scorecardCan’t hit a ball? You can still play cricket in the metaverse
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Can’t hit a ball? You can still play cricket in the metaverse

Can’t hit a ball? You can still play cricket in the metaverse
Business4 min read
  • Fantasy Sports Platforms are on the rise in India with revenues tripling since FY20.
  • The next phase of fantasy sports will have AI generated avatars competing.
  • Meta11, one such AI-generated FSP, aims to earn revenue via hosting original content and streaming the games.


The ICC World Cup fever is gripping the nation. Right from stock brokers to central bank governors, few are able to make a statement without a cricket pun. But that’s not where the fun stops. It’s also the season for cricket lovers to engage in fantasy gaming. It’s now a serious business with revenues tripling in the ongoing financial year from FY20, according to a Deloitte report.

Seasoned cricket players are taking to this as well and former Sri Lankan skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, has co-founded one such company -- Meta11, an AI-generated fantasy sports platform, which aims to earn revenue via hosting original content and streaming the games.

Business Insider India caught up with Sangakkara and Krishan Deegalla, CEO of Behaviol, the company focusing on bringing fantasy sports on the metaverse via Meta11. Edited excerpts.

Question:
Sangakkara, you are one of the few cricketers who is also a startup founder. Why does the business of fantasy sport interest you?


Sangakkara:
It came from a thinking that – how do we really give everyone access to cricket? Not everyone has the ability to pick up a bat and ball and play. But there's so much love for this sport. How do we actually make sure that cricket is for everyone? Web based gaming has a great opportunity for that.

That was the starting point for this and then when we brainstormed and came up with the concept of Meta11. It has AI controlled avatars playing the sport, being able to predict outcomes and others.

It's amazing to see so many people being able to live out their cricketing dreams on our platform, and that is the real key – cricket is for everyone.

Cricket has such a strong emotional connection. Once you're a cricket fan, you're always a cricket fan. Who knows, some of our strategies and tactics and game moments might even influence tactical decision making later on in real life cricket as well.

Question
If I don't know the first thing about playing cricket other than watching it, am I a target audience?


Sanga
Anyone can play this because the avatars are artificial intelligence led. So, they learn as a player in the game. If you own your own avatar, you can expose your avatar to training to more match play, the more experience they get they learn on their own. It's a great tool to spread awareness about cricket as well in its globalisation drive.

Question
There are a lot of fantasy gaming apps in India. How do you differentiate yourself?

Sanga
Our game is so simple to log in, and you play the game and you get rewards for playing not for paying. Our tech platform, our avatars, our digital creations are cutting edge and industry leading in terms of cricket games out there. So we are very differentiated and we want to keep to that model.

Question
Do you have any plans to introduce match-wise games like normal fantasy sports?

Krishan
We want to see how we can connect the digital worlds and the physical, the real cricket. There is an opportunity for us to bring that into play. Where in the game, you can create a super avatar, or super digital player. You can pick five players out of both squads. And if that player does well in real life, you can earn points. We will never do just a fantasy app. It will always be linked to the game.

Sanga
It has the ability to drop real world cricketers into the game as well. A franchise team can play real world cricket and a fan community can play against each other on our platform.

Question
So, is there a possibility that one day we could be teammates on this platform?

Sanga
Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. You could play against me, you could play against other cricketers. Hopefully, you could play against your friends, your family members.

Question
Could you explain how you intend to increase engagement, and make it more interesting for the not-so-avid fan?

Krishan

To get the engagement, ownership is a key, allowing people to have that meaningful relationship with digital avatars. We have to train them, and create our own teams. We are also having tournaments, which will be team leagues to the platform exciting.

Question
The government has introduced 28% GST on fantasy gaming. Is that a cause for worry and will it eat into your earnings?

Sanga
I think that (28% GST) that's for the pay-to-play model. Ours is free-to-play. No user has to put his/her own money into playing. It's a very different kind of foundation we work on.

Krishan
If you look at traditional fantasy games, they rely on real games. There is no real content there. With us, we generate our own content. All the content that gets streamed, is owned by us. Now, we have a pathway to monetise this and give rewards back to the users. It's like organising real games. We can also expect sponsorship money, streaming rights and we can distribute it back to the community.

Question
You talked about streaming. If you could go into the monetisation aspect of it.

Krishan
We had 30,000 users on the first day. There is a huge appetite for advertising on alternative channels apart from Google, Facebook etc. That is why if you look at IPL TV rights it goes for billions of dollars. So, I think we will be a good alternative for that. The game is exciting. People will be able to relate to it and that means it will be engaging. With that we should be able to monetise it – through sponsorships and streaming.

Question
What’s the vision for Meta11 down the line?

Krishan
It is quite an evolution to have AI characters play cricket and allow people to own them. Within this framework, we have opportunities that even we have not thought about. I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities. The vision still remains to allow democratising the sport and give access to the masses. And to keep on making the platform interesting and scalable.

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