Originally posted on Forbes

This last year, while the world has been hunkered down under the strain of the Covid pandemic, a completely unrelated burst of stock investment activity has risen around gambling online in the U.S. There is a long and complicated history of online poker and online gambling in the U.S. But in the last few years, due to a major U.S. Supreme Court decision, the States have been allowed to legalize online sports gambling. Companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, Fox.Bet, Skillz and others have benefited from this trend.

Today another company expanded into sports gambling, when FuboTV, the live sports streaming platform, announced its intent to acquire sports betting tech company Vigtory. In the official press releaseit was indicated that FuboTV “expects to launch a sportsbook before the end of the year.” As a major sports media outlet, Fubo will be well positioned to promote their own sports betting product.

Forbes.com contributor, Beth Kindig, wrote a foresightful articlein December where she highlighted the attractive nature of FuboTV’s stock and wrote about the likelihood of Fubo moving into sports gambling. The stock has more than doubled since then.

Fubo’s press release said, “We believe online sports wagering is a highly complementary business to our sports-first live TV streaming platform”

Vigtory was founded in 2019 by Sam Rattner and backed by SeventySix Capital. Rattner is a well-regarded digital sports entrepreneur and SeventySix Capital is a successful investment firm with deep interests in sports and related fields.

Fubo shared more of their product plans in their press release:

“Additionally, FuboTV announced today more details of its online wagering strategy, further positioning itself to enter what Zion Market Research estimates will become a $155 billion industry by 2024. Through its December 2020 acquisition of Balto Sports and its content automation software, FuboTV intends to launch a free to play gaming experience this summer. Free to play gaming, which will be available to all consumers whether or not they are FuboTV subscribers, will first launch in a standalone app and later be integrated directly into the FuboTV user experience. By leveraging the Vigtory and Balto acquisitions, FuboTV intends to launch a sportsbook app where consumers can see current betting lines, place a variety of wagers, cash in their winnings and much more across sports they love. Finally, the company expects to integrate the sportsbook into FuboTV’s live TV streaming platform for a seamless viewing and wagering experience.”

FuboTV recently shared preliminary Q4 2020 results, indicating it will exceed 545,000 paid subscribers in 2020, a 72% increase year-over-year.

Throughout the pandemic many people have talked about how their various behaviors have changed in terms of how they spend their time. Gaming has been one of the big areas where folks are spending more time. Recently one game studio, Nifty Games, who raised $12 million last year, announced that they were moving into the big leagues, with Peter Moore joining their Board of Directors.

Peter Moore has a long history of running very successful gaming companies from his early days at Sega to his leadership of Xbox, then his job as head of EA Sports, and then serving as EA’s Chief Operating Officer. More recently, Moore was the CEO of Liverpool Football Club. He recently announced he was stepping down from that position after Liverpool’s big win of the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time. Liverpool also won, under Moore’s leadership, the 2019–20 Premier League championship, their first top-flight league title in thirty years.

Peter Moore is perhaps the biggest name in sports and video gaming ever. Nifty Games looks forward to building on his reputation and connections as they build their mobile sports games, NFL Clash and NBA Clash. Nifty has licenses from both the Leagues and the Players Associations.

In an exclusive email question and answer exchange, Moore expressed big enthusiasm for the future of mobile gaming, even with his extensive background in PC and console gaming, saying he “couldn’t be more excited about what the mobile platform is able to bring in the coming years as regards even more innovative game experiences. Powerful devices, 5G connectivity, and even larger screens all point towards even greater adoption of mobile gaming.”

Moore has spent the last three years in his original homeland, the U.K., while running the Liverpool Football Club, but he is now returning to California where he spent many years. Nifty Games is based in San Francisco. When asked why he was returning to California, Moore expressed his love for California and his family saying, California is where I have spent most of my 38 years in the United States, and it’s where our children now all reside.”

Jon Middleton, the CEO of Nifty Games, said that Peter Moore is a gaming “trailblazer” in announcing the appointment of Moore to the Nifty Games Board. In an exclusive exchange with me by email, Middleton said, “In the mid 90’s, Peter ran marketing for Reebok and he left for Sega. He clearly saw the potential of gaming. Games climbed out of parent’s basements and migrated from dorm rooms to living rooms. Peter’s a proven market maker and has delivered gamers big leaps forward in gameplay repeatedly with Sega Dreamcast, Xbox 360 and EA SPORTS. As talented game creators were writing code and designing incredible digital worlds, Peter addressed gaming’s most fundamental aspect – building the gamer community. While running Xbox, he pushed for games which fostered competition, and then connected competitors online with the success of Xbox Live. Famously, he went so far as to tattoo the logo and launch date of Halo 2 on to his arm for unveiling on stage at the big gaming convention each year, E3. There’s a ton of reasons why gaming has grown from millions to billions of players worldwide, and Peter Moore is one of those reasons.”

