Listen all y’all: fantasy 2014 launch issues

Let’s take a step back this week before going all Buddy Rich.

Reading about the failed launch of NRL Fantasy this week leading to the announcement of a parallel competition starting in round 4 has been a sobering reminder that fantasy sports is a hard service to operate. Fan Hub Media was awarded the contract to both the AFL and NRL fantasy competitions around six months ago. In that space of time, they had to adapt the code they had already written to deliver the Luxbet salary cap comp to the AFL and NRL environments and meet a much larger set of needs with a bunch of new league and social media features, plus matchday games, plus create mobile apps from scratch, plus build a paywall behind which they could park a bunch of new content which they also had to support, plus build private draft league applications which are even more complex than salary cap. All these things had to be written, tested and bedded down in between strategy and progress meetings with league suits in Melbourne and Sydney, plus dealing with Telstra management and all their needs as well. In six months. Mm hmm.

In short, I was fully expecting this sort of thing to happen. If you thought shifting providers away from VirtualSports after their ten years of service running the previously official AFL and NRL Dream Teams was going to be smooth as a baby’s bum, then you haven’t been paying attention. Even fantasy sports luminaries like CBS Sports have had massive fails in launching new code in the past, as with the 2012 relaunch of their iOS app, but are now counted among the best of breed. VS (a.k.a. VaporMedia) had some similar teething problems back in the day too, and we fantasy coaches lived through them okay and bounced back better than ever (not to mention FanFooty had its fair share before the advent of the cloud!). In fact, based on FanFooty’s early traffic figures for 2014, we were poised for a bounce back this year from the problems that started two years ago when the byes were introduced, with match liveblog traffic up 80% year-on-year.

That is not to say that it was a bad decision by Telstra, acting on behalf of the AFL, to change providers. You might swear something to this effect if you lose your team as some have done in NRL Fantasy, but the bigger picture is what I look at. VS was the root cause of the 2012 bye issue that caused the current drop in general popularity of AFL fantasy, because they twigged too late that the rules should have been changed to prevent an avalanche of donuts. It is healthy for everyone that there is some competition to drive innovation, and that will still be true once the initial problems subside and Fan Hub has time to steady all the spinning plates. You could certainly argue the toss about time frame, but Telstra don’t have limitless budgets to fund the three to six extra months of development that was probably needed to make everything tickety boo before first whistle.

I am posting this now because I expect there to be some wailing and gnashing of teeth next week, as the AFL Fantasy platform will probably not cope with the added demand of lockout-mageddon. The decision to give everyone unlimited trades after round 1 will look wiser as the days go on, and hopefully prevent a disaster like the parallel comp concept. The NRL boys took one for the team so Fan Hub will have learned some lessons, but it’s a bit late in the piece to be implementing them now and the numbers are even larger in the AFL for fantasy – already 126,000 coaches with completed teams. (By way of comparison if you count the IDs of new teams in the VS system as an indicator, AFL Supercoach has over 165,000 registrations so far, and AFL Dream Team would not be much over 20,000 at this still early point.)

My advice would be: set your team as early as possible, i.e. now, and don’t mess with it in the last few days lest the gremlins eat your team!

6 Comments

  1. Mr.Craig

    March 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Certainly sound advice about setting the team early, I’ve already filled in my Match Day teams for the round too.

    Obviously the early experience with FanHub has been…rocky and will likely get worse before it gets better. A few glitches here and there in Classic but as mentioned the real challenge is ahead of us. Elite is a mess, both in terms of navigation, layout and the fact I can’t trade free agents into my team because the site seems to think there is a round in progress. While I’m happy to see Match Day growing, I’m baffled by the decision to reduce teams from 8 to 7.

  2. Dmac07

    March 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I can understand the great difficulty in getting everything right, its pretty complex stuff that I don’t pretend to know how to do myself. However, this is a big professional organisation running things, not some guy in his shed. They new what they were getting into, and if they couldn’t deliver why take it on? Sure, you expect SOME glitches, but this has been a constant steam. AFL fantasy have completely deleted teams, gone offline for 10 hours+ at a time, deleted peoples league competitions, released an app that was almost completely unusble and crashed every few minutes, along with half the features not working, saved changes to teams regularly weren’t saved and people had thier old teams when they logged back in.

    Anyone involved in business knows the absolute importance of getting your product right at launch. If you open a resteraunt and give people food poisening on opening night, youll go out of business, even if you end up with brilliant food after that. If you make machine parts, and the first batch explode once installed, your not getting another contract to produce more, even if you could produce the worlds best. Not making light of the difficulty of the job Fan Hub Media had in taking over, but if they were too short sighted to forsee this difficulty, and put the necessary work into the job, then they have stuffed up. The dollars spent on a few more staff or a bit more time on the project might have netted them an extra 50’000 users, money well spentI think for their future return.

  3. salver11

    March 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    You’ve nailed it Monty, the FanHub facebook page has gone into melt down with a mother load of abuse. We have a cash league and this is going to ruin it as I know at least half the players would have been entering or at least changing their teams today. It’s funny how today of all days is the first time I’ve loaded the AFL.com.au website and there isn’t one article mentioning fantasy footy, guess they don’t want to deliver more people to a failing product. I suppose there’s no point promoting Warne dog and the boys work if the server can’t handle the traffic! Wonder if we’ll hear anything negative from those boys.

    This is just another Dagger through the heart of AFL fantasy players. I feel the whole fantasy landscape is a bit like the rules committee at the moment, change for change sake! It’s worked out well so far.

  4. gg

    March 25, 2014 at 3:53 am

    what a load of cr#p!! cant take this article serious!!! are you seriously trying to defend a big muli national- tell people to expect there are going to be problems- charge people for a premium coaches package that you know will NOT work and then expect people to be understanding????

    you are a deadset flog my friend- let me guess- you get some sort of sponsorship deal trying to defend the indefensible???

    if they knew there was going to be seething problems then wait another year!!!!!!!!! Dont aggravate and waste our time researching good teams and then use us as guinea pigs to help improve a product.

    hahahahaha this article is an absolute disgrace and you cannot be taken serious. fantasy AFL— dont waste your time this year people. they dont even have a match centre.

    lets see- try and steal someone elses product ie virtualsports, make it worse than the original, make it impossible to login in at the last minute which are the most vital times to make changes and then have the system continue to be useless 2 months+ into the season.

    sorry- but cant take this article seriously at all!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. leonard sialeipata

    June 9, 2014 at 9:09 am

    hello
    you have direct debited 4x payments of $4.99 for a service i have not used
    NRL fantasy team
    starting 7 march every month please stop or i will take legal action

  6. Pingback: And they’re racing: 2015 Australian fantasy industry update – FanFooty

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