Fantasy sports app development: Guide for entrepreneurs

List of the best apps built with React Native framework

There are billions of sports fans worldwide and they have lots of needs that applications can solve. One of these needs is testing alternative strategies for sports games to feel more engaged. Fantasy sports apps offer such an engaging way for sports fans to dive deeper into their favorite games by allowing them to assemble and manage their own teams using real-world players. The fantasy sports market indicates a promising field for entrepreneurs looking to create innovative custom software solutions that cater to a global audience keen on sports. In this article, we explain what fantasy sports is all about, why it is popular, what the benefits of creating fantasy sports software are, which features and technologies you need, and how much it can cost.

How did fantasy sports become popular?

Fantasy sports began as a simple pastime among friends and transformed into a global phenomenon that entertains millions. It started in the 1950s with Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach who created fantasy golf, but the first significant fantasy sports game emerged with the drafting of fantasy football in 1962. Fantasy sports involve building and managing virtual teams made up of real athletes, with scoring based on these athletes' real-world performances.

The popularity of fantasy sports surged with the rise of the Internet in the 1980s and 1990s, as it made organizing sports leagues and tracking players significantly easier. The accessibility of platforms and tools helped fans engage more deeply, turning fantasy sports into a global phenomenon.

Additionally, the legal status of fantasy sports as games of skill in the U.S., defined in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, allowed the market to expand freely. Today, innovations such as web and mobile apps continue to drive the popularity of fantasy sports, connecting fans worldwide through their shared passion for sports.

What is a fantasy sports app?

A fantasy sports app is the kind of app where users can create their own dream team using real players from a specific sport like soccer, basketball, or football. In this app, a user acts as the team manager, picking players based on their knowledge and strategy. The performance of a fantasy team depends on how well the real players perform in actual games. This means if a player scores a goal in a real soccer match, the fantasy team earns points for that goal.

This is different from regular sports apps, which typically focus on providing news, scores, and statistics from real sports games. Regular sports apps keep users updated with what's happening in the sports world, but they don't let them interact or influence the content. In contrast, a fantasy sports app makes users active participants, almost like they're playing a game. Users compete against other fantasy managers by using their skills in player selection and team management, not just watching from the sidelines. This interactive feature makes fantasy sports apps a blend of sports, strategy, and competition.

While many fantasy gaming leagues are free and just for fun, some involve entry fees for leagues or contests and offer in-app purchases for premium features, such as exclusive content or advanced statistical analysis. Additionally, daily fantasy sports (DFS) platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel allow users to enter various forms of contests with the potential to win money based on performance each day or week.

An example of successful fantasy sports app development - DraftKings app
Here's an example of how a fantasy sports app can look — the interface of DraftKings

Market overview

The Fantasy Sports Market is expected to grow significantly. Estimated at USD 32.75 billion in 2024, it is predicted to reach USD 62.58 billion by 2029, with a growth rate of 13.83% each year. This growth is driven by the increasing popularity of sports players, the introduction of new sports leagues, more investment in digital technology, and the creation of new fantasy sports applications that allow fans to engage with their favorite sports in different ways.

Fantasy sports app development market overview

The global fantasy gaming market is divided by sports type into football, baseball, basketball, hockey, cricket, and others. Football holds the largest share of the market, but the fantasy cricket segment is predicted to grow the fastest during the forecast period. This growth is mainly due to the increasing popularity of cricket, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, if you're choosing between fantasy baseball app development and fantasy cricket app development, the latter would be more attractive for users.

Fantasy sports app development statistics: Popularity by sports type
Source: Alliedmarketresearch.com

Types of fantasy sports apps

Although such apps share the same concept, there are different models entrepreneurs can use depending on their business goals and the app's target audience. Here are the main types of fantasy sports applications:

1. Season-long fantasy apps

These apps involve users drafting a team at the start of the sports season and managing their lineup throughout the games. Success depends on the real-life results of athletes' performances. This traditional model of fantasy sports app development fosters deep engagement as users commit for the duration of the season, making strategic decisions like trades or player replacements.

One of the most popular and well-known examples of a season-long fantasy sports app is ESPN. This mobile app allows users to engage in season-long fantasy competitions across a variety of sports, including football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.

A popular example of fantasy sports app development - ESPN app

2. Daily fantasy sports apps

Daily fantasy sports software offers a faster-paced experience. Users create a lineup for a single day or week, with contests wrapping up in a much shorter time. This type appeals to users who desire quick results and may not want to commit to a season-long format.

FanDuel is one of the leading platforms in the daily fantasy gaming sector, offering quick-paced and thrilling fantasy sports experiences that last for a day or a week, rather than an entire season.

