In the late 2000s, French businessman Valery Bollier was the Marketing Director and shareholder of an online horse racing company called ZEturf. The customer-centred stance soon made him realise that young customers’ demands between the ages of 18 and 35 were changing radically. Logically, this tied in with the fact that they had been raised with consistently innovative video games, leading up to their current desire to chase after the thrill of playing for money by playing games that were invented a century ago. Their expectations soared higher than a game based purely on luck, anticipating something more ambitious; a skill game, like most video games, that would subsequently enable them to prove their ”supremacy” over their peers and their community.
The question that inevitably arose is why the market was not making immediate arrangements for an offer in view of the rising demand for a new type of game.
Logically, the monetised skill game industry should have been the result of a mix between two existing industries: iGaming and video games.
Nevertheless, there were strong natural barriers at play that prevented the dominant actors of the two industries from invading this vacant space:
• The online gambling industry owes its impressive growth to the internet.
The main players within this industry have become masters in the art of optimising their cash cow by offering games with a fast deposit frequency. Thus, they were not keen on extending their clients’ gaming experience, fearing the decline of their profitability. Moreover, they were reluctant to place themselves on new markets, rather choosing to wait for proof of the Business Model’s validity before being willing to colonise the sector.
• The video games industry experienced an exponential growth rate at the beginning of the 1980s by targeting young children and teenagers.
Despite the fact that the average gamer is now 30 years old and nearly 70% of gamers are over the age of 18*, the public opinion remains reluctant to endorse aggressive games which, nevertheless, are marketed to adults (Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty). Through their current weakness in market concentration, the video games industry continues to monitor the evolution of the “moneytainment” sector closely (a fusion of “money” and “entertainment”). Nevertheless, the market remains restricted due to the public’s strong rejection of it.
Neither of the two parties appeared willing or able to be the first mover. To employ the “Blue Ocean”** metaphor: the skill games’ sea was not yet reddened by competition. This appeared to be the opportune moment for me to dive into it.
Nonetheless, having a clear vision of the relevant history is one thing; finding the ideal product is another one entirely. Bollier struggled for months, striving to find what game could meet this new demand.
This is where faith played its role. He met Benjamin Carlotti, the future co-founder and Managing Director of Oulala, after he had just spent 6 years in the United States. His brilliance in foreseeing the rise of DFS overseas inspired his return to Europe, certain that the game could be adapted successfully to the European market. Our ambitions were a perfect match and we soon decided to launch the first European Fantasy Football site: www.oulala.com.
SCORING SYSTEM – THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR GAME
Together with a team of statisticians, they worked tirelessly for six months to build a mathematical matrix that would make the results of our game as close to the reality of a football match as possible. Right after I joined the company, they put the scoring system through a period of testing for over a year in order to prove that Oulala was indeed a real skill game. To this day, we constantly look for ways to improve the algorithm since this is the cornerstone of our game.
Our scoring system includes 70 football statistics, as compared to the average 10-16 from our competitors’ side. The criteria is weighted based on the player’s position, which includes the goalkeeper, the defender, the midfielder, and the striker, in order to stick even more closely to the reality of a football match.
Opta is the company that provides us with the live data that we use. They monitor the contribution of each footballer on the pitch in real time, before passing the data on to us. This data is then processed through our algorithm to update the scores of each player in near live action. This process allows the client to monitor the progress of the players in their team during the games every weekend. As the footballer contributes on the pitch, his score is altered in our game within approximately 30 seconds. We have received feedback from clients detailing their realisation that something major had happened during a match when their Oulala points changed before the live text service they were following could keep up. Understandably, the process of typing and updating a webpage is slower than what can be managed by an algorithm and data processing.
Our clients can create teams with players from the 80 football teams competing in England, France, Italy, and Spain. Thanks to our exclusive live substitution feature, Oulala is currently the only real time screen game.
DFS – ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’
It has been a little over 3 years now, and the competitive intensity in our contribution to the Ocean has already increased; Oulala is no longer a small fish! We have successfully raised enough money to face the future with a confident stance. Our professional team has reached almost 20 people and together with them, we have surpassed a number of challenges. More importantly, the iGaming market has now begun to look at DFS as ”the next big thing”. Since we presented our BtoB offer, including a white label DFS plug and a play solution for iGaming operators, the demand has been much higher than we were expecting, even in the most positive hypothetical outcome of our business plan.
The road to success is a long one, however Benjamin and Valery will look back on this period in a few years’ time and realise that this was the most exciting and stimulating part of Oulala’s adventure.
* Entertainment Software Association: Essential facts about the computer and video game industry (Nov. 2012).
** Franck Gintrand: Approche critique de la stratégie Océan bleu (Feb. 2011).