In the Restaurant business a soft opening is what happens before the actual opening. It’s meant to be to a select few people showing up to make sure everything is working right and everyone knows what they are doing before the actual grand opening when everyone is invited. This is basically what happened the two weeks before this opening Sunday for Fantasy Draft. They rolled out a few free entry guaranteed tournaments in order to drum up some business and check on the software to make sure everything ran smoothly before they finally opened the curtains and started doing business. All systems were go and everything was working well, but sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men, well you know how it goes.
For starters let me say I am a big fan of what the guys at Fantasy Draft are doing. I think they are going about trying to build a site the right way and had some pretty good ideas about what it would take to hit the ground running. While many people were dissing the idea of the DFS version of the Kevin Bacon game, many of those vocal opponents were also tweeting out the link and building up some referral business. While the tournaments they did try to run with the guarantees this weekend fell woefully short of filling, they did much better than I thought they would based on not filling the free entry tourneys for real money the weeks before this launch which were much smaller.
What went wrong?
I’m not 100% sure to be honest with you, but in case you were not one of those who were trying to grab some overlay this weekend, let me break it down for you. New users were attempting to sign up for accounts and were unable to get the screen to click through and allow them to. Other users were having trouble getting their tournament lineups to submit and were never able to get in on the action. Definitely not the way a new site wanted to start on it’s launch date. It would be akin to a grand opening of the new Walmart and the cash registers not opening or the credit card machine not being able to process the sales.
As if that was not bad enough, they had more issues once the games did go live. Some scores were not being counted or added to the tournament. Others were not updating or allowing users to check on them to see how they were doing. Following your team and sweating the games is a big part of what makes DFS great. Without being able to see where you really are placed in the tournament takes a lot of the fun out of following along. You did not know whether you were in the money, on the bubble, or so far out of it that you could stop looking. It was probably the biggest nightmare for the site operators to see their grand opening go off with so many hitches.
How was it handled?
This was the part I give them an A+ on actually. I’m sure they received a ton of support tickets, probably from everyone that used the site this past weekend. It was pretty evident if you follow twitter that these problems were widespread and a major annoyance to those involved. Fantasy Draft has a team of affiliates that help them build up the user base and from the tweets I was receiving I can tell you that these guys were getting bombarded with questions and angry messages. They did a good job through the use of email and social media (Twitter) of keeping everyone informed of the problems and that they were both aware of them and working on them. While it was not completely fixed either before or after rosters locked, the site was working super slow all throughout the day.
While you may be thinking to yourselves, “THAT SOUNDS HORRIBLE!” I would say you are right and it was. That is why I thought they did a great job of satisfying the users by saying early on in the day that the whole thing would be freerolled.
A Message to Our FantasyDraft Players
After the challenges we experienced yesterday on FantasyDraft.com, we wanted to reiterate our stance regarding our efforts to make things right for our customers.
First off, we want to reassert our commitment to providing a premium DFS experience and expect to be one of the top destinations online for Daily Fantasy play. We are here for the long term and while our Launch Weekend didn’t go as planned, we will not allow this to deter us from reaching our goals.
As we stated yesterday, we didn’t meet our expectations over the weekend (NFL Week 14); and because of that, we have made a number of decisions to make this right for you, our players. In an effort to do so, over the next few days we are going to take the steps outlined below.
- We will refund ALL ENTRY FEES for ANY ENTRY that didn’t finish in the PayoutZone in ANY of last weekend’s guaranteed contests, not just the 3 largest contests.
- For users who submitted a lineup and paid the entry fee into any of our guaranteed contests and said lineup was not scored or included in the contest standings, we are going to payout based on the place the user WOULD HAVE finished in the final contest standings had they been included. For example, if your point total for a contest would have placed you in the 3rd position within the PayoutZone, we will pay you the amount the 3rd spot earned (this will not affect anyone in the official standings published on the site).
- For users who submitted a lineup into any of our guaranteed contests and paid the entry fee for lineups that weren’t scored or included in the contest standings and finished outside of the PayoutZone, we will refund your entry fees.
- Any lineups that finished inside the PayoutZone for any contest will be paid as normal.
Once we identified the lineup issues, a small group of players did submit valid lineups and paid the entry fees prior to the contests’ closing. We opted not to insert these lineups into the contest once they were live because they could have potentially affected the contest rankings and the total lineup count within each contest. This would threaten the integrity of the contest, a result that was not acceptable to us.
We will continue to take the steps necessary to reach our goals. Part of that is to walk before we run, which will be reflected in the contests hosted over the next few weeks.
The FantasyDraft Team
While I was very disappointed as I am sure many of you were with the initial offering from Fantasy Draft as far as gameplay goes, no one could argue with the overlay or the size of their GPPs. $400,000 is a rather nice chunk of change to be playing for from a site that literally has been operational for less than a month. My only problem here is that stuff like this can not happen and especially on the first day.
Ever since Draft Kings purchased Draft Street I have been anxiously awaiting a true #3 to pop up in the DFS world. I played on Aces, DraftDay, Star Fantasy, Score Streak, and a half dozen other sites that popped up along the way. I truly believe that the guys running Fantasy Draft had a chance to step into that void and be the third wheel with upside potential. Things like this turn people off to the site and make it even harder for them to establish themselves as a viable alternative to FanDuel or DraftKings. They already are the third biggest in terms of prize pool offerings and they said all the things a true DFSer wants to hear about knowing and being ok with the fact they will overlay big time for at least the first month in existence through the end of football season. I know that the fact I was refunded my money means I will give them a Mulligan until next weekend and I am sure many others feel the same way. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so the sour taste many had will not be an easy thing for them to fix. Refunding everyone’s money was a good start as I firmly believe that will keep more users playing on the site that may have lost and said forget this place after the problems and issues they had the first week. At the very least I think this helps them keep some of the money in play and may even give them a beter chance of filling some of these tourneys next week as people who did win money now have extra to spend and everyone who lost was repaid the buy ins to replay them again this week.
As I said when I first wrote about the site and its marketing plan, they did a good job of grabbing our attention. Whether or not they are successful will come down to what it always comes down to and that is how much people enjoy the gameplay. I believe this site does have a future, but if they can not right this ship and fast I think people will move on and forget about giving them another chance. I am hopeful they can fix the problems this weekend and will be reinvesting my winnings and reimbursements back into those tourneys which I again anticipate having huge overlay. Hopefully this time it is a smooth transition, because if you go 0 for 2 right out of the gate I can not imagine many people will even bother to stick around for the strike three.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
For now though I do believe in the guys running the site and think they could have a chance here. With the guaranteed prize pools and expected overlay, I think now would be a good time for all those who have not already to sign up to get in on the action. If there is one thing that DFSers love more than anything else it is overlay and the free money that comes with it. My best advice to the players is sign up and make rosters early so you do not have to deal with the slow pace of the site when traffic spikes on a football Sunday. As for the site my best advice is make sure you right the ship. Many are willing to give you a second chance now, but if you slip up again I think you are going to turn off a lot of potential users and cost all of us some referral dough. Good Luck to Fantasy Draft on getting it right and good luck to all my readers who I know will be taking advantage of the overlay that should be offered.