FanDuel - a successful case of fantasy sports app development

3. Draft-based fantasy apps

In draft-based apps, users select their players via a draft system rather than picking freely from the pool. This format of fantasy sports app development tests users' strategic thinking as they adapt their selections based on the choices of competitors. The draft can be a live event, adding to the excitement and social interaction among players.

Yahoo has long been known for its comprehensive fantasy sports platform that places a strong emphasis on the draft experience, making it a favorite among fantasy sports enthusiasts who enjoy the traditional and strategic elements of drafting their teams.

Yahoo Sports - a famous fantasy sports app development example

4. Salary cap apps

These apps allocate a specific virtual budget to each user, who must then build a team without exceeding this cap. This type challenges users to think critically about the value and performance of players, balancing star players with lesser-known, potentially high-value athletes.

An example of a salary cap-based fantasy sports app is CBS Sports Fantasy. The app is part of CBS Sports' digital offerings and combines news, analysis, and fantasy sports management tools into a comprehensive sports entertainment package.

CBS Sports Fantasy - a successful case of fantasy sports app development

5. Pick'em and prediction apps

Less traditional but increasingly popular, these apps focus on predicting the outcomes of games or the performance of players rather than creating a team. Users may predict winners in a series of matches or bet on player stats. This type of fantasy sports app development is ideal for users who prefer forecasting outcomes over team management.

ESPN Streak (formerly known as Streak for the Cash) is a prediction fantasy sports application. This mobile app takes a slightly different approach compared to traditional fantasy sports apps by focusing on accurately predicting the outcome of various sporting events.

An example of successful fantasy sports app development - ESPN Streak

6. Social fantasy sports apps

Focusing on the social aspect, these apps integrate features for interacting with friends or other fans, creating a community around fantasy play. Software development features might include chat, forums, or integrated social media tools to discuss strategies and trash-talk.

Sleeper has gained significant popularity, particularly among the younger demographic of fantasy gaming enthusiasts, largely because of its strong social features that emphasize interaction and communication among sports league members.

Sleeper - a popular example of fantasy sports app development

Each type of app offers a unique experience, catering to different tastes and preferences in the vast market of fantasy sports. As an entrepreneur, recognizing these nuances will help you target the right audience and successfully enter this competitive field.

Benefits of developing a fantasy sports app

Fantasy sports app development can provide numerous benefits for entrepreneurs looking to tap into a lucrative and engaging market. Here are some key advantages to consider:

High engagement levels

Fantasy sports apps are known for their ability to engage users deeply and repeatedly. Participants return frequently to check scores, update their teams, and compete against others, which can lead to high user retention rates and ample opportunities for monetization.

Expanding market

The fantasy sports industry is experiencing robust growth globally, with millions of fans eager to participate in these games. This expansion not only opens up lucrative markets but also diversifies your potential user base, including varying demographics and regions.

Multiple revenue streams

Fantasy sports software has multiple ways to generate revenue. This can include entry fees, advertisements, in-app purchases for premium features, and partnerships with sports leagues or media brands. The diverse revenue options provide a solid foundation for a profitable business model.

Brand partnerships and promotions

Partnering with established sports brands can enhance credibility and attract users. Additionally, businesses can leverage promotions and tie-ins with real-world sports events, which can significantly boost user acquisition and engagement during high-interest periods such as playoffs or championships.

Community building

These apps foster a sense of community among users, who often share a passion for sports. This community aspect can be a strong selling point, as it enhances user satisfaction and stickiness. Through forums, live chat features, and social sharing, apps can amplify user interaction and loyalty.

Using new technology

With advances in mobile technology, fantasy sports applications can offer cutting-edge features like live tracking, artificial intelligence for performance predictions, and immersive augmented reality experiences. These tech integrations can significantly enhance the user experience, setting your fantasy app apart in a competitive market.

Easier access

Unlike traditional sports betting, which may be heavily regulated in many regions, fantasy gaming often enjoys a more relaxed legal status. This allows entrepreneurs to reach international audiences more easily, expanding their user base beyond geographical and regulatory constraints.

Key features for a fantasy sports app

Before you start fantasy sports app development, you need to choose a set of basic features. These features are vital for the app's functionality and user engagement.

1. User registration and profiles

An easy and secure registration process is essential for software development. This feature should allow users to create and customize their profiles, including uploading avatars, displaying their favorite teams, and tracking their game history and statistics.

2. Team creation and management

Users should be able to create their fantasy teams effortlessly. This includes choosing players based on different criteria (skill, position, salary cap, etc.), managing their team lineup, and making real-time changes. Detailed player statistics and injury updates should be readily available to help users make informed decisions.

A design concept for fantasy sports app development by Ronas IT

Here's how we designed a screen for team creation and management for fantasy football app development.

3. Real-time data and live updates

Integrating real-time data feeds during sports app development is crucial for updating player stats, game scores, and standings immediately. This ensures that all users have up-to-date information which is vital for making strategic decisions in fantasy sports.

