Last week it was announced that SuperCoach and Dream Team (or ‘AFL Fantasy’ as it looks set to be called) would be undergoing big changes in 2013.
The reaction from fans has so far been mixed: some are justifiably disappointed, while others are embracing the evolution.
Unsurprisingly, the decision to implement significant structural changes to the games has been a hot topic of conversation this past week. So hot, in fact, that it has largely overshadowed another important announcement.
I am talking of course about the introduction of a free draft-based fantasy competition to complement both Dream Team and SuperCoach – to be available alongside the traditional salary cap versions.
The draft-based format has been available in previous seasons, but has struggled to ignite user enthusiasm, due largely to the fact that it has never been free.
Although other draft-based AFL fantasy competitions have existed for some time, many are operated by smaller, lesser known organisations. As a result, the draft-based format has never managed to lure the mainstream audience in Australia.
In 2013 however, 600,000+ Dream Team and SuperCoach users will, for the first time, be offered a free and convenient way to enter the realm of draft-based fantasy sports. The only question is, will they embrace the opportunity?
In the United States, the ‘fantasy draft’ lies at the heart of all the most popular fantasy sport games.
With participation levels in North America now estimated to be in excess of 35 million people, it is hard to see any reason why Australian fantasy sports enthusiasts won’t also embrace the style.
Until now, the two major players in the AFL fantasy sports arena have never pushed the draft-based format, as users were seemingly satisfied with the games with which they were supplied.
However, after both Dream Team and SuperCoach experienced diminished participation levels in 2012, it seems as though the decision has been made to test user interest in a draft-based format.
This is an exciting development for all AFL fantasy sports enthusiasts.
The barriers which have previously kept many unenthusiastic have now been removed, allowing players the opportunity to reap a new range of fantasy frustration and elation – and of course deal with all the challenges that come along the way.
At this point it is hard to predict whether the recent changes to the traditional versions of Dream Team and SuperCoach will result in an improvement in user experience or an increase in participation levels – only time will reveal this.
However, the latest design changes could prove negligible in the wake of a surge of interest in the draft-based format.
Perhaps this currently understated addition to AFL fantasy sports games in 2013 will be the change that was needed all along.
At the end of the day, 35 million people surely don’t lie.