The growth of fantasy draft games


Over the last decade, the popularity of fantasy sport in North America has increased exponentially with over 60m active players and counting. With daily fantasy sports games available to play for the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL you are truly spoilt for choice as a sports fan. However, of all of these, it is NFL DFS which attracts the most players, which is no surprise as it was through the love of Gridiron football that fantasy sports were created.

In 1962, part owner of the Oakland Raiders Bill Winkenbach met with some friends in a New York City hotel and birthed what we now know as fantasy football. They would draft players from the NFL and now defunct AFL to their fantasy franchises and earn points based on their performance. That concept has remained the same in the 60 years since, with the advent of the internet and smartphones etc. making it a whole lot easier. Fantasy sport has now become a staple of American sporting culture, and its popularity is seemingly growing year on year. 

The advancement of technology in the late 20th-21st century has helped boost the accessibility of dfs, in turn increasing participation numbers. The inception of the internet in the 90s saw the original boom for fantasy sports, leading it all the way through to the noughties. It was at this time that we saw the player base leap from 500,000 in 1988 to an incredible 15 million by 2003. The ability to play fellow dfs players from up and down the country, and even across the entire world, as opposed to just your friends from work was a huge pulling point and undoubtably setup Fantasy sports for the future. 

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The move to online fantasy sports means it really has never been easier to start your NFL dfs team. Use your smartphone or laptop to quickly create an account with Draftkings, navigate to the fantasy football section and you can start drafting your team. With tonnes of competitive leagues for players of all abilities, there is something for everyone with Draftkings fantasy football. They offer you the chance to win huge on their most popular leagues, where you will compete against thousands of other players to crown yourself as the King or Queen of fantasy football.

Something else that has accelerated the growth of fantasy sports is the link between dfs and video gaming, which has also exploded in the 21st century. Sports video games like Madden NFL, NBA 2K and FIFA are amongst the most popular in the world and the introduction of franchise modes in these games, which is incredibly similar to fantasy sports, has undoubtably pushed people towards playing. 

There may even be science behind why DFS has become so popular. Researchers at MIT conducted a study that concluded that the performance of fantasy players is based on their skill at playing as opposed to pure luck. Associate dean of engineering Anette Hosoi said of the findings “Some [fantasy] players may know more about statistics, rules of the game, which players are injured, effects of weather, and a host of other factors that make them better at picking players — that’s the skill in fantasy sports,”. After growing up in the age of the internet, millennials have become generally attracted to hobbies that are innovative and tricky, so the world of fantasy sports is the proverbial match made in heaven

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Fantasy sports have become so big that they have essentially become a sub-culture of sport itself. During any given season, thousands of hours are dedicated to radio, video content, podcasts, newsletters etc. based around fantasy sports and the strategy around it. It has got so big that major sports networks have even dedicated a portion of their programming to helping fantasy players. The NFL Network’s ‘Red Zone’ channel is referred to by themselves as “The perfect fantasy football companion”. It is such a cultural phenomenon that research from the FSGA has shown that 64% of players are now watching more sport as a direct result of their pastime. 

Fantasy sports have well and truly infiltrated the collective psyches of American sports fans. Whether you’re at the bar, around the water cooler at work or barbecuing with family; when you talk about the big game you in turn talk about what it meant for your DFS team. It has been made even bigger by the fact that you are now playing for not just bragging rights, but huge cash prizes with Draftkings. The changing demographics in fantasy football also mean that it has started to become a favourite amongst female sports fans, furthering its growth and making the game itself even more exciting with more players. Daily fantasy sports are here to stay, and they may not even be anywhere near their peak just yet. 


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