4. Leagues and contests

The app should allow users to join existing leagues or create their own, with options for public and private settings. Various contest formats, including head-to-head challenges, knockout leagues, and global leaderboards, keep the platform engaging and competitive.

5. Secure payment system

A robust and secure system for handling entry fees and distributing winnings is essential in fantasy sports app development. Integrating trusted payment gateways that support multiple payment methods enhances user trust and satisfaction.

6. Social features

Implementing features such as chat rooms, forums, or integrated social media sharing allows users to interact with each other, creating a community around the fantasy app. These social interactions increase user engagement and retention.

7. Notifications and alerts

Push notifications or alerts about upcoming matches, player news, or score updates keep users informed and engaged. Customizable notifications let users stay on top of the information that matters most to them.

8. Admin dashboard

A comprehensive admin panel for managing users, contests, payouts, and other administrative tasks is vital for smooth operation. This feature allows for monitoring and analyzing user activity to better understand engagement and improve the service.

9. Analytics tools

Integrating analytics tools in sports app development can help gather insights on user behavior, app performance, and financial metrics. These insights are crucial for making data-driven decisions to optimize and grow the platform.

A design concept for fantasy sports app development - Player statistics screen
On this screen from the fantasy football app development concept mentioned above, you can see a player's performance statistics

By incorporating these key features, fantasy sports software can offer a compelling, user-friendly, and engaging experience, while also ensuring operational control and business insight for its administrators. This balanced approach is essential for long-term success in the competitive market of fantasy sports app development.

Technologies to develop a fantasy sports app

To build a robust, efficient, and engaging fantasy sports app, incorporating the right technology stack is crucial. The complexity and feature set of your app will dictate the specific technologies you'll need, but here's a general breakdown of what you might incorporate in fantasy sports app development:

Mobile development

Swift and Kotlin are preferred for native iOS and Android app development if the app requires high performance and access to a lot of the phone's functions. React Native is a cross-platform framework for creating mobile apps for both platforms at once — it saves time and money while providing performance and functionality close to native technologies.

Web frontend development

Frontend technologies like React, Next.js, and Angular offer dynamic capabilities and user-friendly layouts for web apps, ensuring the app looks good and functions well on both desktop and mobile devices.

Not sure which platform to choose for your fantasy sports app development?

Web backend development

Robust backend technologies such as Node.js, Laravel, or Django provide the necessary support for handling database operations, user management, and server-side logic. These frameworks support fast data processing and integration with other services, essential for real-time functionality in fantasy sports apps.

Database management

For storing and retrieving data efficiently, databases like PostgreSQL, MongoDB, or MySQL are recommended. These databases can handle high volumes of operations and complex query management, which are critical during live sports events when many users interact with the app simultaneously.

Real-time data processing

Software development technologies like WebSocket and Redis help to handle real-time data required for live updates of scores and player performance. WebSocket provides a full-duplex communication channel over a single, long-lived connection, allowing servers to push updates to the fantasy app instantly.

Cloud infrastructure

Using cloud services like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure ensures scalable, reliable, and secure application deployment. These platforms support various real-time data processing and storage tools, and can dynamically scale during high-demand periods like major sporting events.

Admin dashboard development

For the admin dashboard, web app development frameworks like React Admin provide extensive functionalities for managing content, users, contests, and analytics. These tools offer built-in solutions for quick and efficient management capabilities that are customized to the needs of the fantasy gaming platform.

Data analytics and business intelligence

Incorporating analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, or even machine learning platforms like TensorFlow or Apache Spark can deliver insights into user behavior and app performance. These insights are crucial for enhancing user engagement strategies and overall app optimization.

Security protocols

Implement robust security measures including SSL/TLS for secure communication, OAuth for safe authentication, and other data encryption technologies to protect sensitive user information and transaction data.

APIs and third-party integrations

Leveraging third-party APIs for sports data feeds like SportsRadar or Stats API, payment gateways like Stripe or PayPal (depending on a region), and social media integrations enhance the functionality and interconnectedness of the fantasy app, facilitating a comprehensive and engaging user experience. Also, Yahoo and ESPN both offer APIs that can be used for getting sports data, although their availability might differ and access may be restricted based on new policies or changes.

Here we gathered the recommended technologies for fantasy sports app development in a table for your convenience:

FrontendReact, Next.js, Angular
BackendNode.js, Laravel, Django
Mobile app developmentReact Native, Swift, Kotlin
DatabasesPostgreSQL, MongoDB, MySQL
Cloud infrastructureAWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure
Payment gatewaysStripe, Paypal
Admin panelReact Admin
Other toolsOAuth, WebSocket, Google Analytics

At Ronas IT, we always use the latest and up-to-date technologies. The ones we mentioned above are part of our usual technology stack for app development— it was tested on dozens of projects and proved to be reliable and efficient. You can check the whole list of technologies we use on our Tech Radar.

