This story was co-authored with Amanda Montgomery and Hannah O.
Following the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the gaming economy exploded as people searched for new forms of entertainment. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the global gaming market reached a value of $174.9 billion in 2020, representing a 19.6% year-over-year increase.
John Vitti, CEO of VersusGame, noticed that despite this growth, the prediction marketplace was still waiting to be fully tapped into. Seeing the next big opportunity in gaming, Vitti "wanted to create something everyone could be a part of and everyone could profit from," he told EDM.com.
With that idea in mind, Vitti built VersusGame, a prediction-based mobile gaming app where users can earn money simply for being right. Players can use virtual currency to bet on the potential outcome of situations and are rewarded if they guess correctly. Since its launch in 2019, the app has collected over $6 million in investments from distinguished entrepreneurs such as Scooter Braun, Justin Mateen, Sean Rad, and Sway House, among others.
The app has created such a unique virtual gaming marketplace and community that over 6 million users are actively using the platform as of January 2021. One of the linchpins of VersusGame's user acquisition strategy has been their savvy use of music and culture marketing to attract a broader audience.
For example, during the 2021 Super Bowl, the company teamed up with Triller and Maxim for a $1 million cash prize giveaway to game participants, hosted by Platinum recording artist 24kGoldn and renowned music producer Murda Beatz. The fun doesn’t stop there—VersusGame plans to continue hosting massive giveaways based on pop culture events such as the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and even Bachelor finales.
To discuss this new marketplace economy of prediction gaming, we chatted (virtually) with Vitti to break down the forces responsible for driving VersusGame’s impressive growth, what the platform’s $10 million seed funding means for its future, and how musicians across all genres can create lucrative and passionate gaming experiences for fans.
EDM.com: Before we get into VersusGame, can you walk us through the experiences that led you to building the app?
John Vitti: I’ve worked on several projects before VersusGame, and saw the next big opportunity to be in the gaming industry. No one has really tapped into the prediction marketplace before, and I wanted to create something everyone could be a part of and everyone could profit from.
I always saw the elites winning, whether it be in regards to betting, investing in stocks, or buying equity. The betting and investing industry has been run by a specific group. I was driven by the opportunity to level the playing field so absolutely anyone could profit off these industries. There are opportunities for our players to predict what will happen and make money in any sector. The power has really been put into the hands of the everyday player.
EDM.com: For our readers who may not be familiar, VersusGame has given away over $10.5 million in cash prizes since the inception of the app. Can you walk us through how users of your app earn cash prizes and engage with influencers and celebrities on the app?
John Vitti: At VersusGame, we’ve created a fair game based on microtransactions. With our app, you can battle anyone across the globe on any question your mind thinks of. Use your knowledge or research statistics to predict the right answer.
You can search for a game that you would like to play and then you’ll have the opportunity to battle against a stranger, your neighbor or favorite celebrity. When the game ends, you’ll get the results of who won and who lost. Buy coins to play games with and once you have a nice big stack of coins, cash them out for real money! It’s awesome.
EDM.com: Let's take it back to the early days of VersusGame. Can you share with our readers the process of building VersusGame and scaling the app so quickly?
John Vitti: I am honored to have a strong network of likeminded entrepreneurs who wanted in on the app during early stages. VersusGame is backed by an illuminati of investors, including Scooter Braun, Justin Mateen, Sean Rad, and Sway House (Michael Gruen, Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson, Bryce Hall, Noah Beck, Blake Gray) funding a total of $6 million since it’s launch in 2019. Together, we were able to hit the ground running and create a one-of-a-kind game.
EDM.com: In September, Versus announced the launch of its own gaming economy through a new exclusive feature that will give players the ability to host their own games. How has this new feature been adopted by your user base?
John Vitti: It’s created an incredible community. Hosts can either choose to keep the games exclusive to their inner circle or open them up for anyone in the world to play. People are able to interact with anyone around the world who have the same opinions and interests as them.
