Fantasy GP is a popular game played by fans of Formula 1 across the world. Like many of my ideas, it started out for a bit of fun. Unlike many of my ideas, it’s still going strong today.
A bit of background
Back in 2008 I created a little blog for myself about Formula 1. What can I say, I was a bit bored on a Sunday, I like watching F1, enjoy writing and knew how to make a website. For a bit of fun I called it “F1 Badger”, mainly to make it stand out amongst the usual “F1 News”, “F1 Update” and other such generic sites names that existed.
To help encourage people to visit the website (i.e. before we had social media in common usage) I created a super simple game where people could predict results of the races and score points relative to the outcome of the race itself. I’d played the ITV F1 Prediction game for a few years and figured I could make something similar and maybe a bit better.
To my surprise there were over 700 players in the first year. Impressive and shocking, in a good way. The game developed further and a few years later there were over 5,000 players.
Fast forward to 2017 and I managed to buy the domain name “FantasyGP.com” for a couple of hundred bucks, rebuilt the game, added loads more features and setup a PRO option to give the game a ‘freemium’ model whereby it remained open to all play, but created the opportunity to monetise it and make it a professional hobby. Over 10,000 players enjoyed the game and so for 2018 I put even more effort into making it a proper offering.
How does it make F1 more fun?
If you’re reading this and wondering what it’s all about, here you go. Watching a Grand Prix can be great. But not all races are a thriller, but by playing Fantasy GP, every race is exciting. It’s not all about who’s winning or just the top 5 cars, suddenly, by having your own team of cars and drivers, coupled with having predictions for the weekend – everything is interesting.
Without Fantasy GP you would be unlikely to care if Marcus Ericsson (backmarker) starts 19th and is running 11th by lap 3. But with Fantasy GP, if he’s in your team (he’s cheap) you will be excited to be winning some bonus points. And then gutted when he bins the car into a wall on lap 5. Previously you wouldn’t have been too bothered if Leclerc overtakes Alonso with 3 laps to go, for 17th place, but it all matters with Fantasy GP – it really does add a whole new angle to watching a race. Thousands of players globally agree. So, anyway – moving on…
Fantasy GP in 2018
In March this year, the game was the number 1 result on Google worldwide for anyone searching for Fantasy F1 or similar and the player count shot up to over 18,000 for the current season. Impressive stuff.
It wasn’t all great news though, the massive increase in player numbers and a huge rise in activity caused issues with the code and the servers the site was running on (pretty beefy ones at that). It gave me a lot of headaches and stressed me out. I spent the Easter weekend with family, but mainly on my laptop, rewriting parts of the game and migrating to a better infrastructure. With lots of help from other developers, server admins and the community via my base at Duke Studios.
Now we’re well into the 2018 season, it’s all good – the game is running well, there’s a great sense of player community on Facebook and Twitter and fantastic rivalry between players in the championship tables and their own private leagues.
But I’m also beginning to realise why so many other Fantasy F1 games fail or discontinue. The ongoing support involved with responding to player queries, points disputes and just general questions is a burden. A burden I help encourage by replying to every single message, tweet and post because that’s what I believe in – i.e. a personal approach and feel to the game. It’s just a game after all. Having messages from people saying how much they love the game and learning about some of the rivalries between siblings and work colleagues is great, humbling and makes up for some of the workload.
The future for Fantasy GP
Who knows. I want to keep the project going. It’s one of my favourites. Making it a viable business is proving more challenging that I’d hoped. The PRO option does generate income and there’s income from the advertising too, but it’s barely breaking even with the running costs and the time it takes to maintain, develop and support.
Sponsorship would solve a lot of problems, but I’m yet to find a way to make this happen. It’s in an awkward position of not being big enough to get a big name, being niche enough to narrow opportunities, and well, it’s a question of finding the right fit.
There’s also the question over the new official F1 Fantasy game that launched in May this year. I’ve tried it, obviously and it’s far less developed than Fantasy GP, gameplay is limited and not particularly engaging. Prizes are few and far between and there’s zero sense of community around it. That’s the negatives. On the bright side, it’s official, what few prizes are available are pretty damn good. It’s easy to play too, but easy only in that there isn’t much to do.
Watch this space for updates for 2019. First things, first – I’ll be running the mid-season player survey now we’re heading for the F1 summer break to learn what the players like/dislike and gather any other suggestions or feedback. The previous years surveys have helped shape the game and I like to think that it’s this input that makes the game a success. In that we actually act on the feedback received and share the updates and plans with the community.