Players Lounge: The Future of Social GamingBy David Bloom
Players’ Lounge: The Future of Social Gaming
It’s no secret that skilled video game players like to see where they stand relative to all the other players online. Every game, from FIFA to Call of Duty, provides worldwide rankings for their players.
Take FIFA for example. With over 10M copies sold in 2017 alone, the community of players is enormous. These players dedicate hours to playing online, all while spending real currency on virtual players and upgrades, to help their team stack up with the best. The Ultimate Team modes in EA’s FIFA, Madden and NHL franchises earn around $650 million annually, according to EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensenen. The top players hope to monetize their skills by streaming games on Twitch, or putting up match highlights on Youtube.
These elite streamers on Twitch have over two million followers on their channel. While this has allowed a select few to make money, the vast majority of players are stuck playing in games that have little to no meaning outside of pure entertainment. One of the reasons this is true is because there has never been a simple way for these players to bet real money on games.
From both a legal and a manpower perspective, it never made sense for PlayStation or Xbox to produce their own betting platforms.
This is where Players’ Lounge comes in.
Players’ Lounge allows anyone to make money playing video games.
How It Works
Players’ Lounge, now just over four years old and recently accepted into the W18 batch of Y Combinator, provides players of all the major sports titles like FIFA, Madden, and NBA 2k a platform to securely and legally bet money on their games. Players’ can set wagers on individual games or pay entry fees to tournaments in the hope of taking home a greater payout.
In the past two years, over $2 million dollars has been wagered on the platform. While impressive, Players’ Lounge traction is not all too unexpected given the fast growth and size of the eSports betting market. According to Statist, the entire eSports betting market is expected to reach $1.81 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2020, a whopping 75x growth from the $24 million estimated for 2015. Though there are other players in this burgeoning market, such as GamerSaloon, stagnation in design and innovation has led to poor user experience and retention. Players’ lounge hopes to differentiate and outcompete by having a manic focus on creating the most enjoyable, yet competitive, platform for gamers worldwide.
Players’ Lounge started when two friends, Zach Dixon and Austin Woolridge, began hosting local FIFA tournaments in New York after becoming frustrated with online match-making where it was common to be paired against an opponent of drastically different skill level. Through their local tournaments, they became passionate about making video games more competitive and soon formed a team with Dan Delaney and Mark Murphy, two frequent players in Dixon and Wooldridge’s tournaments, to build a company around this concept. That is how Players’ Lounge emerged.
Zach Dixon, one of Players’ Lounge’s founders.
From 2014 to 2016 the four-man team balanced full-time jobs, the graduate MBA program at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and living in different parts of the country with running an early-stage startup.
How Berkeley Helped
In 2016, Players’ Lounge was accepted into Berkeley’s LAUNCH Program. LAUNCH is a three-month-long student ran campus accelerator that pairs each cohort of roughly twenty-five companies with mentors and the resources to build an enduring company. In the same year, they also won Bear Trap, the startup competition hosted by Berkeley Entrepreneurship Association and raised $20,000 from First Round Capital’s student-run venture firm Dorm Room Fund. With a bit of funding and recognition under their belts, the team went full-time and moved out to New York City.
Currently, the team is back in California for the Y Combinator program and is incessantly focused on user growth and monetization. They are launching new games on the platform, including Street Fighter and Call of Duty, but are wary of adding games too quickly for fear of diluting the user experience.
Outside of growth, Players’ Lounge is also mindful of potential legal hurdles because their platform facilitates the exchange of money over a game, which can be classified as gambling. Taking inspiration from FanDuel and DraftKings, the team has sought out counsel state by state to ensure their operations are within the law.
The story of Players’ Lounge is long from over and they are excited for the coming months, especially with the upcoming YC Demo day in March. They hope to continue adding games, including titles outside of the sports world, like the widely popular Fortnight. Whatever the future holds, all of us at StartU are looking forward to seeing what Players’ Lounge can accomplish!