It’s already hard enough tackling Marshawn Lynch’s character in Madden, but now try Hit Sticking the virtual back while the real Beastmode talks trash in your ear, and see if your thumbs can live up to the pressure.
That’s the concept behind OverDog, where gamers sign up for the chance to challenge superstar athletes to video games ranging from Call of Duty and Madden to Halo and FIFA. The iOS app is currently in beta with 2,500 users testing their skills, but version two of the app is getting ready to launch in approximately three weeks for both iOS and Android, and if the uptick in Twitter talk about the company is any indication, you could be looking at one of 2013’s coolest sports apps.
“It’s all about connecting fans to their favorite players in a way that’s never been done before,” explains OverDog co-founder and former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. “You’re never going to get the chance to tackle Adrian Peterson in real life, but in a video game, the playing field is finally leveled.”
OverDog boasts a roster of over 200 athletes ready to throw down the gauntlet and challenge their fan base to some of today’s top games. When the challenge is issued, users receive a push notification notifying them that a player like the Bears’ Matt Forte is ready to rumble, with fans then entered into a lottery-like draw with the winner getting a shot to play against one of the NFL’s best running backs. V2 of the app will even open up the ability for fans who don’t win the right to play against the athletes to still jump on the sticks and play against each other, setting up potential COD shootouts between rival fans of the Bears and Packers.
“Athletes are young, they’re competitive, and they have so much free time, and so many of them are gamers, it just seemed like a natural fit to offer a way to connect these players to their fans and offer a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else,” says Hillenmeyer, a self-professed game addict who is now looking to spin his love of gaming into a second career as a mobile mogul.
Then again, the app’s development hasn’t been without its share of bruises. Back in February, OverDog sought $100,000 via Kickstarter, but failed to reach its desired goal as 310 backers combined to pledge just $37,472.
Hillenmeyer doesn’t see the lack of financing as a failure, however, noting that the company was already venture funded, with a second round of funding on the way. Not to mention, the great press the company received throughout the campaign was worth the gamble, as even in defeat, it helped get OverDog’s brand out to the masses.
“We haven’t done any advertising, so the people we currently have in beta, a lot of them came after finding out about us through our Kickstarter campaign,” says Hillenmeyer. “We didn’t want too many users at first, because when we have a popular athlete issue a challenge, and only one fan wins, we didn’t really have anything else to offer the fans who didn’t win when we first launched the beta. But with the new version, now you will not only be able to play against fellow fans, but you’ll also be able to watch the athlete play the fan who win and see how he does.
“If Matt Forte issues a challenge and 100 people accept, we know that everyone who accepts the challenge has an Xbox and is ready to play Call of Duty right at that moment, so why not let a group of Bears fans group up and play together. This is something our fans have told us they’d like to see built, and it’s something we will have ready to go in another couple of weeks.”
Surprisingly, not only is the Beta a free app, but when V2 launches with the new features, it will remain free to download, and more importantly, free to challenge athletes from every league ranging from the NFL to MLS.
“The app is ad supported, while also generating revenue by leveraging the tremendous reach these athletes have in social media to promote various products,” says Hillenmeyer. “When our athletes Tweet out that they are about to go play on OverDog, they have a social footprint of a collective 40-million followers or so, and we’re integrating these brands and publishers alongside these athletes.”
And as the app draws more and more top athletes, not only does OverDog’s reach continue to grow, but the fans are being rewarded at extremely high rates, with 85-percent of current users already winning the rights to play against one of their favorite pros online.
Adds Hillenmeyer: “I played in the NFL for eight years, and I spent five of those as the player rep for the Bears. In that role, you become the middleman between the athletes and everything else that goes on away from the field. Part of that is helping out with appearance opportunities and anything the athletes would do in order to connect with fans. So when we first had the idea for OverDog, we were looking at big picture ways to connect athletes and fans. The more we explored the idea of OverDog, I was really surprised that nothing like this existed. So many of the athletes would already just jump on Twitter and challenge fans, and we were surprised that there wasn’t a better way to do this.
“From that sense, our goal was to create an app to connect these two groups of people who have this shared behavior and passion for playing video games. This is so much better than your average autograph session. We had a recent challenge where David Price played four or five straight FIFA matches, and after each match, the fan would take to Twitter and write about how it made his week. These are the types of experiences we’re hoping to bring to people, and we’re just getting started.”