On the eve of the NFL’s biggest weekend, the league announced a partnership with newly public game-tools maker Skillz for a contest to develop a league-branded multiplayer mobile title.
“Mobile gaming continues to be an important platform to reach and engage new and existing fans,” said Rachel Hoagland, the NFL’s VP of Gaming & Esports in a release. “Our agreement with Skillz provides access to a trusted platform and a highly engaged player base, making Skillz an ideal partner long term.”
Contest winners will get the NFL brand attached to their title, which Skillz CEO Andrew Paradise said in an interview could be a potentially hugely valuable differentiator.
“For an independent developer, doing a partnership with the NFL would literally not be possible,” Paradise said. “These smaller game companies would not have the resources to do that. One of the really exciting things here is the opportunity for developers of all sizes to partner with the NFL. Historically only one company has partnered with the league. We’re really democratizing the playing field for the creative community.”
Paradise said to estimate the potential value of the deal, the industry rule of thumb is that acquiring an “install,” or new customer, on iOS costs about $5 apiece in marketing and advertising. The NFL is one of a handful of the world’s most valuable sports leagues, with perhaps 500 million people familiar with the brand.
“Maybe 10 percent of (those people) will try out a game with (NFL) branding,” Paradise said.
To help encourage those installs, the winning game will run on Skillz’ tech platform, and receive marketing support from both the NFL and Skillz. The contest will launch in the second quarter of the year and likely will take around a year or so before a winner is crowned, Paradise said.
Contenders will have to create a football-based game, which will then face off in soft- launch mode online against other challengers to see which performs best with fans. Though that will require substantial development, Paradise said even losing contenders could still have a successful football game without the league brand attached.
More importantly, the contending games can be any kind of football-related title except for one, “11 v. 11 simulated games,” a genre that already has an official licensee.
That still leaves, as the league might put it, a wide-open field of opportunities in genres such as “team management, trivia, trading cards, I could go on and on,” Paradise said. “There’s a lot. A lot of genres haven’t been explored here.”
Skillz hosted 2 billion mobile multiplayer tournaments in 2020, Paradise said. It provides game developers with professional advisers, server capacity, security, customer service, player matching, anti-fraud and -cheating tools and other services.
He also said the company is seeking deals similar to the NFL partnership with other “offline sports leagues.” About a year, it signed a deal with Bolero, which owns the Pro Bowlers Association.
Skillz went public in December through a reverse merger with a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation spearheaded by SPAC veterans and former Hollywood executives Jeff Sagansky and Harry Sloan. The company’s shares hit a high today of $39.17 in early trading, roughly quadruple the company’s low after its market debut.