As soon as people were ordered to stay home in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers have had a number of ways to spend their added time at home—including play games. As the chart below shows, the increases in gaming revenue has been huge, month to month, since March. In March of this year, gaming, over March of 2019, is up 34% in spending. In April of this year, gaming was up 73% over last year, same month. And this past month, May, was up 53% over May of 2019.

“Video game engagement and revenue across all platforms, including console, PC, mobile, and VR, grew globally during the Covid-19 lockdown. Video gaming is considered an affordable and accessible form of entertainment, and existing and new gamers across all demographic groups found emotional and social support in these virtual worlds. The digital transition that began a decade ago through digital downloads, games-as-services, and mobile app stores has paid off for the industry,” said Michael Cai, president of Interpret, a global video game insights agency.

Stan Kwon, CEO of Beta Hat, a market and consumer insights agency specializing in gaming, media, and emerging technologies, confirmed the rise in gaming over the last few months. “Based on a recent survey we conducted among adult gamers in the U.S., almost 60% say that they’re spending more time playing games now than they were prior to stay-at-home orders going into effect.” Kwon also reported that he sees Americans “choosing to play a wider variety of games rather than sticking to the same games they were playing before” the stay-at-home order.

Further evidence of the rise in consumer engagement with gaming during this pandemic is that Unity Technologies, the real-time 3D software development platform company, has reported that mobile game ad revenue grew 59% during April 2020 compared to April the year earlier. Unity has also reported that in-app purchases in games rose 24% in March and April of this year.

There are many different types of games available to consumers on consoles, computers, and their smartphones. About 70% of the U.S. population at least occasionally plays some sort of video or mobile game. The breadth of games available to consumers are shown in this chart that looks at the most popular game titles over the years.

Rob Dyer, chief operating officer of Capcom in the U.S., spoke to the increase in gaming seen worldwide. “While we believe there has been an increase in the frequency of people playing games given the current restrictions on going outdoors, it is possible that less leisure time will be available in the future due to factors such as reduced summer vacation time.” Dyer went on to say, “We hope our games will continue to be a source of enjoyment for people everywhere facing these challenging times.”

While it is clear that consumer engagement with gaming has increased as people have had more time at home, but what will happen when the world goes “back to normal” and time at home goes down? Michael Pachter, research analyst at Wedbush Securities and a well-known expert in the field of gaming, points out, “It’s incumbent on the gaming companies to retain the new and lapsed players” down the road.

Originally posted on Forbes

Sadly, we won’t be watching or attending any sports games for awhile (quite awhile?), but luckily your phone will help you with your “sports fix”.  New mobile sports games will be coming out from Nifty Games this year. Nifty Games is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

NFL has announced that they have signed a deal with Nifty games to publish a head-to-head football title called NFL Clash that is set to debut later this year. This is in addition to the Nifty NBA Clash game that is currently in development and planned for release this year as well.

The logo for the new NFL Clash game to be released in 2020.

NFL Clash game logo


Picture of Nifty Games, CEO, Jon Middleton.




In an interview with me, Jon Middleton said, “The competitive nature of clash-style games are a lock and key fit for mobile sports games. We will be bringing NBA and NFL Clash games to sports fans around the globe, as they compete head to head with teams comprised of their favorite pro athletes.”

Jon also talked about the early founding of Nifty Games, (It) “was founded out of a love of sports – and sports games. I grew up playing sports, watching a ton of sports on TV and my co-founder, Pete Wanat and I have been in way too many fantasy baseball and football leagues together over the years.” Clearly, Jon is a real sports fanboy!

Jon also spoke about how sports games have evolved over the years and he seems worried that the blockbuster console sports games are too real. As he said “as the games market has grown and become mass market entertainment, the sports game market has actually reduced and is laser focused on simulation and realism. While this has led to some of the greatest games of all time with the Madden, 2K and FIFA franchises, the need to improve fidelity and test the limits of gaming consoles also exposed a massive opportunity in the fastest growing and now largest videogame sector…Mobile.”

Long-term Jon sees Nifty games producing more head to head mobile quick-session sports games. As we progress, we’ll stay focused on delivering fun, authentic sports games to fans around the world with their favorite players, teams and leagues as partners. The long term goal is to build the largest competitive community of sports fans on the planet. We’re excited about the future, with mobile gaming we’ve got access to most every sports fan, of every sport, everywhere.” 

Nifty also announced that they have closed a $12 million Series A fundraising round led by March Capital Partners. Defy Partners, aXiomatic Gaming, Vulcan Capital, Courtside Ventures, Transcend Fund, Century Game and OneTeam Ventures also participated in the round. Nifty Games closed a $3 million seed round late in 2018.