How to stand out from the competition

Basic features are important for fantasy sports app development but they're basic. To win the users' attention, you also need to have a strategy that sets your app apart from others. Here are some ways to stand out:

1. Unique game formats

Innovate beyond the standard league and draft formats. Introducing unique game rules or scoring systems can appeal to seasoned players looking for new challenges and draw in newcomers with simpler, more accessible formats.

2. Niche sports and leagues

While most fantasy sports apps focus on popular sports like football, basketball, and baseball, targeting niche sports or less popular leagues can capture an untapped market segment. Offering fantasy games for sports like volleyball, handball, or even esports can attract dedicated fan bases that are often overlooked.

3. Advanced player analytics

Provide users with robust analytics tools that give insights beyond basic player stats. Sports app development features like predictive analytics, player performance under specific conditions, and personalized recommendation engines can enhance user strategy and involvement.

4. Mobile-first design

Since many users will access the app via smartphones, optimizing the mobile user experience for web apps is crucial. This includes fast load times, an intuitive interface, and features that leverage mobile technology, such as location services or mobile notifications. If you opt for mobile app development, you don't have to worry about inconveniences your users might experience due to your product not being adapted for smartphones.

UKR Club - a mobile-first web app for booking accommodations, an example of how to create mobile-first design for fantasy sports app development
Check out how we created a mobile-first web application UKR Club

5. AR and VR features

Incorporating augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) can provide an immersive experience. For instance, VR could allow users to experience games from the viewpoint of their players, while AR could be used to enhance live games, overlaying player stats and performance data during a match.

6. Community and social engagement

Creating and nurturing a community around your app can greatly enhance user loyalty and satisfaction. Integrating social features like forums, live chats, and events where users can meet and compete can help build a passionate community.

7. Localized content

Tailoring content to specific geographical regions by including local leagues or supporting multiple languages can significantly increase your app's appeal. Understanding cultural nuances and local sports heroes can make your app more engaging for a global audience.

8. Robust customer support

Offering timely, helpful customer support can set your app apart. Sports app development features like in-app support tickets, live chat, and a comprehensive FAQ section can improve user satisfaction and retention.

9. Partnerships and sponsorships

Collaborating with well-known sports brands or athletes for endorsements or exclusive insights can boost credibility and attract fans. Sponsorship deals can also provide unique content and prizes, making the app more enticing to users.

10. Ethical gaming practices

Promoting ethical gaming practices, such as transparency in contests, fair play, and responsible gaming, can enhance trust and respectability. This is particularly important in a field where users are cautious about monetary transactions and fairness.

By focusing on these areas, entrepreneurs can not only differentiate themselves from competitors but also build a strong, loyal user base that values the unique features and ethical practices of their fantasy sports app.

If you are considering developing a fantasy sports app, it's important to understand the costs involved. Developing a fantasy sports app can vary widely in cost, depending on several factors. As of 2024, a rough estimation of costs for app development would range from $20,000 to over $100,000, depending on several factors.

The complexity of the app, including basic features like user registration and scoring systems, and more advanced features such as live streaming and AI predictions, plays a major role in setting the price. The choice between single-platform or cross-platform app development also affects the cost, with cross-platform generally being less expensive and offering broader reach.

Design quality, particularly in UI/UX, can elevate costs, as does the hiring of experienced sports app development teams, whose charges can vary based on their geographic location and reputation. Additional expenditures include ongoing maintenance, server costs, legal and licensing fees, and marketing. Starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) can help manage initial expenses by focusing on core functionalities and scaling up based on user feedback and app success.

You can learn more about MVP development in this article

Whether you opt for web or mobile app development, the initial investment needed to create a basic functional fantasy sports app with Ronas IT will typically range from $30,000 to $50,000. These are our approximate costs for MVP projects, they're based on our previous experience. The cost of your project can differ depending on your business needs, budget expectations, deadlines, etc. You can get a brief estimate if you contact us for a free consultation — it includes the breakdown of your app's features and approximate costs for each. We also provide a detailed estimate with precise costs and timelines after we create the UI/UX design for the app. If you have a ready-made design, we can use it to calculate the precise cost of fantasy sports app development.

Conclusion

As the fantasy app development market continues to expand, developers have a golden opportunity to tap into a dynamic and lucrative industry. By focusing on immersive, user-friendly, and feature-rich designs, app devs can captivate users and stand out in a competitive market. With the right approach, incorporating industry insights and innovative features, your fantasy sports app can not only attract a substantial user base but also foster a vibrant community of sports enthusiasts, ensuring long-term success and profitability.

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