Last month, Reddit introduced a new feature called “Predictions,” based on the old feature “Reddit Polls.” Predictions is a new posting format that allows a moderator to set up a Prediction Tournament which other users can join. The Tournament is a series of questions about the outcomes of sports games, reality TV shows, esports matches, or even the stock market. Users bet tokens on their answers to each question until they run out of tokens or the tournament ends.
Reddit’s Predictions feature is one of many features rolled out by platforms jumping on the predictive engagement bandwagon. In 2020, Facebook (now Meta) put out an app called Forecast, which allows users to predict the outcomes of world events or individual sporting matches. One of the goals is to generate discussions between users.
That same year Mammoth Media introduced a Snapchat game called Prediction Master which is similar to Facebook’s app.
Reddit, Facebook, and other companies saw an opportunity. The rise of predictive apps is part of a larger trend of companies looking for new solutions to building online communities. Polls and predictions do this by actively inviting user participation. Also, they’re just fun.
Perhaps nowhere is the rise of predictor apps a bigger deal than in sports. Some of the most popular topics for Reddit’s Prediction Tournaments and Facebook’s Forecast are traditional and nontraditional sports.
But fan predictions are nothing new for sports. Fantasy leagues – for football, baseball, soccer, and even golf – have tens of millions of players. Even people who don’t watch basketball fill out March Madness brackets.
And of course, one of the oldest traditions in sports, a practice that has long gone hand in hand with competitive athletics, is gambling. Betting on games has always been controversial. But in 2018, a Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates for online sports betting, and since then it has exploded in popularity. In 2020, U.S. sports gambling market saw $1 billion in revenue.
But sports betting has a dark side. Some commentators have noted that the confluence of 24/7 mobile access with an inherently addictive activity can fuel dangerous gambling addictions. While some users can successfully manage their betting, others will become problem gamblers, with negative ramifications for their finances and relationships.
Notably, Reddit does not plan to monetize their Predictions feature, perhaps to discourage gambling.
But Versus Systems’ XEO platform offers an alternative. XEO’s Predictive Gaming feature allows users to earn points for correctly guessing the outcomes of sporting events (and even for correct guesses about action during the events). There is no gambling involved. But Predictive Gaming winners earn prizes, typically DLC and coupons for real-world products.
These are tangible rewards with monetary value. But there is no risk to the player. The XEO Platform is free to play and users are never asked for money, nor can they choose to place bets. Instead, the points they earn build towards these rewards.
It’s like gambling without the risk – but still with the potential to earn prizes with real value. Predictor apps like Versus’ XEO platform solve the dilemma presented by online sports betting, by delivering the same excitement without the harmful downsides.
This past July, Versus Systems deployed their interactive platform to power fan engagement at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo, which took place in Salt Lake City. This event was part of the World Champions Alliance Triple Crown of Rodeo.
Throughout the rodeo, fans had opportunities to pick the winners of various events (Pick the Podium) through the XEO Platform. Crucially, both fans at the rodeo in person, and fans watching on TV, had access to all of the polls and predictive gaming XEO offered. Before the rodeo, Tommy Joe Lucia, the General Manager for the Days of ’47 Rodeo, said, “This will be a great new addition for our fans at the Days of ’47 and will help us expand our Cowboy Games and Rodeo to all attendees and viewers. The top 10 finishers in total points will be awarded prizes at the conclusion of the event.”
By all accounts, he was right. Predictive Gaming was a success, no doubt in part due to the excitement generated by those prizes.
But what makes XEO’s Predictive Gaming so popular?
There are a variety of reasons why predictions generate high levels of engagement, but one of those reasons is that people like having their opinion asked. Fans like participating in the discussion about their favorite teams. Guessing match outcomes, and handicapping those guesses, is a major part of that discussion.
Winning rewards also helps drive engagement. But more than that, the potential to earn rewards drives fan engagement more than the rewards themselves. Chance and uncertainty stimulate the human brain. Predictive gaming is exciting for the same reason that gambling is exciting: the potential for a payoff. The chance to win, and to win something valuable. The hope of a reward is more powerful than the reward itself. When fans know they might make enough correct predictions to win, but don’t know for certain, every one of them thinks, “Somebody’s got to win. And this time, it might be me.” This keeps them playing.
The reason Versus is reaching around 1 million fans a week is that the XEO platform enhances the fan experience. Fans like it. NFL games, MLB playoffs, and even rodeos are all more exciting when you get the chance to play along with predictive gaming. But unlike Reddit and Facebook, the XEO platform offers so much more than predictive gaming. It creates an entirely new, second-screen experience.
Predictive gaming is here to stay. Fans love it. And by eliminating the downsides of gambling, while still keeping the possibility for rewards, predictive gaming is one of the most positive trends in modern sports-watching.
So, when do you guess will Versus hit 2 million users a week?