FanDuel Faceoff: Are skill games the next big thing?

Rob Gronkowski
Image: Shutterstock / Debby Wong

One of the most under-discussed emerging verticals in online gaming is skill games. Many think that these games are exclusive to smaller companies far removed from gambling. However, FanDuel is not only investing time and money into its skill game offering, FanDuel Faceoff, it is investing star power as well.

As FanDuel Faceoff General Manager Aaron Champagne explained to SBC Americas, the company started thinking seriously about the face during the pandemic.

“Obviously the pandemic kind of opened up our mind that, ‘Hey, we should find what’s exciting for consumers that’s not just tied to live sports,’ as it’s also important from a business perspective and a consumer perspective. We wanted to find a way for consumers to engage with FanDuel outside of the live game experience in our sportsbook and DFS products,” he explained.

FanDuel Faceoff offers F2P and real money contests

FanDuel Faceoff allows users to play a series of games ranging from sports-inspired games to word games featuring familiar brands like Boggle and Wheel of Fortune to more arcade-style games like a riff on Tetris.

Users can play for free, they can play for money, and they can even challenge their own friends to a little friendly competition. The platform uses an algorithm to measure a person’s skill at a given game and matches them to comparable competitors to ensure no one gets repeatedly crushed by expert players.

There is potential to win money, but the casual nature of the games hopefully can draw new users into the FanDuel universe who might not be interested in pure gambling.

“As you step back and you think wider, at FanDuel our core consumers are interested in gaming, sportsbook, DFS, and racing. This is also another way for us to engage folks who may not be as interested in those types of products,” Champagne said. “I think that’s what really attracted us. It was a nice overlap among existing customers but also for people who may not have tried or engaged with FanDuel in the past.”

Faceoff is connected to the rest of FanDuel because the app uses the same login and wallet as the rest of the products. However, the games are not integrated into the app that houses the other products. FanDuel Faceoff has its own separate app but uses the same login. As Champagne explained, this is by design.

FanDuel Faceoff separate from sportsbook and casino app

“[FanDuel Faceoff] is a very different business than our sportsbook business or our casino business or our daily fantasy business. So we wanted to keep the product separate. They all share the same account, so you can log in on any one of the products, but having the separate app allows us to innovate and develop new games very quickly. That flexibility of having a separate platform was very intentional, especially in a category that’s rapidly evolving.”

While the skill game category is unregulated and a little different than actual gambling, the shared account helps FanDuel offer the same responsible gambling tools that are available on the sportsbook or online casino app. Users can self-exclude or limit how often they deposit or play on the app.

“Because Faceoff is on the account and wallet that we share across sportsbook, casino, and fantasy, all the RG tooling that we have in place for those, be a deposit limit or an entry type of limit, are available. Our RG tooling goes across all products in the FanDuel system, so that’s another advantage to being on the shared accountant wallet.”

Another benefit of sharing resources with the other FanDuel products? Working with brand ambassadors.

Gronk embraced the opportunity to create Faceoff game

Jordan Spieth has his name and likeness on Jordan Spieth’s Fairway Frenzy while Rob Gronkowski has a game involving, of all things, cornhole.

“After we announced the partnership [with Gronkowski], we had told him all about Faceoff and that we thought it would be a great opportunity to really collaborate and build a game together. And he was just absolutely psyched,” Champagne recalled.

“He didn’t want to do a football game, which I thought was really interesting. He wanted to do something that was just totally different and more meshing with his personality. So we came with, like, seven options, pool and darts and a number of things. And he saw cornhole as an option and immediately said, ‘That’s the only game I want.’”

Gronkowski weighed in on every facet of the game, including suggesting to set it at Gronk Beach. As someone who grew up playing the game with family, he also had strong opinions about the proper way to throw. The end result, Gronk Spike Cornhole, was truly a collaborative effort between FanDuel and the star.

With opportunities for partners to augment their brand with a game that has more broad appeal than some of the other products in the arsenal, this could be just the start of the stars with games on FanDuel Faceoff.

As the industry deals with a slowdown of new states legalizing online casinos and sportsbooks, FanDuel might not be the only group looking at how to grow using verticals besides those. Five years into the repeal of PASPA, the time has come for operators to think beyond the low-hanging fruit of customers eager to bet on sports, and the skill game industry is probably something they should be thinking about.