Daily fantasy took an interesting turn this past week with the entry of another player who is taking the daily fantasy concept out of the world of sports and into the clouds. A website called WX Battle has entered the arena and will be running daily fantasy contests for weather forecasting.
WX Battle was created by Mike Collier, who is the Chief Meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was able to exchange some emails with Mike last week and he shared what spurred him to create this site as well as his plans for its future.
WX Battle was born out of Mike’s love of daily fantasy as he is an avid player of those games, especially during football season. When football season came to an end Mike, like many people, was left wanting more. He wanted another game, something that could be played every day, not limited by a certain day of the week or a season. Almost immediately, he said, weather forecasting came to mind. Weather is actually a perfect vessel for the daily fantasy platform. Just as in fantasy sports a player can test their skill by attempting to pick the best possible outcome to gain the most points.
Development of Wx Battle began just 3 months ago and it is just in the preliminary stages. Contests only started this past week and right now are limited to predicting which locations will have the highest temperature on the date of the contest. Similar to the daily fantasy sports platform players pick a contest to enter, each with a different entry fee and prize pool. As of this writing there are $1 and $5 contests with total prize pools of $12 and $40 respectively (remember this is still the preliminary stage of the website). Like traditional daily fantasy games players are given a budget of points (a salary cap) to work with. In these heat games players are given a budget of 50,000 points, with which they must choose 10 cities from a list of 40 which they think will have the highest temperatures on the date of the contest. Each city costs a certain number of points, with obvious hot locations like Phoenix or Las Vegas costing the most and places like Seattle and Juneau, Alaska being among the cheapest.
I entered into one of these heat contests on Saturday and I have to say picking my list proved to be more challenging than I anticipated. Just as in daily fantasy sports it is very difficult to create a full lineup if your first 3 picks are the most expensive players out there. Sure you can put Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell on your team, but then you are left scraping the bottom of the barrel to finish out the rest of the lineup. Similarly, I could have picked Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Dallas but I would have only had the budget to round out my picks with places like Seattle, San Francisco, and Bismark, North Dakota.
Just as you can find projected points for players you can find projected results for weather through the use of weather models. Almost all the major weather models are easily accessible online and there are a number of websites that collate all of them in one place. At first glance some of the terminology and images on these models can seem confusing but most people can probably gain a basic understanding of what they are showing by playing with them for a little bit. That is essentially how I learned. Even though I looked at a few different weather models for my contest the decisions were still tough. Eventually I settled on a lineup that had a couple of ringers like Las Vegas and Dallas, but included some less obvious choices like Denver, Omaha, Cleveland, and Nashville. So how did my first run at this game turn out? Apparently, my forecast was a good one since I finished in first place and won $10. Considering that I only paid $1 to enter the contest I was more than pleased with the result.
Predicting temperatures may not sound all that exciting but Mike plans to drastically expand the game over the coming months. The plan is to add contests for forecasting severe weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, and various other weather events. With that Mike also plans to increase the prize pools to make these games even more attractive. My guess (and hope) is that more than just weather people will give this game a try. If nothing else it is a nice change of pace from the daily fantasy games we are used to. Also, it hopefully can give participants from outside of the weather world at least a rudimentary appreciation of weather forecasting. On the flip side, it also gives those who claim weather forecasts are a bunch of crap a chance to put their money where their mouth is (my assumption is that very few of those people actually have the guts to do so though).
Altogether my experience with the game this past weekend was good one, and not just because I won. While it’s not yet as polished as sites like Draft Kings or FanDuel the basic concept still gives you the same excitement and anticipation you get when selecting your line up await the results. Even if you have a cursory interest in weather, or you just like playing daily fantasy, this game is worth a try. For some it may still be a little rough around the edges but an updated beta version is expected to be out within the next few weeks which should expand and polish the game a bit more. If you are interested in playing now you can do so at wxbattle.com. To get more information on the updated versions coming you can find them on twitter @WXBattle.
If you decide to give it a try let me know, I would love to hear thoughts from other participants. Comment here on post or let me know via twitter @stephenuzick