Wedge Buster Gets $2.2 Million in Superstar Athlete Backing to Offer Sports Gaming Crack to Young Males
Social and mobile gaming are growing like crazy, but both markets are in desperate need of a leader in sports content. No company has really attacked the vertical, let alone seen anywhere near the success that has been achieved in console gaming.
Los Angeles-based social sports gaming platform-maker Wedge Buster is doing more than simply throwing its name in the ring. The company founded by a team of sports media, social gaming, and fantasy sports industry veterans is announcing tremendous early engagement for its Facebook social gaming platform coming out of alpha today and now $2.2 million in seed investment from Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees, pro skater and entertainment mogul Rob Dyrdek, 37 Technology Ventures, among other prominent angels and gaming and media industry leaders.
Since its launch less than one year ago, Wedge Buster has acquired and developed more than 100 individual games, all available within a single platform. Despite limited marketing during its alpha phase, the app has registered more than 250,000 users who are spending an average of 13 minutes per session, multiple times a day.
“I’ve been working in social gaming and fantasy sports for more than a decade and [can see] that the current model for sports gaming in social and mobile is broken,” says Wedge Buster co-founder and CEO Scott Philp.
The key to Wedge Buster’s early success has been bringing head-to-head asynchronous competition and challenges to the sports vertical. The model incentivizes social interaction in a way that has not been seen before in this space.
Another key to this model is its platform approach where users can quickly move between various games within a single ecosystem, earning transferable points and rewards and playing familiar opponents in each case. As users earn more ranking and skill points, they gain access to additional features and private competitions making the experience extremely addictive.
While the majority of social gaming hits have thrived among primarily female demographics, the sports-focused company is, not surprisingly, seeing its greatest success among the core 18 to 35 year old male crowd.
The company currently offers games ranging from its widely popular bar games like darts, billiards and air hockey, to traditional sports like baseball, football, soccer, and golf. Also available are casino games like blackjack, poker, and slots. Wedge Buster has seen tremendous success in developing exclusive games branded with Dyrdek or Brees, and having the stars push the content out through their massive and highly-engaged social channels.
The free-to-play, viral content lends itself naturally to an in-game micro transaction model. Philip and his team have been pleased with their early success in offering guys ways to pay to distract or talk trash to opponents. Users can also buy novelty items like avatar enhancements, which Philip is the first to admit his surprise over their popularity.
The Wedge Buster CEO was previously the CMO of Quick Hit which was the maker of officially licensed NFL online social games distributed through partnerships with Yahoo, Fox Sports, NFL.com, Viacom, and other partners. Philip has applied this experience to the development of the Wedge Buster, such that the platform lends itself to integrated brand sponsorships and to distribution over a broad network of channels.
The fact that Wedge Buster is so effectively reaching the elusive male sports demographic on both social and soon mobile makes the platform extremely attractive to brands.
“Most of the major sports media companies haven’t figured out a viable model for Facebook and mobile, and the ones who have are all targeting the 40-year old female,” says Wedge Buster co-founder and COO Ryan Houston. “We’ve been in testing mode for months and know we have the right product to reach [young] males cross platform. This [demographic] has limited options and limited time. They want sports games that are fun, fast, and with friends.”
The next step beyond continuing to drive traffic and engagement on Facebook, something the company has largely gotten down to a science, is rolling out Wedge Buster mobile. The platform has been in the works for months and is likely to be as big or bigger than the existing social platform, says Philip.
The timing of Wedge Busters’ launch couldn’t be better. The company is leveraging unprecedented growth in three key demographics: social gamers, mobile gamers, and fantasy sports players. At the same time broadband and smartphone penetration rates make it possible to reach a massive audience like never before.
By riding these trends and delivering truly engaging content to the coveted young male demographic, Wedge Buster is showing more early promise than most in the social sports gaming space. A new injection of cash and partnerships with celebrity sports icons are likely to add fuel to this already burning fire.