The day Yahoo! releases the Fantasy Premier League game for the new season. Any day I get to hear about product innovation. Any day I get to discuss web design. Any day I find out about new and exciting opportunities for me and the team of writers that have come together for RotoWorld’s Premier League section. What do these things have in common? First, each of them alone is capable of making a day a good one for me. Second, I had the opportunity to experience all four in one hour of conversation last week which made that a heck of an hour.
The good people that run the Yahoo! Fantasy Premier League game were nice enough to give me a preview of what is the first major redesign of the FPL game in quite some time. The design is new and very much improved. There are also a number of changes to how the game is played. Finally, Yahoo! and RotoWorld are teaming up to infuse the RotoWorld content that our team creates directly into the game in a way that we never approached when Jeremy and I were writing directly for Yahoo! UK a number of years ago. I came out of the hour extremely enthusiastic about the plans for the game and, even more so than usual, counting down the days until the game is released for fantasy managers to start playing with.
Here are the details of the major changes grouped into categories along with my take on those changes:
Any change in visual design will take a little while to get used to – especially for long time players who have been used to a fairly constant way of doing things – but my guess is that users will quickly come to appreciate the new design. The look and feel is much more in keeping with what you’d expect from modern web design. It is much more colorful in keeping with the notion that, at the end of the day, this is about soccer and not managing an equity portfolio. The other positive change is that there will be more interconnectivity between pages with key elements “traveling” with managers from page to page rather than requiring a new click.
For the first time in recent memory, there are major changes in how the game is actually played. The first thing I want to emphasize here is that the core element that separates the Yahoo! game from the PremierLeague.com game and others – the richness and variety of the statistics used to calculate player performance – is largely unchanged. There are a few, very minor, tweaks but at the end of the day, points will be accumulated in the same ways that they have been for years with this game. Another important feature of the Yahoo! game – UNLIMITED TRANSFERS – will also remain the same.
Now that you’ve heard what won’t be changing, here’s what has changed?
Live Scoring – No more need to try to calculate points for your players in your head! The game will have a near-real time feed that will keep managers updated on the minute of the match and the number of points that the player has scored up to that point in the match. These live scores will be unofficial and there will, from time-to-time, be adjustments as the game’s data provider, Opta, finalizes their analysis and official rulings (e.g., dubious goals panel) are made.
Benches – Managers will now have 15 player slots – 11 starters and 4 bench players – on their squad. Similarly to the PL.com game, points accumulated by the starting 11 will count and substitutes will come into play in a pre-determined order when one of a manager’s starting players does not feature at all in a match.
Captains – Another popular feature of other fantasy games that is being co-opted here is the notion of a captain that accumulates double points for the week.
Auto-pick – So, imagine you realize that half of the players on your current squad will not be playing in the upcoming match week just as the deadline is approaching. The new auto-pick feature will run an algorithm that will select an optimized line-up for you based on your existing budget and the number of empty places you have in your line-up. I don’t recommend using it too frequently but in a pinch it’s a nice thing to have.
Social Media Integration – You will easily be able to create leagues among your Facebook friends via Yahoo’s integration tool. Just select the FB friends you want to invite and click and you’re ready to go.
As much as I’m looking forward to all of the above in the new version of the game, the thing I’m MOST looking forward to is the tight integration of our RotoWorld content – Player News and Feature Articles – directly into the game interface. If you pull up a “player card” to see their statistics, you’ll also see the latest news from RotoWorld about injuries, suspensions, and line-up trends that might impact that player’s value. No longer will you have to spend all of your time clicking from site to site looking for the latest on a player you THINK might be worth picking, it will all be there in one place for you.
In addition to news items from around the web infused with the opinion of one of our team of RotoWorld Premier League analysts, you’ll also get what we hope is great feature content. For those of you who have been reading myself, Jeremy and/or Nik over the years, the editorial calendar won’t change too much with Schedule Analysis, Player Picks and Injury and Suspension Analysis being the major pillars. We’ll also be working on some additional features to keep things fresh and moving forward.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Yahoo! isn’t done with their improvements. In the near term – sometime this season – there will be changes that will improve the ability of users and groups to create things like private knock-out cup competitions. In the longer term – next year or beyond – things like adding new statistics (I’m personally a big advocate of “Chances Created”), different ways to arrive at pricing for players who are new to the league, and different types of private league play are all in the conversation.
Yahoo! has set a goal to become the best Fantasy Premier League game experience in the world. You will see the first iteration very soon and we here at RotoWorld are very happy to be an integral part of it. Over time, as you experience this version, there will be opportunities to let you suggestions – anywhere from minor tweaks to major evolutions – be known. We can’t promise that every idea will come to fruition but we can promise that ideas that make it to us will be heard and that Yahoo! is committed to creating a great experience.
As you can see, we all have a lot to look forward to this season and that's before most of the summer's transfer activity has been finalized.