B3TZ won’t be running an NFL football draft game this year on April 25 — our first draft game ever will be later in June with the NBA basketball draft — but that doesn’t stop me from checking out other draft games. Especially from the master game builders at NFL.com.
So without too much ceremony, and because I’m on airplane wifi, here’s a quick Love + Hate list for this year’s NFL.com game.
1. Juicy — the trend is super pimpy user experiences — knobby chrome controls, velvety backgrounds, airbrushed pictures, tons of slideable-moveable bits — and this version does not disappoint. As much as I generally hate this much juice in my UX, I will say that I think a couple of the effects really improve game play — especially the collapsing position slots once a pick is made. Love is due.
2. Experts vs. Consensus vs. You — one of the coolest features is that once you’ve made your 32 picks there is a nice display that shows you how you’re stacking up with a couple influence groups: the crowd and the pundits. There’s a detailed breakdown on the pundits, which is also very cool. What I didn’t see that I really really wanted was past years’ scoring for these pundits — just how good are these bums? Accountability!
3. That GM Experience — you have to give it these guys, there’s a lotta great links out to the non-game draft content here. Mock draft, scout grades, workout videos. If you have the time, there’s no excuse — you have the tools to be ridiculously informed.
1. That GM Experience — um, unless you’re part of the 0.5% of the football universe that has hours and hours and hours to noodle the draft, the game is a bit overwhelming. You *have* to make 32 picks to even be in the game. And even if you guess all over the place it still takes you 10 minutes to grind through this thing. Ouch.
2. Prizes — is it just me or does a pair of tickets seem kinda anti-climatic for a game on NFL.com. That’s all you got guys? Winner and a friend go to whatever game the Sponsor picks? Retail value $4,800, but probably really only costs south of $3k? They’re so ashamed of this one weenie prize that they hid it in article 7 of the fine print. Hidden! I can think of a lot funner ways to distribute even $3k — multiple smaller prizes, personalized trophies, merchandise or signed memorabilia, etc. If this de-emphasis came at the expense of a better head-to-head experience, I would be forgiving. Not the case and I say boo boo boo.
3. Friends — arrgh, why is it with these games it’s so hard to get your friends involved? Please! This is THE MAIN THING THAT I WANT IN THESE CRAPPY GAMES, why can’t anyone give me a great experience here? This is what has made fantasy sports a killer app for years, the woofing with your friends, the daily contact with your peoples.. Yes, NFL.com has groups, and that kinda works. But the setup, the communication flow, how its surfaced, re-entry points — there are a dozen things in the way of a simple, friction-free head-to-head or fun group game experience. Best in class right now for groups is Yahoo Pick’em games. Still waiting for a great H2H game. You can bet your root toot toot that B3TZ will take a hard run at this one.
One small thing in closing — did you notice that on the NFL.com website what the first item in the top menu is? Fantasy. Games! In front of News & Media. Not sure when that evolutionary adaptation emerged — it wasn’t like that 10 years ago, not even 5 years ago. Games layered on top of entertainment is pulling the people in. It’s all about engagement. And the sports category is just the beginning.