able to retain both. This is why DFS may well be the perfect product for them.
EEGReport Magazine: Is DFS open to cyber-crime in the same way as match fixing in real games, given that you can search on YouTube and no doubt find a video to ‘hack’
Valery Bollier: DFS may be a monetised game, however it is also a social game. People will be playing with their friends, people from their community, colleagues even, and so it should remain. At Oulala, we believe that our industry needs to cap the amount that may be deposit in a league. By imposing such a limit to maintain a reasonable amount, such as the €200 limit on Oulala, we are able to avoid most issues linked to cybercrime, including money laundering and match fixing.
EEGReport Magazine: What are the future plans and are you guys getting ready for the EURO 2016?
Valery Bollier: Technology is what brought about our sector’s revolution and it has only just begun for us. Currently, we are able to obtain live stats from the ball owner and the player facing him. We hope to be able to go on and obtain the live stats from all 22 players on the field.
Technology will also enable us to acquire vast amounts of personal data about the players. For instance, the partnership between the German national team and software giant SA during the last world cup allowed them to get live data on their players. Satisfied with the results, they are aiming to go even further for the next world cup, such as obtaining the players’ brain serotonin levels that indicate stress during the matched. It may seem like science fiction however this is the direction that sports is taking and soon DFS will allow everyone to be part of this revolution.
As for Oulala, our intention is to further develop our network of iGaming partners in the near future. A number of operators have shown interest in our BtoB solution and we have gone on to sign various important deals that will come into effect next season. Our aim is to continue along this path in order to evolve and become the leading Daily Fantasy network for football.