Soccer becomes a social game with SoccerSquare [INTERVIEW]

Gabriele CostamagnaGabriele Costamagna, SportSquare‘s CEO, loves soccer. But a rather peculiar kind of soccer: the one played in front of a computer, where players are not passive users but managers of their own team.

We are talking about the so-called sport management games such as Hattrick and Football Manager, which gained world-wide popularity towards the end of the 90s.

However, a lot has changed in the past ten years, above all the rise of social games, which are mobile and social network based games, where users are busy growing their own farms rather than fighting complex challenges.

Gabriele digged up the good old sports management game concept and invented a new version in which the team’s manager is not playing alone, but is supported by his or her Facebook friends who become part of a management team.

SoccerSquare is the first collaborative, Facebook-based management game targeting more than three billions soccer fans world-wide.

Would you like to try out the challenge? All you have to do is to connect to the application, customize your avatar, choose the sponsor that will support your team, and finally hire your friends who will help you building your own sports campus. All players will be busy with managing the team and several other activities, such as building a restaurant to improve the team’s cashflow, or the gym for the cheerleader’s team.

social games

Of course, in order to do all that, the managers will need a budget, which they can put together by selling tickets at the virtual games, as well as by directly buying coins and cash. On top of such micro-payments, it is possible to do in-game advertising through sponsorizations and other forms of integrated product placement, which constitute FourSoccer’s revenue model.

From visibility to engagement

With the idea being there, the business model being there, only one thing was missing: the user base. To build a community, Gabriele chose to exploit Facebook’s viral capabilities. To build an application inside a 750 million users strong social network makes all of them potentially reachable, especially because, in order to be successful at the game, it is necessary to build a good team of friends.

As Gabriele tells us, “Sportsquare acquired 20.000 users in two months, thanks to the word-of-mouth, and it is growing 400 users a day. 50% of them are Italian, the rest are mostly Indonesian, Colombians, Cileans, Greek and Malaysian”.

Virality enabled the application’s international dissemination, while a special tournament-based engagement technique was adopted to reach the goal of 400.000 played games: “Every Country has its own championship. Players start out from lesser ranks and get promoted to higher ranks, all the way to the National League. In addition, there are National Cup games and the Champions League, the Friendly games and tournaments where users can take part as either players or spectators.”

“Our community currently sports users ranging from 15 to 70 years old. There are kids teaching their grandparents how to play, they challenge each other and interact with each other on our fan page. Such user’s feedback is key to us, therefore we are always online.”

The enterpreneurial team: development, management and interaction design

Gabriele’s startup grew along its users community. SoccerSquare scored a third place at the March 2011 edition of the StartupWeekend event, which takes place in Tourin every year. “In the beginning, we were just technicians and we were completely focused on developing the back-end technology. We were lacking any management skills. I3P filled that gap. I3P is the Innovative Startup Incubator at Tourin’s Polytechnic School, where SoccerSquare was incubated.”

“After launching the Beta version, we realized that we had made a mistake, we did underestimate the front-end bit. As a matter of fact, to create a game and ensure that users come in and instantly understand what they can do, is a rather difficult goal to achieve. So we started to cooperate with The Doors, a Tourin based interaction design studio, which will help us improving the user experience.”

“The most important thing in these first three months of work was the creation of the core team. While working together we made a few errors, which teached us how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, when we will develop our next games.”

In fact, SoccerSquare is just the first title in our sports management series, which we plan to develop at Sportsquare Games. It will not take long until the release of the cricket (cricket is a 2 billions fan sport), baseball and volleyball versions, since most of our team is focused on creating a highly scalable back-end.”

Are you curious to learn when it will be possible to challenge Indian videoplayers at cricket tournaments? Just follow @sport_square.

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