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Not only has a strong community been created, but each of the players who create a question will earn a portion of the revenue generated from each game they create. It’s become a second stream of revenue for VersusGame players. It’s a unique opportunity to the masses, giving anyone and everyone the chance to earn money, grow their following and build their personal brand without the power of social media influence playing a role. We love to see the creativity our players bring to the table.
EDM.com: Gaming has seen hockey stick-like growth since the pandemic hit in March 2020. How have COVID-19 and this new quarantine culture impacted your company?
John Vitti: The online gaming boom due to the pandemic has helped our platform immensely. Players are looking for alternative ways to pass the time inside, and also most importantly, create another stream of revenue. With everyone being at home throughout Covid, people are glued to their phones and are using social media apps more than ever to keep up with pop culture trends, and the opportunities to engage with our users is at an all-time high. We have given away millions of dollars to our players this past year and can’t wait to give away more!
Many of the music, sports, entertainment and social media industries have flocked to VersusGame as an alternative stream of revenue while concerts, games and films continue to be halted. They also embrace the fact that they can gain more followers and experience interactive engagement with their fans.
EDM.com: VersusGame recently completed a $4 million Series Seed round of financing from Raised In Space and Plus Eight Equity Partners. Can you share a little background with us on what this new fundraising round will allow your company to do in the future?
John Vitti: This new fundraising will allow VersusGame to massively expand its user base through engaging more influencers in the entertainment, sports and social media spaces. We will be focusing on the next generation of content creators, allowing them to directly monetize their following and producing revenue through a marketplace no one has yet to monetize. It will allow us to become one of the first social media platforms to allow its users to directly monetize their brand.
EDM.com: Your total user base currently sits at 6 million as of January 2021. What are some of the challenges and opportunities you are seeing to expand your user base even wider in 2021?
John Vitti: The gaming industry is bridging the gap between social media and virtual gaming and VersusGame is leading the way by elevating consumer’s experience on both mediums. We do so by creating a successful way for users to monetize their social media presence. We hope to breed a new way of influencers and creators on our platform, boosting our user base within the next year.
We also feel very strongly about putting money back into our users pockets. It’s been a tough year and every chance to earn a little more cash is crucial. By gaining more users on our platform, more games are being created, and more users are playing. With pop culture always changing, we are constantly creating new games for our users to interact with. Tons of opportunities will arise for our users to earn additional streams of revenue in 2021.
EDM.com: VersusGame just completed their first ever $1 million giveaway the week of the Super Bowl. Can you share a little more about how this activation came about and the result?
John Vitti: 2020 was a rough year for everyone. And VersusGame wants to help everyone feel on top. We wanted to find a way to engage users on one of the most talked about game-day weekends, and grow some excitement around winning $1M from the comfort of your own home!
Jane Dushance, a mother of two with a third on the way, won $10,000 after participating in our big Super Bowl giveaway. The game was co-hosted by Grammy-nominated producer Murda Beatz and music sensation 24kGoldn. We had 540,000 participants competing to win and three contestants were in the ranks to win the $1,000,000 cash prize.
With a .0005% chance of winning, Duschance answered seven of the ten VersusGame questions correctly before the coin toss on Sunday’s kickoff and was declared the winner. She shared her plans for the cash prize winnings, including putting the money towards a brand new car for her children.
EDM.com: VersusGame just did a big giveaway for the Grammy Awards. What did this activation entail and what experience did your users have?
John Vitti: We have a super exciting lineup ready for our gamers. Music has been such an integral part of keeping people happy, calm, and relatively sane during this crazy past year. We are super excited to partner with some huge artists that are making a big splash in the music industry—specifically those that have really thrived this past year. They are excited to give their fans a big thank you for all their support, and hopefully make the next year a little better than the last.
EDM.com: What are some other features, events, or activations that users should look forward to in 2021?
John Vitti: VersusGame has a lot up our sleeves. We are creating major moments for our users surrounding some of the most anticipated moments in pop culture. The Super Bowl was just one of many. The Golden Globes, Oscars, Bachelor finale—you name it and we have a game for it.
You can find out more about VersusGame and download the app here.