Fantasy sports is a billion-dollar business, and at this rate, esports won’t be too far behind.
This year, for the first time, eminently popular daily fantasy sports came to esports. Sites like Vulcun and Alphadraft offered fans the ability to compete in daily fantasy leagues similar to massive fantasy sports sites like Fanduel, which handed out $400 million in prizes last year, with players earning anywhere from a few cents to thousands of dollars.
Vulcun offered guarantees of $250,000 in prizes at the start of the League Championship Series season. Less than one month later, it upped that number to $1 million, thanks to the overwhelming response for to the product.
Today, after another month, that number is quadrupling again. Vulcun is guaranteeing $4 million in prizes for the 2015 year.
It’s also expanding to a new game, the first esports daily league to move outside of just League of Legends. Dota 2 contests will begin later this week.
“We had no idea that in just eight weeks we’d have a $4 million prize pool,” founder Ali Moiz said. “But the response from the LoL community has been so tremendous that it has blown us away. Active user participation allows us to grow our prize pools. I am deeply humbled and grateful to the community for making Vulcun the the No. 1 place where they choose to play Fantasy eSports games. We’re growing 10 percent each week.”
In daily fantasy esports, competitors enter a contest by paying an entry fee and pick a team of players that fit under a salary cap, with an algorithm determining each player’s cost based off factors like past performance and schedule.
In most of its contests, Vulcun takes 20 percent of the entry fees, with 80 percent distributed among the contest winners. That means Vulcun isn’t paying anything for a full contest, and that the prize pool boost really is driven by fan participation, and not outside investment. It can guarantee that $4 million number because so many people have already ponied up to play.
The addition of Dota 2 marks an entrance into a brave new world, but that’s something Vulcun, and its competitors like Alphadraft, have been doing all season long. Both opened as LCS-only products, focusing on the biggest League of Legends competition in the West. The LCS and its regular schedule and large slate of games makes it easy to participate in. But both companies have been steadily expanding.
Vulcun added challenger scene matches and the Chinese League of Legends Pro League (LPL) this month. Alphadraft implemented League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) contests 10 days ago. This weekend, Vulcun dove into tournament play with the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice event.
That sets the stage for participation in a new game—Dota 2. While Dota features many regular leagues, its biggest events are live tournaments held over a weekend such as IEM.
It’s a big step forward for fantasy esports sites—and another thing that makes them similar to their sports brethren, which host contests for football, baseball, soccer, basketball, and everything in between.
The $4 million prize total puts the “Fanduel of esports,” as Moiz once called Vulcun, one step closer to reaching the $400 million handed out for daily fantasy sports leagues at Fanduel last year. And hey, if it continues quadrupling in size every month, it’ll surpass that total in July.
That’s obviously a pipe dream, but the growth of fantasy esports is meteoric. There’s no telling when it will slow down.