All Aboard the Bandwagon.
Last summer, Full Stop was approached by a guy with an idea for a sports game that allowed players to buy and sell shares of teams. Everyone who follows football or hockey or baseball or basketball thinks he or she knows which teams are going to exceed expectations and which are going to crash and burn. Sure, you can put some money down in Vegas or join a local pick ’em pool, but what if you could go to a website, talk trash with your friends, and build an online persona around your ability to exploit the market? That might just be a whole lot of fun.
Needless to say, Jay and I were head over heels for the chance to combine websites, sports, and games. Once we convinced Matt to do the heavy lifting on the back end, we sat down to hammer out the details of what would become Bandwagon Sports.
In retrospect, we spent a crazy amount of time upfront debating the pros and cons of various approaches. How could we differentiate this idea from fantasy sports and gambling? How could we convince people with precious little free time to try yet another game? What concepts should we borrow from other community sites? How would all the various rules affect gameplay? We have mounds of sketches and Skype recordings and collaborative docs debating these points in painful detail.
Ultimately, we designed and built an invite-only application with trading, commenting, following, badges, a leaderboard, and an activity stream. All that was completed in time for the NFL season opener last September. Modeling a stock market with real time trading is no easy task, and we’re mighty proud of the design, the back-end work, and the aggressively modern CSS.1 Using ESPN, Yahoo!, etc. has always been a bit of a struggle. Our goal was to make an extremely friendly, clean interface that made it easy to buy and sell teams. The concept is complicated, but the interaction shouldn’t be.
Having had a year to think about it, we were thrilled when we had a chance to revisit some of those decisions in time for this NFL season. We threw out badges (not executed well), restructured the way stocks paid out dividends (too complicated), added some team performance bonuses for spice, and threw open the doors to everyone. If you follow the NFL religiously (RedZone + Bandwagon = win) or just want to kick the tires, you can still sign up. The site is still in beta while we test again this NFL season. If all goes well, however, we’re hoping to add sports, custom leagues for you and your friends, and dozens of other features to make playing easier and more fun.
Bandwagon was the first application completely designed and developed by Full Stop. We learned a tremendous amount about that entire process. It’s a whole different ballgame compared to putting CMS-driven content sites out into the world, and it led directly to several additional (and ongoing) application projects that keep the lights on and the synapses blazing new paths.
Scott has been a wonderful client for us, and it’s been an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. It certainly has some rough edges, but with enough time and effort, maybe one day team IPOs will be as common as fantasy drafts. We certainly hope so.