At B3TZ world headquarters we are busy re-framing our prediction game so that you can play your friends directly. We’re calling this effort B3TZ-2.
As part of the scenario drafting for our new direction I’ve been looking hard at anyone who’s attempting casual bets, especially in Sports where this kind of activity is pretty common. One that has come up several times in the last few months is FanIQ.
FanIQ has been one of many “by the fan for the fan” sports content products we’ve seen. This category ranges from super-aggregators like SBNation to small local fan aggregators like Sports Mockery (early B3TZ adopter).
Rather than compete on polished content the smaller fan hubs try like heck to connect fans with each other using picture galleries, polls, forums, games — whatever works. FanIQ has the largest number of engagement features of any sports fan hub that I’ve seen — they’re trying EVERYTHING all at the same time.
While I could go on about polls and user-generated content and all their other stuff, the B3TZ compete part is really their casual betting game — that’s where I’ll focus.
Good Thing #1 – They understand that bets can’t live by themselves, they need the context of other content and people. There’s a ton of UGC (user gen’d content) sports writing and you access the bets as a list of games where you can pick the winner, or by way of suggestions from the virutal bartender (more on her later..).
Bad Thing #1 – None of the bets or game information shows up on the initial home page that non-logged in users see. Sure there’s another “home” page for each section that you have to click to, or a logged-in home page which has some of this, but you have click around for a bit before you can find game content. And the stats are buried in your profile, seven options down. Ouch.
Good Thing #2 – FanIQ has done a nice job advancing the fan forum concept by creating a space they call The Sports Bar, which features a chat area and bar games — most notably bar bets. A separate sports bar exists for every matchup as far as I can tell, and the goal of the insta-bar is to group people by passion. This is a great way to organize and encourage chat and game playing between people, esp. for non-core fans. I think its brilliant.
Bad Thing #2 – The Sports Bar is a great feature — in fact it makes a original organizing feature for the entire site.. but again, it’s buried! Four clicks to get there! This is a missed opportunity. How many Sports UGC sites and fan forums are there on the intertubes? Tons! How many virtual sports bars are there out there? Yeah, exactly.
Good Thing #3 – The bartender! There’s a person in the bar that’s talking to you. And her little thought bubbles move you through your game and point earning options. What a great device — it personalizes and organizes things that matter in a way that’s familiar.
Bad Thing #3 – The actual point systems and game play is very spotty, but falls down enough to consider it a bad thing, or at least a work in progress. I like some of the options for betting against the house, using Vegas lines, playing their experts, etc. But there are some glaring fails: once you pick a side you can’t change.. huh? And when you win, you have to hunt for your winnings? And is there any way to be notified of new things or won things or any thing? I couldn’t find it.
So, while the bar scene provides some kind of hub for finding and connecting with people and games and content you like, I found precious little focus in the overall design of the FanIQ site. Everything matters so nothing matters. Is it a social networking site? Is it a UGC site? Is it a game? It’s not really doing any of these things very well.
My core takeaways for B3TZ is — we need to stay focussed on the game, and on finding a fun format for playing head-to-head. Yes, we’ll tie to content, and yes, we’ll have social features. But its all about the game, baby!