The 2014-2015 season for Yahoo's fantasy Premier League game was a roller coaster of frustration and temporary satisfaction, with a number of glitches marring the sleek visual interface they introduced to their users. The level of dissatisfaction with the performance of the desktop and app versions of the game, particularly a glaring pricing error in the opening week of the season, led to a steep drop in participation from previous years when Yahoo's game--while not as visually appealing--was steady, reliable and functional.
Yahoo's decision to roll out the new game before all of the kinks were worked out may have led to them shifting their focus away from the traditional offering and into the Daily Fantasy Sports market (money surely also played a major role), but whatever the case it's looking increasingly likely that the traditional format of the game we've known and enjoyed for the greater part of the last decade will not be a part of Yahoo's plans going forward.
We could still be surprised with an announcement that Yahoo has returned with a bigger and better game, but the silence so far is telling, and so we must forge ahead and consider other options. I, like the majority of the commenting community here, have been a huge fan of the scoring and rules of the Yahoo format as opposed to the more traditional fantasy games that only reward players for major contributions (goals, assists, clean sheets) and only allow 1-2 free transfers each week.
Once the 2014-15 season ended, we set out to find other fantasy games that could offer the same or similar scoring and flexibility that made the Yahoo game so much more entertaining and challenging to play. After extensive research into multiple options, we believe there are two potential alternatives that will provide a comparable experience to the glory days of the old Yahoo game without any of the hiccups of its most recent iteration.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of the two games:
Fantrax is a fantasy sports platform that offers myriad options for all types of fantasy fans. Many of the readers from here and Nik's original Assistant Manager blog took part in a Fantrax Premier League group last season, to great effect.
The game is about as close as possible to the early days of the Yahoo game, with a salary cap of £100M to spend on 11 players. No bench, no captains, unlimited transfers each week, etc. Live scoring is updated accurately every minute or so throughout games as well, so you can track your points in real time. The pricing algorithm is also less randomized than Yahoo's wild jumps, and seems to be determined by total number of points in relation to the rest of the players (the highest-scoring players cost the most...what a concept!).
In terms of flexibility, the options are seemingly endless. Leagues can be customized to include an even wider range of scoring metrics than was accounted for in the Yahoo game, so league commissioners can determine what they want to reward points for (awarding a tenth of a point for each accurate pass completed, for example). Deadlines for team selection can also be set, so if you prefer to see the lineups before finalizing your team, that can be arranged in the initial set up for the league you'll be playing in.
The drawback with these custom leagues, however, is that there is no way to compare performance between multiple leagues. This means there are no global rankings in the Fantrax game, which means the competition would be limited to whichever players joined the league created for NMA. While it would still be fun to see how you stack up against your fellow competitors from the blog, it's always interesting to see how you stack up against players from a much larger pool.
One of the other items that could be seen as a negative about the Fantrax game is the visual interface. It's not pretty by any means, relying on a tabular layout similar to the early days of the Yahoo game:
However, the game works without issue, and that's certainly the most important thing with a new game after dealing with Yahoo's errors last season. The game also has a mobile app, and while it isn't the easiest to figure out at first, it is also fully functional and can come in handy for making changes to your team on the go.
Togga Perfect XI
Togga is a relative newcomer to the fantasy sports scene, but they've been doing just about everything right. If you follow us on Twitter, chances are you saw some of the Weekly Rankings posts on their blog, with a host of fantasy experts providing their thoughts on the best options for a given week. The Togga platform itself was built around draft-style fantasy leagues, but they introduced their Perfect XI game last season as an alternative to any other fantasy game out there.
The goal is compellingly simple: Pick the eleven players you think will score the most points each game week. While that should be the goal for any fantasy team you put together, the Perfect XI game takes a radical approach: No salary cap. There are no prices assigned to any players; you simply look at the match-ups, determine who you think will do best, and pick those players. You can pick as many players from one team as you like, so if you want to go all-in on a comprehensive victory for one team, you can.
The nature of the game encourages picking a new team each week as there are no discounts to hold onto, so transfers are unlimited. The scoring is based on the same Opta statistics as the Yahoo and Fantrax games, but the number of points awarded is a bit different. There's a full breakdown of scoring available on the Togga website, where you'll see that there are plenty of different criteria for scoring to make the game interesting and very challenging to pick who will score best. While you will be able to field a team of heavy hitters, the fact that even Eden Hazard can be outscored by anyone on any day makes the potential for differential picks enticing enough to avoid template teams sitting at the top of the leaderboard.
Because the scoring is standard across all leagues, global rankings will be visible, as well as weekly winners. I've been in touch with one of the managers for Togga, who let me know there will be prizes awarded to weekly winners (this season, weekly winners were able to pick a jersey of their choice from soccer.com), and a prize for the overall winner was being discussed. Private groups can also be created and are unlimited in terms of the number of people who can join, so a return to the Blog Cup next season is a much more realistic possibility with all the teams visible in one place.
In terms of visuals, the interface for the platform is sleek and easy to use. The mobile experience is very intuitive, and a detailed view of live scoring updates are available with the click of a button. A list of the top performers by position, as well as the "Perfect Squad" for the week, is available so you can see how your team compared.
As far as drawbacks go, there aren't too many if you aren't put off by the lack of pricing assigned to any of the players. The only other potential negative is that there is only one formation available. You select your best 4-4-2 each week, so you won't be able to pick up Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Diego Costa at the same time. Beyond that, the Perfect XI app appears to be pretty close to its name.
Your opinions on these options will determine the direction we take going forward, so please vote in the poll below and also share your thoughts in the comments. We're eager to hear your thoughts and to keep this fantastic community together!